EYEBALL (1974) Reviews of Umberto Lenzi Giallo [updated]

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‘A blinding vision of horror.’
Eyeball is a 1974 Italian/Spanish Giallo horror thriller film directed by Umberto Lenzi (Cannibal Ferox; Nightmare City; Knife of Ice; Seven Blood-Stained Orchids) from a screenplay co-written with Félix Tusell.

The film’s original Italian title is Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro  [‘Red Cats in a Glass Labyrinth’]. For international release, it was re-titled Wide-Eyed in the Dark and The Secret Killer. US distributor Joseph Brenner Associates (Torso) shortened the title to Eyeball and this has become its most well-known moniker.

The National Cinematografica-Pioneer-Estela Films co-production stars Martine Brochard, John Richardson, Ines Pellegrini, Mirta Miller, Daniele Vargas, Andrés Mejuto, George Rigaud, Silvia Solar, Raf Baldassarre, José María Blanco, Marta May, John Bartha, Olga Pehar and Verónica Miriel.

The film features a jaunty score by Bruno Nicolai (The Red Queen Kills 7 TimesThe Case of the Bloody Iris; All the Colours of the Dark; et al).

A coach party of American tourists are holidaying in Barcelona when one of them, a young woman, is stabbed to death by a red-gloved assailant. In a gruesome touch, the killer has removed the victim’s left eye. The next day, the tourist party visits an amusement park. While on a ghost train ride, teenager Peggy is also slain…

The inherent ridiculousness of this gleeful exercise in exploitation becomes immediately apparent when reading (or worse still, attempting to explain) the demented plot. The notion that once the murders begin the beleaguered holidaymakers would continue with their jolly jaunt around Barcelona and even take an (ironic) day trip to Sitges is laughable in itself. Thus, Eyeball reigns supreme as one of the most stupid examples of the Giallo genre.

The film’s forgettable characters are mere cyphers in a tacky touristy version of an Agatha Christie-like mystery. There are red herrings galore and a mixed-race bitchy lesbian couple is on hand to up the sexploitation ante. Unfortunately, top-billed John Richardson is bland and Martine Brochard also makes for a weak female lead.

The onscreen lunacy is laced with an unforgettably trashy theme by Bruno Nicolai which is repeated so often – and at different tempos – it becomes hilariously hypnotic. Despite all its faults, Eyeball has an undeniably curious appeal that, like the undersized coach that the sightseers board every few minutes, carries the viewer on through the mayhem.

At least Eyeball stands up to repeated viewings, unlike Lenzi’s Spasmo from the same year which is serious in tone, yet convoluted and somewhat dull. The murder scene at the amusement park, which is replete with the rapid zooms and edits that often characterised early seventies Eurotrash, is perhaps the film’s brief horror highlight.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA

Other reviews:
“There is a constant mix of intrigue, mystery, violence, sex and new locations (when the leads are on a tour bus, they’re in a different spot every day) to keep the viewer watching. And, there are just enough goofy bits (in the dubbing and in the general scheme of things) to make you smile.” Bleeding Skull!

“Lenzi’s giallo is often nonsensical and clumsily crafted, but it’s also a deliciously daft and thoroughly entertaining slice of pasta flavoured nonsense. Any fan of the genre couldn’t help but be enthralled by the heady brew of groovy 70’s fashions, jiggling breasts, more twists than a mountain road, bloody slash action … and some choice, choice dialogue.” Hysteria Lives!

