aka The Secret Labyrinth
(Gatti Rossi in un Labirinto di Vetro)
Director/Screenplay Collaborator – Umberto Lenzi, Screenplay – Felix Tusell, Photography – Antonio Millan, Music – Bruno Nicolai, Set Design – Jose Massague. Production Company – National Cinematografica/Estel Films.
Martine Brochard (Paulette Stone), John Richardson (Mark Burton), Andres Mejuto (Inspector Tudela), Ines Pellegrini (Naiba Campbell), Mirta Miller (Lisa Sanders), George Rigaud (Reverend Bronson), Daniele Vargas (Robby Alvarado), Silvia Solar (Gail Alvarado), Jose Maria Blanco (Inspector Lara), John Bartha (Mr Hamilton), Veronica Miriel (Jenny Hamilton), Raf Baldassare (Martinez), Marta May (Alma Burton)
Paulette Stone joins a party of tourists in Barcelona. She is joined shortly after by Mark Burton, her married boss with whom she has been having an affair. Somebody begins killing members of the tour party – in each case gouging out their left eyeball. The only clue is that the killer is wearing one of the red raincoats given out to members of the tour party. As the Spanish police investigate, suspecting various members of the tour group, Mark realises that his wife Alma has come to Barcelona and might be the killer.
The giallo film had started in the early 1960s. Gialli were an Italian-made series of psycho-thrillers designed in the same vein as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace (1964) was not the first but set the style for those that would follow – an emphasis on vibrantly colourful photography and extravagant surroundings; showoffy cinematographic effects; beautiful women in a frequent state of undress before being killed; a nominal thriller plot where all of this is revealed to be the activities of a mad killer, usually one of the cast, but with far less of an emphasis on psychological explanations than English-language psycho-thrillers. Most of the films would be given fanciful titles – for instance, while this had the crude English-language title of Eyeball that was slapped on it, it is known as Red Cats in the Glass Labyrinth in the original Italian.
Eyeball comes from Umberto Lenzi whose main claim to fame is having started off the notorious genre of the Italian cannibal film with Deep River Savages (1972). (See below for Umberto Lenzi’s other films). The film was shot in Spain and features a mix of Italian and Spanish actors as well as the minor English-language name of John Richardson. You get the impression that Eyeball was conceived not long after the hit of Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973) from which it borrows in particular the image of the knife-wielding killer in a scarlet red raincoat running around a beautiful European city.
Eyeball is not a very good example of the giallo film. It probably need not be said that Umberto Lenzi is a far more workmanlike director and fails to bring the style that Mario Bava and Dario Argento brought to the genre. Not to mention that the film suffers from the typical dubbing of the era that gives the impression that it is being uttered by robots. There is a lack of anything notable about any of the death set-pieces here – other than some mildly gory effects with eyeballs being gouged out. Lenzi lacks much of a pace and so fails to get the thriller element wound up in any particular way. There is a minor whodunnit aspect as the script keeps us guessing who among the party of tourists is the killer – and you do have to admit that the eventual revelation turns out to be a moderately effective surprise.
Umberto Lenzi had a prolific career making low budget films between the 1950s and 90s, working in numerous Italian exploitation genres. His other genre films include:- the superhero film Kriminal (1966); the spy film The Spy Who Loved Flowers (1966); the giallo Orgasmo/Paranoia (1969); the giallo So Beautiful, So Perverse (1969); the giallo An Ideal Place to Kill/Oasis of Fear (1971); the cannibal film Deep River Savages/Man From Deep River (1972); the devil worship film Knife of Ice (1972); the giallo Seven Blood-Stained Orchids (1972); the psycho film Almost Human/The Executioner (1974); the giallo Spasmo (1974); the cannibal film Eaten Alive/The Emerald Jungle (1980); the zombie film Nightmare City (1980); the cannibal film Cannibal Ferox/Make Them Die Slowly (1981); the sword-and-sorcery film Iron Master (1986); the haunted house film Ghosthouse (1988); the occult film Hell’s Gate (1989); the psycho film Hitcher in the Dark (1989); the slasher film Nightmare Beach (1989); and the occult film Demons 3/Black Demons (1991).