The Third Eye Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: October 18, 2022 (as part of Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror)
Video: 1.85:1/1080p/Black & White
Audio: English and Italian LPCM 1.0 Mono
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Run Time: 87:07
Director: Mino Guerinni
Note: This Blu-ray is currently only available as part of Arrow’s Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror four-movie set, which also includes The Blancheville Monster (aka: Horror, 1963), Lady Morgan’s Vengeance (Italian: La vendetta di Lady Morgan, 1965), and The Witch (Italian: La strega in amore, 1966).
A disturbed young count named Mino (Franco Nero) upsets his overbearing mother (Olga Solbelli) when he announces his plans to marry his fiance, Laura (Erika Blanc). Unknown to both of them, the mansion’s jealous maid, Marta (Gioia Pascal), hatches a plan to make Mino her own.
Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (Italian: La maschera del demonio; aka: The Mask of Satan and Revenge of the Vampire, 1960) was a watershed film that brought Italian horror to the international masses, heralded Bava as a genre leader, and introduced the world to the incomparable Barbara Steele. As was tradition, success led to imitation, thus beginning a short, but extensive series of moody, black & white Gothic horror films. Meanwhile, Bava pioneered another black & white fad in 1963 when he released what many critics consider the first giallo thriller, The Girl Who Knew Too Much (Italian: La ragazza che sapeva troppo; aka: The Evil Eye). He quickly re-defined the genre the year after that with the Technicolor-glazed Blood and Black Lace (Italian: Sei donne per l'assassino, 1964), but, in the meantime, the dark romance of the Gothic and contemporary psychodrama of giallo combined into a subgenre that didn’t quite fit either mold. Examples include Luigi Bazzoni & Franco Rossellini’s arthouse-friendly The Possessed (Italian: La donna del lago, 1965), Dino Tavella’s creature-feature-esque The Embalmer (Italian: Il mostro di Venezia, 1965), and Mino Guerrini’s wicked love story, The Third Eye (Italian: Il terzo occhio, 1966).
Guerrini began his professional life as a writer, artist, and was one of nine co-founders of the post-WWII, avant-garde Marxist art movement, Forma 1, along with feminst leader Carla Accardi and abstract expressionist Giulio Turcato. He entered film as a writer, doing uncredited work for Macello Pagliero’s Modern Virgin (Italian: Vergine moderna, 1954), co-writing Ugo Gregoretti’s New Angels (Italian: I nuovi angeli, 1962), and as one of six writers on Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much, where he worked alongside a pre-Django (1966) Sergio Corbucci and frequent Bava collaborator Francesco Prosperi. After directing segments for anthologies and a TV episode, Guerrini made his feature debut with Up and Down (Italian: Su e giù, 1965), followed closely by The Third Eye the following year. It remains the only horror credit on his IMDb C/V with the exception of a story-by credit for Joe D’Amato’s (aka: Aristide Massaccesi) gore-soaked masterpiece, Beyond the Darkness (Italian: Buio Omega; aka: Buried Alive, 1979). This isn’t because he felt compelled to write another horror/thriller screenplay, but because Beyond the Darkness is, in fact, a remake of The Third Eye.
Obviously, Guerinni couldn’t get away with the same graphic violence that defined D’Amato’s film, nor would the censors allow him to approach the depraved heights of highly detailed human autopsies or scenes of an adult man achieving sexual gratification by being breastfed. Still, The Third Eye is quite perverse and violent for a mid-’60s film, including brutal murder, disemboweled animals, stripteases, and implied necrophilia (in all, censors cut about 35 seconds, according to Roberto Curti’s Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957-1969 [McFarland & Company, 2015]). Curiously, The Third Eye’s other two writers – Gilles de Reys and Piero Regnol, who authored Sergio Corbucci’s Navajo Joe and Carlo Lizzani’s The Hills Run Red (Italian: Un Fiume di Dollari) the same year (1966) – are not credited for Beyond the Darkness. Their main influence isn’t Bava, but Hitchcock, who happened to release his own black & white horror revival, Psycho (1960), the same year as Black Sunday. Both Psycho and The Third Eye revolve around introverted young men with unhealthy, borderline incestuous relationships with maternal figures. Each character is also an amateur taxidermist with an undiagnosed mental illness, who exhumes and embalms a loved one. There are also textural references, like peepholes hidden behind paintings, frantic driving scenes, and a room full of stuffed birds*.
