Thursday, February 11, 2010

EVIL FACE (1974)

I watched the Euro-trash film EVIL FACE (a.k.a. The Hand That Feeds the Dead) tonight and found it to be a really mixed bag. A fairly standard riff on EYES WITHOUT A FACE (a sub-genre with more entries than you might think) it has several points of interest but still can’t completely score.

First the good- it stars Klaus Kinski doing his typical great job with what little he is given. He plays the tragic doctor trying to return his scarred wife’s beauty by slicing flesh from unwilling donors. Strangely these transplants seem to go very well which isn’t the norm for the genre but the doc’s been at it for ten years so I guess he’s ironed out the problems. The ladies on display are all lovely and have just enough personality to make each interesting. My old friend Frank used to joke that ALL films have a lesbian scene but most get cut out in the final edit. Well EVIL FACE keeps its Sapphic Scene intact and it is nicely erotic- if you like that sort of thing. I enjoyed the period setting and location shooting which gave the picture some real flavor. The story moves pretty well and I was rarely bored by it but.... never really jells either. The story is a mess with the focus shifting from one character to the next with little reason. The person we are lead to think is the main character is very often shunted off screen (or into a lesbian embrace) while we watch scenes of everyone else mill about and do things. Too much time is spent on the tedious surgery sequences in which it is obvious Kinski is not the man behind the scalpel. I’ve no idea why he didn’t do these scenes but its clearly not him and the film suffers because of it. I kept waiting for the close-ups of Klaus giving an intense look at his handy work that would indicate his satisfaction, fear or anything at all. Not having these kinds of emotional touches make the laborious, gory grafting scenes get old quite fast. It’s a shame as Kinski could have really enlivened this stuff as he ably demonstrates in his surprisingly short time onscreen. His weepy breakdown near the end is highly effective and shows exactly why you hire someone like him.

In the end it’s the unfocused nature of the narrative that keeps the film from being very good. While it’s possible to move from character to character in the course of a film and retain a connection with the audience (think PSYCHO) it takes more scripting skill than is evident here. In the end, although it isn’t a terrible film it also isn’t good. As for the MYA DVD the less said the better. If I had paid for this disc instead of renting I would be furious. Taken from a videotape source it looks washed out and generally crappy while the English subtitles are pathetic in their laziness. That they want more than $20 for this is a joke of the bad kind.

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