At his secluded chateau in the French countryside, Professeur Génessier – a brilliant, obsessive doctor (Pierre Brasseur) – attempts radical plastic surgery to restore the beauty of his daughter’s disfigured countenance – at a horrifying price.
With the help of his lover/assistant, Louise (Valli), Génessier abducts and peels the faces of young women. He then grafts the victims’ flayed visage on his daughter Christiane’s badly scarred face, which in the meantime is hidden and protected by a featureless plastic mask.
Effectively imprisoned by her father, who feels responsible for the car accident in which she was disfigured, the infantilised Christiane (Edith Scob) is like a caged baby bird waiting to find its wings.
Eyes Without a Face, directed by the supremely talented Georges Franju, is rare in horror cinema for its odd mixture of the ghastly and the lyrical, and it has been a major influence on the genre in the decades since its release.
There were reports of audience members fainting during the facial surgery scenes, and there are images here, in clinical monochrome, of terror, of gore, and of inexplicable beauty that once seen can never be forgotten.
Dr Jacques Vernon