DEATH HAS BLUE EYES (1976)
Two crooks get the job to protect a mysterious young girl and her mother from a bunch of gangsters.
The giallo-sounding Death Has Blue Eyes has been beautifully restored by Arrow Video and provides the sort of vintage 1970s spy comedy I’ve been pining for. And folks, this is far stranger and hornier than anything Mike Myers ever conceived with Austin Powers. Summarising this film isn’t complicated, but every word raises more questions…
British bachelor Bob (Peter Winter) visits his Greek “part-time lover, part-time racing driver, and karate expert” friend Chess (Chris Nomikos) for a holiday of hedonism and conning people. Bob steals a plane ticket to get there and Chess has been smooth-talking an older woman to lounge around her house. This wayward path naturally leads them into trouble when passing a restaurant bill onto someone else’s hotel room as those people sit right next to them. This is where it gets weird. Geraldine (Jessica Dublin) is in need of two strapping young lads to look after her daughter, Christine (Maria Aliferi), but not in a nudge-nudge sort of way; she’s just witnessed a murder and just so happens to uncover a political assassination via her psychic gift of mind-reading!
One would think this absurd narrative twist would dominate the story, and yet it doesn’t unfold as much as spill out all at once right at the end. Bob and Chess aren’t roped into this through mind games, either, as their sexual escapades are kept separate from the supernatural subplot. After hearing this, they immediately get to seeing Chess’ housemaid, clothed only in an apron, on a circular rotating bed. We then have not one but two sex scenes; one with just Bob while Chess comically mimics their actions by sucking a melon and biting a banana (Bob flies out of the bedroom wailing “JESUS CHRIST, SHE BITES!”), and then a bouncy ménage à trois under bed sheets like The Sims. While it certainly has more nudity, this shares the same swinging playfulness of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) and is a far cry from sleazy exploitation. Death Has Blue Eyes contains exceptionally soft-core love-making and every sequence is punctuated with a comedic finish—such as when the older woman arrives and throws a completely nude Bob and Chess onto the street.
Both Winter and Nomikos carry the movie thanks to their genuinely affectionate friendship on camera; delivering a believable carefree attitude to sell that these people would cruise along in such a bizarre plot of psychic espionage. If there’s a pretty blonde at the centre of it all then why not hang around? At one point they even sing “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, which lifts the bromance directly from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), with their ‘beard’ Ms Place in-between them. It’s refreshing to see an exceptionally liberal pre-’80s-homophobia approach, as the two are exceedingly straight horndogs but share hugs and champagne in public that elicit disgusted reactions, and share women in scenes where they’re as naked as their female co-stars.
Most unexpectedly the ‘death with blue eyes’, Christine, never gets involved in any saucy scenarios. The three share plenty of screen time and yet it seems as if she was in a different movie entirely—well, aside from her occasional demonstrations of mind-reading the two lads’ cheeky thoughts to an ‘ooh-err!’ laugh. Aliferi is afforded a fun performance in the dramatic whiplash between the high-spirited hijinks and delivering psychic death-stares complete with synth-score-stingers. If the two lads come of as proto-Austin Powers, Christine feels identical to Alice Lowe’s hilarious performance in TV’s Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (2004). I can only complain there aren’t enough opportunities to use her powers, though they are memorable. Her most powerful moment being when Bob finds a Formula 1 driver to fool around with, and she makes him “flat out” just as he’s about to “accelerate”. Her powers do expand from inflicting physical pain to pyrokinesis and, much like Netflix’s Stranger Things, she becomes exponentially more powerful than her male “bodyguards”. This does make you ask why they’re involved at all, but it’s all good fun.
As for action, there’s excitement in a high-speed pursuit down the winding one-lane streets of Greece, and a comical car chase through a park that disrupts a romantic film shoot with crashing motorbikes. Death Has Blue Eyes is less focused on being a straight political thriller, action, or sex comedy, and more on building a package that has something for everyone. Here’s a car chase, a threesome, so why not throw in a psychic that tries to take down a helicopter with her mind? Writer-director Nico Mastorakis certainly isn’t concerned with a narrative tone, or logic, as much as he is delivering an entertaining ride. His later movies—Blind Date (1984), Sky High (1985), and Glitch! (1988)—sound just as silly, and his last feature film was .com for Murder (2002) starring Huey Lewis!
This was actually Mastorakis’s first feature, which is impressive, although Death Has Blue Eyes is nothing special in terms of the filmmaking. However, thanks to Arrow Video’s beautiful restoration, it’s now a stunning experience nevertheless. Mastorakis captures most of his film through airy handheld shots (probably to save time!), which injects a constant liveliness into things, accentuated with an arresting cinematography drenched in that authentic Grecian heat.
Even more impressive, Mastorakis made this alongside another film the same year, with Island of Death (1976) piggybacking off the success of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), then securing infamy during the UK’s ‘video nasties’ era. It wasn’t until 2011 that a full 13-minutes of Island of Death’s excised material was released uncut (by Arrow Video), so I thank them for restoring even more of Mastorakis’ eclectic filmography. I’m left with a tinge of sadness. Death Has Blue Eyes tided me over while I patiently await Austin Powers’ return, but I’ve rather enjoyed the strange and endearing company of these two bachelors and their psychic girl friend.
GREECE | 1976 | 118 MINUTES | 1.85:1 • 1.33:1 | COLOUR | GREEK
Unfortunately, the Blu-ray release wasn’t available in time for this review, which was instead conducted based on the streaming version at Arrow Player.
writer & director: Nico Mastorakis.
starring: Jessica Dublin, Maria Aliferi, Peter Winter, Hristos Nomikos.