THE HYPNOTIC EYE — directed by George Blair, a B-movie hack on the slide into TV, and written by the husband and wife team of William Read Woodfield (also from TV) and Gitta Woodfield (her only screen credit). I think the writing team accounts for the weird pushme-pullyou of the movie’s sexual politics.
(Yes, I am reinvigorating my quest to see every film in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford! See REPTILICUS and die!)
Somebody is hypnotizing beautiful women into mutilating their faces, and the police are baffled. Hmm, could it be the stage hypnotist they all saw hours before their disfigurement? The cops ain’t too bright in this movie.
Here’s what I mean about the sex angle — on one level, the movie is sadeian, could easily double-bill or double-date with HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM or PEEPING TOM. On the other hand, the movie seems to like its plucky heroine, resulting in a bit of actual queasy tension when she’s imperiled — the flick is just ruthless enough to carve her kisser up, one feels. The psychology lags way behind that of Powell’s scopophilic monsterpiece (spoiler alert) — the evil hypnotist is himself in thrall to his glamorous assistant, Justine (geddit?), who turns out to be wearing one of those surprisingly convincing rubber masks movie people can apparently buy in the shops to hide those hideously scarred visages that they all have.
Justine is sternly played by Allison Hayes, who played the title role in ATTACK OF THE FIFTY FOOT WOMAN (that is, she played the woman, not the attack).
Movie ends with an apparently quite sincere warning against the dangers of stage hypnotism, which probably didn’t have any redeeming social effect since the act in the movie looks like good fun, and the subsequent horrorshow isn’t too convincing. Probably worth noting that screenwriter Woodfield, asides from decades of generic TV credits (The Fall Guy, jeezus, you mean somebody wrote that show?) was himself a magician, and also snapped famous nude shots of Marilyn Monroe on the set of SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE. One thing this movie might be taken to prove is that an infusion of violence, perversity and sleaze can actually make by-the-numbers policier dross quite watchable.
Movie also features the father of curiously sepulchral/pervy Inside the Actor’s Studio host James Lipton, playing “the King of the Beatniks” — I didn’t know they actually were a monarchical subculture. Anyhow, his performance is much as you might expect…