Review by Troy
= Highest Rating
model with a bad coke habit (Caroline Munro) is kidnapped by
a demented scientist (Helmut Berger); his intention is to graft
her face onto the scarred countenance of his sister. The model's
wealthy father (Telly Savalas) hires a tough private detective
(Chris Mitchum) to find her. But will he succeed before it's
not your typical Jess Franco film. Often dismissed by hardcore
Francophiles (of which I am one) as an impersonal mainstreaming
of his talents, it's actually very much in keeping with the
tone and themes of his oeuvre it's just slicker, with a bigger
name cast and a bit more gore to appease the '80s horror crowd.
When I say slick, I'm talking glossy photography, photogenic
locales, a poppy soundtrack indeed, one could be forgiven
for mistaking it as a late period offering from Lucio Fulci.
For all its production gloss, however, the film loses points
in creativity as it's pretty much a remake of Franco's famous
Awful Dr. Orlof (1962).
The story offers few surprises, but the pleasure
derives from seeing Franco working with such a fine cast; the
film is also overflowing with little winks that imply that Franco
has his tongue planted firmly in cheek. Heading the cast is
Helmut Berger (Visconti's The Damned,
Salon Kitty) as the slick and
sick Dr. Flamand; he has just the right air of arrogance and
charm to pull the role off without resorting to histrionics.
Beautiful Brigitte Lahaie (a former hardcore porn starlet trying
to make it in the mainstream) is the sexy, villainous assistant
to Berger's mad medic, while Chris Mitchum looks uncannily like
his famous father, Robert, and makes for a likable gumshoe.
Telly Savalas, his scenes all shot in one day, has little to
do but does it well enough, while Anton Diffring steals the
show in his last role the veteran actor looks and sounds frail,
but delivers his dialogue with ironic zeal. ("Deep down I'm
a real sentimentalist.") His casting here evokes the earlier
medical horror film Circus of Horrors
(1960), one of many in-jokes Franco plays within the film. Perhaps
the best of these winks is the casting of Howard Vernon, seen
briefly in his last Franco film, essaying the role that started
their collaboration the good Dr. Orlof! Franco's muse Lina
Romay cameos as Vernon's wife.
Technical credits are very fine, though a
couple of the more intricate effects notably a close-up of
a needle in a rubbery looking eye prosthetic betray the low
budget. The main title theme ("Destination Nowhere")
is guaranteed to be stuck in your head for days... whether you
like it or not! It may not be the best film Franco has ever
made, but for those who feel his other works have too much sex
and not enough polish, Faceless
may be right up your alley.
Show's special edition DVD has so much going for it, yet it has
a couple of hiccups to report. Early pressings were defective,
thus when the film reaches a certain point, it goes back to the
it's possible to start it up again, but within a few minutes,
it does it again! The error was reported to SS, who issued a new
pressing, but faulty discs are still floating about... Trust me,
I found out the hard way.
The actual transfer is stunning.
The 1.85:1/16x9 image looks better than any other video release,
with bold colors and sharp detail. The print is fully uncut, though,
curiously, the last line of dialogue (spoken by Savalas) is in
French without subtitles
this film was shot in English, so surely somebody could have found
this last line of dialogue? Audio quality is very good; the track
is in English (save for that one aberration) and plays very well,
without hiss or distortion. The dubbing of a couple of supporting
notably a fey fashion photographer and his muscular lover
is a little, um, embarrassing.
Extras include talent bios, trailers,
lengthy interviews with Franco, Mitchum and Caroline Munro, and
audio commentaries with Jess Franco and Lina Romay and Chris Mitchum.
The latter track is scene specific and only covers about a third
of the movie, but Mitchum comes across as a down-to-earth guy
and tells some good stories. Alas, his last bit of commentary
is totally illegible due to an error in the mixing. As the end
titles music swell, they totally drown out his closing statements.
The Franco/Romay track is in French with English subtitles, though
Uncle Jess bursts into English every now and again when the mood
strikes. As with his track on Synapse's Exorcism
DVD, it's a treasure trove of anecdotes and insights by an artist
only now getting his due.
An extensive photo gallery offers
a number of behind-the-scenes stills taken during production as
well as a large collection of cheesecake shots of Munro (a definite
boon to her fans), most of which aren't related to Faceless. The
DVD's cover art, incidentally, is reversible.