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 - it told about a mad, control-obsessed, hubris-filled surgeon engaged in facial mutilation and disfigurement, with additional themes of concealment and captivity; 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:

  • in the opening scene, paranoid, fearful and anxious Louise (Alida Valli) was driving on a dark nighttime road; her car's headlights illuminated rows of naked, denuded trees on each side of the road (the film's recurring symbolic image); she parked at the edge of the Seine River, dragged a slumped, faceless female corpse from the backseat - naked under a man's heavy coat and wearing a concealing fedora, and dumped 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)
  • during a lecture, reputed, egotistical French surgeon-scientist Docteur Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) opened with the question: "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 body of the mystery woman (from the opening scene) dumped in the water was found; in the morgue, Génessier identified the recovered victim as his beloved daughter Christiane (Edith Scob), who had strangely disappeared; the presumption was that she had committed suicide in despair because her face (described as a "large open wound") had been entirely disfigured (except for her eyes) due to facial burns she had earlier suffered in a car accident; her condition then further degraded by prolonged submersion in water while rats chewed at her; the drowning victim's description also fit that of another female victim named Simone Tessot - and it was soon revealed that the doctor falsely told authorities that it was his daughter; it was actually the body of look-alike female Simone; a secret mock funeral was arranged for 'Christiane', and the body was buried in a cemetery crypt
  • 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"
  • Christiane was alive, with many views of her eerie, haunting and featureless, white doll-like facial mask - with only her eyes visible (she claimed: "My face frightens me. My mask frightens me even more"); as a tortured soul donned in a white gown, she floated ghostlike in her father's palatial villa, imprisoned or "caged" while awaiting a surgical operation to graft someone else's face onto her own ravaged and destroyed face; Christiane had been disfigured in a car accident when her father was driving recklessly and like a "lunatic" - he knew that he was responsible for the crash; guilt-ridden, Dr. Génessier prepared to repair his daughter's scarred face with the face of another abducted look-alike
  • her father's next female victim (a young Swiss student named Edna Grüber (Juliette Mayniel) who resembled Christiane) had been lured by Louise to the residence - to consider a room for rent - and then chloroformed by the doctor before surgery
  • Christiane visited her demented 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; she shared a kinship with them, since they were not afraid of her appearance, and they were also 'locked up' and subjects of her father's fearful experimentation
  • Christiane (who unmasked herself) gently touched and viewed abducted Edna's face as she was prepared for surgery on an operating table; Edna awoke briefly and screamed at the blurry, unmasked face of the figure above her
Abducted Lookalike Edna On the Surgical Operating Table Inspected by Unmasked Christiane

Christiane's Hands Touching Edna's Face

Edna Awoke Briefly and Screamed

Edna's POV - a Blurry, Scar-Faced Unmasked Christiane Above Her
  • in the film's most striking medical sequence, Genessier skillfully and precisely removed Edna's face - the heterograft surgery was 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
Edna On the Surgical Operating Table During Radical Facial Surgery and During Recuperation
  • 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 student 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!"
  • in the apocalyptic ending - Christiane saved and released her father's next surgery victim, shoplifter Paulette Mérodon (Béatrice Altariba) (a decoy and pawn callously sent by the police)
  • Christiane also 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
Christiane Releasing Next Surgery Victim From Operating Table
Louise Stabbed in the Neck with a Scalpel by Vengeful Christiane
  • in her final acts, Christiane opened the cages of her father's howling dogs to free them; the animals attacked and mauled her repellent and tyrannical 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 through a domed doorway to freedom within 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

Release of Doves

Ironically - The Face of Her Mauled Father

Christiane with White Dove

Opening Scene: Louise's Nighttime Car Ride To Dispose of a Body

Reknowned Surgeon Docteur Génessier (Pierre Brasseur)

At the Morgue, the Doctor Falsely Identified the Corpse (of Simone) as That of His Daughter Christiane

Edna (Juliette Mayniel)

Edna Lured to the Home by Louise and Chloroformed by the Doctor

The Fearful Christiane's Masked Face Before Surgery to Repair Her Face

In Her Father's Palatial Villa

Christiane In Her Father's Surgical Lab With Caged Dog

Edna's Suicide After Her Facial Graft Surgery

Christiane With Edna's Face Grafted Onto Hers

Christiane's Skin Putrification - It Was a Failed Facial Skin-Graft Surgery

Genessier's Next Surgical Victim Paulette



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