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White of the Eye (Scream Factory)

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Scream Factory
Dual Format BD/DVD
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Donald Cammell
David Keith
Cathy Moriarty
Alan Rosenberg
Art Evans
Bottom Line: 

Donald Cammell’s little-seen 1987 oddity, White of the Eye, has become something of a “White Whale” for many discerning fans of 80 horror. For those of us who were lucky enough to happen upon the film in the halcyon days of VHS rentals, the film became something of a minor cult item that would ultimately become one of those obscurities that you’d hear about in cineaste circles or written up in some equally obscure fanzine. While VHS copies are still kicking around, and there have been various and sundry DVD offerings abroad, the film has never received a proper (ie; non-pirated) North American DVD release. Scream Factory, however, corrects that massive oversight with a fantastic new duel format release

White of the Eye opens with one of the most bizarre and artsy murder set pieces I’ve seen this side of a Dario Argento flick, as a wealthy, attractive woman is brutally murdered in her home by an unseen stranger. It’s all very stylish and surreal, with cuts to extreme close-ups of the woman’s eyes, a goldfish flopping about in a bowl of meat (yes…a bowl of meat), and, finally, the image of set bowl being shattered in slow motion, all set to a dissonant jazz/country score (courtesy of Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason and Rick Fenn).

We are then introduced to Paul White (David Keith), a custom home electronics technician, who is driving back to his small Arizona town after an installation in Tuscon. This scene is gorgeously lensed by cinematographer/Steadicam operator Larry McConkey, and alternates between stunning desert vistas, a massive mining operation (which factors into the story later), and Paul, himself, singing along with Vesti La Giubba from Pagliacci. Once again, it’s a bizarre and fascinating mix of music and visuals, and, as you’ll see, this is something Cammell employs throughout the film.

Paul arrives at home where he briefly visits with his wife, Joan (Cathy Moriarty) and daughter, Danielle (Danielle Smith), before moving on to another job, where he finds himself being questioned by the police for the recent spate of murders in the area. It seems the killer has a taste for a certain brand of specialized tires, and the lead detective on the case, Charles Mendoza (Art Evans), has narrowed his suspect pool down to a handful of individuals in the area who have recently purchased a similar set. That pool, of course, includes Paul, who, Mendoza learns, has had something of a violent past, as well as an affinity for hunting – the latter proving especially distressing given the way the victims have been mutilated. 

Paul, of course, just wants to prove his innocence, but further complicates matters with his ongoing affair with the wife of a local wealthy businessman, as well as the rapidly deteriorating nature of his relationship with Joan. We are also given several flashbacks showing how Paul and Joan first got together, back when she was originally passing through his town with her then-boyfriend, Mike DeSantos (Alan Rosenberg). With each flashback, however, we begin to see the bigger picture in Paul, Joan, and Mike’s odd relationship, while, in the “present” another murder as well as Joan’s sense of betrayal at the discovery of Paul’s infidelity sets the stage for a truly outrageous and explosive final confrontation.

White of the Eye is a really hard film to categorize. It’s more of a deliberately paced arthouse thriller than balls-out horror flick, with a hallucinatory quality that’s made all the more surreal by the juxtaposition of Keith’s intensity and Moriarty’s quiet cool. Moriarty’s Joan serves as our conduit into this world, and we feel as though we’re living through her waking nightmare as old faces come back to haunt her while those who she holds dearest prove to be something else entirely. This is all punctuated by nifty editing tricks, the aforementioned eclectic music, and a gauzy, dreamy aesthete that perfectly accent Joan’s coming to terms with the dissolution of her marriage under the most extreme circumstances.

White of the Eye’s  1.85:1 1080p transfer is actually ported over from Arrow UK’s release, and features a “bleach bypass” effect on the flashback sequences in the film that I’m sure some people may view as a detriment.  Apparently, during the 2K restoration process, Arrow decided not to use any sort of sharpening or artificial means to bolster the image, hence the scenes appear blown out and lack detail. I wasn’t too bothered by this, and it should be noted that this was done in the spirit of the Cammell’s original vision. In any event, the remainder of the film looks outstanding, with excellent clarity and fine detail present throughout.  Once again, the film has an inherent softness in places as that was part of Cammell’s chosen aesthete, but one can really appreciate the beauty of the 2K scan in close-ups, especially during the film’s vivid opening sequence.

While not quite as feature-packed as Arrow’s Region B release, Scream Factory still delivers a healthy amount of supplemental goodies, including two new interview segments exclusive to this release.

Into The Vortex An Interview with Actor Alan Rosenberg

Eye of the Detective An Interview with Actor Art Evans

Audio Commentary by Donald Cammell Biographer Sam Umland

Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Sam Umland

Into The White - An Interview with Cinematographer and Steadicam Operator Larry McConkey

Alternate Credit Sequence

Flashback Sequences Prior To the Bleach Bypass Process

White of the Eye is a fantastic and truly unique thriller that features outstanding performances by Keith and Moriarty, masterful direction by Cammell, and some of the most intoxicating and creative visuals I’ve seen in a genre film. While it requires a bit of patience and a willingness to embrace the film’s dreamlike logic, the payoff is well worth it. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release offers an excellent transfer and a bevy of bonus features and comes with my highest recommendations. See this movie!!


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