Friday, January 22, 2021

The Hypnotic Eye

The Hypnotic Eye
George Blair

A string of women are mutilating themselves and have no recollection of doing it. A trio of investigators begins to suspect that the women have been hypnotized into harming themselves. The prime suspect is a stage hypnotist named Desmond (Jacques Bergerac), but even he may not be acting under his own will. Who is really behind all this chaos and why?

The Hypnotic Eye knows how to grab an audience with an opening scene; A young woman washing her hair leans over a stovetop burner. With no explanation, she put her hair in the flames and sets herself on fire.  She screams as her hair bursts into flames in an obvious composite shot but it is still quite striking to see in a film from 1960. It’s a great opening that sets-up a mystery, gives a general idea of what the themes are going to be, and serves as a hint of the graphic violence to come. Good job, The Hypnotic Eye, you have me intrigued.

"I am looking up your nose."

What unfolds is a mystery story involving hypnosis and women being mesmerized into mutilating themselves. The Hypnotic Eye never shies away from treating us to some primitive, yet still effective scenes of scars, missing eyes, and other horrors that have been done to these women. The film never revels in these disfigurements but plays them for shock moments. The reason all the victims are women is given a narrative context by the end, but it still feels off. This is not an illuminating mediation on the culture of beauty standards than many women faced in the 20th century but there is more thought going on in the script than in most exploitation fare.

It is not all mystery and gore, there is also plenty of exploitation nonsense too. The film comes with several intense warnings about the dangers of hypnotism. It doesn’t reach Reefer Madness (1936) levels of overreaction, but it is hard to take the notion that attending a hypnosis show is akin to taking your life into your own hands. The film raises the stakes with several scenes of master hypnotist Desmond breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly with hypnotic suggestions. I have serious doubts that it ever worked but I do appreciate the effort. The Hypnotic Eye dabbles in a little William Castle gimmickry with a Hypnotic Eye Balloon that is featured in the film and was given out to audiences.

How sulfides ruin your hair.

The Hypnotic Eye is a nifty little horror mystery with some choice body horror, a mystery that is paper-thin but still entertaining, and it brings it all together with some less than serious exploitation elements. This all means that the film regularly switches gears to keep itself engaging and it works well. Just be careful that you are not hypnotized into drinking that bottle of hydrochloric acid you have hanging around the house.

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