Faceless (1988)

a.k.a. - Les Predateurs de la Nuit
An all star euro-cast is wasted in this unexciting, updated surgical horror from Jess Franco. MB Shriek Show USA R1 DVD.

The Film

Surgery on young woman with horrible facial scars, a trail of missing women - it can mean just one thing... Franco's back!

Somewhere near Paris, modern day: Dr. Frank Flamand (Helmut Berger) is trying to perform a full facial transplant on his sister who was scarred in an acid attack meant for him, but he needs young women to supply the skin and his assistant/partner Nathalie (Brigitte Lahaie) is busy pulling them in. However, when she kidnaps American model Barbara Hallen (Caroline Munro) her father (Telly Savalas) calls in private eye Sam Morgan (Christopher Mitchum) to investigate. While Morgan is stumped in Paris, Dr. Flamand has turned to the only known expert in the field of facial surgery - Dr. Orloff (Howard Vernon) who directs him to the only man to have actually carried out the operation, a former Nazi doctor Karl Moser (Anton Diffring). While the doctors attempt to carry out the operation, Morgan has uncovered some leads and is jeopardising the entire proceedure...

Faceless is the result of producer René Chateau who approached Jess Franco, at that time shooting low budget pictures in Spain, and offered him the biggest budget and star names that Franco had had for years. Based on the oft-recurring Georges Franju/Jess Franco theme of facial transplants and unwilling surgery, Faceless suffers from a very poorly written plot. Despite crediting no less than four writers onscreen, the film races through plot developments and languishes in completely gratuitous sex and gore scenes. The entire conversation with Dr. Orloff is over in less than three minutes, and is followed by two unnecessary sex sequences and a dull sub-plot that seems to exist only to provide a gore shot. Although the film tries to be clever, and does have a few nice dialogue sequences, it is really just an exploitation film with gore that would suit Lucio Fulci more than Franco. To confound the viewers however, despite the casting of former porn actress Lahaie, there are no sex scenes in the film, the camera cutting away like an R-rated Hollywood picture just as the 'action' stars. Ultimately the film suffers the fate of most exploitation films - the plot is designed to head from one gore scene to another with subplots and characters who exist only to end in gory death.

Franco's direction doesn't help to lift the film - having spent several years away from the big movie scene shooting his own pictures in Spain his direction here is solid but without flair, the fight scenes in particular look more like something out of a comedy than a serious film - not helped by the addition of some very cheesy sound effects. To accentuate the hurried script, the film seems to have been edited by someone trying to save on film-stock, many scenes cut away just seconds after dialogue has ended which gives the film a very rushed feel. The gore effects are in the typical 1980s style - in that they try to appear realistic (blood is no longer bright pink but looks the right colour) but can't escape looking very cheesy. The soundtrack is suitably contempory with a 'catchy' pop-song that opens, and keeps cropping up throughout the film.

The biggest point that the film has in its favour is the impressive all-star cast. Filmed, unusually, with direct sound (ie. no dubbing in the English language version) we get the rare treat of hearing all of the major actor's real voices - which does give the film an air of authenticity. Helmut Berger does a fantastic job and his soft French accent stands as interesting contrast to his evil character, former adult film star Brigitte Lahaie is less exciting but avoids becoming gratuitously evil while Christopher Mitchum (who looks exactly like his father Robert) looks decent for the most-part, although rather OTT when 'interviewing' some of the witnesses. Veteran actor Telly 'Kojack' Savalas gets a brief but important role as Barbara's father and Anton Diffring plays his usual ex-Nazi Officer role to perfection. Howard Vernon makes his last Franco appearance as Dr. Orloff and Mrs. Franco, Lina Romay, has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo as Orloff's wife.

Faceless provides an interesting look at what 'might have been' if Franco had gone mainstream - a generically written and directed film saved only by some good performances. Like too many Franco films it is most interesting to watch because you can see how it should have been a better film . Recommended to Franco fans but not a good-one for newcomers.

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? Anton Diffring - German actor who starred in every reach of euro cinema, including Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
Howard Vernon - Jess Franco's favourite actor and the original Awful Dr. Orlof (1962)
Directed by anyone interesting? Jess Franco - the biggest name in euro-cult cinema with over 180 films to his credit, everything from black and white horror Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962) to DTV horror Incubus (1998)
Any gore? Several very gory surgery and mudery scenes.
Any sex? A few brief nude and topless scenes but no sex.
Who is it for?
Of interest to Franco fans but not particularly recommended. Not for Franco newcomers.


Like many 'Media Blasters' DVDs, this release has a few digital playback issues. On our test player there were occasional freeze-ups and jerky playback after a fast forward while some of the subtitles play by far too fast. Otherwise this DVD is fine with a decent set of extras. Two audio commentary tracks are present; Jess Franco and Lina Romay speak for pretty much the whole film, with some occasional questions from an interviewer while Mitchum only speaks over his scenes, but both tracks are interesting (and since subtitles are included for Franco's track, you can listen to Mitchum while reading Franco). The interviews are much more detailed than usual: Christopher Mitchum and Caroline Munro give a very detailed history of their careers as well as lots of backstage stories about Franco and Faceless, Jess Franco speaks in detail about how he got to make the film. These pieces are much more detailed than the usual Anchor-Bay 15 minute piece but need a good long sitting to watch. The photo-gallery is a long slide-show, but without music is rather dull to watch through, and there are no chapters to allow quick scrolling.
Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.66:1 widescreen. Anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
The print is good with a little grain and minimal damage.
Audio Original English audio track (although last spoken line is in French) sounds fine.
Direct sound recordings were made of most actor's voices so there is minimal dubbing.
Subtitles None
Run-timeFeature: 1hr 38m 47s 
Extras The disc includes:
  • Audio Commentary with Jess Franco and Lina Romay (mostly French, English subtitles)
  • Partial audio commentary with Chris Mitchum
  • Interviews with Jess Franco (French with subs - 21m 08s) Chris Mitchum (32m 02s) and Caroline Munro (30m 27s)
  • Photo Gallery, auto-scrolling (17m 09s)
  • Faceless Original Theatrical Trailer (1m 50s)
  • Bonus trailers for Flesh for the Beast (1m 44s), Virgin of Nuremberg (3m 11s) and Bronx Warriors (1m 56s).
  • Reversible Cover-art (a slighly more gory alternate cover is provided).
  • Insert booklet include a transcript of an interview with Caroline Munro and a filmography of hers.
Region Region 1 (North America) - NTSC
Other regions? Region 2 Italian release, no English options.
Cuts? The film is believed to be completely uncut. French language print.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 21st June 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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