Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Eyes Without a Face (1960)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Eyes Without a Face (1960, Fr./It.) (aka Les Yeux Sans Visage)

In Georges Franju's dramatic horror psycho-thriller - his feature film debut - about a mad, control-obsessed surgeon engaged in facial mutilation and disfigurement; the film was highly influential on future filmmakers and their films, including John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), John Woo's Face/Off (1997), and Pedro Almodóvar's The Skin I Live In (2011, Sp.); there was even a Billy Idol rock song titled "Eyes Without a Face"; it was released in the US in a toned-down, dubbed version titled The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus:

  • the opening scene of paranoid and anxious Louise (Alida Valli) (wearing a pearl necklace), driving on a dark nighttime road, illuminated by her car's headlights between rows of naked, denuded trees that lined the road (the film's recurring symbolic image), then parking at the edge of the Seine River, dragging a slumped, faceless female corpse from the backseat - naked under a man's heavy coat and wearing a concealing fedora, and dumping it in the water (soon after, Louise was revealed to be the faithful assistant to the film's main character, and she was disposing of the body of a failed or botched surgical, facial graft experiment)
  • the opening words of reputed French surgeon-scientist Docteur Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) during a lecture: "Is not the greatest of man's new hopes that of physical rejuvenation? This hope comes with the heterograft. But the heterograft, in other words, the transplanting of living tissues or organs from one human being to another, has only been possible until now when both subjects in question were perfectly identical from a biological standpoint. This means biologically modifying the nature of the host organism. One method involves using heavy X-ray irradiation to destroy the antibodies that create resistance to the heterograft. Unfortunately, this irradiation requires such a high level of intensity that no human being can survive it. So we resort to exsanguination. We drain every last drop of blood from the subject exposed to radiation"
  • the strange case of Génessier's beloved daughter Christiane (Edith Scob) who had disappeared and was possibly thought to be the drowned victim (from the opening scene); her face was described as a "large open wound" - entirely disfigured due to facial burns she had earlier suffered in a car accident, and then degraded by prolonged submersion in water while rats chewed at her; the drowning victim's description also fit that of another female named Simone Tessot; a police detective and an inspector from the Missing Persons Bureau suspected a body-switch: "Why should Genessier's daughter, distraught at her disfigurement, feel the need to strip naked in mid-winter before drowning herself? And that large open wound where the face should be - it's strange - the edges are as smooth as if someone had taken a scalpel to them"; shortly later in the morgue, Dr. Genessier viewed the body and falsely told authorities that it was his daughter - although it was actually Simone; a secret mock funeral was arranged for Christiane, and she was buried in a cemetery crypt
  • the many views of Christiane's gruesome and eerie featureless, white doll-like facial mask - with only her eyes visible (she claimed: "My face frightens me. My mask frightens me even more"); she floated ghostlike in her father's palatial villa awaiting a surgical operation to graft someone else's face onto her own ravaged and destroyed face, after being disfigured in a car accident - her father was driving recklessly and like a "lunatic" and was responsible for the crash; guilt-ridden, Dr. Génessier prepared to repair his daughter's scarred face
  • the sequence of Christiane's visit to her father's detached surgical lab (in the basement of his palatial mansion), where she first caressed some of her father's caged German shepherds and other dogs in an adjoining room
  • and afterwards, unmasked Christiane's gentle touching and viewing of the face of her father's next female victim (a female Parisian abducted who resembled Christiane) - young Swiss student Edna Grüber (Juliette Mayniel) on the operating table, who had been lured by Louise to the residence and then drugged before surgery; Edna awoke briefly and screamed at the blurry figure above her
Edna On the Surgical Operating Table
Before Radical Facial Surgery
  • the striking sequence of Genessier's precise and skillful face removal - heterograft surgery filmed in its entirety; the victim's face, chin and forehead were held with attached forceps; the sedated victim's facial epidermis (marked with a pencil outline) was removed by cutting on the markings with a scalpel; blood oozed from the incision when the tissue was cut into, and the bloody flesh underneath was briefly revealed during the unmasking of the face
  • while recuperating from the surgery, a heavily face-bandaged Edna awoke in a locked room, knocked out Louise who was serving her food from a cart, and raced through the house to escape; she was pursued by Dr. Genessier to an upstairs level, where she was found lying dead after suicidally flinging herself from an upper window - the scene ended on a close-up of her immobile face on the rock walkway far below; Dr. Genessier and Louise buried her body in Christiane’s fake cemetery crypt
  • offscreen, Christiane had the face of the Swiss girl grafted onto hers - and there was hope that the transplant would be successful, and that she would adopt a new name, face, and identity; the doctor told his daughter: "It's exciting. A new face, a new identity"; when Louise told her she looked "angelic," she told her father and Louise: "When I look in a mirror, I feel I'm looking at someone who looks like me, but seems to come from the Beyond, from the Beyond"
  • the potential success of the surgery was soon followed by Genessier's misgivings ("I've failed") and the sequence of Christiane's skin putrification; the results of her new facial skin graft or transplant were only temporary - the fresh skin was rejected and would soon start to rot - seen in a series of stark photographs that Dr. Genessier had taken and dated, with his commentary: ("A week after healing, spots of pigmentation appear. Later, palpation reveals small subcutaneous nodules. On Day 12, necrosis of the graft tissue is apparent. Day 20, the first ulcerations and signs of rejection of the graft tissue. The necrotic graft tissue must be removed")
  • Christiane began to wear the mask again, and was terribly depressed about future success; she was beginning to lose her sanity and becoming suicidal: "He'll keep experimenting on me like one of his dogs. A human guinea pig. What a godsend for him!...I want to die, please!...You have to kill me. I can't stand it anymore!"
  • the apocalyptic ending - after Christiane saved and released her father's next surgery victim, shoplifter Paulette Mérodon (Béatrice Altariba) (a decoy sent by the police), she stabbed an astonished and disbelieving Louise (wearing a pearl-choker) in the neck with a scalpel, who spoke the film's final line of dialogue: "Christiane, put that down. Why?" before collapsing
  • in her final acts, Christiane opened the cages of her father's howling dogs to free them; the animals attacked and mauled her father - tearing off his face; finally, Christiane opened another cage of white doves (one freed bird perched on her shoulder and then on her hand, and guided her) and walked outdoors into a forest of bare trees; she took a brief glance at her father's ravaged body with a torn and bloodied, disfigured face
Release of Caged Dogs
Mauled Father
Christiane with White Dove

Opening Scene: Louise's Car Ride and Disposal of Body

Docteur Génessier
(Pierre Brasseur)

At the Morgue

Christiane's Masked Face

Christiane at Her Father's Surgical Lab

Edna's Suicide

Christiane With Edna's Face Grafted Onto Hers

Christiane's Skin Putrification - Failed Surgery

Louise Stabbed in the Neck with a Scalpel by Christiane



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