LOS OJOS AZULES DE LA MUNECA ROTA/THE BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL
(American title: HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN)

1973

D: Carlos Aured
S: Jacinto Molina, Carlos Aured
P: Francisco Sanchez
M: Juan Carlos Calderon
C: Paul Naschy (Gilles), Diana Lorys (Claude), Eduardo Calvo (the doctor), Eva Leon (Nicole), Maria Perschy (Yvette), Ines Morales (Michele), Antonio Pica (Pierre), Luis Ciges (Rene), Pilar Bardem (Caroline), Antonio Ramis
Spanish production (Jose-Antonio Perez for Profilmes)

Running time: 89 minutes

US theatrical release: HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMAN, from Independent International.

US video release: HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN (Super Video - 2 releases)

  

          

 

Review:

Some things, like ducks, are unmistakable. As the saying goes; if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and waddles like a duck, then it most assuredly is a duck. Although this film is a Spanish production that was partially filmed in France where the story takes place, this is a giallo. And a wonderful, glorious giallo at that!  With maniacal killings, mysterious villain, requisite black gloves, attractive female victims, a respectable body count, and a neat twisty who-done-it-and-why plot to boot. But that isn’t apparent during the first 40 minutes of THE HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN, or BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL, which is the translation of the original Spanish title. Both titles, by the way, are apt, and it is guaranteed that we will meet psychotic women and see pairs of blue eyes in a manner like never before.  

The title and credits appear in English as we are introduced to Gilles, played by Paul Naschy, who is hitchhiking his way on a road in a desolate area. An engaging pop jazz track plays during the credits, and it is one that we will hear often during the film. Gilles stops at a village combination bar and diner and we learn through dialogue that he has with one of the staff that he is a transient, looking for work. Later, when he is continuing his journey and the sky is darkening, he receives a lift from a lady that will alter the course of his life. As the car door opens and the interior light goes on, we see that the driver is an attractive woman with a severely burned right upper arm that ends with a prosthetic hand device that the camera focuses in on. She has a facial similarity to Brigitte Bardot and much like Bardot appeared in the 70’s. I suspect that this make-up effect was deliberate. There is no doubt that we are seeing the first psychotic woman of the film title. Her hair is unflatteringly wrapped tight about her head, ending in a sorry ponytail. This lady has problems. 

Her name is Claude, and she says that she and her two sisters live alone and that they need a caretaker and general man about the house. It is only a matter of seconds before he is hired, and without her asking him his name or even why he is out hitchhiking in the dark. Maybe the dubbing lost something in translation. As they are talking, a bird crashes into the front of the car.  After they stop and go out to see what happened, Claude picks up the injured bird with her prosthetic hand and proceeds to kill it. Gilles gives her a questioning look to which Claude replies that it had to be done because the bird was injured. Gilles looks away and we see through his eyes a recurring vision that he has of him strangling a woman.  Is this kismet or what? 

We meet the two other sisters when they arrive at the house of the title. Nicole, unlike Claude, has an in-your-face sexuality. The third sister, Yvette, is confined to a wheelchair and is also attractive, but in a different manner.  

It is now the next day and we see Giles milking a cow, chopping wood, raking leaves, and, in his off-duty hours, exceeding the usual job requirements by servicing Nicole. Claude is seen reacting in a jealous manner to this and there is no doubt that there will soon be a ménage a trois

During that day we also meet other members of the cast. These include the village doctor who makes frequent house calls on Yvette, a live-in nurse named Michele who has come to take care of the paraplegic, the previous caretaker Jean, and the village gendarme who is invariably shown crisply attired in a uniform and cap.  The doctor explains the sisters to the nurse by saying, “Frustrated – showing signs of acute neurosis,” and then adds that the mother went insane and the father committed suicide after incurring an incurable disease. Soon after, Gilles does his best to make the romantic situation a ménage a quatre during an encounter with Michele. This is not a little house on a prairie. 

