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Friday, November 21, 2014

Eyes Behind the Stars






Eyes Behind the Stars
1978
Mario Gariazzo (as Roy Garret)

A photographer, Peter (Franco Garofalo,) and a model, Karen (Sherry Buchanan), have a strange encounter in the woods. Peter decides to investigate further but soon vanishes. Karen asks her friend, Tony (Robert Hoffmann), a reporter, to look into it. Karen soon vanishes too. Peter finds a trail of evidence leading him into a government conspiracy to cover-up visitors from another world. Soon he discovers he’s being hunted by a group of men known only as The Silencers, who want to prevent him from ever revealing the truth.

UFOs, the 1970s, and Italian cinema, this is a combination that never does quite what you would expect and Eyes Behind the Stars is no different.  The opening with Peter and Karen experiencing a strange dread in the wilderness is intriguing. Then upping the stakes by having Peter discover he has accidentally photographed something in the woods keeps the tension rising and his abduction is a thrilling and unexpected climax.  The only problem is that all of this occurs in the first thirty minutes and we’re left to slog through the next hour before an abrupt conclusion.

Googly eye of the gods.
Karen calls in her reporter friend, Tony and then quickly disappears herself. At this point, the movie slows to a crawl as we watch Tony find evidence pointing to aliens. We, as the audience, already know aliens are behind the disappearences so there are no revelations to be found. Then we’re forced to watch as Tony fruitlessly tries to get some solid proof of UFO involvement, but he’s stymied by a very active cover-up.  The real problem here is that at no point does it feel like Tony is going to be able to do anything effective. In more skilled hands the oppressive weight of a shadowy conspiracy could be an interesting development. Here it’s just frustrating and often confusing. The ending however is wonderfully brutal.

The special effects consist of a small model of a flying saucer and some bright lights. The aliens are often represented by a fish-eye lens and a reoccurring beeping sound that grates more than frightens. The aliens themselves don’t have much screen time, but I liked their atypical blue face plates and strange knitted bodysuits. Eyes Behind the Stars maintains some mystery by keeping their motives completely obfuscated. All we can really understand is that they want to remain unknown and will kill anyone who tries to expose them.

One of the good guys.
I am very partial to analog synthesizer music and this one place where Eyes Behind the Stars delivers. There are some marvelous pieces of music in this film, and I especially enjoyed the closing credits song. The atonal washes of sound add just a hint of eeriness. It’s not enough to fight against the dullness of the rest of the story, but it would be lesser without it.

It’s worth checking this movie out for its first act and astoundingly bleak ending. It has been in the public domain for some time, so it shouldn’t be difficult to track down. It will likely only resonate with diehard fans of UFO and/or Italian b-movies.

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