Carlos Aured, 1973
Starring: Paul Naschy, Diana Lorys, Maria Perschy, Eva Leon
Gilles, a drifter and convicted rapist, arrives in a rural French village and finds work in an isolated mansion owned by three sisters. The eldest and head of the family, Claude, has a prosthetic hand and an uptight personality. Her other two sisters are equally troubled – Yvette is in a wheelchair and Nicole is a nymphomaniac. Gilles is not the only newcomer, as Yvette’s nurse disappears and is replaced with a recommendation from her doctor, who believes Yvette’s condition is psychosomatic. Several years ago their parents died in a mysterious accident, which traumatized the three sisters psychologically and physically. Gilles begins sexual relationships with Claude and Nicole, while a black-gloved killer is murdering women with blue eyes, then stealing and preserving the eyes. Gilles is the main suspect and the local police begin to hunt him down, even though Claude is convinced of his innocence.
Italian giallo films and Spanish horror are two of my favorite sub-genres and this Paul Naschy vehicle is an interesting, successful blend of the two. Though Naschy attempted to make other Spanish giallo films – Seven Murders for Scotland Yard and A Dragonfly for Each Corpse, for example – this effort is by far the most entertaining and cohesive.
Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll isn’t as openly weird or subversive as some of the other Spanish horror films from the time (such as A Bell from Hell, for example), but it does have some surreal, nonsensical elements. It is a solid giallo and ranks as one of Naschy’s most accessible films. This is one of many movies that he starred in and also wrote or co-wrote, several of which are a complete mess in terms of the script. Certain elements are taken from early Italian entries like Bird from the Crystal Plumage, but, in an interesting twist, the focus here is less on the black-gloved killer and more on the mounting hysteria between the three sisters, giving the proceedings more of an exploitation feel.
This quickly paced film has one or two confusing plot jumps and some weird flashbacks, but is full of enough twists and red herrings to keep the plot fresh. The killer’s penchant for killing blonde-haired, blue-eyed women means that several of them get introduced for the sole purpose of being slaughtered, but the three damaged sisters more than make up for the lack of female characterization across the board. The violence is average for the genre, though animal lovers will want to shut their eyes for the gory slaying of a pig. There is a mild amount of nudity from the lovely and playful Eva León (also in Naschy’s Inquisition). I often think Naschy wrote films like this just to be in close proximity to scantily clad European babes.
Though he gives a decent performance as Gilles, the mysterious, misunderstood, and potentially dangers drifter, the three sisters carry the film. Diana Lorys (The Awful Dr. Orloff and more of Jess Franco’s films) as Claude is particularly compelling, representing the latent trauma, repression, hysteria, and sexual desire that plagues all three sisters. Inés Morales (Naschy’s Curse of the Devil) rounds out the cast with another strong performance as the wheelchair-bound Michelle.
There isn't a lot to complain about with this film, aside from the irritating score from Juan Carlos Calderón. He unfortunately recycles “Frère Jacques” over and over, and you will hope to never hear it again by the film’s conclusion. I think it’s meant to have a creepy, children’s theme to it, which works so well in Deep Red, but is just grating here.
Delightfully, Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll is also known as House of Psychotic Women. This is where Kier-la Janisse got the name of her recently released book, a blend of film criticism and autobiography. She has been taking her book on tour with a series of film screenings around the U.S. and Canada and screened Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll in Philadelphia in late 2012, at the great PhilaMOCA art, film and music space. Check out my interview with her.
Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll is available on DVD from BCI. There’s a nice, uncut transfer from the original negative, which includes an English-dubbed track and the original Spanish track with optional English subtitles. There are some lovely extras, including a commentary track with Naschy and director Carlos Aured, one of Naschy’s regular collaborators.