Tuesday, September 4, 2018

EYEBALL (1975) (88 Films Blu-ray Review)

EYEBALL (1975) 
Dual-Format Blu-ray 
Label: 88 Films
Region Code: B
Rating: Cert.15
Duration: 92 Minutes
Audio: English and Italian, DTS-HD MA Dual Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Cast: Martine Brochard, John Richardson, Ines Pellegrini

Umberto Lenzi's madcap giallo Eyeball (1975) has the wonderful tag line "A Blinding Vision of Horror", a nicely tongue-in-cheek advert for a delightfully daft Italian whodunit that opens with a busload of American tourists travelling throughout Barcelona Spain on a tour-bus, taking in the sights, nevermind that an eye-plucking killer seem to be among them, killing off and stealing an eyeball from one victim after the other on almost every stop of the tour! As where a level-headed you or myself might just end our vacation after the first murder and count our blessing for our lives these hardcore vacationers push on despite the danger to themselves, never once thinking they should get off that damn bus.

While not as ultra-stylish as a Dario Argento whodunits Eyeball is still a wonderfully entertaining slice of eye-plucking insanity with fun set-pieces and some stylish lensing, plus a fun cast of characters that include a priest and a lesbian couple who are more nude than not throughout the whole movie. Lenzi seems to be having fun deviating from standard giallo tropes with a killer who is decked out in a red raincoat with red-gloves, not the typical black ensemble we've come to expect from the genre. 

As we follow our carefree bunch of travellers the bodies start piling up at each of the stops, each of the victims found stabbed to death with an eyeball missing, and the red-herrings are layed on nice and thick throughout. The could-be culprits could be any one of the tourist or guides, could it be the oddball leering tour guide? Maybe the secretive priest, or the tightly permed ginger-haired secretary (Martine Brochard, The Violent Professionals)? Or maybe  the secretaries boss/lover (John Richardson, Torso) who shows up out of the blue right after the first murder, hmm, but when suspicion begins to build on him we are thrown yet another red-fish, his mentally unstable wife complete with incrimiating flashbacks. The possible list of suspects is near endless, the film drops clues along the way, but when they reveal who it is and why you will not forget it, you might not believe it, but you definitely won't forget it!

I won't spoil the big reveal but the strangely oddball revelation was a startle, I was laughing so damn hard, the visual of it is absolutely unforgettable. I don't know if Lenzi intended this one to be as comedic as it is, but I have to think he did, it's just too lunatic from start to finish to be an accident. 

Trashy though it may be Eyeball offers oodles of odd dubbed dialogue, titillating gratuitous nudity and some stylish set-pieces, including a fun score from Bruno Nicolai (All the Colors of the Dark) which has a recurring theme that seems to pop-up every few minuted ad nauseam, which also enhances the humor if the film. 

Audio/Video: Lenzi's Eyeball (1975) arrives on region-free Blu-ray with a fresh new 2K transfer restored and regraded from the original camera negative, the 1080p HD image is framed in 2.35:1 widescreen.
 It looks solid on Blu-ray, the source looks solid with just some white speckling and a tiny few scratches you have to be looking for, grain is uniform and well-managed, skin tones look natural and the colors are nicely saturated with decent blacks. Audio comes by way of English or Italian dubbed DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with optional English subtitles. The audio is a bit flat and boxy as you would expect from a film made without live audio, everything has been dubbed afterward. Something I love about watching these Italian films is the recognition of voice actors who regularly dub these films they start sounding so familiar and recognizable once you start watching Italian cinema of this era, there should be a documentary about the voice actors who worked in this era, that would be awesome... or maybe not, but maybe yeah! Anyway, the score from Bruno Nicolai (All The Colors of The Dark) sounds great, even though the main theme seems to be repeated adnauseum throughout the film.  

Onto the extras we begin with a feature-length doc, 'All Eyes on Lenzi' which has interviews with the late director plus author/critics John Martin, Manlio Gomarasca and Rachael Nisbet, director Calum Waddell and actors Danilo Mattei and Giovanni Lombardo Radice, filmmaker Scooter McCrae and more. It's a loving tribute the the genre-hopping director covering all facets of his career, there's a lot of love here for the man, but not so much from actor Lombardo Radice who not only loathes the film he made with Lenzi, Cannibal Ferox, but the man himself, though Lenzi does go onto say that he got along with the actor very well during shooting and that this loathing seemed to manifest in the years since they worked together. 

We also get a new 2018 interview with the still-lovely star Martine Brochard who speaks about her career and working with Lenzi on the film, there's also a 2-min location extra comparing the locations then and how they are now. The last but certainly not least of the extras is an audio commentary from the Hysteria Lives! podcast crew who do the film justice. They actually have an episode of the podcast about the film (doubled with Argento's Deep Fred!), the commentary here is a bit more subdued with slightly less innuendo and double-entendres, but still funny and jam-packed with witty insight and observation, very well researched. This limited edition of 2000 version also comes with a DVD with the same extras   

The 2-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo comes housed in a clear oversized Blu-ray with a sleeve of reversible artwork and a limited edition sturdy slipcover. Opening it up you will find 4 original “Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro” lobby card reproductions, plus a massive limited edition booklet covering Umberto Lenzi's entire career penned by Dr. Calum Waddell, plus an interview with Lenzi and notes about the 88 Films restoration. 

Special Features: 
- Brand New 2K Transfer of the Film restored and regraded from original elements
- ALL EYES ON LENZI: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE ITALIAN EXPLOITATION TITAN - Brand new feature length documentary (80 minutes) detailing the work and legacy of Rome’s most prolific grindhouse nightmare-maker. Features never-before-seen interview footage with Lenzi himself and comments from critics John Martin, Manlio Gomarasca and Rachael Nisbet, academics Calum Waddell and Mikel Koven, actors Danilo Mattei and Giovanni Lombardo Radice and director and writer Scooter McCrae!!  (84 min)
- Eyeballs on Martine Brochard: 2018 Interview with Actress Martine Brochard (16 min)
- Eyeball Locations Featurette (2 min)
- Audio Commentary by the Hysteria Continues
- Eyeball Trailers (6 min)
- Reversible sleeve featuring alternative artwork
- 4 original “Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro” lobby card reproductions
-Limited edition booklet featuring All About Umberto: an extensive and intricate 6000 word look back at the work of an Italian genre-bending legend... by Calum Waddell
- Additional booklet copy - Cats and Eyeballs: An interview with Umberto Lenzi by Eugenio Ercolani

Eyeball (1975) is a stalk ‘n’ slash shocker from Umberto Lenzi that will please fans of the Italian whodunit and 80's slasher variety, while the gore is not overly visceral the off-beat stock characters characters and fun set-pieces are a blast, a fun giallo with loads of re-watch value. 88 Films really went all-out for this release with the A/V presentation and deluxe packaging, easily one of my favorite releases of 2018.