Director: Michael Pataki
Starring: Richard Basehart, Gloria Grahame, Trish Stewart, Lance Henriksen, Al Ferrara, Jojo D’Amore .USA. 1h 29m
Pataki was a much loved, versatile actor but during his fullfilling career he also directed 3 movies including a risque Cinderella involved a black gay “fairy” godmother who helps Cindereally meet prince charming at a blindfolded orgy, and this crazy gory mad scientst thriller.
For the most part the film rolls out as a reverse Eyes Without a Face, instead of having to replace a face, this crazed doctor is attempting to replace a girl’s eyes. Burdened with guilt the renowned LA Ophthalmologist Dr Leonard Chaney (Basehart) becomes obsessed with restoring the sight of his only daughter, who had barely survived a near fatal crash. Unable to find the willing donors or the raw materials, the Doctor’s dark basement is a gresome reminder of his now blind human experiments.
There’s a lot of opportunities missed to really gore up the movie, with many similar thrillers pounding out of Europe and America spilling buckets of blood, Pataki makes massive steps to keep his movie grounded as a decent drama more than overpowered gorefest with is admirable, his interests in building character and mood really pay off with this layered story of love and devotion spilling into obsessive insanity.
Gloria Grahame does an amazing job at playing the level minded assistant to the crazed Dr Chaney, stuck between a rock and hard place, she’s the one who remembers when the doctor was brilliant and pioneering in his medical field but after causing the car crash that nearly killed his daughter he’s changed into an absolute monster, but she can’t get him to stop, it really would have been great to see Grahame do more in the movie but it’s always great to see her.
Nancy Chaney (Stewart) is totally unaware of where her father is getting all these fresh eyeballs from, one of the early victims is even her then lover played by Lance Henriksen!
The main horror comes from the basement dwellers, the leftovers from the doctor’s optical experiments, for some reason he keeps them alive in the darkness, wandering around like the undead from a Fulci movie and existing like the creatures in rabbit suits in House of 1000 corpses.
It’s a tragic mix of a fathers love gone wrong and a jackal and Hyde doctor, someone with brilliance who could save lives and restore the sight of millions but bound up with his insanity; he’s just spiraling out of control leaving a horde of blinde cruel twisted people who were once innocent.
Beautifully shot and crafted with sly talent, Pataki was on to something with this low budget horror and should maybe have stayed on this track to perfect his craft!?
Related: Eyes Without a Face (1960) The Eye (2002), House of 1000 Corpses (2003), Repo the Genetic Opera (2008), Body Parts (1991)
Lists: Mad Scientists
Article: AOFA Brief Introduction and History of Mad Scientists