Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Headless Eyes (Kent Bateman, 1971)

Ahh, my eye! Just once I'd like to watch a movie that doesn't feature a deranged lunatic who kills women in their apartments. What would you have them do instead? Oh, I don't know, how 'about this, instead of murdering the female tenants, they could help them put up some shelves. I'm not sure I want to watch that movie. Okay, it doesn't have to involve shelves, or any renovations for that matter; that was just the first thing that popped into my head. They, the mentally unwell fellas at the centre of these movies, could break in and rearrange their pantie drawer. Hmm, while that's a bit better than putting up shelves, I don't think that's gonna fly, either. If they the stole their panties and sold them on the black pantie market, you might be on to something. But merely rearranging them? What is this, amateur hour? Don't you think it would be better if they killed them? But every movie does that. Yeah, but in The Headless Eyes the killer removes the eyes of his victims with a spoon. A spoon, eh? A fucking spoon. And get this, someone removed the killer's eye with a spoon as well. Not convinced yet? All right, how about this, the film was directed by Kent Bateman. You mean the father of Jason and Justine Bateman? Yep, the very same. Now, I didn't really want to play the Bateman card, as I am sure most people play it hard and play it often when it comes to this film. But given that my mind has seen so much violence and degradation over the past few months, I think I deserve the opportunity to share a useless piece of information every now and then.

Getting back to spoons for a minute. Other than the oversize serving spoon Lucius jams down the throat of Saturninus in Titus, you don't often see spoons used as weapons in movies. The new wave band Spoons (the pride of Burlington, Ontario) and the television show "Silver Spoons" are technically spoon-centric. However, actual spoons aren't really involved in either of those entities beyond the plural usage of the word "spoon" in their names.

What I think I'm trying to say is, The Headless Eyes at least brings something new to the slasher table. I guess what I just said could be construed as one of them awful pun thingies, since spoons are synonymous with table-like surfaces. But believe me when I tell you, it was completely unintentional.

It should be noted that the women targeted by this film's psychopath are not actually killed with spoons. And before you start yelling: rip off! Have you ever tried to harm to someone with a spoon? Go ahead, grab a spoon from the kitchen drawer, or, if you're a heroin addict, the top drawer of your bedside table. I'll wait. You got one? Excellent. Okay, now start jabbing the spoon, either end, it doesn't matter, into your thigh. If you bruise easily, I'm sorry in advance. But as for the rest of us so-called "normal people" you'll notice the spoon has done very little in terms of damage. You wanna know why the upper part of your leg isn't a bloody mess? It's because it's a spoon; even the word itself is non-threatening.

On the other hand, the spoon is ideal for scooping stuff. And what's the one area of the human anatomy that is vulnerable to things that are designed to scoop? No, not your infrequently wiped anus. The eye? That's right, the eye. And what's the best tool for removing an eye? A spoon. Sure, a knife will also get the job done, but the killer in The Headless Eyes wants the eye to be extracted fully intact.

Intact for what purpose, you ask? Art, silly. This motherfucker is an artist. Didn't Asia Argento once say something along the lines of: Anyone who calls themselves "an artist" is basically calling themselves an asshole? She might have, I'm not sure. Well, whoever said it, they were definitely onto something, as Arthur Malcolm (Bo Brundin) is a huge artist. And I don't mean "huge" in a way that signifies success. Uh-uh. I mean he's a huge asshole. We get it, artists and assholes are one in the same.

While attempting to steal sixty-five dollars (he needs it to pay his rent) from a slumbering heroin addict, Arthur Malcolm gets his left eye knocked out of its socket by a spoon (heroin addicts always have one on hand). Staggering home, periodically stopping along the way to scream, "my eye," Arthur, his eyeball dangling near its former home like a one of them red and white fishing bobbers, is not a happy camper; no shit, Sherlock...he just got his left eye removed by a groggy woman in white panties.

Now wearing an eye-patch, you'll notice that Arthur's apartment, which, in reality, is the back of the store he runs; you know what, let's call Arthur's apartment his "living quarters." Yeah, I like that. Anyway, you'll notice that the artwork strewn about his living quarters is mostly eyeball-related. Which, given his recent experience, is not that surprising; I've changed my mind, let's call Arthur's living quarters is his workshop.  How about this: Living quarters/workshop? Perfect!

