Friday, November 4, 2016

HEADLESS EYES 1971

"He's out there...out of sight, and out of his mind !"



    "Grindhouse" has become somewhat of a hip term the past years with seemingly every low budget movie of the past 50 + years being branded with this nomenclature just as every B&W crime film is now labeled film-noir. As someone who grew up watching these films initially at the theater and later during the home video boom of the early 80's (and obviously continue to watch to this day) I've always had a fairly definitive idea of my own (although inexpiable) of what constitutes a grindhouse film and for me HEADLESS EYES fits that tag perfectly.
    With a blink or you'll miss it 1971 theatrical release (with a self imposed "X" rating), it gained a second life on home video via Charles Band's Wizard Video label. Blessed with one of the greatest box art designs from the golden age of big box videos ("Too Gory For The Silver Screen !") it literally leaped out at you from the shelf of your local mom & pop video store and along with the Wizard release of ZOMBIE this was one of my fondly remembered rentals from back in that wonderful era of awe and discovery.
    Shot for a shoestring budget on the streets on NYC (for fans of grimy Nixon-era New York this is trip back in time) and seemingly cast with whoever was available walking down the street at the time, it was written and directed by Kent Bateman (father of Jason and Justine). Evoking the "demented artist" plot that hearkens back to Roger Corman's BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959) and H.G.Lewis's 1965 gore opus COLOR ME BLOOD RED (with the bloody effects even being reminiscent of H.G.'s work) it also looks forward a bit to William Lustig's grim MANIAC in 1980.




     Struggling artist Arthur Malcolm (Bo Brundin RAISE THE TITANIC) being short of rent money decides to break into a women's apt. in order to procure some funds. Unfortunately she happen to be home and during the ensuing struggle she gouges out his eye with a spoon that is handily laying on her nightstand which sends him screaming into night with a shriek that is looped over and over again on the soundtrack. Now sporting an eye patch (which gives him an appearance similar to Michael Findlay in his infamous FLESH trilogy) and going totally bonkers he clobbers a neighboring couple to death with a hammer. During the ensuing nights he's tormented by nightmares of eyeballs hanging from a sort of abstract mobile while he keeps his dislodged peeper in the frig.
    Venturing out to the streets of NYC he approaches a prostitute and within minutes she thinks nothing about accompany a clearly deranged sweaty man with an eye patch, bloody hands (along with what sounds like a gurgling Swedish-like accent) up to her room where she ends up dead in her bathtub and missing her eyeballs. With newspaper headlines screaming "Eye Killer Slays 14th !"  Arthur continues his eyeball collecting vendetta stalking women through streets and office buildings and in one scene that almost has a poetic like quality to it he pursues a woman across a rooftop through billowing sheets of hanging laundry. At one point there's even a bizarre news broadcast from the sidewalk in front of one of his murder scenes complete with man on the street interviews.




     Alternately hanging out in his squalid apt./studio or stalking through the streets with his arms uplifted while crying out, he agonizingly launches into long soliloquies concerning his life and his now fevered purpose. At one point his ex-girlfriend shows up (looking like she wandered over from the Andy Warhol Factory) and they discuss his missing eye and later a young women shows up as she admires his artwork and they begin a short courtship with an with a strangely touching ocean side picnic.
    Obviously shot for a very low budget the film progresses from one bizarre sequence to another including a trip to a graveyard in which to dig up a recent victim and culminating in meat packing warehouse, all of which are strung together by Arthur's increasingly delusional rants. Closeups of sweaty faces bring to mind the work of Texas filmmaker S.F. Brownrigg and the whole thing is undeniably compelling with Full Moon's VHS sourced DVD while admittedly an iffy viewing experience adding to the grimy atmosphere.  
   Some of it's few play dates were on a double feature with Andy Milligan's THE GHASTLY ONES  which makes for one of the more mind altering twin bills in history and one wonders what patrons reaction was to Andy's poverty infused Staten Island gore fest combined with this low budget Manhattan oddity.









6 comments:

  1. Sounds fascinating! Films from the period that have been shot on location in NYC have that unique sleazy charm. Wasn't this also the artwork for Argento's 4 Flies on Grey Velvet?

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    1. I love these grungy old NYC movies. Your right the eyeball motif is really similar to 4 Flies On Grey Velvet !

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  2. Never heard of this one... informative post

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    1. It's an interesting one. I live for this stuff.

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  3. I remember when this came on channel 48 on a Saturday afternoon; they left a surprising amount intact, too.

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    1. Hi Brian.

      Its pretty amazing some of the stuff that they use to get left in for TV showings. I remember seeing the Blood Island movies uncut on TV as they were sold with AIP packages and I'm sure they thought "beach movies and Vincent Price stuff- we don't need to check anything".

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