Sign up

Mario Bava's The Evil Eye: realism and the Italian horror film.
Subject:
Horror films (Criticism and interpretation)
Motion pictures, Italian (Criticism and interpretation)
Realism (Criticism and interpretation)
Popular culture (Criticism and interpretation)
Author:
Balmain, Colette
Pub Date:
06/22/2002
Publication:
Name: Post Script Publisher: Post Script, Inc. Audience: General; Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business; Business, international Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2002 Post Script, Inc. ISSN: 0277-9897
Issue:
Date: Summer, 2002 Source Volume: 21 Source Issue: 3
Geographic:
Geographic Scope: Italy Geographic Code: 4EUIT Italy

Accession Number:
95501715
Full Text:
However, we are not sure that the problem arises at the level of the real, whether in relation to form or content. Is it not rather at the level of the "mental," in terms of thought?

(Deleuze 1989: 1)

INTRODUCTION

1960 is often seen as a pivotal year in the history of the horror film. The reality of space exploration and the demise of the threat of atomic war suggested a "hyper-reality" which outstripped the filmmaker's ability to horrify audiences through either the demonic or the alien invader. In Baudrillardian terms, the era of explosion and exploration gave away to an introspection and implosion: "the conquest of space constitutes, in this sense, an irreversible threshold which effects the loss of terrestrial coordinates and referentially." Moreover, this loss of referentiality and the conquest of space both geographical and astronomical forms a crisis in the real, which, as Baudrillard continues, "promotes either the derealizing of human space, or the reversion of it into a simulated hyperreality" (311).

One consequence of this implosion of meaning can be mapped out in the changing face of modern horror, which turns away from the supernatural and/or otherworldly being and instead focuses in on the permeability of the boundaries of the self. From outside to inside, from other to self, horror films of the 1960s renegotiate the relation between representation and the real. The development of what can be called "realist" horror, or psychological horror, owes much to the near-simultaneous production of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho in America and Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (both 1960) in Britain. In fact, taken together these two films are often seen as originators of a new psychological trend in horror cinema.

In "More Dark Dreams: Some Notes on the Recent Horror Film," Charles Derry subdivides contemporary (post-1960s) horror into three categories: horror of personality, horror of the demonic, and horror of Armageddon. Derry argues that whereas in traditional horror, the monster is marked through difference (whether in dress or bodily appearance) and thereby set apart from others, the new monster "is invariably a man or woman who looks as normal as the average person on the street" (173).

As the monster is indistinguishable from the self, a seemingly ordinary neighbor living down the lane, the spaces that he inhabits are the mundane and everyday spaces of small town America or downtown Britain. What could be seen as a modern sensibility in horror is expressed in the new psychological horror film not only within its iconography of monstrosity, but within the all-too-real spaces in which the action takes place. For example, a small motel in backwater America (Psycho); a shopping mall (Dawn of the Dead, USA/Italy, 1978); a children's holiday camp (Friday 13th, 1980); a photographer's studio (Peeping Tom). Perhaps the most frightening element of John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) is the location of the narrative within the grassy, tree-lined streets of a typical white, suburban, and middle-class neighborhood.

In this new "realist" horror film, surface realism and the framing of the everyday merge with psychological realism, producing a journey into and through deviant minds. In Psycho, Hitchcock consciously popularizes Freudian psychology by offering an explanation of deviancy set within the strictures of the mother-child relationship. (1) Peeping Torn also validates Freud as master of diagnosing deviant psychology, by proposing that Mark Lewis (Karlheinz Bohm)'s psychosis can be explained via the father-son relationship.

However, while both Psycho and Peeping Tom arguably assert that deviant psychology can be contained and understood, (2) developments in European horror cinema suggested no such comforting catharsis. Ingmar Bergman's unsettling psychological dramas The Virgin Spring (Sweden, 1960) and The Silence (Sweden, 1963), as well as Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water (Poland, 1962), offered more naturalistic and expressionistic examples of the genre. At the same time, these films mediated specific cultural and historical anxieties that can be located in the aftermath of the Second World War. And in Italy in 1962, a new genre was born, a horror / thriller hybrid known as the giallo: its codes and conventions were set down in Mario Bava's The Evil Eye (aka La Ragazza che sapeva troppo/The Woman Who Knew Too Much, 1962) and formalized in his Blood and Black Lace (aka Sei donne per l'assassino/Six Women for the Murderer) the next year.

