(I LOVE that logo!)
Today, I’m reviewing the newly remastered edition of THE HYPNOTIC EYE (1960) DVD, released from Warner Home Entertainment, under the Warner Archive Collection label, as part of their Made On Demand program.
Note – ALL Screen captures are UNMODIFIED.
There’s been a series of bizarre self-mutilations by beautiful women, each more horrendous than the last. The latest uses a flammable shampoo over an open gas flame on her stove. Another casually drinks a lye cocktail. Still another puts her face into a fan. All of them have said they mistook what hurt them for something else. One thought she was putting on lipstick instead of slicing her face with a straight razor.
Detective Dave Kennedy (Joe Partridge), in charge of the case, is baffled by it. One night after work, he takes his girlfriend, Marcia (Marcia Blaine) and her friend Dodi (Merry Anders) to a show featuring The Great Desmond (Jacques Bergerac), a renowned stage hypnotist. Dave is skeptical anyone could be out under, and Dodie volunteers. She goes under very quickly, and is levitated. Just before he wakes her, Desmond whispers something to Dodie.
As the three friends leave the theatre, Dave and Marcia grill her about what it felt like. As they go to get a drink, Dodie says she has to go home. After appearing to get into a cab, and after Marcia and Dave drive off, Dodie goes backstage to meet Desmond. When next we see her, Dodie is alone in her apartment, seemingly washing her face as she readies for bed. When she looks up in the mirror, she sees her face and hands are horribly burned. The camera closes up on a bottle of sulfuric acid, casually placed on her sink, which she knocks over as she passes out.
Marcia is convinced that Desmond has something to do with it, as Dodie said she had no memory of what happened to her, nor that she felt any pain and decides to go see for herself. She volunteers to go onstage with Desmond. When he tries to hypnotize her, she sees something she hadn’t seen from the audience that other night. a bizarre eye in the center of a strobe light hidden in Desmond’s hand. She pretends to go under.
Later, Marcia tells Dave & Police Psychologist Dr. Hecht (Guy Prescott) about the eye and how it almost put her under. Then she tells them Desmond whispered to her to meet him backstage at midnight. With Dave & Dr. Hecht on stakeout, Marcia keeps her date. She enters the dressing room, and out of curiosity, she opens a box on his table. immediately, the hypnotic eye flashes and makes her susceptible to Desmond’s suggestions.
Desmond proceeds to take her out, completely entranced, but acting and thinking like she’s wide awake. He brings her back to her apartment, and as they kiss, Desmond’s assistant, Justine (Allison Hayes) steps out of hiding and takes control of Marcia and brings her into the bathroom, sending Desmond away. She intends to have Marcia step into the scalding hot water, telling her that it’s quite cool and refreshing.
Fortunately, Dave comes to the door and interrupts her plan. Justine tells Marcia to tell him she’s an old friend and former school room mate. Dave knows better, and when he storms into the bedroom to confront Justine, he finds she’s climbed out the window. Marcia remembers nothing though. The next morning, Dave & Dr. Hecht visit the victims and ask if they’ve ever been hypnotized or seen a hypnotist named Desmond. While questioning one woman, he finds a balloon used in Desmond’s routine, that all the audience members receive at each performance. This is partial proof that Desmond is involved, and goes to see Dodie. When she answers that she’s never been hypnotized or seen Desmond, he knows that she’d been ordered to forget everything and that the others must have been as well. When they go to get Marcia and find her not home, they rush to the theatre to see if she’s there. As they come in, Desmond is using the hypnotic eye on the entire audience.
He stalls Dave by flashing the eye at him, allowing Justine to take Marcia backstage. She brings her up to the scaffolding, while Desmond is held at gunpoint by Dr. Hecht. Dave tries to pursue Justine. When questioned by Hecht about her motives, as she has her beauty, Justine goes wild, ripping off what is revealed to be a mask, that had been hiding her own horrible disfigurement.
Startled by the revelation, Dr. Hecht is grabbed by Desmond who starts to choke him. Alerted by the Doctor’s cry, Dave shoots and kills Desmond. Seeing this, Justine seemingly jumps to his side, dying in the fall.
Meanwhile, Marcia hangs from the scaffold, still in a trance. Dr. Hecht wakes her, so Dave has an easier time pulling her up.
While Dave helps Marcia down, Dr. Hecht addresses the audience and warns them to never let anyone ever hypnotize them, unless it’s a doctor or someone their doctor recommends.
“If you DARE…Look into The HYPNOTIC EYE!”
