• Eyeball (88 Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: August 27th, 2018.
    Director: Umberto Lenzi
    Cast: Martine Brochard, John Richardson, Ines Pellegrini, Andrés Mejuto, Mirta Miller, Daniele Vargas, George Rigaud, Silvia Solar, Marta May
    Year: 1975
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    Eyeball - Movie Review:

    Umberto Lenzi’s 1975 giallo Eyeball opens with a scene where a mysterious and beautiful woman approaches the desk at an airport and changes her reservation – rather than fly straight to New York, she plans a stopover in Barcelona. From here, we head to Spain where we meet a group of American tourists travelling about by bus and seeing the sights under the watchful, and occasionally leering, eye of tour guide Martinez (Raf Baldassarre). They check out some historical attractions and at one point take in some Flamenco dancing.

    There is, however, a killer afoot! Not a black gloved killer, as is typical in gialli, but someone zipping about in a red raincoat – and this person is killing pretty young women for reasons no one seems to be able to figure out. Thankfully there are a lot of pretty young women on this bus tour, so our knife wielding, eyeball slashing maniac has got plenty to choose from. Then we meet Mark Burton (John Richardson), a businessman who meets up with his secretary Paulette Stone (Martine Brochard) who not only sports huge sunglasses but also just so happens to be on the tour in question. She doesn’t want to compete with his wife Alma (Marta May) while she’s ill, we’re told. Mark, on the other hand, figures that it just might be his wife who is behind the killings. See, it wasn’t that long ago that he found her back in the States passed out poolside with a bloody knife in one hand and an eyeball in the other!

    Also running around is a tough talking cop who just wants to close the case so he can retire named Inspector Tudela (Andrés Mejuto). He’s a big-time cliché but still fun to watch. Helping Tudela with the case is young upstart cop Inspector Lara (José María Blanco). He’s pretty tough. Also fun to watch are the lesbians that pop up in the movie, like wacky wig wearing Naiba (Ines Pellegrini) and her photographer/lover Lisa (Mirta Miller). There’s also an old priest named Reverend Bronson (George Rigaud) running around and a reasonably obnoxious teenaged girl named Jenny Hamilton (Verónica Miriel) travelling with her grandfather (John Bartha) in the group and a random hot blonde chick named Gail (played by Silvia Solar – who looks a lot like lovely French porn actress Karine Gambier but isn’t) who has style to spare. It’s an eclectic group of characters, to be sure. Any time a new clue pops up, someone winds up dead – their eye gouged out by the sharp end of a fancy knife. Will the cops crack the case before every lady in the movie winds up dead?

    Originally titled Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro (Red Cats In A Glass Labyrinth) in its native Italy (the titles for this release use that Italian title), Eyeball moves at a nice, quick pace and features a fantastic score from famed composer Bruno Nicolai. The movie also benefits from some great location work. Lenzi changes locations in this film often, so that even in those few moments where the pace does slow a bit, we get some nice eye candy. The murder set pieces are super stylish, highlighted by a scene in which our killer offs a victim inside a spook show haunted house ride, and the cinematography from Antonio Millán (who is also credited with shooting Jess Franco’s The Sinister Eyes Or Dr. Orloff) is quite strong.

    As to the story? Well it’s pretty off-kilter but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. The ending comes right out of left field and the supposed explanation we’re given at the film’s finale asks more questions than it answers, but if logic isn’t a strong point for Eyeball it hardly matters when entertainment so obviously is. We get some nice, bloody kills, some decent and welcome nudity and plenty of garish seventies fashions to complement some decidedly bizarre dialogue and wonderfully one note characters. The story seems to give us a new red herring to latch onto every five to ten minutes and the characters never seem to act logically (why does the tour continue when so many of its members are being murdered?) but if this one lacks the polish of some of the genre’s better entries it makes up for that by piling on a fair amount of crazy. Eyeball is an hour and a half of glorious cinematic trash, mixing giallo style with blatant exploitation elements to create a lovely, bloody, enjoyable mess of a film.

    Eyeball – Blu-ray Review:

    Eyeball arrives on an all-region 50GB Blu-ray from 88 Films in a new transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen from a “brand new 2018 2K transfer and restoration with extensive colour correction exclusive to this release.” This is a solid effort indeed. There’s very little in the way of print damage here to complain about (you might spot one or two spots where it looks like some horizontal scratches were cleaned up but you have to be really anal retentive and looking for these types of things to notice it – and better we see it this way than not cleaned up!) but overall the image is nice and clean. The picture is naturally grainy but there’s impressive detail here throughout playback. Color reproduction looks excellent and we get strong black levels too. There’s nice depth and texture throughout and the picture is free of noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement issues. Additionally, the disc shows no obvious compression artifacts. All in all, this is a very strong looking transfer.

    DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks are provided in English and Italian language options with subtitles available in English only that translate the Italian dialogue. Both tracks sound fine, if a bit on the flat side – not surprising, given the origins of the film and that like pretty much all Italian genre films from this period it was dubbed in post-production. That said, dialogue is clear and easy to follow and the score sounds genuinely great whenever it kicks in (which is thankfully quite often). There are no problems with any hiss or distortion – the audio here is just fine.

    Extras start off with Audio Commentary by the guys to deliver the podcast The Hysteria Continues and if you’re familiar with their work you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect. While this is more restrained in the humor department than what we typically get with an episode of the podcast, there’s a good sense of humor here, though they stop short of riffing on the movie MST3K style. They clearly did a fair bit of research here as they place the film alongside other popular entries in the genre and make some interesting comparisons to other Lenzi films. They discuss the performances, the locations, the score and the film’s style in quite a bit of detail and offer plenty of insight into the film’s merits. It’s a fun track, and quite interesting as well.

    All Eyes On Lenzi: The Life And Times Of The Italian Exploitation Titan is an eighty-four-minute documentary made up of interviews with Umberto Lenzi himself along with film critics John Martin, Manlio Gomarasca and Rachael Nisbet, academics Calum Waddell and Mikel Koven, actors Danilo Mattei and Giovanni Lombardo Radice and filmmaker Scooter McCrae. Directed by Waddell, the piece does a very good job of tracing Lenzi’s career as he hopped from whichever genre was in vogue to the next. As such, we learn about his work on Spaghetti Westerns, Gialli, Italian cop movies and of course the notorious cannibal films he made before then segueing into pictures like Nightmare City, Ironmaster and later period work like Ghosthouse and Nightmare Beach. Along the way we’re treated to some great clips from the films that are discussed as well as some interesting anecdotes from Lenzi, Radice and Mattei (particularly when it comes to how everyone got along during the making of Cannibal Ferox, which Radice does not hide his hatred for). The critics show up and offer some insight into what works and, just as often, what doesn’t in many of his films while the academics offer some welcome cultural context for many of the works explored. McCrae really only chimes in when Nightmare City comes up, but that’s okay because his thoughts on the movie are spot on. All in all, this is quite well done and a very nice tribute to the late director who, thankfully, gets a lot of screen time in this piece and seems to be enjoying looking back on his career.

    88 Films also includes Eyeballs On Martin Brochard, a fifteen-minute interview shot in 2018 with actress Martine Brochard. She speaks about leaving her native France to work in Italian films, how she wound up being cast in the picture, her thoughts on working with Lenzi and his directorial talents as well as her feelings on the film itself. She’s quite charming here and it’s nice to get some insight into the history of the film from someone that was involved with it.

    The disc also includes three different original theatrical trailers for the feature, a two-minute location featurette that compares the shooting locations featured in the movie with how they appear today, menus and chapter selection.

    As to the packaging, 88 Films has gone all out here for the limited-edition release of the film (they’re making only 2,000 copies of the first edition). Not only do we get a really nice glossy, laminated slipcover but inside the keepcase we get a forty-page booklet that contains a fairly massive amount of writing from Waddell on Lenzi’s output as well as a text interview completed by Eugenio Ercolani entitled Cats And Eyeballs – both well worth reading. On top of that, also included inside the case is a set of four ‘Matt UV Collectors Post Cards’ that are clearly reproductions of some original lobby card pieces – a nice touch. There’s also some very cool reversible sleeve art included here as well and as this is a combo pack release, we also get a DVD version on of the movie taken from the same restoration and featuring the same extras as are found on the Blu-ray disc.

    Eyeball – The Final Word:

    Eyeball is slick, suspenseful and stylish – a prime Giallo from Lenzi with a decent cast and a fantastic score. 88 Films has really rolled out the red carpet for their Blu-ray release, presenting the film in very nice shape, with fine audio, a strong assortment of extras and some nice ‘physical’ bonus features in the form of the inserts and packaging. A fine release for a really entertaining film!

    Click on the images below for full sized Eyeball Blu-ray review screen captures!