This paper argues that the globalization of modern horror cinema has led to a silencing of the very multiplicity of its permutations and possibilities, and that, as a consequence of this fact, the impact of auteurs such as Mario Bava on the development of the horror film has been unduly neglected. (3) Moreover, it argues that modern realist horror articulates specific cultural and historical anxieties which are not always reducible to the kinds of critical analysis typically utilized for the better-known realist horror films, such as Psycho and Peeping Tom. At the same time, variations within the realist horror subgenre form part of the differences of approach to cinematic "realism" after World War II. However, for the purposes of this paper, I will confine my discussion mainly to The Evil Eye in order to trace the connections and interconnections between neorealism, the crisis of what Giles Deleuze calls the "action-image," and the formal surface of the giallo.

In particular, I will emphasize the negation of psychoanalysis in The Evil Eye both in terms of plot and story. Specifically, I argue that whereas Psycho and Peeping Tom seek to interrogate and explain the monstrous utilizing a populist understanding of psychoanalysis (centering the cause of psychosis on the dysfunctional family), the giallo effectively deconstructs the meta-narrative of psychoanalysis through structure as well as content. Thus, the giallo reveals the inadequacy of the modern project to oedipalize the multiple "becomings" of the modern horror film, and so forces it to conform to a particular cultural sensibility and intelligibility. In this respect, the giallo re/presents a stumbling block or impasse to what can be seen as America's desire to control-- through cultural reproduction and repetition--the hearts and mind of the Western World.

REALISM IN THE ASHES OF THE 2ND WORLD WAR

A purely optical and sound situation does not extend into action any more than it is induced by an action. It makes us grasp, it is supposed to make us grasp, something intolerable and unbearable. Not a brutality as nervous aggression, an exaggerated violence that can always be extracted from the sensory-motor relations in the action-image. Nor is it a matter of scenes of terror although there are sometimes corpses and blood. It is a matter of something too powerful, or too unjust, but sometimes also too beautiful, and which henceforth outstrips our sensory-motor capacities. (Deleuze 1989: 18)

1960s horror cinema can be defined as part of the post-World War II "realist" film project in two ways. First, in terms of narrative detail--character, setting, and motivation--and second, in terms of its representation of fragmentation, a feature of the realist project articulated via the use of symbolism in French and Swedish cinema, and naturalism in American and British film. Furthermore, whereas British realism in the 1950s--The Brave Don't Cry (1952), Every Day Except Christmas (1957), Room at the Top (1958), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)--dealt predominately with the everyday lives of the working classes, French realism was located more within the dark regions of the post-World War II psyche, as witnessed in Henri-Georges Clouzot's disturbing 1954 film Les Diaboliques, and Fracois Truffaut's noir-esque A bout de souffle (1959).

It seems clear, given the examples of France and Britain, that "realism" in film was not a homogeneous movement. The positioning of the various countries within the Second World War played a key role in determining the different approaches each of them took when coming to terms with the resulting economic and social consequences. As Roger Manvell suggests, "The liberation of France did not relieve the country of political, economic or social distress. The moral dislocation brought about by the occupation could not simply be forgotten" (62).

This also explains why cinematic neorealism came out of Italy in the 1940s, rather than any other country in Europe. If France had problems with her self-conception, Italy had even more trouble, as the complicity of the latter nation with Germany placed her in a unique position with respect to the rest of Europe. In Cinema 1: The Movement image, Deleuze argues that neo-realism articulates a breakdown in the sensory-motor schema of the traditional film narrative's action-image, (4) and, as such, is the first cinematic movement to attempt to come to terms with the new post-World War II society.

For Deleuze, memory of the war is the burden which cinematic representation after World War II must come to terms with, and so is what he calls a "crisis" in the action image. Deleuze situates this crisis chronologically: "around 1948, Italy; about 1958, France; about 1968, Germany" (1992: 211). Furthermore, although this crisis in systems of representations reverberates throughout the world, American cinema manages to retain its formulaic and conventional elements, albeit within an empty frame which arguably persists in the big spectacular blockbusters saturating Europe's domestic market.

As mentioned above, France was placed in an ambivalent position at the end of the War, as both winner and loser. Insofar as it was seen as part of a larger offensive, the role of the resistance movement played an important role in France's denial of complicity, papering over as it did the thin line that the country trod between villain and victim. Moreover, Deleuze argues that France's peculiar position can be seen in the country's cinematic images and conditions which "were not favourable to a renewal of the cinematographic image, which found itself kept within the framework of a traditional action-image, at the service of a properly French 'dream'" (1992: 211).

