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British Consulate investigator Det. Stephen Wilson, a.k.a. the Eye, comes across a disturbed lady serial-killer while on an otherwise mundane assignment. Already a bit psychologically fragile from his wife's abrupt removal of herself and their daughter from his life (with the lingering memory of his daughter haunting him like a manifest ghost), his psychosis as a displaced dad dovetails with the femme fatale's psychosis as an abandoned daughter (crying "Merry Christmas, Daddy" over her expired victims). A bond forms, or, rather, an obsession, as the Eye abandons his job to secretively stalk this mysterious woman full-time as she visits many major U.S. cities under various names, leaving numerous victims. Written by
Despite over 300 comments, some people are still posting saying that it was beyond them and what do the rest of us see in it. Those naysayers should actually read the posted comments.
I watched the film twice, read Marc Behm's book and then watched it again. I would like to see the original film version, 'Mortelle randonnée'(1983) (it has a really good soundtrack album by Carla Bley), but so far have not found a video-rental shop that has a copy. Like the director, Stephan Elliott's major film, 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert', 'Eye of the Beholder' is a road movie about eccentrics, one of whom is into wigs and changing her appearance. Like Marc Behm's script for 'Charade'(1963) it is about a spook who is looking after a young woman who doesn't really know what is going on. I can't think of any parallels with Marc Behm's Beatles film 'Help!'(1965). Actually Behm has 13 IMDB credits, and most of them are difficult to find. As are his other novels.
The major improvement over the book is the addition of the hi-tech snooping equipment. The book's Eye is an old-fashioned gumshoe who simply looks though bedroom windows and the like. Also the making the lost daughter's ghost more solid is an interesting effect. We don't have to know that the girl is dead to think of the image of her as a ghost. I didn't notice that she is played by two actors. The problem is that Ewan McGregor is too young for the role. At the end of the book he dies of old age. I think that the book captures his slipping into obsession better, and part of the picture is that Joanna Eris is about the age that his daughter would have been. A side-effect of his computer tools etc, is that it becomes more unlikely that he would not be able to find his ex-wife and daughter. But as the film makes him a Brit in the States, they would be back in Britain.
Obviously the script had to drop a lot of the incidents in the book. In the film it is extremely implausible that he is able to get a room next to Joanna in the New York hotel. In the book he tails her for several months through a few murders, which would give him a chance to take a sublet in the building.
The rich blind man is called 'Forbes' in the book. Given the real-life family of that name, it was probably best to change it.
In the book the scene where Joanne is identified in the restaurant where she is working, takes place in New Jersey. In the film it is said to be Alaska, although we know that it is somewhere in Quebec. Why didn't the film say that it was Quebec. Then the crew would not have to work so hard hiding all the French signs. I presume that in 'Mortelle randonnée' all the places were changed to places in France (where apparently Marc Behm lives).
An ironic detail. The book has several cross-dressing incidents: the Eye does nanny-drag to continue his surveillance; Joanna and a woman friend not in the book do male drag to rob banks and filling-stations, and the Jason Priestley character, Gary, is a cross-dressing fetishist. I suppose that the director of Priscilla feels that he has done the topic.
I would have liked the film to have kept the incidents where Joanna almost recognizes the Eye, including the time when she hires a detective to capture him.
The film has a lot more in it than most thrillers. It avoids the cliches, challenges the viewer, but doesn't really gel. There are too many nagging questions afterwards.
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