Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel’s “Un Chien Andalou”, a short experimental film made in 1928, opens with a man sharpening a cut-throat razor. Finished, he walks out of the room onto a balcony where there is a woman already seated. Approaching her, he places his left hand over her face, stretches her left eyelid open and slices her eye with the razor. This is the first example of graphic eye violence on film.
In the years that followed there were few examples of eye violence, mainly due to what was or was not acceptable on screen. Something that didn’t prevent Roger Corman from making ‘X – The Man With X-Ray Eyes’, in 1963, in which Ray Milland takes a biblical quotation all too literally and scratches his eyes out because he can’t handle what he can see. Of course, it was Herschell Gordon Lewis in the 1970’s who showed what the intelligent movie-going public wanted to see and more than succeeded with both ‘The Wizard of Gore’ and ‘The Gore Gore Girls’ (on which, see later).
Apart from those, the 70’s were kinda quiet. ‘Massacre Mansion’ (aka Terror of Dr. Chaney; Mansion of the Doomed) and ‘Headless Eyes’ dealt with nutters removing people’s eyes. It even filtered through into a mainstream film – ‘The Omen II’; I’m sure many of you have a special place in your heart for the scene in which Joan Hart has her eye pecked out by a raven from hell and wanders into the path of an eighteen wheel Peterbilt truck.
In 1979, the whole show really kicked into action. An elderly, unknown Italian director named Lucio Fulci was hired to direct a rip-off of George Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ which had just been released. History was made – even those who think the rest of ‘Zombie Flesh Eaters’ is junk love the scene where a woman is pulled through a door by a zombie, with her eye meeting a nine-inch splinter of bamboo on the way. In many ways this is the best example one can produce of eye violence. The scene in question is slow, painful, graphic, you really feel for the actress; it is marred only by a dodgy effect. This scene gave Fulci’s career a new life – sure as shit is shit you wouldn’t have heard of him if he hadn’t filmed it.
So what is the appeal of seeing orbal punishment inflicted on someone else? Many can’t “see the point” to it, but there are still those who sit up in their seats when a sharp object comes into view, while all around them hide behind a cushion or place a hand over their face. Perhaps it’s because the eyes are one of the few organs visible on the outside of the body and are vulnerable to external forces, so when someone has their eyes poked out, you are thankful that yours are still safe in your head. This can be backed by considering the on-screen knee in the gonads. I’ve seen people double up and scream in pain when this has happened; the one difference between your eyes and your testicles (ladies excluded!) is that you can ALMOST carry on with your life as normal without your testicles.
What follows is a list of 20 great scenes of eye violence. Not all are violent, not all are graphic, but all should make you wince. Alas, it seems the golden age is over. But wait, someone HAS recognised the significance of losing your eyesight – stand forward Margaret Thatcher. Not content with having her own blind followers, she now attempts to make everyone else blind by unnecessary charges for eyetests…
- ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS (below). ‘Nuff said.
- UN CHIEN ANDALOU. What? You’ve forgotten already?
- NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES. Julio the bloody ape vents his anger by gouging an eye from a passer-by, who is so scared that his face turns into a latex mask.
- EDGE OF SANITY. Eyeball scraping with scalpel. Not gory or violent, but YEEUUCH!
- DEAD & BURIED. A burned photographer recovering in hospital has a syringe stuck in his one visible eye by the bitch who got him there in the first place.
- EVIL DEAD. Ash takes NO MORE SHIT. Lifted up by his possessed pal, Ash does what any quick-thinking gorehound would do and pushes his thumbs DEEP in Scott’s eyes
- MUTATIONS. A segment with freaks has one guy get on stage, utter total drivel & pop his eyes in and out of their sockets without using his hands.
- CANNIBAL FEROX. John Morghen helps a cannibal native remove a particularly nasty foreign body from under his eyelid, with the use of a knife.
- ZOMBIE CREEPING FLESH. The most original. A lady scientist has her tongue cut out and a zombie places its hand in her mouth and push her eyes out from inside.
- DEMONS. Bugger what Jim says, at times it’s interesting, the main highlight : a blind geezer having his eyes scratched out by a demon with it’s priorites wrong.
- NEW YORK RIPPER (above). The ‘Ripper’ drags a razor down a girl’s face via her eye which splits and lolls in the vitreous & aqueous. The BBFC didn’t see the humour (sic)
- DESPERATE LIVING. John Waters’ film: Mole McHenry, shown in flashback battering an opponent to death with a stiletto and stamping on his handily fallen out eye.
- GORE GORE GIRLS. One unfortunate victim has her eyes pulled out, pierced with a fork and SQUEEEEEEEZED at the camera.
- ZOMBI 3 aka Burial Ground. Number 1, restaged with a glass splinter.
- REVENGE OF THE LIVING DEAD. A stiletto clad zombie(?) pushes a victim to the ground and stamps on her eye with the heel. The systeme sanguine follows.
- THE FOURTH MAN (See Film Blitz). Car drives into back of lorry carrying steel rods, one of which pierces a character’s head clean through.
- SALO:120 DAYS OF SODOM. On the last day, one victim has an eye removed by knife. A low budget mean a loss of impact; spent the cash on fake shit, no doubt.
- THE BEYOND. Chcok-a-block, this one. Gouged out, eaten by spiders and one head implaed on a nail in the wall, leaving an eye on it. All UK releases are cut…
- OPERA. Apart from needles under the eyes and Daria Nicolodi getting shot im the eye, the best bit has ravens pecking their friends’ killer’s eye out.
- ZOMBI HOLOCAUST aka Dr Butcher MD. Another gouging – tricks you by cutting away at the last possible moment and then immediately cutting back. Meaty.