For Italy, however, there was no real sense of victory, its support for Germany and the role of fascism during the war providing no such renegotiations of its status. At the same time, whereas German cinema was predominantly in the service of state ideology, Italian film had escaped total control by the fascist state. The very production of Luchino Visconti's Ossessione (1943) before the end of the war testifies to the independence of the Italian film industry even before the fall of Mussolini. As Deleuze argues:

The situation in Italy was completely different. It could certainly not claim the rank of victor; but, in contrast to Germany, on the one hand it had at its disposal a cinematographic institution which had escaped fascism relatively successfully, on the other hand it could point to a resistance and a popular life underlying oppression, although one without illusion. To grasp these, all that was necessary was a new type of tale [recit] capable of including the elliptical and the unorganised, as if the cinema had to begin again from zero, questioning afresh all the accepted facts of the American tradition. The Italians were therefore able to have an intuitive consciousness of the new image in the course of being born. (1992: 211012) (5)

Unlike France, Germany, and Britain, the economic crisis in Italy forced a break with the past which led its cinema to attempt to reconfigure the relationship between representation and reality, one which would provide the seeds for a new type of cinematic image: what Deleuze calls the "time-image."6 And although neo-realism borrows the naturalistic elements of earlier realist movements, the existence and perpetuation of the fragmented image breaks down traditional Hollywood concepts of realism. (7)

Furthermore, neo-realism distinguishes between the "reality-effect" caused by seamless editing and narrative cohesion, and an aesthetically-motivated realism which asserts meaning at the expense of camera techniques. The any-space-what-evers of Roberto Rosselini's Rome, Open City (1946) and Luchino Visconti's Ossessione can be seen as standing in diametric opposition to the determined spaces of older realism (Deleuze 1992: 212). In reconfiguring the self's spatio-temporal coordinates through films which insisted on the art of encounter--characters weaving in and out of cityscape spaces, forming rhizomatic relationships with others--activity and action are supplanted by passivity and inertia. As Deleuze argues in Cinema 2: The Time-Image, in classical cinema "[w]hat the viewer perceived therefore was a sensory-motor image in which he took a greater or lesser part by identification with the characters" (1989:3).

However in neo-realist film, identification between the viewer and the character is jammed; instead, "the character has become a kind of viewer. He shifts, runs and becomes animated in vain, the situation he is in outstrips his motor capacities on all sides, and makes him see and hear what is no longer subject to the rules of response or an action. He records rather than reacts" (Deleuze 1989: 3). In Ossessione, it is the everyday banality of Visconti's adaptation of James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice which divorces his film from the Hollywood versions of this dark tale of deep desires and deviancy. (8) Heavily censored until recently, it so offended the prevailing fascist regime that, at its premiere in Salso, holy water was sprinkled in the auditorium by an Archbishop. (9) The basic plot of Cain's pulp fiction remains-- a young drifter forms an obsessive relationship with an older married women and together they murder her older, bourgeois husband. However, the intense heterosexuality of C ain's novel and its subsequent Hollywood adaptations is negotiated through a much more problematic and diffuse sexuality, inscribed through the addition of a character called "lo Spagnolo" ("the Spaniard"). Instead of The Postman always Rings Twice's oedipal triangle-composed of Frank (the drifter), Nick (the cuckolded husband), and Cora (the unhappy and faithless wife)-- Ossessione adds the desire of the Spaniard for the drifter, here named Gino (Massimo Girotti). As such, Visconti's film offers up the male body of Gino alongside that of Giovanna (Clara Calamai) to the desiring camera. Whereas Frank and Cora are immoral lovers in a moral society, and are punished by the system of law and order for their transgressions, Gino and Giovanna are ciphers of immorality in what is inscribed as a fundamentally immoral society.

NEO-REALISM AND HORROR: THE ORIGINS OF THE GIALLO

A masked, black-gloved killer is stalking beautiful female victims. Suspicion is ubiquitous, because everyone is hiding something. Motivations are tenuous, murder methods grotesquely elaborate. Cinematic spectacle is foregrounded for its own sake, and there is a perverse dwelling upon violence. An obstinate deferral of reliable plot information creates maximum confusion among a decadent, double-dealing cast of sleazy eccentrics. (Definition of giallo in The BFI Companion to Horror, 136-37)

In his article on Ossessione, Derek Duncan concludes by suggesting that "On one level Visconti's film works as film noir, yet behind the melodrama the spectator can discern a cultural specificity that compels a historical reading" (105). The same can be said of the giallo. Certainly, this subgenre can be read in general terms as an example of post-1960s realist horror cinema. At the same time, however, the giallo articulates specific historical and cultural anxieties localizable to Italy's economic and social position during this period.

