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The renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Frank Flamand (Helmut Berger) owns the
Clinique des Mimosas in Saint Cloud. While shopping in Paris during
Christmas with his beloved sister Ingrid Flamand (Christiane Jean) and
his lover and the head of the clinic Nathalie (Brigitte Lahaie), Dr.
Frank is attacked with acid by a client that had her face partially
destroyed by him in a unsuccessful operation. However, he sidesteps to
the acid attack and the face of his sister Ingrid is totally deformed.
Dr. Frank becomes obsessed to restore Ingrid's face and together with
Nathalie and their dumb and retarded servant Gordon (Gérard Zalcberg),
they kidnap beautiful women and Dr. Frank kills them expecting to
prepare a solution to recover the beauty of his sister. When the
addicted model Barbara Hallen (Caroline Munro) is kidnapped by
Nathalie, her wealthy father Terry Hallen (Telly Savalas) hires the
tough private eyes and his friend Sam Morgan (Chris Mitchum) in the
United States of America and sends him to France. Meanwhile Dr. Frank
summons the Nazi Dr. Karl Heinz Moser (Anton Diffring) that was well
succeeded in sadistic experiments implanting faces in scarred pilots.
Sam snoops the clinic and discloses the dark secret of the place.
"Faceless" has the same storyline of 1960 "Eyes without a Face" by Georges Franju but revisited by Jesus Franco, with his usual bizarre situations and characters, with kink sex, rape, lesbianism, beautiful actresses and so on. The wooden face of the unconvincing Chris Mitchum is not well cast and the open conclusion is the weakest part of this film. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "Sem Face" ("Faceless")
Prolific director Jess Franco made a lot of crap during his career, but
in his filmography there are several hidden gems - and Faceless is
definitely one of them! True to Franco's style, the film is trashy and
sleazy throughout, but it's the eighties atmosphere that sets this film
apart from the majority of Franco's opus, as Faceless takes in trashy
eighties pop and themes of vanity, which ensure that the film is always
obviously a product of the eighties. The story has been used many times
before - mostly in films made in the sixties; films such as Eyes
Without a Face, Circus of Horrors and Franco's own The Awful Dr Orloff
(which gets a nod in this film), but never before has this sort of been
given as much blood, gore and nudity as it gets in Faceless. The film
begins with the disappearance of a model named Barbara Hallen. Her
father hires a private detective to find her, and while on her trail in
Paris; the detective eventually makes his way to a private clinic where
strange experiments have been going on. The not so good doctor has a
woman whose face he wants to fix - and he's using skin from young women
to do it!
The film's biggest plus point has to go to the scenes of gore! Sequences that see things such as a needle in the eye, a drill through the skull, a chainsaw decapitation and numerous surgery sequences are well done, and bound to delight gore fans. The cast is also a standout element of the film, as Franco recasts Howard Vernon in the role of Dr Orloff, and we've also got performances from the likes of Telly Savalas, Anton Diffring and Jean Rollin's beautiful frequent collaborator, Brigitte Lahaie. The story isn't massively strong, but it's not bad either as Franco strings a few different threads together and that, along with the gore and skin going on throughout, tends to ensure that the film is always interesting. The music that Franco has chosen is good in that it suits the style and feel of the film, but Franco uses the central song a bit too often, and it starts to grate after a while. Overall, Faceless might not do much for fans of serious films, or for those that dislike Jess Franco in general; but Faceless is one of the better films that the director has worked on, and comes recommended to the right sort of people.
