Total Recall

Total Recall: The Eyes Have It

Feast your corneas on this collection of cinematic retinal candy!

by | January 30, 2008 | Comments

This week,
stars in The
, a spooky tale of a blind woman who gets surgery to restore her
sight — and ends up seeing lots of creepy stuff. Thus, we at Rotten Tomatoes
thought it would be a great time to peep some classic movies and scenes devoted
to the ol peepers.

The eyes are the first physical feature people notice on
each other, but in the movies, they’re probably the last. Unless you’re
and partly base your artistic legacy on visual motifs of the organ, the eyes
get lost in a medium that relies on dialogue and an actor’s mannerisms and tics
to tell the story. With this list, we set out to catalogue the movies that make
the most of these windows into our souls, which spiraled into a compendium of
eye-gouging. Enjoy! (And if you’re having a snack, consider finishing up right

Minority Report
percent on the Tomatometer)

Being a fugitive is hard in 2054, especially when your eyes
are being scanned at every corner. In a deliciously creepy scene, Officer John
Anderton (Tom Cruise) finds a black market surgeon (played by a very shady
Peter Stormare) willing to perform an eye transplant. There is a lovely
Clockwork Orange-esque eye clamp to make viewers squirm.
After the procedure, some seriously scary robot spiders crawl into the
apartment, and force Anderton to open his new eyes before they’ve had a chance
to heal. He wants to keep his old eyes, and later drops them and clumsily
chases after them as they roll towards the sewer, catching director
in a rare moment of mordant humor.

Un Chien Andalou

Perhaps it was the Pixies who best described the essential
appeal of Un Chien Andalou in "Debaser":

"Got me a movie!
I want you to know!
Slicin’ up eyeballs!
I want you to know!"

Luis Bunuel and
Salvador Dali‘s 1929 surrealist masterpiece
is much more than that of course; Un Chien Andalou is
probably the most famous and influential avant-garde film, a full-bore assault
on reason and convention. However, one of the primary reasons for its lasting
influence is its shocking, notorious opening scene, in which a man takes a
razorblade to a woman’s eye. (If it makes you feel any better, a cow’s eye was
used for the scene. And yes, the cow was dead.)

Kill Bill: Volume Two

The two volumes of Kill Bill demonstrate
the many ways that the human body can be beaten, sliced, diced, and skewered —
not to mention buried alive. However, eyesight damage is also a significant
risk in Quentin Tarantino‘s epic. Case in point: as Elle Driver,
Daryl Hannah
suffers not one, but two debilitating retinal injuries. The first is at the
hands of martial arts master Pai Mei (who Driver later poisons) leaving her
with a pretty awesome looking eye patch. And the second? We won’t ruin it for you;
just watch the clip below (unless you’re squeamish, of course).

Zombi 2
(33 percent)

Aside from that sublime scene of a zombie boxing a shark at
the bottom of the ocean,
Lucio Fulci‘s Zombi 2 is largely
remembered for one scene, occurring after the undead outbreak is in full swing.
An unlucky lady gets zombie ambushed and her head is grabbed and guided
sl-o-o-o-wly towards a protruding pointy stick. Rather graphic, profoundly campy,
and about as gut-wrenching as when
the evil security guard gets steamrolled in
Austin Powers

Thriller: A
Cruel Picture

To get banned in the progressive stronghold of Sweden, it
takes only a movie of rampant misogyny, misanthropy, violence, vengeance
killings, hardcore sex, and cadaver misappropriation. Its clear influence on
Kill Bill spurred renewed interest in the movie, and
Thriller: A Cruel Picture (aka They Call Her One
) has emerged as a hallmark of exploitation cinema, not only for
its extreme content but also director
Bo Arne
‘s commitment to produce
compelling angles and shots amidst the carnage. An actual recently deceased
young woman was used for the film’s literally eye-popping scene.

Pan’s Labyrinth

This Spanish fairy tale explores how a child’s imagination
can be a creative escape during war. A more memorable scene in Pan’s
features one of the most repulsive and frightening monsters
in recent movie history. Our hero, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), is required to
complete a task in a dining room filled with delicious food. At the head of the
dining room table sits an extremely pale and skeletal creature missing both his
eyes. Conveniently, his sticky bloody eyes sit on a plate in front of him.
Ofelia is about to complete her task, when she disobeys the strict orders not
to eat any of the food in room. Suddenly, the creature inserts his eyes into
his hands (literally, in the center of his palms) and begins to chase Ofelia.

Eyes Without a Face

A mad scientist, guilt-racked over his daughter’s facial
disfigurement that has led her to permanently wear an ivory mask, kidnaps young
women and cuts off their faces to graft onto his daughter. Grotesque but
weirdly lyrical, Eyes Without a Face is part of the school
of elegant horror that these days only the Spanish seem capable of re-creating.
The camera’s steady, unflinching gaze (clearly coming from director
Georges Franju‘s documentarian background) ratchets the story to rather uncomfortable
levels, with the film’s infamous surgery scene causing audiences to faint
during its 1960 premiere.

Mansion of the Doomed

While Eyes Without a Face aimed to
elevate horror into misshapen art, 1976’s Mansion of the
gets down and dirty in the B-movie trenches.
Mansion takes the plot of the former (insane scientist
father, car accident, disfigured daughter), but with a small twist: instead of
face skin, people are being abducted for their eyes. Upstairs in the mansion,
it’s all polyester sweater vests and station wagons, but downstairs its hush-hush
surgery (shot in the same clinical manner of Franju’s) and medieval cages of
blinded prisoners screaming and groping around. Appearances always have been

Sylvester Stallone
Gary Busey,

What do the Italian Stallion, a beloved Hollywood
kook, and an Iranian comic artist-cum-filmmaker have in common? Eye of the
tiger, baby. Eye of the tiger. Survivor was commissioned to write the hard rock
anthem for one of Rocky
many splendored montages, and the song was later appropriated in
1986 for Busey’s motorcyclists-on-a-rampage movie,
Eye of the Tiger. Countless movies have employed it since,
but the best usage in recent memory is
Marjane, depressed and ill, retakes the reigns of her life to this tune, which
Chiara Mastroianni charmingly warbles off-key.


Lord of the Rings

Fewer things are creepier than Orcs, but Sauron’s
"probing" eye gives most irksome villainy a run for their money.
Decidedly more macho than other omniscient phantoms of any of the other worlds
(e.g. Macbeth’s Witches, Satan, Mary Alice on Desperate
), Sauron’s disembodied eye is a beacon of evil, darkly
lording over colonies of shadowy, evildoing loyalists. J.R.R. Tolkien was hot
on the trail of effective imagery when he conceived of this eye. Really, what’s
more threatening than evil that seeks you out and sends his minions to wherever
it is you lie?

Authors: Tim Ryan, Rachel Sandor, Sara Schieron, and Alex Vo