In 1960, the horror film in Italy approached realism from two separate directions: through the mondo film on the one hand, and through the giallo on the other. (10) Whereas the mondo film utilized the medium's documentary potential-- "mondo" literally meaning "world"--and sought to recreate "real" horrors, (11) the giallo was a more subtle blend of fiction, realism, and psychological horror. Taking its name from the yellow-covered pulp fictions of the 1930s and 40s, the giallo is often seen as originating in Bava's 1962 homage to Hitchcock, The Evil Eye. It was arguably Bava's 1963 production of Blood and Black Lace, however, that formalized the conventions of the subgenre.

Much like Ossessione, The Evil Eye employs black and white cinematography both to highlight its noir origins and to indicate an engagement with the aesthetics of realism. The self-conscious use of black and white in Bava's film also intertextually refers to Hitchcock's modern masterpiece of psychological horror, Psycho. The Evil Eye narrates the story of Nora Dralston (Leticia Roman), a naive young American woman, who, while visiting her sick aunt in Italy, witnesses a murder one dark and rainy night after fleeing from the house where her aunt has suddenly passed away. With the help of an Italian doctor, Marcello Bassi Uohn Saxon), with whom she becomes romantically involved, Nora seeks to solve the mystery of what she saw that night, as the next morning the body seems to have mysteriously disappeared. (12)

Whereas Nora's experiences in the local hospital, where she is accused of being a raving drunk, further indicate a continuing dialogue with the work of Hitchcock (an innocent character's mistaken identity), newspaper clippings detailing the exploits of a so-called "Alphabet Killer" self-reflexively refer back to the work of the Queen of Detective Fiction, Agatha Christie. Just as Nora's ravings about a murder are dismissed as paranoia, her insistence on seeing herself as the next/fourth victim (her last name begins with the letter "D") is attributed to her appetite for reading detective fiction.

Like almost all central characters in the giallo, Nora is instructed by the authorities not to meddle, and is told to return home to America, but she chooses to disregard this advice and instead remains in Italy. The film ends with the revelation that it is in fact another woman, Laura Terrani (Valentina Cortese), who is responsible for the killings, and whose husband Nora saw removing the body of the dead woman her first night in Rome. Although at the conclusion of the film Laura has descended into madness, the originary motive for murder is "profit rather than passion." Thus we find here an inversion of the movitation for murder in Psycho, where, as Hitchcock argues in the film's original trailer, the "crime [is] of passion not profit." The first victim was Laura's own sister, whom she killed in order to inherit the family estate. The next two victims are murdered in order to suggest a psychosexual motive that would lead the police (as embedded viewers) off the right track. In fact this works only too well, as an innocent man is convicted of the murders and sent off to prison, where he eventually dies. (13) This theme of psychoanalysis as the easy but not correct solution has become a central convention of the genre, although perhaps it was Bava's next giallo, Blood and Black Lace, that most clearly indicated the limits of a psychoanalytic reading for such films both textually and critically.

In Blood and Black Lace, the violent and grotesque murders of a series of beautiful fashion models are seen by the Italian police as indicating a psychosexual motive on the part of the killer. Believing therefore that the killer must have been a man propelled by sexual fury, they round up all of the possible male suspects and keep them overnight at the police station. To their mortification, however, yet another model is murdered that evening. This denial of psychoanalysis as sufficient explanation for the deviant acts carried out in the giallo thus opposes the more simplistic psychoanalytic explanations that I have suggested Peeping Tom and Psycho offer the viewer.

Furthermore, and significantly, The Evil Eye subverts the traditional representation of woman-as-monster in the horror film and consequently any easy correlations between gender and violence. Laura's behavior cannot be understood as either an inversion of male psychosexual fury or as the traditional revenge motive of women in horror. (14) Although Nora's naivety and sexual inexperience are similar to those of the so-called "final girl" in the American slasher film, (15) she is neither a target of male psychosexual fury nor of female revenge. Indeed, her refusal to leave Italy and her insistence on solving the mystery marks her as complicitous with Laura, and thus transgresses a simplistic good/bad or even virgin / whore binarism. (16)

The realist aesthetic of The Evil Eye is less centered on character than either Peeping Tom or Psycho, however, and is much more a matter of surface than of depth. The highly-stylized camerawork employed by Bava in this film would become his trademark, and still persists in the work of Italian directors of gialli such as Lamberto Bava (Bava's son) and Dario Argento. Raymond Williams defines realism in art and literature as "both a method and a general attitude" (260). When it comes to psychological and social realism, "reality is... seen not as a static appearance but as a movement of psychological or social or physical forces; realism is then a conscious commitment to understanding and describing these" (261).

