White Of The Eye – tape 1700

Here’s a fairly obscure film. It’s White of the Eye, from Donald Cammell, co-director of the psychedelic Mick Jagger vehicle Performance (with Nicolas Roeg) and the also obscure Demon Seed (which I would have reviewed quite a while ago, but the recording was one of the few in my collection that just wouldn’t transfer).

David Keith, who clearly goes to the same Male Grooming establishment as Road House era Patrick Swayze, plays a man who installs high-end audio equipment in Arizona.

David Keith

His ‘trick’ is that he can hum loudly in your living room and from that detect exactly where your speakers should go. Since he makes his living pimping ludicrously expensive Hi-Fi gea, and customising it with walnut finish,. I’m unsure if the film intends us to accept this gift is real, or whether it’s another facet of the audio snake-oil he’s selling.

Walnut veneer

The film opens with a woman being attacked in her house. Cammell goes for art and artifice over veins and viscera, presenting the brutal attack mostly as impressionistic shots of bottles falling, and bright red drinks splashing over the immaculate worktops.

Because he’s installing equipment to the neighbour of the woman who was attacked, detective Charles Mendoza (Art Evans from Die Hard 2) questions him. Not only that, but they found tyre tracks which matched a particular make of tyre, and he was one of the people in the state who owned them.

Art Evans

This is such a weird movie. It lurches from the present day, with Keith and his wife, Cathy Moriarty, and occasionally flashes back to the past when they first meet, when Moriarty was with Alan Rosenberg, travelling across America, and they meet up with Keith when Rosenberg needs to get his 8-Track player fixed. They have a past, but it’s hard to remember much about it because I can’t see anything past the Swayze hair.

The film’s mystery isn’t much of one either. It’s Keith who the film spends all of its time on, with rich lady clients calling him out to fix their sound systems, but really wanting to sleep with him (to Moriarty’s obvious disgust). Rosenberg turns up randomly when Moriarty hears someone singing Hot Chocolate’s ‘I Believe In Miracles’ over and over – a song he played on his 8-Track. He’s a bit of a drop-out, something caused partially by her leaving him for Keith, but also by some other past trauma, also Keith related.

So there’s really only two candidates for murderer, and only one that’s remotely likely.

It’s no surprise to us when Moriarty finds plastic bags full of bits of his victims hidden behind the sink. But instead of calling the police immediately, she fails to arrange a babysitter – she tries, but her friend can’t make it – then just waits for him to return to talk to him.

She also doesn’t seem as in fear for her life as I think someone in this situation probably would be. Here’s the body language as he’s telling her he did all those murders.

Confession

She’s not flinching away, he’s not grabbing at her, it’s as if they’re disagreeing over what colour curtains they should buy for the living room.

Frankly, by the time he makes himself a bomb vest out of Herta Frankfurters and duct tape, I’ve given up trying to discern motivation here.

Bomb Vest

Haha – their little daughter finds her mother, locked up in the attic, shortly after this, and says “Dad’s wearing a bunch of hot dogs.”

This is really where the film has its only genuinely tense moment as the little girl tries to get the key to the attic while the father is laying out his victims parts on the dining table, face painted half red half white like a cross between a Polish football supporter and a Kabuki cosplayer.

Red and White

The daughter runs off, then she brains him with a mirror and gets out herself, gets in the car and doesn’t then immediately drive to pick up her daughter.

Now, as the film plays out, we see that he does eventually pursue her through the open desert, but at the time she started driving he was still in the house, and I’m not sure my first instinct would be to drive to where there’s nobody. But that’s what the film wants them to do.

They end up in what looks like a deserted quarry. There’s some perfunctory stalking, then, all of a sudden, Rosenberg is there, with a big gun. He orders Keith out to the edge of the lake, determined to get some kind of closure for the traumatic events of the past, involving a dead deer and some blood.

Rosenberg and Keith end up locked in a struggle to the death while Moriarty jumps in the water, and the hot dogs finally go off, in an explosion they clearly spent money on, as it was covered by about six different cameras, including a helicopter shot.

Bonkers.

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One comment

  1. White of the Eye seems to have been made with one foot in the mysticism camp, and the other in the humour camp, deliberately off-kilter so it wasn’t just yet another stalk and slash horror. There’s nothing quite like it, it’s very stylish but at the same time weirdly goofy. Demon Seed is another where it has a trashy, idiotic premise but makes something cosmic and mindbending out of it.

    It’s a shame Cammell didn’t get to make more films, he had a truly original concept of how to go about them, and when finally he realised he just wasn’t going to be allowed to express himself the way he wanted, he self-destructed.

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