We learn that the original nurse who was to have come to the house to tend to Yvette has been found murdered. Michelle was a last moment substitute who had appeared unexpectedly. Except for the off-screen murder and a knife fight between Gilles and Jean, the previous caretaker, nothing of deadly violence has occurred so far in the film. This will now change. 

It is after nightfall in the village and we see an attractive young girl bid her beau adieu and then walk home though the dark streets, singing  “Frere Jacques”. The charming melody is then taken up by the soundtrack combo and takes on a dissonant quality. We see a gloved hand emerge by a building after she passes and there is little doubt what will occur. There are now childlike voices in the soundtrack as we hear the click of her shoes on the cobblestones playing a counter-rhythm to the “Frere Jacques” theme. She is no longer singing as she senses peril. We are now firmly in the world of giallo. The inevitable happens: the sinister dark figure leaps upon her from behind and she exists no more. We then see black gloved hands holding a glass tumbler wherein there float two extracted blue eyes. 

This is the first of many on-screen murders that will occur in the film and from hereon the grisly happenings proceed at a quick and bloody pace. The matters of concern now do not include whom Gilles will bed next, but who the maniacal killer is, why are the women of the village being savagely mutilated, and who will be the next victim. 

The creative people behind this film were Carlos Aured, the director, and Paul Naschy. Had I seen this film more than a few months ago, I would not have realized the true extent of Mr. Naschy’s involvement with the film. The credits cite Jacinto Molina for the story and his is the first of two names listed for the screenplay, the other name being the film’s director, Carlos Aured. I now know that Jacinto Molina is the birth name of Paul Naschy, and that his number of aliases possibly exceeds those of Jason Bourne. 

The film was directed with a sure hand that understood the genre of the tale it told. It is evident that Mr. Aured had seen some of the giallos that preceded his. Dario Argento’s seminal BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE came out just three years earlier, trailed by two others the following year and both Aured and Naschy must have been familiar with his work. 

The pairing of Aured and Naschy began with EL ESPANTO SURGE EL LA TUMBA (HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB - US). This was the first film to be directed by Aured and the first of the four films Paul Naschy and he collaborated on. They were all released in 1973.  Indeed, this was a remarkable feat for the two men. Naschy is credited with the scripts and story for all of these in addition to starring in the films. The first film, I have read, involves a mixture of Gilles de Rais, vampires and a warlock, the second a werewolf, the third was the giallo of this article, and the fourth is about a mummy. It seems possible that the two were determined to leave their mark in succession on the horror favorites known in the film world. But after this their collaboration came to an end. Naschy scripted and acted in other films while Aured continued to direct a fifth film, and all that same year. 

Aured has been quoted as saying that he “simply collaborated in the creation of characters, some scenes, and maybe in a little of the dialogue. But most of the work belongs to Paul Naschy.”  Well then, they are both to be commended, and particularly Naschy, for the tale that is spun. One of the many things that I like about the film is the construction of the story line. It begins, while titles are shown and the catchy theme is played, with Gilles transient arrival. Then his stop at the town bar, which is where it seems all the locals congregate at one time or another, after which the startling introduction to Claude, and then the ride to the house of the title name. And it is here that the characters will all eventually muster. It is a sequence that works beautifully. A side door entrance into a deadly scenario that began before Gilles turned his thumb up. 