With that statement, the world was introduced to ‘The latest sensation that makes YOU a part of the movie, HYPNO-MAGIC.’
Hypno-Magic was a theatre gimmick along the lines of William Castle’s Percepto & Emergo that he used in THE TINGLER and THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL respectively. The ‘Hypno-Magic’ portion takes place when Marcia goes back to the theatre, and Desmond does the audience participation. He runs through routines that stage hypnotists use to determine receptiveness in potential subjects in audiences. The movie audience is given a balloon identical to the one used in the film stunt to help the audience go along with everything. Plus, having a physical souvenir is a great way of getting word of mouth advertising. Other gimmicks managers had at their disposal were cheap hypnotic eye key chains and stencils to paint hypnotic patterns and logos leading to their theatres.
The other gimmicks the film used dealt with individuals associated with the filming. One was hiring master hypnotist Gil Boyne to teach Bergerac how to properly intone the routines as well as actually hypnotizing the actresses and the volunteers who came on stage for Desmond at the film’s beginning. The other was hiring Fred Demara, called ‘The Great Imposter’ to portray the doctor taking care of Dodie.
Demara was a man who literally became other people, mostly doctors or counselors, to make money and to actually help some people. A film of his life story, starring Tony Curtis, had been in theatres recently and the producers wanted to cash in on that. Unfortunately, his movie acting was far worse than his impostering ability could help.
It’s a decent thriller. There are a few low notes. First of all, it’s a VERY formulaic take on the ‘evil hypnotist’. It gets preachy in the form of Dr. Hecht who is CONSTANTLY blasting non-medical hypnotists of any kind, lumping them all together as evil and unscrupulous. Bergerac’s thick accent is hard to follow sometimes. On top of this are the plot holes. The biggest is Justine. We have no idea how she became disfigured. We have no idea why she’s using Desmond to exact her revenge on any beautiful woman. We have no idea of why Desmond is even going along with it. Is he responsible for what happened, so is he helping her to ease his own guilt over her? Does she have some other hold over him? Is it love? Is it blackmail? We are never brought into the whys and wherefores. There’s also a moment with Dodie. We see her arms and face have been hurt, as evident from the bandages. But when we see her in her hospital room, the Doctor is spraying paraffin on her BACK. Why? There’s no explanation, or visual of her back being burned. If she’d fainted into the puddle of the sulfuric acid from where the jar broke, that’s one thing, but she fainted face down, not onto her back. Lastly, for some unknown reason, we’re exposed to the ‘soulful reading’ of one Lawrence Lipton credited as ‘The King of the Beatniks’, in the Beat Club that Desmond takes Marcia to. Lipton was a journalist and poet (as well as father of INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO interviewer James Lipton), with this as his SOLE acting credit. I wonder if he was an investor who was given a part in compensation.
Just accept and enjoy it as a fun B-picture thriller.
Unlike my first W.A. review (tom thumb), this is NOT a re-release of a previous Warner Home Entertainment DVD. This DVD is purely an Archive release. It follows the format – Blue disc with the movie’s logo, and a static, 1-function menu. This has been remastered, and it shows. The picture quality is very sharp & crisp.
As with tom thumb, Hypnotic Eye uses the original one-sheet artwork, and I like that very much. The back cover follows the standard format. The images are taken from promotional stills. I know for sure, as I found images of them online (see below).
There are NO special features, not even a trailer. But then, this is typical for most Warner Archive Made on Demand releases. DON’T let this dissuade you. The quality of the video and sound more than make up for this. Remember that sometimes to get something you want, some concessions have to be made. The film is presented in widescreen format, in the 16×9 1.85:1 aspect, in Dolby Digital Sound. It played with no problem on both my 5 year old DVD player and my HP Pavillion G Notebook. The disc is a DVD-R (as are all Archive Collection made-on-demand program releases). There are no additional language options, from what I could find.
All in all, I enjoyed the film in and of itself. The presentation and design of the DVD is basic, but the packaging is acceptable. I would’ve loved ANY extra features, but again, this is the nature of the beast.
I give Warner Archive’s release of the re-mastered THE HYPNOTIC EYE 3 out of 5 ‘Jaggies’!
Make sure to visit their site at http://www.warnerarchives.com
and to follow them on Twitter – @WarnerArchive
*- There is a note on the back which states that the disc is designed to work in ‘play only’ devices and may not work in DVD recorders or PC drives.
As with my last review here’s some extras for you of my own: