Retrospective: The Hypnotic Eye (1960) (a film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper).

In an unnamed major city, there is a baffling series of incidents of beautiful women inflicting agonising self-mutilations on their own faces. Dave, a police detective, investigates by searching for a common link. He ties the case to the visit of a popular stage hypnotist. The film’s plot is rather straightforward and flat. The short 79 minute story would be even shorter if it wasn’t padded with so called ‘beatnik’ music and poetry which helps the film reach a releasable length. The film gets its thrill, if that is the word, from cinematic misogyny and sadism.

Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10.

If you are big into hating the female gender in movies, then 1960 was the year for you. In addition to ‘Psycho’ (1960) being released, there was ‘Horrors Of The Black Museum’ with its eye-piercing binoculars and there was ‘The Hypnotic Eye’. 1960 was also the year of ‘Peeping Tom’. These are somewhat mean-spirited compared to the sort of horror from 1959 when horror films were more on the level of ‘A Bucket Of Blood’ (1959), ‘House On The Haunted Hill’ (1959) and ‘The Tingler’ (1959). That is one small interval of time for there to be so many woman-hating films.

The Hypnotic Eye (1960)
Directed by George Blair
Shown: Lobby card

In ‘The Hypnotic Eye’, Det. Sgt. Dave Kennedy (played by Joe Patridge) is the police detective investigating the case of eleven women who have all mutilated themselves by burning their faces with flame or chemical.

The incidents happen to coincide in time with performances of a popular stage hypnotist, Desmond (played by Jacques Bergerac) whose talent for hypnotism makes him suspected of hypnotising the beautiful audience members he calls up on the stage and secretly implanting into their minds the post-hypnotic suggestion to disfigure and self-mutilate themselves. Desmond boasts that he can hypnotise anybody in just a few seconds. To do this, he uses a little ball the size of a tennis ball with luminescent circles so it looks like glowing mechanical eye.

From early in the film, during performances, the camera picks up Desmond’s assistant Justine signalling to him whom in the audience she wants him to pick for special treatment. What is her connection to crimes? Justine was played by Allison Hayes, the title character from ‘Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman’. But there is little such drama here. This film was nearly as flat and bland as an old episode of ‘Dragnet’.

Dave enlists the help of Phil, a police psychologist who hates stage hypnotists for the damage they do and the damage that they can do. Dave takes his girlfriend, Marcia, and her friend Dodie to see Desmond on the stage. The act hardly seems to be enough to satisfy an audience. The two women become psychically linked with Desmond who uses post-hypnotic suggestion to enslave them. The police work is fairly humdrum. One could find better stories on TV police shows.

The film was directed by George Blair from a screenplay by Gitta Woodfield and William Read Woodfield. There are several hints that the two writers came up with a short script and Blair had to stretch to make a film of even B-movie length of 79 minutes. That includes a visit to a beatnik coffee house where Lawrence Lipton, the self-styled King of the Beatniks, reads one of this beatnik poems recites a longish and totally irrelevant beatnik poem.

Elsewhere, an expert on hypnosis demonstrates his skill on a live audience. After that, the doctor in the film breaks the fourth wall and tells the live audience to never play with hypnotism which is a rule that the audience had just broken. I rate THE HYPNOTIC EYE a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10

The film carries a strong message that hypnosis is serious business and must not be used as a plaything.

Mark R. Leeper

© Mark R. Leeper 2018

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