This film and the other Aured and Naschy films mentioned were made when Naschy was under exclusive contract with Profilmes, and Perez Giner was executive producer for all. Three of the four films including HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN used the same cinematographer, Francisco Sanchez. Juan Carlos Calderon wrote the music. Although the opening tune is a pleasant one and the arrangement well executed, it recurs with endless repetition and there is at least one moment when it is completely at odds with the sentiment expressed on screen. The miscellaneous cues are effective for their purposes, and who will ever forget the brilliant use of “Frere Jacques”

Imbd.com lists the original running time of the movie as 89 minutes. I was able to view both the dubbed in English language BLUE EYES OF THE BROKEN DOLL and the slightly edited from that version HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN. The running times for these were 84 and 83 minutes respectively. The content that was snipped from the first contains brief nudity, a few seconds of gore, a short scene with dialogue between two characters, and a rather shocking scene of a pig being brutally stabbed and de-blooded. Aured explained that “we simply bought a live pig and hired a town stockbreeder to kill the pig according to his custom.” The missing minutes from the original 89 minute release time, if that time is accurate, is additionally perplexing since nudity would not have been present in the Spanish market because Franco was in power in 1973. 

I did wonder if Claude’s prosthetic device had signaled that a different type of steamy session between Gilles and her lay ahead in the film. A description that I once read of a non-medical book containing photographs of undressed women wearing various types of bizarre prosthetic devices came to mind, but I couldn’t imagine the Generalissimo allowing any of that. As it was, there did come a scene when Claude enters Gilles room at night and goes to him as he lies on his bed. As he starts to caress her, Claude says “No, that’s not true. I couldn’t please any one. I only make them sick.” After they kiss, he lifts up her prosthetic hand and kisses that. He then removes her top clothing and they embrace, shortly after which she turns off the light. This was all rather mild and mercifully brief. 

The major cast members of the film, for the most part, have appeared in many euro-cult films. Diana Lorys, who is Claude, starred in THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF (1962) and appeared in MALENKA (1969). Maria Perschy, who was Yvette, played the female leading role in that most excellent of Krimis, THE MAD EXECUTIONERS (1963), and Eduardo Calvo, the doctor, appeared in a good number of Naschy’s movies including CURSE OF THE DEVIL and THE MUMMY'S REVENGE (both 1973). 

An interesting element of the plot recalled DEMENTIA 13, an under-appreciated thriller made ten years earlier, and in another respect, an even earlier French film came to mind. The final few minutes of the film must have been mind freezing in 1973. Even seeing it now, 29 years later, I know that what I saw will lurk somewhere in my mind for many years to come. 

Let’s hope that Anchor Bay, Image, or another spirited label will soon issue this film in the DVD format, and offering the original full-length version with subtitles and optional dubbing. On second thought, I wouldn’t mind if the pig scene were only viewable as an option.

-- George Koch


Source videos: The Dutch pre-record (a PAL tape available in a NTSC transfer from Luminous Film & Video Wurks), and the American Super Video release under its original American theatrical playdate title, HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN. Luminous' transfer is quite good, though the audio has a low flutter through the first part of the film, possibly found in the original Dutch PAL version. For those with NTSC video machines (us Americans, that is), the Super Video version is definitively superior in terms of visual quality, but not so regarding content. Three cuts were evident in HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN. The complete version shows a live pig-bleeding sequence, the blood gushing into a pail held by the second female victim; this young female then is told by an old woman to hurry up her delivery of the blood-filled pail; the PSYCHOTIC WOMEN version merely gives us the girl already carrying the pail, with a brief audio dub of the pig-squealing in the background. The second cut sequence involves the hand-rake murder. BLUE EYES contains a few more close-up swishes to the face of the third victim , including a "point-of-view" shot from the victim's perspective (blood streaking across glass, actually). The third cut involves the throat slicing of Victoria--the complete raspy slice is shown in the uncut BLUE EYES version. [John Bernhard informs us that there are more cuts in the Super Video version when compared with the Dutch tape: Naschy takes a couple more shots in the BLUES EYES version, and every gore scene seems extended by a frame or two.] While minimal, and seemingly not important to the overall impact of the film, these cuts do deprive it of a magnified brutal commentary on the easy dispensibility of meat, whether animal or human, a commentary which underlines Naschy's dog-eat-dog philosophy, expounded on nearly ten years later with the slightly similar, but far more wicked, LA CARNIVAL DE LA BESTIAS.

-- Mirek