Monday, 4 June 2007

Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro / Eyeball

Whilst holidaymaking in Spain a coach party of Americans are unfortunate to find the body of a local girl. None attaches particularly much importance to the unpleasant incident – in addition to the fatal stab wounds, one of the girl's eyes has been plucked out – until one of their own group is subsequently killed and mutilated in the same manner, forcing them to consider the possibility that the killer is among or following them.

The first murder - red gloves and ocular trauma

The coach party / suspects / victims; note John Bartha's yankee tourist in the loud shirt and Jorge Rigaud in the dog-collar at the back

There is certainly no shortage of suspects.

Is it Mark Burton, arrived on the scene at the exact right / wrong moment?

The Reverend Bronson, with his suspicious photos?

Jose, the practical joke playing tour guide?

Mark's estranged, mentally unstable wife Alma, whom we have earlier seen change her flight plans?

The cigar chomping Mr Hamilton, with his straight razor and conservative mindset? (“Safety blades – I was out of them.”)

The lesbian photographer or her girlfriend / model? (“Niaba, is it you? I want to see you in the bedroom. It's the only place to make up.”)

Someone else, whom no-one – except the giallo literate viewer, that is – would expect?

The rain capes, the lesbian couple and the second victim to be

Murder on the ghost train

Whoever and whatever the case and despite the uncomfortable similarities between the killer's modus operandi and that of a murderer in the group's home town of Burlington a year ago, no-one considers abandoning the trip until it is too late and, following some further reductions in their numbers, the group are forced to surrender their passports...

Sometimes one feels sorry for Umberto Lenzi and the way his contributions to the giallo and poliziotto filone have been overshadowed by his cannibal films.

This Italian-Spanish co-production is not, however, one of them.

Lazily directed, with almost every scene breaking down into a procession of zooms and (dis)graced by a bland and unappealing score from Bruno Nicolai that must rank as his work work within the filone, Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro / Eyeball throws just about every cliché imaginable into the mix to a singular lack of effect.

Just check them off:

The traumatic incident that drove the killer insane and motivates the method in their madness.

The reluctant amateur sleuth themselves a suspect and struggling to put their finger on some vital detail about the case. (“I can't put it together, it just doesn't make sense.”)

The mismatched policemen, the one an old timer who operates on the basis of hard-worn experience and is due for retirement and the other a proponent of modern, scientific methods. (“Now you're talking symbolism...”)

The vital clue hidden in an otherwise innocuous photograph.

As is often the case in the giallo the police procedural scenes show a lack of visual imagination - Tom Felleghy's coroner and Inspector Tudelo discussing the autopsy findings in shot-reverse shot style.

Yet another bull in a (Ramblas) china shop moment of zoom abuse

All of this would perhaps be tolerable had the film-makers attempts at innovating by making the killer wear a red rain cape (“like a cat, a big crimson cat”) in lieu of the traditional macintosh and slouch hat not fallen so flat, more likely to induce laughter than terror, and there not been so much co-production padding in the form of flamenco dance interludes and visits to the Ramblas or Sitges.


Joe D said...

While I agree Eyeball is not a great film I recently saw it at a theater during Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse Festival. The audience loved it, laughing and screaming at the obvious jokes and gore. It made watching it a lot of fun.

K H Brown said...

I envy you Joe. It it the kind of film to be watched late at night with an audience getting into it, rather than - as I did here - in the cold light of day in an analytical frame of mind.

What other films did you see via Tarantino's Grindhouse Festival? I recently taught a little class on Tarantino and, in discussing Kill Bill, we had a lot of fun going through an old Giallo Pages interview where he talks about Castellari, Fulci and so on, and showing clips from City of the Living Dead and so forth in relation to Vol 2's coffin scene.

One thing that did strike me about Eyeball this time round was the Tenebrae-like aspect with the crazy wife who seems to be stalking her husband and the bickering lesbian couple.

Joe D said...

The festival was great! The double bill that night was Eyeball and Autopsy and Barry Primus who plays an ex race car driver now turned priest was there. He talked about the making of Autopsy , it was originally called, Sunspots or something like that and had to do with a seasonal madness that struck in Italy in the summer. All traces of that were gone from the film! I also saw De Leo's IL Boss (USA Wipeout) , Machine Gun McCain- a beautiful Technicolor print- Sex With A Smile-Tony Curtis as Casanova in Sex on the Run- RoGoPaG- De Leo's Asylum of Blood- Rolling Thunder and The Town That Dreaded Sundown- and two Barbara Bouchet Crime films- Cry of The Prostitute with Henry Silva and Death Rage with Yul Brynner. Ms Bouchet was there and is still beautiful! The prints were all from Quentin's collection, these movies should be seen in theaters but it's very hard to find 35mm prints. Also they screened a lot of trailers including the trailers for Profundo Rosso and The Bird with the Cristal Plumage, they looked so great on the screen I had to watch them again!