The other remarkable piece of The Third Eye’s puzzle is star Franco Nero. Nero had barely broken on the scene without a hit to his name a couple of years prior, then in 1966, the same year he appeared in The Third Eye, he had the kind of whirlwind year that most actors – let alone Italian actors – can only dream of. The biggest of these eight films was Corbucci’s Django, which is arguably the second most influential Italian western ever made, behind Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (Italian: Per un pugno di dollari, 1964). Before studios could ever react to the magnitude of Django’s box office, he showed up in Ferdinando Baldi’s Texas, Adios (Italian: Texas, addio, 1966) and Lucio Fulci’s Massacre Time (Italian: Le colt cantarono la morte e fu... tempo di massacro, 1966). Nero closed the year out with his first Hollywood production, John Huston’s The Bible (1966), followed by a bigger role the following year in Joshua Logan’s Camelot (1967). By the time he returned to Italy, he had his choice of roles and, unlike many of his contemporaries, never settled into any one genre. Co-lead Erika Blanc is an Euro-Gothic cult icon, having appeared in Massimo Pupillo’s Lady Morgan’s Vengeance (Italian: La vendetta di Lady Morgan, 1965), Bava’s Kill, Baby, Kill! (Italian: Operazione paura; aka: Operation Fear, also 1966), Jean Brismée’s The Devil's Nightmare (La plus longue nuit du diable, 1971), and Emilio Miraglia’s Gothic-tinged giallo The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (Italian: La notte che Evelyn usci’ dalia tomba, 1971).
* In addition to Psycho, The Third Eye references Vertigo (1948), specifically that film’s protagonist obsessively makes over another woman to look like his ‘dead’ lover, whereas, in this one, not only does Laura have a twin sister who shows up after her sister dies (shades of Psycho in and of itself), but Marta makes herself up to look like Mino’s dead fiance.
If you are interested in further discussion of the year that brought audiences Black Sunday and Psycho, please check out the two-part 25th episode of the Genre Grinder podcast, where Patrick Ripoll and I take a look at the Year in Horror: 1960.
The Third Eye has never seen an official release on US home video. Besides the PAL German DVD, the only option for English-speaking viewers was a fan-created bootleg composite of an edited German print with additional scenes and audio from an Italian language print. It’s actually pretty impressive for an amateur production, though, obviously Arrow’s new 2K restoration of the original negative is an improvement. This 1080p, 1.85:1, black & white transfer is brimming with fine detail and rich tonal variations, yet hasn’t been oversharpened or digitally smoothed. There’s still plenty of consistent, fine grain texture and delicate, plush edges, maintaining cinematographer Alessandro D'Eva’s use of shallow focus and layered lighting schemes (related: comparing this to the SD transfer, I’m almost positive that the occasional out of focus shots are errors on the filmmakers’ part, not a problem with the Blu-ray). It’s a tight race, but this may be the best of the four Gothic Fantastico transfers in terms of cleanliness, consistency, and lack of print damage artifacts.
The Third Eye is presented with two audio options, Italian and English, both in uncompressed LPCM 1.0 mono. As per usual, this, like most Italian films of the era, was shot without synced sound and all language versions were dubbed, meaning that there is no official language version. In this case, three of the four leads are speaking Italian, though Gioia Pascal, who plays the jealous housekeeper, is either performing in English or just has a fantastic dub actor speaking her dialogue. The English track is generally better all-around with better aural separation, stronger dynamics, and slightly more clarity. The Italian dub also tends to turn the music way down whenever people are speaking. Francesco De Masi’s score is technically fantastic, but is a little too traditionally melodramatic and pensive to really fit the material. I suppose that this might have been the point: to underscore the film’s chronic perversion with music fit for a typical romance.
Commentary by Rachael Nisbet – The author, critic, and co-host of Fragments of Fear: A Giallo Podcast lays out the film’s production history, its influences (she notes other Vertigo connections I had entirely missed, even after two viewings), the careers of its cast & crew, its psychological and social themes (the main example being the fact that Marta is a victim of economic exploitation), its connections to giallo, and Guerinni’s eccentric on-set behavior.
The Cold Kiss of Death (6:15, HD) – In this short introduction, Italian film devotee Mark Thompson Ashworth discusses the connections between The Third Eye and Beyond the Darkness, the basis of the title, early versions of the plot, and the Hitchcock connections.
Nostalgia Becomes Necrophilia (12:01, HD) – Filmmaker and author of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (Devil’s Advocates series, Auteur Publishing, 2018) Lindsay Hallam further discusses the film’s social and psychological themes, its ties to the Gothic and melodrama, and similarities to Psycho and Riccardo Freda’s The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (Italian: L'orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock, 1962).
All Eyes on Erika (15:40, HD) – In the second of the two Gothic Fantastico interviews with Erika Blanc (the first can be seen on the Lady Morgan’s Vengeance disc), the actress chats about her dual role in The Third Eye, working with the cast & crew, playing dead underwater, the genesis of her stage name, and having shot other movies in the same villa location.
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.