As already suggested, for Deleuze, neo-realism is an art form which seeks to come to terms with the consequences of the Second World War. Moreover, it requires a different way of seeing and understanding the world, one in which the sensory-motor is superseded by the pure visuals of an optical drama in which the characters are enfolded. Unlike traditional psychological and/or social realism, the ability of the characters to act and to actively change the world is negated. Instead, "modifying action" is replaced by a "confused" vision (Deleuze 1989: 19). In The Evil Eye, realism of appearances (the everyday and the mundane) is displaced by an obsession with style and surface, negotiated through an ever-independent camera-consciousness. As Deleuze argues, "Even when it is mobile the camera is no longer content sometimes to follow the characters' movement, sometimes itself to undertake movements of which they are merely the object, but in every case it subordinates description of space to the functions of thought " (1989:23). For Deleuze, as for Bazin, the dictates of realism are not merely a matter of description, but more a question of a philosophy of thought which the cinematic image makes visible.

Bava uses the close-up and detail snot to great effect in order to dismantle the organic totality of both the body and the narrative, and to dismember the relationship between part and whole. When visiting the apartment of a disgraced detective formerly on the case after receiving a phone call, Nora is obsessively framed and refrained through a series of shots. Caught in the doorway to the apartment, her body is doubly framed, with light reflecting off the stark white walls and illuminating her frightened face. Utilizing the detail shot, Bava's camera disassembles Nora's form, offering the viewer a forehead, an eye, glimpses of stockinged legs. The excess ("jouissance") of part/detail shots contrasts with the more common close-ups and long shots that form the sequence, and deconstructs the iconography of faciality central to most American psychological horror films. (17) Switching from foreground to background, Bava's use of lighting further disconnects the gaze from embodiment: Nora in the lift (an ocular im possibility), a shot of the lift going up. Moreover, when framed in the doorway- the door is a common prop through which to frame the body in Bava's films-the camera switches relentlessly from inside to outside: Nora looking in and the camera looking out. (18) As Deleuze puts it, "The creators invent obsessive framings, empty of disconnected spaces, even still lifes: in a certain sense they stop movement and rediscover the power of the fixed shot. (1989: 22).

The disconnection of the camera from the gaze does not figure within traditional constructs of realist editing, in which the camera as gaze is figured as male and remains centered on the human even when switching between point-of-view shots of the killer and the victim. This type of "realist" camerawork is utilized to great effect, for example, in both Peeping Tom and Psycho. This is not the realism of the continuity system of editing (which relies on the audience's "suspension of disbelief"), but rather a realism which calls attention to the cinematic apparatus itself and its construction of "reality."

The use of the part shot and the disembodied shot articulates what Deleuze calls a "camera consciousness," one which would no longer be defined by the movements it is able to follow or make, but by the mental connections it is able to enter into":

And it becomes questioning, responding, objecting, provoking, theorematizing, hypothesizing, experimental, in accordance with... the functions of thought in a cinema verite, which as Rouch says, means rather truth of cinema [verite du cinema], (1989: 11)

As with the subversion of gender roles, Bava's use of the camera in The Evil Eye marks a disengagement at the level of style with psychoanalytic modes of interpretation based around the ideology of the mirror. The ego ideal displayed in the narcissistic spaces of both Powell's and Hitchcock's films is here being displaced by a series of fractured and schizophrenic body parts.

Moreover, the concept of character within the giallo is much more closely related to the aesthetic project of neo-realism than is the case with the better-known psychological horror films of Hitchcock and Powell. Nora, although the main character, remains a cipher throughout. The audience has little recourse to her extra-diegetic life, or indeed to any history outside the space of the film, unlike Psycho or Peeping Tom in which the narrative seeks to explore and explain the male monster's regression to acts of murder. Nora exists only in the space and place of the narrative, and only through a series of banal encounters with death.