Hearing a drunk couple talking loudly outside the window of his living quarters/workshop one night, Arthur, who, by the way, he keeps his own eyeball in the freezer, decides to follow them home. A mere three seconds after being let in the door, Arthur kills them both with a hammer. As they couple lay dead on the couch, their heads and faces covered in blood, I immediately thought of Herschell Gordon Lewis, whose groundbreaking work in the realm of cinematic gore during the previous decade was no doubt an influence on this film.

What compelled Arthur to kill the couple is still not quite clear. But then again, what compels anyone to do half the stuff they do? I don't know. Actually, I think the reason Arthur is killing people is in order to finish some sort of eyeball art project. Remember the eyeball-related artwork I alluded to earlier? Well, I think they were created using real eyeballs. You mean human eyeballs? Yeah, human eyeballs. And since most people in New York City come pre-equipped with eyeballs (I hear they're born with them), that means that no one's peepers are safe.

Take the blonde hooker Arthur meets on the street, for example. She had no idea that when she walked up to the strange man with the eye-patch that she would be gargling her own blood in her bathtub less than ten minutes after she approached him. Let that be a lesson to all you prostitutes out there. And no, I'm not talking about avoiding people with eye-patches; people with eye-patches deserve oral sex, too. I'm talking about staying clear of folks who walk around in the middle of the day with bloodstained hands; it would seem that Arthur forgot to wash up after his last eye job.

Either played by Kelly Swartz or Mary Jane Early (the credits are not very helpful), when Anna, Arthur's alluring, rich ex-girlfriend, shows up to pay him a visit, we gain a little insight into the artist's life was like before he became a spoon-wielding serial killer. And while this scene does provide the aforementioned insight, I was more impressed with Anna's overall look. Given the fact that it's 1971, her style still has a decidedly 1960s vibe about it. Sporting short hair, skinny arms, and dressed all in white, Anna is too chic for words. Telling Anna, who gets a couple of great close-ups during this scene, that he didn't just lose an eye, that something else has "happened" to him, Arthur sends his fashionable ex-girlfriend packing.

Determined to complete his masterwork, Arthur runs through the streets in search of eyeballs. In order to make his search all the more disturbing, the film's way ahead of its time electronic film score, which is occasionally accompanied by this squirrelly sounding guitar lick, throbs menacingly in the background.

After participating in the longest, most awkward wait for an elevator ever to be captured on film, Arthur begins to stalk a blonde model/actress/drug mule. However, a brunette art student ends up complicating matters when she shows a genuine interest in Arthur's artwork. This puts the artist in a tough spot. On one hand, the blonde, who according to Arthur, has great eyes; personally, I would have focused on her legs, but that's a different movie (May, perhaps?). Yet, the brunette offers the artist a chance to be normal. You mean to say that the well-being of the eyeballs attached to the faces of the people of New York City all depend on the decision of a crazed artist that centers around the choice between a leggy blonde and a thoughtful brunette? It looks like it. Wow, if that's not a metaphor for life, I don't know what is.

Shot on location, The Headless Eyes is 42nd Street, Rialto-style exploitation at its sleaziest. If you into films about mentally disturbed artists, like, Maniac and Colour Me Blood Red, you will definitely dig this one. 

video uploaded by RaroVHS


  1. Yet another review we've done, contribute to our team already, jeez!

  2. You compared the eye killer's ex-girlfriend to Leonard Nimoy! :D

    Movies we have in common (cut and paste): Possession, Anguish, House on the Edge of the Park, Robotrix, Eaten Alive, Last House on Dead End Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Delirium: Photos of Gioia, Burial Ground, Blue Sunshine, Naked Killer, Werewolf Woman, Baby Blood, Blood Spattered Bride, Miami Connection, Don't Answer the Phone!, Her Vengeance, Gestapo's Last Orgy, Hell of the Living Dead, Nightmare City, Eugenie de Sade, Deadbeat at Dawn, Run and Kill, Lady Terminator, Salon Kitty, The Headless Eyes, Porno Holocaust, Basket Case, Vice Squad, The Church, Blood Mania, New York Ripper, and Street Trash.

  3. Yeah good capture right? OK I get you wanna do your own thing.

    Thought of you when I read this.

    What about a spork?

  5. Remember Black Ice?!? Of course I do. It was the goth beer. :D

    I think the guy with the spare any change sign is still there.

    A spork would have been perfect. Stab and scoop, baby!