Transmissions to Earth: HEADLESS EYES (1971)
Well, we’ve got another very strange horror movie from the early 1970s this time around, from the era when incredibly strange movies were pretty easy to find.
HEADLESS EYES (1971) begins with a robbery. Arthur Malcolm (Bo Brundin) breaks into a woman’s apartment while she is sleeping and digs through her purse. When she wakes up, he tries to strangle her (“I just need $65 for my rent!”), but she’s able to grab onto a nearby spoon and jam the handle into one of his eyes. Arthur starts screaming over and over “My eye! My eye!” as he crawls across the floor, out the window, and down the fire escape. When he gets down to the sidewalk below, he cowers on the ground shouting, “My eye! My eye!” as a crowd gathers around him. His eyeball is hanging out of its socket.
Needless to say, right off the bat, this movie is hilariously bad.
We then see Arthur later on. He’s wearing an eye patch and is making weird pieces of art, that all seem to involve eyes. A mobile hanging from the ceiling features lots of hanging eyes. He freezes eyes in ice in his freezer. He imbeds more eyes in plastics and creates strange sculptures. Meanwhile, some maniac is going around killing women and scooping their eyes out with a spoon. Any idea who the killer could be?
When he’s not running around the streets of New York, convinced that someone is chasing him, he’s breaking into apartments and killing women for their precious eyes. There’s nothing subtle about this guy, and he doesn’t even try to be inconspicuous. When a woman is murdered on a rooftop in his neighborhood, Arthur is only able to get one of her eyes out before he almost gets caught. Later on, he’s part of a crowd while a TV journalist reports about the murder. Arthur even digs the lady up later at the cemetery, so he can get her other eye!
Whenever he kills anyone, he tells them “I’m so sorry, I’m sorry,” and tells their eyes that “soon you will be preserved forever!” He has some ugly art gallery that looks like a junk shop (he lives in the apartment above it). At one point, a former girlfriend comes by to see how he’s doing. She gives him a speech where she talks about his never trusting her because she was a rich girl who wanted to date a famous artist, and he tells her how the “accident” that took his eye, changed him. That it brought out another person who lived inside of him. He starts ranting, and she gets disgusted and leaves.
There is nothing normal about this guy. He might as well have a sign around his neck that says “I kill people and cut out their eyeballs to make bad art!” At one point he follows a blonde actress to an audition for some sleazy producer (the guy’s “office” is a small room in an apartment building). When the man leaves, Arthur breaks in so that he can look through the headshots and find hers, with her address on the back. He writes it down, intent on paying her a “visit.” Of course, the producer’s ugly old secretary comes back to work around this time and catches him, ripping off his eye patch. He goes wild, strangling her with her own gaudy necklace (and of course takes her eyes!)
Despite the fact that the death toll continues to rise, and Arthur’s behavior continues to get worse, the cops have a hard time solving the case. The one cop who does track him down finds him almost by accident, and isn’t smart enough to finish the job.
A young art student named Gingy keeps stopping by his shop. She tells him he’s a brilliant artist (she must be high or something) and she wants to learn how to make sculptures in plastic like he does (something they don’t teach at art school). At first, he blows her off, but she’s persistent and he agrees to meet her at a lighthouse where she goes to get away from everyone and work on her art assignments. When he goes there, you think the girl might be in danger, but instead, they go for a walk and discuss art. For the first time, Arthur laughs and seems normal, and you think maybe he has a chance to show some kind of human emotions again. But not long after he leaves her, he goes back to his old, murderous ways.
HEADLESS EYES is a pretty insane, low-budget flick. I’m sure it played at grindhouse theaters in the 70s, even though the company that made the VHS tape, Wizard Video, claims it was “too shocking to show in theaters and was made to go directly to video.” There’s an awkwardness to it all that makes you wonder if it’s a bad Italian horror movie dubbed into English. There are names in the credits: Ramon Gordon, Kelley Swartz and Mary Jane Early, but you have no clue who played what character.
Star Bo Brundin actually went on to get roles in legitimate Hollywood movies like THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER (1975) starring Robert Redford and the 1979 disaster movie, METEOR, as well as lots of TV shows like the original BIONIC WOMAN series from the 70s, FALCON CREST, and THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO.
Director Kent Bateman made a couple more low-budget flicks before working for television, directing episodes of FAMILY TIES and VALERIE’S FAMILY in the 80s. A little more digging will reveal he was also the father of actor Jason Bateman!!
Despite the fact that his behavior continues to worsen, the cops are baffled by Arthur’s crimes.
The fact that the movie is so low-budget sometimes works in its favor; there are times when Arthur’s psychotic antics seem especially creepy. And the repetitive score is actually kind of eerie, when it doesn’t grate on your nerves.
HEADLESS EYES ends with a scene in the meat packing district, with Arthur stalking that poor blonde actress (who appears to be delivering a bag of heroin to someone – we can’t be sure, but at first maybe she thinks he’s a cop following her – but it turns out he’s something much more dangerous). The final scene takes place in a cold meat locker, with sides of beef hanging from hooks.
There’s not really very much about HEADLESS EYES to recommend it. It’s a bad movie with bad acting and a pretty much non-existent storyline. Yet, if you like this sort of dreck, you might find it strangely entertaining. I would say it’s of the “so bad it’s good” school of filmmaking, but I’d be lying. It’s just bad, and it never comes full circle to being even close to “good.” But, on some level, I think I enjoyed it.
If you can actually find this movie somehow, view it at your own risk.
© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares
NOTE: Despite the fact that the opening credits call the movie, THE HEADLESS EYES, every video box I’ve ever seen lists it as simply, HEADLESS EYES.