Whereas in traditional realist texts, plot is driven and/or motivated by character, in the giallo the character wanders in and out of the textual spaces; Nora is enfolded in the labyrinthine universe of Bava's Italy. On an airplane at the beginning of the film, Nora and her fellow travelers are dreaming up a romantic, idealized notion of Italy: a place of fashion, history, and romance (the Italy of tourist brochures and American films). Nora is seen reading a yellow-backed "pulp" detective novel with a sleazy cover. Once in Italy, however, Nora discovers that "the cityscape has no reality or connections other than those given by our dream" (Deleuze 1989: 11), as fiction and reality change places and she finds herself submerged in a noir-esque nightmare with herself in the role of protagonist. As Troy Howarth notes in an online review of The Evil Eye, "Above all else, La Ragazza succeeds in presenting Rome as a foreboding underworld, where violence can erupt at random." The distinction between imaginary and re al, subjective and objective, thus loses its importance. Deleuze comments that "we no longer know what is imaginary or real, physical or mental, in the situation, ... because we do not have to know and there is no longer even a place from which to ask" (1989: 7).

In the American version of The Evil Eye, the film ends with Nora witnessing another murder: that of an unfaithful girlfriend and her lover. However, this time Nora chooses to disregard it. In the Italian version, the film ends with Nora offering Marcello a cigarette from a pack given to her by a stranger on the plane who turned out to be smuggling marijuana. Suddenly she remembers that she smoked a cigarette from the same pack the night she saw the murder, and realizes that the drugged cigarette--and not her overactive imagination--may have been the reason why she managed to confuse what she saw. The film ends with Nora taking the cigarette, crushing it, and away throwing the pack. (19) Although quite different, both of these endings suggest that in the imploded world of hyperreality, we cannot always believe what we see.

CONCLUSION: RECONFIGURING REALISM?

Against those who defined Italian neo-realism by its social content, Bazin put forward the fundamental requirement of formal aesthetic criteria. According to him, it was a matter of a new form of reality, said to be disperse, elliptical, errant or wavering, working in blocs, with deliberately weak connections and floating events. (Deleuze 1989: 1)

As I have suggested, Italian horror cinema in the 1960s--specifically the giallo--makes use of a realism composed by the neo-realists at the end of the Second World War. My discussion of Ossessione showed how, in Italy, realism jammed the inherent oedipal nature of Cain's originary text. Next, using Deleuze's definition of neo-realism in Cinema 1: The Movement Image and Cinema 2: The Time Image, I argued, through an analysis of Mario Bava's foundational film The Evil Eye, that the giallo continued to work within the neo-realist redefinition of realism rather than the more traditional psychological/oedipal realism employed in America and Britain, as seen in such horror films as Psycho and Peeping Tom.

It seems apparent, therefore, that talk of a "realist project" in horror cinema needs to be qualified and specified so as not to negate particular cultural and historical differences. Whether in an era of hypereality--one in which fact outstrips fiction--cinema can even approach the real, is another question. As Baudrillard argues, "It is no longer possible to manufacture the real from the unreal, to create the imaginary from data of reality. The process will be rather the reverse: to put in place 'decentered' situations, models of simulations, and then to strive to give them the colors of the real, the banal, the lived; to reinvent the real as fiction, precisely because the real has disappeared from out lives" (311).

Notes

(1.) Mikita Brottman argues that Psycho is "simply" an articulation of the problems of sexual repression: "Victim of an Oedipal rage so tormenting and powerful that it topples him over the edge into a psychopathic complex of schizophrenia, transvestism and mass murder, Norman Bates [Anthony Perkins] is an abject character caught between cultural boundaries: both man and woman, both mother and son, both victim and tormentor, both 'normal' and totally insane" (84).

(2.) The ending of Psycho, in particular the superimposition of mother's face over Norman's, seems to situate the "supernatural" in opposition to the "psychological" explanation offered by the embedded psychiatrist. However, I would argue that this image concords with the psychiatrist's analysis of events: "When the mind houses two personalities, there is always a conflict, a battle. In Norman's case the battle is over and the dominant personality has won." Compare with Hitchcock's own words from the original trailer for Psycho: "This young man, you had to feel sorry for him, after all being dominated by an almost maniacal woman was enough to drive anyone to the extreme." The oedipal dyad between mother and son is therefore firmly established as responsible for the son's madness. As in Peeping Tom, familial dysfunction is inscribed as the cause of male psychosis.

