In this Spanish-made giallo, genre stalwart Paul Naschy (who co-wrote the screenplay) plays escaped convict Gilles, a man tormented by memories of strangling his lover to death. These flashbacks are filmed in a highly theatrical, almost balletic style, which leaves you wondering whether (a) director Carlos Aured had seen ‘The Red Shoes’ one too many times and (b) this event exists purely in Gilles’s mind.
It’s the first of several ploys Aured uses to disconcert the viewer, not the least of which is a tendency to bounce from one distinct style of narrative to another. Things start off in crime thriller mode as a Gilles – a drifter with a violent past – arrives in a small town. Then we’re in Polanski territory as he’s hired as handyman by Claude (Diana Lorys) – who I’m sure must have been called Claudine or Claudette in the original, since Claude is a bloke’s name; however this is the name given in the English dub and on IMDb, so Claude it is – and meets her sisters, the wheelchair-bound Ivette (Maria Perschy) and over-sexed man-eater Nicole (Eva Leon).
Power games and jealousy seem to be the order of the day, with Claude – hating herself for a disfigurement (the reason for which is never explained) – lording it over Ivette and Nicole, even going so far as to lock Nicole in her room as punishment for getting it on with Gilles.
After about 45 minutes of this, the film gets its giallo groove on good and proper as a masked and leather-gloved individual starts massacring blonde-haired blue-eyed women. The modus operandi is reinforced several times by typically ineffectual copper Inspector Pierre (Antonio Pica), with local GP – and, it would seem, part-time pathologist – Dr Philippe (Eduardo Calvo) popping up to confirm that the killer is in the habit of removing the victim’s eyeballs.
Gilles’s identity is uncovered and Inspector Pierre and the boys in blue head off to arrest him. Gilles, in true ‘High Sierra’ stylee, arms himself and heads towards the mountains. This aspect of the film is curtailed with such unexpected finality that suddenly, with twenty minutes left, all bets are off and it’s an abrupt shift back to the giallo tropes for the double whammy ending.
Or at least, what Aured probably deluded himself during shooting was a double whammy ending. The finale edges into the realms of the ridiculous with Ivette’s nurse, the blue-eyed and blonde-haired Michelle (Ines Morales) heading home at night through the woods even though it’s public knowledge that she’s exactly the type the killer is targeting. The subsequent revelation of the killer’s identity seems to bring things to a fairly guessable conclusion, then Aured pulls something out of the bag that’s so WTF that we’re not so much edging into the realms of the ridiculous as powering at unstoppable speed right into the heart of it.
On the whole, ‘The Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll’ is a fairly proficient piece of work, with a nice slow-burn atmosphere during the early stages, decent cinematography, and some well staged death scenes. The use of ‘Frere Jacques’ during these scenes is creepily effective, even if the rest of the score is jauntily inappropriate. Naschy gives the standard Naschy performance, all moody stares, piercing eyes and shirt-removal at every possible opportunity. The ladies of the cast provide eye-candy aplenty.
Certainly not top-flight, and I’d hesitate even to put it in the second tier, but ‘The Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll’ is entertaining nonetheless; even its bonkers ending is part of its charm.