A compulsive, murderous doctor tries repeatedly, and by any means necessary, to repair his daughter’s damaged, once beautiful, visage. Born of a poetic fantasy tradition in French cinema that connects with the likes of Jean Cocteau, this stark film by cine-surrealist Georges Franju – a man capable of crafting stunning film images (try a Google image search) – is a brutal and bloody affair. It pushes the limits of what feels normal and natural in the creation of dramatic film.

Billy Idol stole the title for one of his hit 80s songs (his backing singers even intoning the original French in echo: “Les Yeux sans visage”), but I first heard about it in the highly influential horror tome Immoral Tales, in which writers Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs lay it out as the ur-text for much of the fantasy sex-horror that rippled out over the following decades. It’s definitely a major work. I like to think of it as the evil twin to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, released the very same year: chillingly austere in black and white, and yet shockingly visceral with murder and operation scenes.

A haunting film, and one I regularly rewatch to get a top-up hit of its strange, captivating brutal beauty.

William Fowler
Curator, Film and TV Non-Fiction