(3.) Homages to Bava's work can be found in such key American horror films as Friday 13th, in which the spear sequence is almost identical to the one in A Bay of Blood (Italy, 1971). As well, the visual iconography of Ridley Scott's Alien (UK, 1979) owes much to Bava's Planet of the Vampires (Italy, 1965). And the Hitchcock connections notwithstanding, the horror output of American auteur Brian DePalma can arguably be seen as having been heavily influenced by the giallo.

(4.) "The action-image inspires a cinema of behaviour (behaviourism), since behaviour is an action which passes from one situation to another, which responds to a situation in order to try and modify it or to set up a new situation" (Deleuze 1989: 155). In these terms, the sensory-motor schema relates to the "simplistic" cause-effect linkages of classical cinema (or indeed, of the movement-image) through which identification is encouraged with characters (Deleuze 1992: 3). The crisis in the action-image breaks down the links between actions and reactions, thereby distancing the spectator from the screen, and refuting the "behaviourism" of the classical movement-image.

(5.) Peter Bondanella offers support for Deleuze's thesis: "In spite of the regime's theoretical interest in influencing all levels of Italian society, its impact upon the Italian film industry was somewhat less pervasive; indeed, only a small percentage of the over seven hundred films produced during the fascist period can truly be termed Fascist or propaganda films" (19). However, Marcia Landy seems to give fascist ideology a more central place in Italian film, arguing that it is not so much a matter of content but rather the ideology of the era reproduced in "a politics of style, commensurate with theatrically" (70).

(6.) According to Deleuze, the crisis in the action-image that he attributes to neo-realism bridges the gap between the organic totality of the movement-image (in which time is subordinated to movement) and the optical drama of the time-image (in which movement is subordinated to a new dynamics of time). As Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta argue in their introduction to Cinema 2: The Time Image," the point of transition between the two volumes, and the two images, is the crisis in the 'action-image' after the Second World War. The unities of situation and action can no longer be maintained in the disjoined post-War world. This gives rise to pure optical and sound situations from which the 'direct time image' emerges" (1989: xv-xvi).

(7.) According to Susan Hayward, "nothing in the camera-work, the use of lighting, colour, sound or editing draws attention to the illusionist nature of the reality-effect" (229).

(8.) The first American adaptation of Cain's novel was directed in 1946 by Tay Garnett. Due in large part to its explicit sexuality, however, Bob Rafelson's 1981 Jack Nicolson vehicle is the more well-known version.

(9.) Details of the film's reception and subsequent censorship can be found in the BFI's introduction to the film for Connoisseur Video: "An electrifying tale of the seductive and destructive power of human sexuality, Ossessione outraged the Italian Fascist government with its shocking and authentic portrayal of proletarian life. The film was condemned as immoral and subversive."

(10.) It seems relevant that the first mondo film, Gualtiero Jacopetti's Mondo cane (Italy, 1962), was released the same year as The Evil Eye. The New York Film Annex website defines Mondo cane as "The original shockumentary made up of episodes in the life of man and beast, filmed all over the world--New Guinea, Germany, Singapore, Portugal, Australia, America and beyond--a voyage one critic called 'a hymn to death and mutilation embellished with a shrug and a giggle'."

(11.) In E.J.M. Duggan's online review of David Kerekes and David Slater's book, Killing for Culture: An Illustrated History of Death Film from Mondo to Snuff, he defines mondo as "the collective name for oddity compilation films, generally travelogue-style compendia of clips of human and animal behaviour ranging from the curious to the perverse via cruelty and death. Maiming and killing feature in the Mondo Film, as does a range of sexual behaviour, generally presented to play up bizarre or salacious aspects. Some events included in the Mondo film are real, in the strictest sense, whilst others are reconstructions, or the result of the film-makers staging or manipulating events, which sometimes include killings."

(12.) "[S]He is prey to a vision, pursued by it or pursuing it, rather than engaged in an action" (Deleuze 1989: 3).

(13.) The Evil Eye is significantly more complex than my short synopsis above suggests. For example, there is also the narrative of a disgraced detective named Landini (Dante DePaolo), and of the innocent man convicted of the murders. A convoluted plot structure is of course a convention of the subgenre. A detailed description of the film's plot can be found at http://members.tripod.com/mariobava/evileye.html.

(14.) Carol Clover offers this traditional critique in Men, Women and Chainsaws: "they show no gender confusion. Nor is their motive overtly psychosexual; their anger derives in most cases not from childhood experience but from specific moments in their adult lives in which they have been abandoned or cheated on by men" (29). A similar argument is put forward by Barbara Creed (122-38).

