The mid-1980s was a gangbusters era for Trauma, what with the rise of mom-n-pop video-rental shops that knew better than to enforce strict policies about horror-movie rentals. But in addition to that, such places often had third-hand cassettes that Blockbuster woulda been ashamed to shelve. I am on a quest to turn up one such bomb. Keywords: foreign, gory, hypodermic needles, coffin, surprise ending.
Okay, here’s the expanded version: back about 1985, the local hole-in-the-wall video shop got a reputation for renting out “Headless Eyes” to kids under 18, and you were guaranteed some gossip at school if you were known to have watched it and thrown up…or watched it and NOT thrown up. Celebrity in high school is like that, remember? Anyway, some friends and I were determined to get in on that action, but of course the Friday we went looking for it, the tape was already out. Eh whatever, we settled on a box that looked to be of similar caliber. I really should have written down the name.
For starters, it was foreign. Italian or Spanish, and I don’t think the cassette we got was dubbed into English. Big deal, we weren’t watching for plot subtleties after all – this was supposed to be a test of our fortitude! And boy-howdy was it ever – it was like watching paint dry on a rainy day. Until the very end. And I mean the very, VERY end…the last second and a half of the film. See if you can guess how it ended.
From what we could piece together, the story was set in a villa/castle owned by some Dr. Jekyll-wannabe with a plan for an immortality serum or maybe just a process that would turn people into gorillas or something. That was this film’s claim to gory fame: it involved close-up shots of venous injections and blood spurting from incisions, supposedly “TAKEN FROM REAL-LIFE FOOTAGE”. This might have been quite traumatizing if the whole film didn’t look as though it had been filmed with the proverbial 16mm potato.
Anyway, the mad doctor’s plans come to naught and the film ends with him probably dead and his lovely young wife also a casualty of his attempts to meddle with Mad Biology. Her coffin is on a table and some guests/servants are mulling over how it’s gonna be a pain in the butt to bury her as the camera slowly zooms in on the coffin. The conversation drags on as the camera zooms and the focus-puller just barely manages to earn his day’s wage. Can you see where this is going? Off in the distance a telegraph can be heard….
BOOM! Coffin lid flies off and the bride flails about wild-eyed, revealing fangs or some such as the screen freeze-frames and the credits roll. SORRY KIDS, NO REFUNDS! BE KIND AND REWIND! Well obviously I’m not crazy about the prospect of sitting through that whole mess again, but I sure as heck would love to spring that finale on the guys again after all these years. I have little doubt they remember it – it was our own collective Ralphie-Parker-Ovaltine-Decoder-Ring moment. Not the usual kinda Trauma but more the end of innocence kind.
Again, it wasn’t a super-rare tape or this little shop wouldn’t have had a copy. It was definitely European and had the grainy look of a 1970s cheapie. I keep thinking it must have had a pretty good title coz I believe we just picked it on the basis of whatever was on the front of the case. Of course, it couldn’t have been as good as “Headless Eyes”, coz we knew we were settling for second-best at best.