Jess Franco's "Faceless" is late 80's euro-exploitation with the typical storyline of early 60's euro-exploitation! Namely, a celebrated surgeon who kidnaps and kills beautiful women in order to restore the beauty of his own sister who's face got horribly deformed in a very banal acid-accident. Franco, among other prominent horror directors, already made similar movies in the 60's, like "The Awful Dr. Orloff" which he still refers to whenever he has the opportunity. In fact, "Faceless" is pretty much a remake of that film but, since it's the 80's, our director can now insert a lot more nauseating gore and sexually perverted sub themes. The result is one of the most energetic Franco movies ever, with enough sleaze and sadism to satisfy even the sickest puppies among us! There are extremely graphic facial operations that'll nearly make your stomach turn, random bloody executions and an uncanny sidekick (Gordon) who feasts his lusts on the female corpse-leftovers. In between all the sickness, Franco takes the time to create a stylish and truthful portrait of the Parisian night life and the dialogues are much more adequate that usually in his films. Last but not least, "Faceless" is blessed with one of the greatest ensemble-casts in exploitation cinema ever, with Anton Diffring ("Circus of Horrors"), Brigitte Lahaie ("Island Women", "Fascination"), Helmut Berger ("Salon Kitty", "The Damned") and Caroline Munro ("Maniac", "Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter"). The biggest names regretfully only appear in cameos, like Telly Savalas and Franco-regular Howard Vernon ("The Sadist Baron Von Klaus", "Miss Muerte", "Zombie Lake"...). My advise: see this film!!
I never thought I would see the day when I would award a high rating to
a Jess Franco movie, but Faceless proved to be far better than any of
the director's other output that it has been my misfortune to see.
Helmut Berger plays Dr. Frank Flamand, a renowned plastic surgeon desperately searching for a way to restore his sister's beauty after she is terribly scarred in an acid attack. Since this is a Franco flick, this means removing the faces of unwilling donors, who have been abducted by Frank's sexy assistant Nathalie, and transplanting them onto his disfigured sister.
When top model Barbara Hallen (Caroline Munro) is selected by the nutty physician as a possible donor, and snatched mid-assignment, her father (Telly Savalas) hires a tough private eye to find her.
Franco delivers a quality piece of sleaze, laden with nudity, lesbianism, rape, torture, gratuitous gore and bizarre characters (which include an extremely camp photographer, the doctor's hulking sidekick and a Nazi surgeon). Working with a higher budget than usual and a quality cast, the director avoids his usual pitfallsdull, meandering story lines with dreadful editing and camera-workand gives the audience a gleefully OTT gore-fest with some occasional unintentionally-hilarious moments for good measure (the 'private eye versus muscle-man' fight scene, for example).
The effects are particularly gruesome and pretty realistic and include such delights as a syringe in the eye (in glorious close-up), a botched face transplant, a drill in the head, and a nice scissors-through-the-throat scene.
Franco also proves once again that he has an eye for beautiful women; loads of great looking ladies populate the movie, and although they don't get completely naked, they do wear some rather fetching skimpy underwear.
I'm still finding it hard to believe, but I have no hesitation in recommending this movie to all fans of horror and sleaze.
Spanish exploitation/sleaze/horror king Jess Franco's "Faceless" (Spanish,
French, 1988) is one of his more interesting works and has a remarkably
bigger budget, too, when compared to some of his older and duller films,
like "El Sádico de Notre-Dame" (1974) with its numerous aka titles to
just one. Faceless has a very typical story that is like in his 1962
horror film "Gritos en la noche" aka "The Awful dr. Orloff" and like in
film, Howard Vernon plays "Orloff" in Faceless, too. The plot however is
very thin but still the film never feels boring or too long thanks to some
interesting elements in the film.
A beautiful French female gets her face ruined by some crazy woman who throws acid on her face. Her determined brother is a doctor and promises to restore her beauty and make her look an attractive girl again. This he will achieve by kidnapping young females to his clinic with the help of his nurses and a Morpho-like monster (referring to the Orloff classic from 1962), and it is not too long before they kidnap a model girl whose father starts to worry about his daughter's disappearance and so he sends a one-faced cop to France to search for her. So there's nothing too special or never-seen in the plot but still Franco manages to maintain our interest with pretty good actors, pacing and (of course) graphic gore all of which are not always present in his other, worse, movies.
This is not a typical Franco flick at all as it hasn't got gratuitous nudity and plenty of it. Of course, since this is directed by him, there are lusty characters who crave for sexual pleasure almost all the time and this animality side of human nature is a real theme in some of his classics, most notably his 1981 women-in-prison film "Sadomania - Hölle der Lust" and the 1977 classic "Liebesbriefe einer portugiesischen Nonne" aka "Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun", both of which depict humans as pretty much animals living only to satisfy their instincts for violence and especially sex, the latter film also having some commentary about church and hypocrisy that can be related to it. But these things are not so "deep" in Faceless anymore and the brief scenes of sexual intercourse and playings feel a little forced and unnecessary but fortunately they are as mentioned very brief.
There's one very interesting character here, and that is the nazi doctor who has done some horrifying experiments on living humans back in the war camps, and he is sent to complete the face transplantation for the girl. There are also some interesting issues about superficiality inside modern society in which external beauty is the most important thing for some/most, and this accompanied with the presence of the most wicked of them all, the nazi doctor, gives the film a fair amount of thoughts about rotten and disturbed society and how far its inhabitants may be ready to go in order to reach the selfish goal and save their own skin (not pun) at the expense of others. As the real life atrocity nazi character is there it all becomes more harrowing and haunting, especially when he indeed looks quite scary physically, too.
The ending leaves some things open but still it is pretty effective and crystallizes the theme of the film described above. It is obvious this film is so easy to sit through as it really has something more than just graphic gore and face mutilation, things that would have been the only things in this film if some less ambitious director had made it. And Franco always (well, almost) seems to be very interested to add something deeper in his (exploitation) films which is nice.
The gore and exploitation elements are pretty strong and present throughout the film. A needle gets plunged into the victim's eye in a zooming Franco close-up, a character gets drilled to the head in a pretty outrageous scene, but the most outrageous scenes involve the facial experiments and how good the special effects are here. It is "a little" more graphic than in John Woo's "Face Off" (1997), and Franco this time really is able to concentrate on the details and close-ups as there are nothing to be shamed of in the effects work this time. The gore and amount of it is pretty extreme so no matter what themes they had in mind, exploitation was still the main thing and those scenes pretty much the reason this film was made for in the first place.
Faceless is easily among the easiest to watch and more noteworthy films of film maker Jess Franco. It has not laughable over-acting, it has some professional actors in it, too (like Telly Savalas in a role of the father of the missing girl), it has some genuinely interesting issues which all are presented in a form of a traditional almost plot-free but well paced gore film. One major negative side for me is the awful 80's disco/pop soundtrack that plays throughout the movie and its various night club scenes and sounds like Wham or George Michael and so it is not a great delight to my ears. The plot is also full of holes and things that don't get explained (like what is in fact the status of a murder clinic of that kind?!) but still it could be much worse and ridiculous and Faceless is a respectable 5/10 achievement by the legendary Spaniard.
I recently finished watching the first season of Kojak which Universal
released. With Telly Savalis fresh on my mind, I decided to buy this
movie since he had a role in it.
Immediately, it is evident that Franco had a bigger budget to work with. Combined with a better-than-usual script for one his movies and some acting talent (look for John Vernon from Zombie Lake is a brief role), and this movie was not bad.
By this time, this genre of movie had started to fade away in terms of quality releases. Lucio Fulci had run out of steam by this point as had Umberto Lenzi. Even the great Ruggero Deodato was struggling having just released Body Count the year before. (Unlike Franco's "Faceless," Body County had some known actors but the script was terrible and they had nothing to work with.)
It was interesting to see Savalis in this, even though he was not a main character. His bald head, distinct voice and flashy suit, just like from his days as Kojak, added to the movie. His small role could not have saved this movie if it was terrible. However, in this case he added to it and made it a decent effort from a director who is routinely criticized for his work.
I would recommend giving this a look.
A wealthy father hires a private eye to go to France and track down his
missing daughter. Her disappearance can be attributed to a plastic
surgeon's secret set-up, in which he and his assistant kidnap young
ladies and keep them in the clinic's basement. A year ago his sister
was disfigured by acid and now he's doing his best to restore the
beautiful face she once bestow with the help of an ex-Nazi surgeon.
While, that's going on, the private eye is getting closer to finding
the connection between the missing girls and the doctor's hard work.