Eyeball moves at a nice, quick pace and features a fantastic score from famed composer Bruno Nicolai. The movie also benefits from some great location work. Lenzi changes locations in this film often, so that even in those few moments where the pace does slow a bit, we get some nice eye candy.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

The shocks are telegraphed throughout, and in lieu of interesting characters, there is not much of an opportunity to generate a lot of suspense. Lenzi indulges in plenty of travelogue views of the city, thus padding the running time to no discernible effect. The pacing is also rather slow and there is plenty of unintended humor to boost.” Troy Howarth, So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films, Midnight Marquee Press, 2015

” …there are no real standout performances from the cast, though they do not necessarily do a bad job, but it adds to the overall mediocrity of the film. Still, Eyeball turned out to be an enjoyable feature where those looking for a little violence and a little blood will no doubt be pleased and those looking for something of a game changer being disappointed.” The Telltale Mind

“Spain is presented in lush colours and inimitable 70s fashion choices, which lends the film a pleasantly diverting quality as if you’re taking a holiday from the same-old American slasher film conventions. Nothing really lets Eyeball down, it just suffers from the ridiculousness that haunts the whole sub-genre…” Vegan Voorhees

“The basic problem with the film is that a group of tourists being suspected of murder is kinda silly. I mean people keep dying off, and yet the sightseeing trip continues. Of course, logic isn’t the sort of thing you crave in a Giallo, but it kinda undermines some of the tension. Still, that eyeball-ripping finale is so great that it’s hard to really nitpick.” The Video Vacuum

Choice dialogue:
Gail: “This is a rotten vacation I don’t mind telling you.”
Inspector Tudela: “Even the craziest of killers follows a certain logic, however absurd, mad as a hatter, there’s always some logic to it.”
Paulette Stone: “I was like you… before this friend of mine ripped out my eye playing doctor with me… leaving an empty socket.”

Blu-ray release:
UK-based 88 Films is releasing Eyeball in the UK on August 27, 2018, with a wealth of extras:
All Eyes on Lenzi – Brand new feature-length documentary (80 minutes) detailing the work and legacy of Rome’s most prolific grindhouse nightmare-maker. Features never-before-seen interview footage with Lenzi himself and comments from critics John Martin, Manlio Gomarasca and Rachael Nisbet, academics Calum Waddell and Mikel Koven, actors Danilo Mattei and Giovanni Lombardo Radice and director and writer Scooter McCrae
Eyeballs on Martine Brochard: 2018 Interview with Actress Martine Brochard
Eyeball Locations Featurette
Audio Commentary by the Hysteria Continues
Eyeball Trailers
Reversible sleeve featuring alternative artwork
Four original Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro lobby card reproductions
Limited edition booklet featuring All About Umberto: by Calum Waddell and Cats and Eyeballs: An interview with Umberto Lenzi by Eugenio Ercolani
Limited edition slipcase

Buy Blu-ray + DVD: Amazon.co.uk

Film Facts:
The first sight of a bottle of J&B whisky -normally, ubiquitous product placement in Gialli – does not occur until 55 minutes in during a flamenco dancing scene.


Cast and characters:
Martine Brochard … Paulette Stone
John Richardson … Mark Burton
Ines Pellegrini … Naiba Levin
Mirta Miller … Lisa Sanders
Daniele Vargas … Robby Alvarado
Andrés Mejuto … Inspector Tudela
George Rigaud … Reverend Bronson
Silvia Solar … Gail Alvarado
Raf Baldassarre … Martinez
José María Blanco … Inspector Lara
Marta May … Alma Burton
John Bartha … Mr Hamilton
Olga Pehar … Mrs Randall
Verónica Miriel … Jenny Hamilton
Olga Montes
Richard Kolin … Mr Randall
Rina Mascetti … Hospital Nurse
Fulvio Mingozzi … Policeman
Vittorio Fanfoni
Francesco Narducci … Receptionist at Hotel Presidente
Tom Felleghy … Coroner
Lorenzo Piani
Nestore Cavaricci … Policeman
Carolyn De Fonseca … Gail Alvarado
Laura Trotter … Murder Victim at the Castle

Filming locations:
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Elios Studios, Rome, Lazio, Italy
R.P.A. Studios, Rome, Lazio, Italy

Filming dates:
July 15, 1974

Technical details:
1 hour 31 minutes
Audio: Mono
Aspect ratio: 2.35: 1

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