Blind Tuesday #1: The Eyes Don’t Have It

BLIND TERROR or, to give it its “classier” title, SEE NO EVIL, is a seriously basic blind-girl-in-jeopardy thriller written with slack minimalism by Brian The Avengers Clemens but directed rather sensationally by Richard Fleischer, whose seventies work is all over the map but sometimes comes violently to life in response to either a good script or a technical challenge. Here we get traditional slasher dynamics — extreme low-angle glides after sinister footwear, that kind of thing — given an extra push into stylistic brio by cinematographer Gerry Fisher.

Also, the suspense is genuinely intense as Mia wanders about a big house unaware that the other occupants have been bloodily murdered. Even more cringe-making is a coffee-making scene in which she doesn’t know about the broken glass littering the kitchen floor, her stockinged feet padding about between the glittering shards, miraculously escaping bloody mutilation with every step.

Unfortunately, the script’s slenderness prevents it working on any deeper level, and an unbelievably flat and anticlimactic conclusion stops it holding up as a straightahead shocker. Those in the know about young British actors of the period will have no trouble guessing the killer, since it’s got to be somebody with the necessary psycho edge, although the botched climax never actually allows him to display his chops.

Burgess Meredith gate-crashes the movie via TV.

Faced with this streamlined, largely unmotivated string of cruel set-pieces, Fleischer attempts what seems like his own stab at subtext. The killer has no background or psychology to motivate him, so RF attempts to stencil in a vague mental framework in the opening titles by showing the sensationalist media crowding the guy, a cultural call to violence. This is immediately ridiculous (and it’s in bad faith for a violent thriller to blame its killer’s actions on violent thrillers) — we open on an audience filing out of a grindhouse double feature, rather¬†implausibly situated in rural Berkshire. Then we get newsstands with lurid headlines, and Burgess Meredith grimacing in TORTURE GARDEN as viewed on a TV set in a shop window… was the clip chosen based on the film’s splendid title, leading to a struggle to find any suitably gory imagery in a typically mild Amicus horror flick? In the end, the sequence overreaches itself conceptually and makes for a shaky start, redeemed only when the suspense starts properly and the film can perform on a purely visceral level.

Top marks for blindness: Mia’s raw, screaming hysteria is not only convincing but worrying. The movie makes more sense than WAIT UNTIL DARK, but that’s easy since it doesn’t attempt anything remotely complex. The attempts at red herring generation are at a DW Griffith level of complexity (untrustworthy gypsies, including Michael Elphick of THE ELEPHANT MAN and the landlady of The Slaughtered Lamb in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON).

Fiona tells me that when THE ELEPHANT MAN came out, poor Elphick would get abuse from random strangers in the street, so convincing was his callous hospital porter in that movie. “You bastard!” A phenomenon unglimpsed since Stroheim.

***

This has been No 1 in a short series on blind person thrillers.

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14 Responses to “Blind Tuesday #1: The Eyes Don’t Have It”

  1. 10 Rillington Place, not only starring but written by Charles Grodin (!) is quite fine, especially as it boast Candice Bergen and James Mason in lead roles and Fleischer knows just what to do with them. His best film of that decade is of course Mandingo — also with Mason and the ONLY hosest film about American racism ever made. Now out on DVD it’s perfect for slapping The Birth of A Nation apologist upside the head with.

  2. That’s not 10 Rillington place, which stars Richard Attenborough and John Hurt — part of Fleischer’s true crime series, and the grittiest and nastiest of the lot.

    You seem to be referring to 11 Harrowhouse, which is an easy title to mix up. Haven’t seen that one, but the IMDb credits it to Aram Avakian (fired as editor of The Godfather by Robert Evans for reasons which cannot be reliably assessed).

    Mandingo is quite something. Maybe Tarantino’s forthcoming, typically “sensitive and considered” slavery romp Django Unchained will get it some attention. (I’ve read the script and it’s even creepier than Inglourious Basterds.)

  3. Hmmm. I’ve mixed up “Place” and “House.” Thanks for catchign that.

    I’ve no doubt Quentin has seen Mandingo — and that he’s not up to Xeroxing it.

  4. He’s clearly not interested in cloning it. It feels more like it’s the alibi (along with Russ Meyer’s Black Snake) for his ante-bellum exploitation movie — he can point to it and say this isn’t unprecedented. The trouble is, he doesn’t have Fleischer’s seriousness of purpose to justify the sleaze.

  5. Christopher Says:

    Glad you reminded me of See No Evil..I always enjoyed it when it would frequently pop up on the afternoon movie on TV..Now I’ll have to see about running down a copy..

  6. Well, a DVD exists…

    Watch out for the wicked Cousin Kevin from Ken Russell’s Tommy…

  7. I love the ending of Blacksnake — with Edy Williams on water skiis promising a movie Russ never got around to making with her as they broke up.

  8. ALWAYS end your movie with an ad for the next one! It’s practically a guarantee you’ll never make it.

  9. david wingrove Says:

    BLACKSNAKE also boasts the greatest-ever performance by the sublime Anouska Hempel. From wielding the whip to designing royal wedding gowns (as the did for the late Princess Diana) – now there’s a career trajectory!

  10. She designed THAT dreadful blancmange? Seems like a downhill trajectory to me.

    Supposedly she’s bought the rights to Black Snake in order to keep it out of circulation…

  11. david wingrove Says:

    Good thing I bought my DVD of it when I did!

  12. ANOUSKA HEMPEL IS INNOCENT!

    Lady Princess Di’s wedding dress was designed by moon-faced daytime TV gas blob David Emmaunel and his human wife, Elizabeth.

  13. Thanks for that! I almost was sure there was something wrong there, as a fact like AH designing that hideous thing would have rung a bell or two.

  14. Chuck V. Says:

    No 1? Oooh, is the next one Hollywood Ending?

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