The giallo as a cinematic genre first came to fruition in the 60s.It hit its peak in the 70s,started to show its age in the eighties and from then on its been on its deathbed apart from the odd exception for the last 20 years or so.
It’s nice to be able to report, therefore, that Eyes of Crystal is a very good film indeed and is a worthy homage/resurrection of a genre that’s long been considered dead on its feet.
Because of the generic yellow sleeves of a large number of murder mystery novels released in Italy in the forties and fifties, mainly by the Mondadori company, the Italian word giallo (Italian for yellow) was used to pigeon-hole a series of films which began with Mario Bava’s "Evil Eye" (aka; The Girl who Knew too Much) and has continued right up to the present day with Eyes of Crystal, which is actually based on a book by author Luca Di Fulvio (who has given his approval in numerous interviews to the job Puglielli did with his novel).
Puglielli also cannily hired Franco Ferrini – a long time Dario Argento collaborator – to help him adapt the novel for the big screen, and while Ferrini’s screenplay is at times subject to a number of lapses of logic, it is still a very well written version of a good story.
Another link to the past is the actor Simon Andreu, who appeared in many giallos in the seventies and has a major role here as an ageing police officer dying from a brain tumour.
Plot-wise there is nothing new here. The film opens with a brutal triple murder-a young couple making love in a field and the old man spying on them are attacked by a shotgun wielding maniac-the men are pumped full of bullets and the woman is beaten to death with the butt of the shotgun. Inspector Giacomo Amaldi (Lo Cascio) and his team arrive on the scene, and it quickly becomes apparent that the killer has removed one of the girls limbs and replaced it with that of a beautifully crafted mannequin.
We quickly settle on Giacomo as the films tortured hero-indeed his character is in danger of descending to cliché with the usual "incident from the past that haunts him" routine, his violent temper wins him no friends with his fellow officers and even when he meets a girl that he likes, their budding romance is nipped in the bud due to the violent beating he dishes out to her stalker when he catches up with him.
We are introduced to a number of supporting characters, and indeed it is not too difficult to work out the identity of the killer – short of having the words psycho tattooed on his forehead, it couldn’t be any more obvious who is the guilty culprit.
The murders continue and it soon becomes clear that the victims are far from random and that the maniac is piecing together a human mosaic from the body parts he is removing from the scene. When finally revealed the killer’s motive is pretty novel, and not as vaguely ridiculous as some of the motives from the seventies.
The acting is uniformly good, with the stand out performance coming from Lo Cascio. He reminds me of a young Roman Polanski at times, and is pretty convincing in the main role.
The film is not afraid to splash the claret when required, and while it’s never gratuitous, gore hounds won’t be disappointed with what’s on display here.
The only thing the film suffers from at times is a modern day propensity for the director to overdo it with the hand held camera. It’s understandable, perhaps, to use this current technique during an intense chase scene, a la The Bourne Identity, but I’m not sure of the need for it during a love scene as is the case here!
That’s just nit-picking though. I thoroughly enjoyed Eyes of Crystal from start to finish, and while the pace may be a touch leisurely at times for some horror fans, I can thoroughly recommend this one as the best film to come out of Italy in a long, long time.
The DVD is another matter. While the print itself is just fine, but, instead of having removable subtitles, the DVD has great big burnt in subs which are pretty annoying to say the least. There are two short features on the disc as well; one is about 20 minutes long and is a vaguely interesting "making of" piece, while the other is a few minutes long and repeats things from the other doc, so in the long run it’s pretty worthless.