Death has Blue Eyes Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: April 6, 2021
Video: 1.85:1 & 1.33:1/1080p/Color
Audio: English LPCM 1.0 Mono
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 70:29
Director: Nico Mastorakis
When local gigolo Chess (Chris Nomikos) greets his vacationing friend Bob Kovalski (Peter Winter) at Athens airport, the pair embark on a string of scams and erotic dalliances that eventually lead them into contact with an elegant wealthy woman, Geraldine Steinwetz (Jessica Dublin), and her glamorous daughter, Christine (Maria Aliferi). Geraldine blackmails the two cheeky bachelor boys into acting as bodyguards for Christine. After fleeing from a series of assassination attempts, it soon becomes clear that Geraldine might not be quite whom she seems, as the two young men find themselves caught up in a political conspiracy of international dimensions. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)
Greek television personality and filmmaker Nico Mastorakis is still best remembered outside of Greece for his independently produced, super nihilistic exploitation flick Island of Death (aka: Island of Perversion, A Craving for Lust, Cruel Destination, and Devils in Mykonos, 1975) – a film so relentlessly perverse and cruel that it can only really be appreciated as satire. Unbeknownst to many fans, however, Mastorakis was a proper jack of all trades who dabbled in journalism, radio programming, concert promotion, songwriting, and who was reportedly an “instrumental” personality on Greek television in the late 1960s/early ‘70s. And his film career didn’t end with his notorious Video Nasty; in fact, he was something of a B-movie entrepreneur, who made at least 20 movies in a wide range of genre types. Eventually, he found his truest calling in independent production, creating his own company, Omega Pictures, and directing STV (in the US at least) action, such as The Zero Boys (1986) and Hired to Kill (1990). But, before all of this, Mastorakis made his debut (according to release dates, since Island of Death was actually shot first, but not released for some time) with a true blue kitchen sink exploitation movie called Death has Blue Eyes (Greek: To koritsi vomva, 1976).
I assume that Mastorakis was trying to ride the coat-tails of multiple genres that were popular in nearby Italy at the time, namely the stylish giallo thrillers (a kítrinos thriller?) and their nearest cousin, the rough ‘n tumble poliziotteschi crime films, and combine their aesthetics with the still popular Greek sexploitation and fading Eurospy markets. Such an amalgamation wouldn’t be entirely unheard of, especially as the 1980s approached and Italy struggled to maintain relevance, but Death has Blue Eyes isn’t content to stop here: this multi-genre approach is merely the canvas for, ostensibly, a low-budget, remake of Brian de Palma’s post-Carrie telekinetic espionage thriller, The Fury – a movie that somehow wouldn’t be released for another two years (John Farris’ novel was published the same year Death has Blue Eyes was released, so it seems unlikely that it was the original inspiration, either). In fact, the best way to describe Death has Blue Eyes is a couple of jet-set, Eurotrash doofuses from a softcore porno stumble into The Fury or Mark L. Lester’s Firestarter (1984, based on a Stephen King book) and hijinks ensue. And, boy, are there ever hijinks.
The complete runtime on this disc is 70:29 and the editing is brisk to say the least, though some might prefer to call it ragged or even baffling. Imdb.com specs list the complete runtime as 118 minutes and additional cuts existing at 90, 79, and 104 minutes. Given Arrow’s history of being upfront about the limitations of the material they’re working with and the fact that Mastorakis’ participation with this release (in the interview featurette, the director says that there might be a version with hardcore inserts, though he hadn’t shot them himself), I assume that this is the preferred cut and that Imdb is either mistaken or listing rough cut lengths. The constant stream of gags and manner in which we’re expected to take the strangest ideas at face value gives the film a childish sort of tone. Additionally, while he is engaging in shock tactics, Mastorakis’ sex and violence is all pretty playful, unlike the case of Island of Death, which means to enrage and offend its audience. As a result, Death has Blue Eyes is consistently amusing, even when its jokes tend to fall flat (it takes a specific temperament to tolerate this raunchy, Carry On brand of comedy and I am not capable). The random antics (the highlight for me was the moment where Chess and Christine ditch Bob along the highway for no apparent reason and he’s picked up and romanced by a sexy Formula 1 driver) are tolerable because of how quickly everything moves, so 70 minutes is a perfect amount of time to spend in this deranged world. Mastorakis’ dynamic imagery and the stunt team's insane disregard for personal safety definitely help matters.
Death has Blue Eyes has never previously been released on home video in North America. It was barely released outside of Greece at all, aside from a UK PAL VHS tape under the title Para Psychics. Thanks to Arrow, we’ve skipped right over VHS and DVD on this side of the pond and gone right to Blu-ray. The HD restoration was taken from the original camera negative and approved by Mastorakis himself, who has participated (I believe) with every Arrow release of his films. In addition, two different 1080p transfers are included; one in matted 1.85:1 and one in open-matte 1.33:1. Since they are derived from the same restoration, I’ve opted to review the 1.85:1 transfer specifically here. The image quality is limited by the quality of the footage, which can be a little fuzzy, but it appears that those negatives were in excellent condition, because there are so few notable print damage artifacts. The largely naturalistic colors are neatly represented with the more vivid hues (usually found in ostentatious costume choices) appearing plenty rich, if not entirely consistent from location to location. Skin tones and neutral hues skew a bit red, but this fits the warm Greek locations. The oddest artifact is created by shallow focus and backlit sets. The fuzzy edges during these shots made me wonder if Mastorakis had used blue screens for some of the location scenes. This may be related to posterizing, but I think it’s just a weird visual tic baked into the material.
Arrow has also remastered the original English mono audio and presents it here in uncompressed LPCM 1.0. Like most (all?) of Mastorakis’ movies, Death has Blue Eyes was originally shot in English, so this is not a dubbed track. Well, it is a dubbed track, since so much of the movie was clearly shot without sound and the dialogue is obviously and often awkwardly ADR’d (the sex scenes are especially goofy in the regard) – it’s just that English is the language spoken by performers on-set and while dubbing. Nikos Lavranos’ score alternates between progressive rock action pieces, Benny Hill-like comedic cues, porno grooves, and borderline easy-listening hippie rock, the latter of which is actually quite pleasant. All the music, including the pop tunes that crop-up during montages and transitions, is cranked a bit too high and sometimes overwhelms dialogue, but that’s part of the film’s frazzled charm. Music, dialogue, and the limited effects benefit from the lack of compression in that they have genuine aural depth, but everything also tends to peak a bit at high volume, causing minor buzz.
Interview with actress Maria Aliferi (17:49, HD) – Mastorakis himself and author Jasper Sharp produced this interview (and its lengthy heavy metal intro) with the film’s star blonde (there are a lot of blondes in this movie, by the way), who looks back on the production and her performance.
Nico Mastorakis (In His Own Words) (24:43, HD) – Another of the director’s strange self interviews, as seen on other Arrow releases of his films. This one begins with a happy birthday message, a Star Wars crawl, and a seemingly never-ending series of intro titles. It’s baffling, but informative, includes footage from Mastorakis’ early film and TV appearances, and is a pretty good alternative to a director’s commentary.
Dancing With Death soundtrack selections (42:03, HD) – 14 tracks from Nikos Lavranos’ score set to stills.
Theatrical and extended trailers
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.