Director: Umberto Lenzi
Screenplay: Umberto Lenzi, Felix Tussell
Starring: John Richardson, Martine Brochard, Ines Pellegrini, Marta Miller
Duration: 97 min
BBFC Certification: 15
I recently reviewed Cannibal Ferox, a film I hadn’t seen in a very long time and quite enjoyed it, so when I was given the opportunity to review another of director Umberto Lenzi’s films, I jumped at the chance. Made before his cannibal phase, Eyeball is one of Lenzi’s many giallo films, and has been held in high regard by aficionados of the genre. I’m a somewhat new recruit to giallos and am keen to expand my knowledge of this uniquely Italian style of filmmaking.
Eyeball opens with a group of American tourists enjoying a coach trip stop off in Barcelona, so far so Carry On. We are introduced quickly to our characters – there’s a bickering married couple, the Alvarados (played by Daniele Vargas and Silvia Solar), photographer Lisa (Mirta Miller) and her model Naiba (Ines Pellegrini), the typical loud American Tourist, Hamilton (John Bartha) and his teenage daughter Jenny (Veronica Miriel), and Reverend Bronson (George Rigaud). Finally we have Paulette Stone (Martine Brochard), who is later joined by her boss (who she is having an affair with), Mark Burton (John Richardson, best known for his appearances in One Million Years BC and Black Sunday).
Within minutes, a local girl is brutally stabbed to death, and her eye is gouged out. As the tourists are in the area, naturally suspicion falls on them. After a second girl is slaughtered in the same manner, Inspector Tudela (Andres Mejuto) steps in to investigate and quickly arrests the bus driver. Bizarrely, the Inspector soon lets the driver go and allows the coach to carry on with its journey, even as more bodies pile up.
From this point on, suspicion is shifted somewhat clumsily around each member of the coach trip. Inspector Tudela and his partner’s investigation is ridiculously amateurish and they must only be in the film to offer exposition (what little there is!). Lenzi and his co-writer, Felix Tusell, turn in one of the laziest scripts full of bad dialogue and even worse character development. Once the killer is finally revealed, you are just left scratching your head in wonder at how they even came up with the motivation to murder all these women.
That said, Lenzi manages to create some moments of tension and suspense. A particularly tense scene involves one of the tourists changing into her nightdress in the bathroom, unaware of the killer moving silently into the doorway behind her (very reminiscent of John Carpenter’s use of Michael Myers in Halloween three years later).
The film would have benefitted from a smaller cast, but I suppose the more characters you have the more potential murderers there are to keep viewers guessing. Most of the characters are underdeveloped, with many of them appearing to be nameless until they become a suspect or are murdered. Other tourists just disappear off-screen with no explanation or mention of them again!
Eyeball is not a good film, but it is entertaining in a cheesy way, containing just enough style to keep giallo fans happy – although in my opinion it is more of a proto slasher film than a traditional giallo.
88 Films have pulled out all the stops when it comes to extras on this dual format release. First off is an audio commentary from the people behind the podcast The Hysteria Continues. This is good humorous fun as they discuss the actors’ performances, the score and locations in detail and have definitely done their research.
All Eyes on Lenzi: The Life and Times of the Italian Exploitation Titan is a feature length documentary covering the director’s entire career. Featuring numerous interviews with Umberto Lenzi himself, some of his actors and film critics, there are plenty of clips of the films discussed and anecdotes from the actors. A nice tribute to the late director, who as some of the anecdotes show, was not always the most pleasant of taskmasters.
Also included is a 15 minute interview with Martin Brochard, three different theatrical trailers and a short location featurette.
The limited edition packaging includes a comprehensive 40 page booklet written by Callum Waddell covering Lenzi’s varied career and a set of four postcards reproducing original lobby cards.
Eyeball is released on dual format DVD/Bliu-ray by 88 Films