When I hear the name Jess Franco, I think of sleazy euro-trash by reputation. Although some might classify it as art. Now I finally got around to watching one of his films and "Faceless" wasn't bad at all. Actually I found it quite intriguing, although at times rather bland to begin with, but it gets better in the latter half by rallying up tension and ghastly makeup effects with surprising results and an oddly unexpected conclusion. Mixed into the straightforward material is an inventively malevolent idea (taken from 'The Awful Dr. Orloff') covered with manipulative erotic overtones and cold sadism. It was hard to take it all rather seriously because of the nature of certain reactions, developments and questionably hokey FX. Despite this factor the far-fetch storyline and splatter element was quite fun and extremely out-there in providing some uncomfortable moments (like what was going on in the operation room). The script was okay, but that's where I thought it got bland and was reasonably stiff when it went for that melancholy vibe.
On hand Franco chips in with a very 80's soundtrack that has that silky touch that goes down well with the flick's upbeat tempo and overall style. He definitely has a fine eye for detail. The budget shows up immensely, especially with the make-up, but more so with the calibre of actors involved on the project. Telly Savalas is only in an effectively special guest appearance. It's the classy Helmut Berger and very enticing Brigitte Lahaie that stick in mind. Their chemistry and villainous nature just oozes off the screen. Caroline Munro also provides a valuable addition to the line-up. Anton Diffring, Florence Guerin, Howard Vernon and Christopher Mitchum (who likes his gum) are all reasonable too.
This Euro joint by well renown Franco is well worth a look and a good stepping stone into his long career
FACELESS (Jesus Franco - France/Spain 1988).
As usual with a Jess Franco film, the background stories from cast and crew are much more interesting than the film itself, which is pretty crappy. But, relatively speaking, it's one of his better films, with an interesting cast consisting of Helmut Berger, Telly Savalas, Chris Mitchum and legendary French porn queen Brigitte Lahaie. Franco had a relatively large budget to spend for this film, around one and a half million francs ($250,000). It all looks very glossy, very eighties, including the soundtrack with the strangely hypnotic song 'Destination nowhere.'
The film itself is good for quite a few laughs; Chris Mitchum's encounter with the muscled bodyguard "Dudu" or "Doodoo". The inexplicable presence of a drag queen in Helmut Berger's clinic, a joke Franco spontaneously made up on the set, even Helmut Berger looked a little disturbed after entering the room (Franco probably didn't tell him who or what was in the room). An electric doll (the stand-in for a body) that runs wild due to some electric failure, with its teeth clappering up and down like wild. Why fix it? Just keep it in the movie. No one will notice. Sure...
The extras are always the most interesting part of Franco-DVD's. Chris Mitchum is a likable and intelligent guy, who tells some amusing anecdotes about the start of his movie career. He also reveals that - due to some misunderstanding - he was in an outrageously expensive hotel suite in Paris, that cost more than $30,000 in total during the whole shoot, more than one-tenth of the total budget. The interview with Jess Franco is strange and he stays clear of saying anything specific about his work, which is a smart thing. He does manage to discuss the work of Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Frederico Fellini and Helmut Berger, all within five minutes! The teaming of these names in one interview in such a short time must be a first.
A somewhat atypical entry in Franco's oeuvre with a (relatively speaking) coherent plot, less hanky-panky than usual, but some shocks and gore, and plenty of (unintended) laughs.
Camera Obscura --- 5/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I readily admit that I am not a Jesus Franco fan, especially after
sitting through such mind-numbing drivel as OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES,
REVENGE IN THE HOUSE OF USHER and MARI-COOKIE AND THE KILLER TARANTULA.
However, he did make a handful of OK genre films that, while wildly
uneven, at least managed to merge the director's excesses to create an
entertaining film. While FACELESS has myriad production woes (loopy
plotting, big holes in the story, a very out-of-place/silly pop tune
that is repeated about twenty times...), it is surprisingly good in
other areas; particularly the excellent casting, the professional
photography, the high production values (René Château produced and it
was released through his own company), the location work in and around
Paris, the fittingly gruesome make-up effects and some effective
sick/trashy passages. By dropping the empty pretension that plagues
much of his other work, Franco basically gives the intended audience a
more straight-forward horror story sparked by exploitation elements
hearkening back to Euro-trash cinema of the past, notably to the 1959
classic EYES WITHOUT A FACE and Franco's own AWFUL DR. ORLOFF (1961).
