Sunday, December 1, 2019

"Mansion of the Doomed", eye've been looking for you all my life and eye didn't even know it. My eyeballs finally landed on you, and eye want you to know that eye really see you. Eye get you. Eye love you. You made me forget all about "Eyes Without A Face", because you have the chutzpah to be everything that movie wanted to be but couldn't. Ubiquitous character actor Michael Pataki, eye also love you to my very core. Scenery-hungry Richard Basehart, tragically miscellaneous Gloria Grahame, lusciously skeezy Vic Tayback, perpetual wino Arthur Space, very young Lance Henriksen -- you all warm my heart and rattle my eyeballs. You do.

"Are you questioning my ability to overact?"
Basehart plays Dr. Chaney, the kind of arrogant surgeon who really needs something terrible to happen to him, maybe because he's uncomfortably attached to his beautiful young daughter, Nancy (a cheerful Trish Stewart). A minor car mishap causes her to bang her head off the windshield, and POOF, she's blind. This is the kind of thing that happens to *other* people, though, not the children of wealthy shithead doctors with vague European accents. Dr. Chaney quickly gets over his ethical resistance to performing experimental transplants with living human donors, lures Nancy's surgeon boyfriend Dan (Henriksen) to the house, drugs him, removes his eyes, and transplants them into Nancy's head. Fortunately his palatial bougie house came equipped with a cell in the basement, so he imprisons Dan there. Because even though he doesn't think twice about removing someone's eyes without their consent so his own daughter can regain her vision, it's not like he's a murderer or anything.

Well, Nancy has her moment where she wakes up and suddenly she can see again, and she's back to being as cheerful as the daughter of a wealthy surgeon should be -- although she's just a little concerned about why her fiance is suddenly missing, when he never told her he was going anywhere. But alas, tragedy strikes again -- when she's enjoying daddy's Olympic size swimming pool, her sight dims and POOF, blind again. And so begins Chaney's cycle of abducting victims and transplanting their eyes into his daughter. The first surgery doesn't leave much scarring, but after the second one, her face starts to look like she used a tumbleweed for a pillow. Plus, she doesn't really know what's going on anyway, since daddy doesn't tell her how he's getting these peepers for her.

"Can someone get me my Clinique products, and hurry??"
Meanwhile, the cell in the basement gets more and more crowded with unfortunate victims who now have empty eye sockets. "Mansion of the Doomed" conveniently avoids depicting how these unfortunates are dealing with their own humanity, i.e. where are they...eliminating? What are they eating? How are the men shaving? They do a lot of moaning and screaming, and even a little singing. Lance Henriksen does a lot of bellowing, too.

"Doctor, I've been having a little trouble in the sack lately...."
Gloria Grahame's character is Katherine, Dr. Chaney's second wife and Nancy's stepmother. She dutifully assists Chaney in these gross violations of ethical behavior, but eventually she sort-of grows a conscience and urges Chaney to stop (he doesn't). Unfortunately, this is not as juicy a role for her as 1971's "Blood and Lace", and I hope she at least got a decent paycheck. Her "Blood and Lace" castmate Vic Tayback shows up in a do-nothing role as a detective, but it's the kind of police department where someone can disappear and the police just say things like "Well, maybe he went to the country..." and that's the end of it. Even when one of the victims escapes the basement and is killed after running blindly into traffic, the cops are troubled by her carefully removed orbs, but they don't even seem to suspect the eye surgeon who lives right down the street.

First day on the set, Gloria Grahame finally looks at the script.
The thing you will remember most about "Mansion of the Doomed" is the excruciating eyeball violence that occurs. We see numerous instances of surgical removal of eyeballs, gaping eye sockets that aren't even covered by bandages, and one character suffers a gruesome fate involving the less careful removal of his eyes via an angry assailant's thumbs.

"Surely I don't need bifocals already??"
"Sorry lady, I only deliver the paper, I don't help people running screaming down the street."

"Your agent got you WHAT!??"
There really is something special about 70s-era exploitation films, and "Mansion of the Doomed" is a perfect example of how good bad things can get. Forget "Eyeball" or "The Headless Eyes", this is the one that will scratch that elusive itch you're feeling when you long to see someone's ocular cavity laid bare. Eye promise!


-Alan D Hopewell said...

Eye still haven't seen this, but eye hope to someday.

GroovyDoom said...

It's on Tubi for free!