Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro (1975)

... aka: Devil's Eye, The
... aka: Eye, The
... aka: Eyeball
... aka: Secret Killer, The
... aka: Ojo en la enscuridad, El
... aka: Wide-Eyed in the Dark

Directed by:
Umberto Lenzi

I've not had the best luck with Lenzi-directed giallo thus far. The Edgar Wallace adaptation SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS (1972) was the textbook definition of ordinary and KNIFE OF ICE (1972) was pretty much one big snooze-fest. Because of the latter, I've even put my stockpile of Carroll Baker movies on the back burner for the time being. So can Eyeball redeem Mr. Lenzi's giallo work in my eyes? Short answer: No. If anything, this is even worse than the other two. Thankfully (?), the English-language dubbing is so painfully awful and the plotline is so painfully stupid that there are laughs aplenty. That alone makes this more entertaining than the two other aforementioned giallo I watched, but good this is not. How it has managed to even muster up its 5.9 rating on IMDb is a mystery much more intriguing than this film itself.

The set-up here is a very Ten Little Indians-esque one, but instead of a group of people isolated somewhere being knocked off one-by-one, we have a dozen or so tourists visiting sun-soaked Barcelona, Spain being knocked off one-by-one. All of that begs the question: If a killer was targeting your tour group, wouldn't you take the next flight the hell out of there? The writers (Lenzi and Felix Tusell) have solved that issue by having the police detain everyone because they're all suspects in the killings. The same writers have failed to give any of the characters a brain by constantly having them wander off by themselves, take midnight strolls and do other boneheaded things just to ensure they'll be alone and get killed. The tourists just merrily continue on with their sight-seeing and trips to a local discotheque regardless of how many other people drop dead around them.

So without any further ado, let's meet our group. We have lesbian fashion photographer Lisa Sanders (Mirta Miller) and her model / lover Naiba Campbell (Ines Pellegrini), unhappily married couple Robby (Daniele Vargas) and Gail (Silvia Solar) Alvarado, clergyman Reverend Bronson (George Rigaud), Mr. Hamilton (John Bartha) and his teenage granddaughter Jenny (Verónica Miriel) and Mr. and Mrs. Randall and their teenage daughter Peggy. Also along for the trip is secretary Paulette Stone (Martine Brochard), who's flying solo because she's actually fleeing from her married boss, whom she's been having an affair with. The boss - Mark Burton (John Richardson) - ends up following her there anyway and she promptly informs him "I refuse to be a plaything!" The entire group is being chaperoned by Martinez (Raf Baldassarre), a loud, obnoxious and ridiculous weirdo who likes to scare everyone with a toy spider and laughs maniacally while doing so.

After a local girl is stabbed repeatedly and has her eyeball gouged out with a razor-sharp dagger and the same fate befalls Peggy on a spook show ride, Inspector Tudela (Andres Mejuto), who's about a week away from retiring, is handed the case. He and his young assistant Inspector Lara (José Maria Blanco) get to work weeding through the suspect roster, but neither takes into consideration Mark's wife Alma (Marta May), who may have secretly flown to Spain instead of back to the U.S. just to check in on what her hubby and his secretary are up to. Alma has recently had a "general nervous collapse," but is she the one running around plucking out peepers?

The characters in this one are all pretty unsavory. The lez photographer doesn't want the fact a mad killer is running amuck to stop her from getting some ("Sure what's occurred is horrible, but what's it got to do with us?") Gail is a bitch who likes to belittle her husband, his war wounds and his impotency. And her hubby isn't any better. He's busted trying to molest a peasant girl right before she's killed and thrown into a pig pen. Mr. Hamilton seems to have incestuous designs on his granddaughter and likes to hover over his bed while she sleeps holding a straight razor. Pretty much everyone acts uncommonly weird and this goes to the most absurd lengths imaginable to cast a shadow of doubt over its many characters.

I'm not sure how this plays out in its original language, but the dialogue and English dubbing are both beyond awful. My favorite idiotic exchange happens between the detectives, who are discussing if one of the women could be the killer because a corpse was found in a mud pit and she was later seen washing her shoes. One of the inspectors says "We could check them, uh, scientifically. There could easily be traces of mud on them." The other replies "Simple walking can get a pair of shoes quite dirty. You take those shoes and bathe them in water and no doubt mud is going to form on them." And just wait until the big shocker of an ending. I won't give away the identity of the killer, but I will say that he or she has been popping out eyeballs right and left to put into their own empty socket and no one has noticed the difference!

Eyeball (also released as The Secret Killer and under several other titles) isn't particularly stylish and is actually far less gory than one might expect given the premise. Brochard, Pellegrini (a rare black female lead in one of these things) and Miller all have topless scenes, so I guess that's at least one plus.



CavedogRob said...

Lenzi's rep seems to have come from his venture into gore (like Cannibal Ferox) rather than his giallo which are mediocre at best.

Owen Davis said...

Shame on you for denigrating Italian Horror legend, Umberto Lenzi.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I don't consider not liking some of his movies "denigrating" him.

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