Monday, February 1, 2016

"Faceless" (1987) d/ Jesus Franco

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As we enter the second month of 2016 our thoughts quickly turn to love and romance, and the great lengths we go to prove it to our significant other, usually spending vulgar amounts of cash around the middle of the month, just to save face. In the world of cult cinema, saving face can take on entirely different connotations, and in the case of tonight's review, a late eighties gore-packed variation on his initial effort, director Jess Franco does an awful lot of it. In fact, he also ruins some faces, removes a few, and throws in a chainsaw and a power drill just for kicks. You've got to appreciate the man's unwavering dedication to capturing intimacy between the sexes on celluloid. The Richard Marx-esque late eighties synth pop soundtrack that (constantly)accompanies this one? Not so much. Not so fucking much at all. Still...

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It's not often that we see Brigitte doing the poking. Just sayin'.
Dr. Flamand (Helmut Berger) witnesses his sister, Ingrid (Christiane Jean), block a vial of acid that was meant for him, chucked by a disgruntled, partially scarified former patient, with her own beautiful face, leaving her with a permanent Manwich grill, and leaving her brother to spend every resource available to him to restore her former beauty. Nathalie (Brigitte Lahaie) helps out by kidnapping unsuspecting donors from the Paris nightclub scene of the late eighties, locking them naked in cells in a private wing of their clinic, and subjecting them to the advances of Gordon, an especially creepy subordinate with a perm-ullet and no fucking eyebrows. When they abduct Barbara (Caroline Munro), a coked-out model, right from her photo shoot, her father (Telly Savalas) enlists a cat named Morgan (Chris Mitchum) who comes off as a skinny, less imposing Dirty Harry,  to fly to Paris and find his daughter. When Flamand and Nathalie consult Dr. Orloff (Howard Vernon) for helpful face transplant hints, he suggests they bring Dr. Moser (Anton Diffring), an escaped Nazi surgeon who specialized in such operations at Dachau, on board.

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Also just sayin': I'd wrap those legs around my head like a turban.
Luckily for Flamand, Moser is seemingly available for work almost immediately, but he shows up and fumbles the first attempt, destroying a young whore's face, and forcing Gordon, chainsaw in hand, into action, as he beheads her with it. Meanwhile, Morgan is bullying Barbara's last employer (sort of a French Charles Nelson Reilly) for answers, leading to a ham-fisted comedic scrap with a muscle-bound gay named Doudou, and copping cheap feels from the headless corpses piling up at the morgue, to the dismay of the French authorities. In need of new face, Flamand and Nathalie come upon none other than Florence Guerin (as herself) in the dance club, talk her into some menage a trois action, and kidnap her for impending facepiece surgery. Don't sweat it, Flo. Can't be any worse than appearing in Bruno Mattei's Caligula et Messaline (1981). As Morgan traces Barbara's credit card to the clinic, where he also notices Nathalie sporting the jewel-encrusted watch that Babs was wearing when she went missing in the first place. Will he rescue her before Ingrid can adopt her good looks? Will Dr. Moser fumble the dermal mask again while staring at Nat's ample pornographic charms? Will Gordon get a decent haircut and grow his eyebrows out? Did Telly Savalas just speak French? The answers to these questions and more await you, once you've bagged yourselves a copy and screen it personally.

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"I've eaten all the strawberry preserves, but that Florence Guerin face roll up looks appetizing."
Besides playing more than his fair share of archetypal Nazi villains over a film career that spanned nearly fifty years, Anton Diffring turned up in a few horror movies along the way, usually as an unhinged plastic surgeon, like this Jesus Franco update of his own pioneer genre effort, The Awful Dr. Orloff aka/ Gritos en la noche (1962), where he plays a nazi and an unhinged plastic surgeon. Faceless, which marked the second last role for Diffring before his death in 1989, would also be the last big screen appearance of Telly "Kojak" Savalas, but they're not the only recognizable names in the credits, as British scream queen Caroline Munro, Visconti regular Helmut Berger, Robert Mitchum's son Chris, Lina Romay, and even French porn goddess Brigitte Lahaie all make the scene. If you can manage to ignore the awful soundtrack, and some of the horrible eighties fashions on display, as hard as that is,  you'll probably enjoy Faceless, though it isn't nearly the best of it's kind, or even the best Franco approach on the subject matter. On the scale, a modest two Wops sounds fitting here. Give it a look.

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"Don't be silly,'re still very reverse-beautiful."
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