(15.) The term "final girl" is often attributed to Clover 1991/1996. The final girl is distinguished from the female victims by her sexual inexperience and (relative) masculinity. Her "mannish" characteristics enable the male viewer to identify with both monster and potential victim. Her gender transgressions, however, are resolved at the film's conclusion, when the narrative recuperates her back into patriarchal femininity (see pp. 35-41 for discussion). Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Alien is one of the best examples of this. Having defeated the "inhuman" beast (the alien) as masculine hero, Ripley rescues the "human" beast (the cat), holding it to her breast and thereby returning her to the domain of the maternal--and thereby the feminine.

(16.) Xavier Mendik argues that the giallo comprises three interdependent plot situations: the existence of more than one suspect; the manipulation of gender expectations; and the transgression of the giallo detective through what Mendik calls "an act of complicity" (35). Often this act of complicity is simply a failure to leave things that he/she does not understand alone. Clearly these plot situations can all be seen in The Evil Eye.

(17.) Perhaps the best example of this type of faciality is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), in which director Tobe Hooper presents the audience with a vision of abject terror: the screaming face of Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Bums) surrounded by her macabre captors.

(18.) The best examples of this feature of the giallo--the fracturing and fragmenting of the gaze--can be seen in Argento's films, in particular the opening murder of Deep Red (Profondo rosso, 1975).

(19.) See Howarth's review of The Evil Eye at the website listed in the Works Cited section, below.

Works Cited

Baudrillard, Jean. Two Essays: "Simulacra and Science Fiction" and "Ballard's Crash" in Science Fiction Studies 55, vol. 18, pt. 3, November 1991.

BFI Liner Notes to Ossessione. Connoisseur Video, UK.

Bondanella, Peter. Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1993 (1983).

Brottman, Mikita. "Psycho/The Birds: Hitchcock Revisited" in Andy Black (ed.), Necronomicon: The Journal of Horror and Erotic Cinema, Book One. London: Creation Books, 1996: 84-87.

Cain, James M. The Postman Always Rings Twice. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1934.

Clover, Carol. Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. London: British Film Institute, 1996 (1991).

Creed, Barbara. The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism and Psychoanalysis. London: Routledge, 1993.

Deleuze, Giles. Cinema 1: The Movement Image. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. London: Athlone Press, 1992 (1983).

-----. Cinema 2: The Time Image. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. London: Athlone Press, 1989 (1985).

Deleuze, Giles and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Rovert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen Lane. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983 (1972).

-----. A Thousand Plateaux: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. London: Athone Press, 1988 (1980).

Derry, Charles. "More Dark Dreams: Some Notes on the Recent Horror Film" in Gregory Waller (ed.), American Horrors: Essays on the Modern American Horror Film. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1987: 162-174.

Duggan, E.J.M. Review of Killing for Culture: An Illustrated History of Death Film from Mondo to Snuff, by David Kerekes & David Slater. Scope: An Online Journal of Film Studies: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/film/...1/bookrev/killing_for_culture.htm l

Duncan, Derek. "Ossessione" in Jill Forbes and Sarah Street (eds.), European Cinema: An Introduction. New York: Palgrave, 2000.

Hayward, Susan. Key Concepts in Cinema Studies. London: Routledge, 1996.

Howard, Troy. Review of The Evil Eye: http://members.tripod.com/mariobava/evileye.html.

Kerekes, David and David Slater. Killing for Culture: An Illustrated History of Death Film from Mondo to Snuff. London: Creation Books, 1995.

Landy, Marcia. Italian Film. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000.

Manvell, Roger. New Cinema in Europe. London: Studio Vista Limited, 1966.

Mendik, Xavier. "Detection and Transgression: The Investigative Drive of the Giallo" in Andy Black (ed.), Necronomicon: The Journal of Horror and Erotic Cinema, Book One. London: Creation Books, 1996: 35-54.

Newman, Kim (ed.). The BFI Companion to Horror. London: Cassell and The British Film Institute, 1996.

"Shockumentary." http://www.nyfavideo.com. The New York Film Annex, 1998.

Williams, Raymond. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. London: Fontana Paperbacks, 1983 (1976).

COLETTE BALMAIN is a Lecturer in film at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College. She recently completed her PhD on the gialli films of Dario Argento. Besides European film, her research interests are in digital technologies and reconfigurations of the body (including computer games), and the politics of popular culture.
Gale Copyright:
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.