‘Death Has Blue Eyes’ or — Redefining Ludicrous?

All I knew going into Nico Mastorakis’ ‘Death Has Blue Eyes’ (1976) was that it has a current IMDB rating of 3 (not that I care about such things… thank God!) but that it also, apparently, had “something going for it”. I was curious as to what that “it” was but I was also worried that “it” could be shit. “Just please don’t be boring” was all I was thinking as I put the movie on. Fortunately, “boring” is the one word you could never use to describe this delightfully ludicrous movie.

English Vietnam vet (?), Robert, has arrived in Athens to see his friend/lover Chess. Chess is a male gigolo, racing driver and karate expert (?!) who lives with a sexy housemaid who only wears an apron and enjoys threesomes (?!!). It’s not long before Robert and Chess are scamming the locals, ordering drinks on other people’s accounts and impersonating hotel patrons for free meals.

When one of their schemes backfires a mysterious woman, Geraldine, hires these two idiots to act as bodyguards for her daughter, Christine. Christine has telekinetic powers meaning she can read other people’s thoughts and make things explode using only the power of her mind. Geraldine and Christine are currently hiding in Athens in an attempt to outrun a shadowy international network of gangsters who want Christine dead after she witnessed the assassination of a Soviet diplomat in East Berlin and was able to read the assassin’s tho…

Okay, I’m going to stop with the plot right there because I’m sure you get the idea by now of how stupid this movie is and also because all the above takes place in practically the first fifteen minutes… and that includes the threesome. And if you think it all sounds crazy that’s because it is although what might be even crazier is the tone.

The plot makes it sound like ‘Death Has Blue Eyes’ is going to be some sort of paranormal Euro thriller, which is kinds is, but the tone of it, what with the dubbed English accents and men running around in their 70’s underpants, has way more in common with one of Robin Askwith’s ‘Confessions of a Window Cleaner’ movies. I wasn’t expecting that! But hang on as we’ve just got started.

It then morphs into Brian De Palma’s ‘The Fury’ (1978) by way of a ‘The Man From Uncle’/’Mission: Impossible’ type spy caper, all the while keeping the Askwith/sex comedy tone going so that by the half hour mark you’re thinking “What the hell is Mastorakis’ plan for all this nonsense?!”

By this point, though, it also becomes crystal clear exactly what Mastorakis’ plan is and that’s to cram as much entertainment, as much excitement, as many thrills into 77 minutes (the perfect running time) to make a late night, exploitation movie crowd go wild. That’s all and nothing else and if any element of the film isn’t contributing to that then throw it out. Strip out all excess weight, light the fuse and watch it move. And ‘Death Has Blue Eyes’ really moves.

It’s not that the movie has any stand out set-pieces, fights, chases or anything that you could point at as an example of expert filmmaking, but taken as a gestalt (the only way to take this movie) when they’re all put together the effect is seriously entertaining. There were only two moments when I became briefly worried the movie might suddenly lose steam and become dull or tedious but that was only because ten seconds had gone by without anything stupid happening. These moments only lasted ten to fifteen seconds before the film threw some new piece of insanity in my lap meaning ‘Death Has Blue Eyes’ has approximately 30 seconds, half a minute, when it isn’t either crazy, silly, bonkers, exciting, sexy, homoerotic, pan-sexual, exploding, careening, left-field swiping, jaw-dropping or head-spinningly berserk. Frequently it’s all the above all at once.

Not only that but the soundtrack is great, too, often utilising a 70’s funk/rock propulsive vibe overlaid with washes of analogue synths. I was sitting there thinking “This is awesome! The only thing that would make it even better would be some jazz flute” and POW!… then the jazz flute kicked in and my heart melted. And when Christine blew up a man in a tent using only the power of her mind I realised I had fallen in love with this film.

I think the reason this film has a low IMDB score is down to some people expecting this to be a Giallo. That’s a mistake because this movie isn’t a Giallo IN THE SLIGHTEST! It has a few surface similarities but that’s it. It’s Greek for one thing!

No, this movie definitely has something else going on, something delightfully scrappy and knowingly wild and that’s when I started thinking — “This almost feels like a 70’s action movie directed by John Waters!” Now I need to be careful as I don’t want to oversell this movie but that subversive, don’t give a damn, all out for entertainment vibe Waters does so well I feel can be applied here. It’s there in the script which can either be viewed as bloody awful or, more accurately, wonderfully inspired. Near the end Robert asks Christine if she can still read people’s minds. “No,” she replies, “I can’t read anybody’s mind. Not even my own.” I was struggling for breath I was laughing so hard after that and the movie is FILLED with dialogue like that.

If you’re wanting an intelligent, coherent, mature, serious, believable, hard-hitting thriller then you’ll hate this movie with all your guts, but if the idea of ‘Confessions of a Window Cleaner’ (1974) crossed with De Palma’s ‘The Fury’ (1978) meets the tongue-in-cheek grindhouse of Brian Trenchard-Smith with a dose of John Waters sounds in ANY way appealing then you might want to check this out immediately because if cinema is a form of mass entertainment then ‘Death Has Blue Eyes’ blows everything Kubrick and Tarkovsky ever made out of the fucking water.

Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.

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