Faceless (1988)
Directed by Jesus Franco

Starring Brigitte Lahaie Christopher Mitchum Helmut Berger Telly Savalas

Back in 1981, Lauren Tewes was known to all of America as Julie, the hostess with the most-est on "The Love Boat," at the time one of the most popular TV shows around. She also made the cover of TV Guide when it was learned she had a little bit of a cocaine problem. The next inevitable step in her career, of course, would be to star in a sleazy slasher film, and here's the role she eventually wound up playing.

Tewes plays a feminist TV newscaster who suspects her fat and disgusting looking neighbor is a serial rapist/killer on the loose in her home city of Miami. Morally condemning the sexist killer on the air, Tewes raises the eyebrows of some of her co-workers who think she's taking the situation a little too seriously. "Every woman should report anything unusual," she tells her audience. "Any odd encounter." Meanwhile, her home life is a bit rough, because she's taking care of her blind and deaf little sister, played with real enthusiasm by Jennifer Jason Leigh, in her very first movie role.

The serial rapist/killer keeps striking, calling up victims before he finds them, rips their tops off, then strangles them. Special make-up effects for the film were provided by Tom Savini, and the highlight of these scenes is undeniably the sequence where a go-go dancer discovers the head of her boyfriend in a fish tank, before being taken out by the killer herself.

The film shamelessly takes its inspiration from Hitchcock's "Rear Window," with Tewes spying on her suspect/neighbor and eventually breaking into his own apartment and, in spite of all the gratuitous gore and nudity, director Wiederhorn (who also helmed the excellent "Shock Waves") does his level best to deliver a serious thriller. The real show-stealer of the film, however, is Jason-Leigh who is amazing in her role. The best scene in the film takes place when the killer confronts the blind-and-deaf girl, and torments her by subtley moving objects around in her apartment. It was obvious to anyone watching this film then that Jason-Leigh would certainly be going places, and that she did (but not before taking her clothes off in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"). Real sleazeballs will be happy to hear that Jason-Leigh has a nude scene in this movie too.

All in all, "Eyes of a Stranger" is an interesting little movie. Like many an early-1980s slasher flick, it's so politically incorrect and sleazy that it's actually a shock to watch it in the enlightened times we live in today. Jason-Leigh's performance raises the movie's quality level by an entire notch, and the fact that Savini was involved will make it a must see for many of his fans too. But it ain't a classic, and it isn't as good as Wiederhorn's real masterpiece, "Shock Waves."

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-- Review by Lucius Gore


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