Crazed Parisian plastic surgeon Frank Flamand (Helmut Berger, who played the title role in DORIAN GRAY back in 1970) wants to restore the beauty of his distraught, slightly disturbed, facially-scarred sister Ingrid (Christiane Jean), who had acid thrown in her face by one of his disgruntled former patients. His clinic is not only a place to work on wealthy older women (including acclaimed French actress Stephane Audran of all people!), but also (in a hidden wing of the hospital) a place to keep beautiful young ladies prisoner in padded cells. He plans on removing their faces and transplanting them onto Ingrid once he gets the technique down. Aiding him is his icy blonde nurse/lover Nathalie (former Euro porn queen Brigitte Lahaie), a hulking, perverted, semi retarded behemoth with shaved-off eyebrows named Gordon (Gérard Zalcberg) and Dr. Orloff (Howard Vernon, only in one scene), who sends him some help in the form of Nazi war criminal/doctor Dr. Karl Heinz Moser (Anton Diffring), who had previously caught fire experimenting on full face transplants. Meanwhile, New York City detective Sam Morgan (Christopher Mitchum) is on the case after Terry Hallen (Telly Savalas!) hires him to find his missing, troublesome, pampered, drug-addicted model daughter Barbara (Caroline Munro). Guess where she disappeared to?
There's plenty of all-around sleaze to keep trash movie fans glued to the screen... Rape, heavily implied incest, voyeurism, necrophilia, threesomes, male gigolos, lesbians, a flamboyant fashion designer, bad disco dancing, decapitation by chainsaw, a needle piercing an eyeball in close-up, two full face scalpings (one of which is extremely messy!), scissors stuck in a neck and much more. Interestingly (and surprisingly) in the uncut version I saw, there is almost no nudity. It was shot in English, with only some of the supporting actors dubbed. The ending was unexpected and right out of Poe. And like I mentioned before, the cast is excellent.
It's hard to imagine a classier and more sophisticated couple of sick-o's than Berger and Lahaie. Both look great cruising the club scene for victims, engaging in kinky scenarios and lashing out violently at victims in the calmest, coolest fashion imaginable. I was particularly impressed with Lahaie. Of course she looks gorgeous (and naturally gorgeous, at that), but she also has great presence as a villainess. She is dubbed in this film, but it's easy to see why she has received mainstream work along with the sex films. Diffring (who has the most incredible pair of eyes in show business) adds his usual stamp of class and a much needed injection of credibility to his final role; a virtual replay of his famous CIRCUS OF HORRORS character. Even though he has nothing to do but sit behind a desk, Savalas is the consummate professional and doesn't embarrass himself. Neither does Munro, who spends most of her scenes in a cell trying to fend off Gordon and gets to show more emotion than usual. The only bad performance out of the principles is Mitchum, who is dull and one-note throughout. Florence Guerin (in an in-joke appearance as herself) and Lina Romay as Mrs. Orloff (she has one line of dialogue) are also here, albeit briefly.
The DVD has very good interviews with Franco, Munro and Mitchum, audio commentary from Franco and Romay, partial audio commentary from Mitchum and some trailers.
Dr.Frank Flamand(Helmut Berger)is a famous surgeon whose sister was badly scarred on her face.He wants to do everything to help her restore her beauty.With the help of Nathalie(Brigitte Lahaie)and sexually perverted Gordon Frank drugs and kidnaps young women to find the best candidate for face transplantation.When they kidnap an American fashion model named Barbara(Caroline Munro),her father(short cameo by Telly Savalas)hires a private detective named Sam(Christopher Mitchum)to find her.Jesus Franco's "Faceless" is perhaps among his most famous movies.There is plenty of soft-core sex and nudity plus some shockingly nasty gore.Two face removal scenes are especially memorable as is the syringe-in-the-eye bit.8 surgeries out of 10.Very solid and pretty sleazy splatter flick.
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