The House of Psychotic Women (1974) The House of Psychotic Women / Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll / The House of Doom / Los Ojos Azules de la MuŮeca Rota (1974/1976) **

     Nobody likes to be baited and switched, but once in a very great while, the bait is so good, and so imaginatively unrelated to the product actually on offer, that I must grudgingly admire the skill of the con. Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll was a rather dull and thoroughly mediocre thriller on approximately the Italian modeló basically an imitation giallo. Its merits few and easily missed, it posed a challenge to anyone seeking to sell it, especially in markets where genuine giallo was not a widely recognized genre. It was therefore clever of Independent-International Pictures to ditch the original, Argento-flavored title in favor of The House of Psychotic Women, and to advertise the film as a lurid sex-horror flick. The true marketing geniuses, however, were this movieís initial US videotape distributors (Iím not sure whether Vidmark or Super Video Inc. had it first), who amplified the impact of I-Iís title with the incredible box cover you see at left. Just look at that thing! You know you want to see that movieó what grindhouse horror fan wouldnít? Alas, you wonít be seeing it by watching The House of Psychotic Women, but again, thatís okay with me in this case. The lie is so terrific that Iím willing to put up with the lackluster truth in order to get it. I wonder if itís possible to buy remake rights to advertising art?

     A drifter calling himself Gilles (Paul Naschy, from Count Draculaís Great Love and The People Who Own the Dark) arrives in a little, out-of-the-way French village, looking for work. The crowd at the pub where he stops in are as welcoming as their counterparts in any Hammer Dracula movie, and Inspector Pierre of the local gendarmerie (Antonio Pica, from Vengeance of the Zombies and Satanik) is sure heís seen the newcomer before somewhere. Thatís probably because Gilles is notorious under his real name for having strangled his wife to death in a fugue state, but his true identity wonít come out for a while yet. The rather grouchy barmaid (Pilar Bardem, of Exorcismís Daughter and The Mummyís Revenge) does Gilles a solid, however, directing him toward the home of three sisters who are perpetually in need of a handyman.

     On the other hand, maybe that isnít such a hot favor after all, because the reason for the sistersí perpetual need is that among the three of them, theyíre the most intolerably unreasonable employers you could imagine. Ivette, the youngest (Maria Perschy, from The Specter of Terror and The Mad Executioners), is a pushy nymphomaniac. Claude, the eldest (Diana Lorys, of Nightmares Come at Night and Fangs of the Living Dead), is an invalid with the temperament of a two-year-old. And middle sister Nicole (Eva Leon, of Autopsy and Golden Temple Amazons) nurses her various grudges far more assiduously than sheís ever nursed Claude. Most of those grudges stem in one way or another from the accident that wrecked Nicoleís right hand, leaving her to get by with a weird and conspicuous prosthesis. Obviously the loss of her hand is itself a bum deal, and well worth being pissed off about. But the fallout from the accident also leads Nicole to resent both of her sistersó Ivette for her effortless knack at picking up men, and Claude for the easy sympathy generated by her chronic illness. Nicole canít remember the last time she got laid, and sheíd like to be able to spend the day in bed crying, too, once in a while, you know? Put all the ladiesí respective neuroses together, and itís practically impossible for a guy working at the house not to give offense somehow.

     Gilles negotiates this treacherous emotional terrain in a crude but efficient manner. He seduces all three of the sisters, counting on each oneís individual neediness to protect him from the jealousy of the other two. Mind you, even those extreme measures donít eliminate all the risks of working at the chateau, as Gilles learns when he is assaulted in the garden by a knife-wielding man later identified as Jean, one of the sistersí former employees. Personally, I suspect that Jean was less upset over the loss of the job than over the loss of Ivetteís affections, but Gilles gets the same stab wound out of it either way. The ladies alert Inspector Pierre to the incident, and Dr. Philippe the local physician (Eduardo Calvo, of Human Beasts and Inquisition) patches up the new handymanís injuries. Jean got stuck, too, of course (old cop joke: How do you tell the winner of a knife fight from the loser? The loser is found dead at the scene, while the winner dies in the hospital later that night.), so Pierre figures itís just a matter of time before he turns up either alive in Philippeís waiting room, or dead in the surrounding forest. And so he doesó but by the time Jeanís body is discovered, the inspector has a bigger and uglier mystery on his hands. Somebody is killing girls in the village, and stealing their eyeballs out of their sockets afterward! At first, everyone hopes that Jean is the culprit behind those crimes as well as the attack on Gilles, but no such luck. So does that mean itís Gilles himself, reenacting the murder of his wife? Or could it be one of the titular Psychotic Women instead?

     Given that this is a counterfeit giallo, you do yourself no favors by asking for the solution to make actual sense, and you might as well resign yourself to a ďDr. Boring Explains It AllĒ ending right now. Gorehounds will be disappointed by the tameness of the murder scenes, and erotic horror enthusiasts will be put out by the makeup departmentís sterling success in uglying up some very attractive actresses. Where The House of Psychotic Women manages to shine just a little is in the psychological depth and impressive kinkiness of the love tetrahedron with which Gilles shores up his job security. Paul Naschy turns his famously sympathetic attitude toward monsters in a truly unexpected direction here, portraying a selfish cad and sometime killer as someone who wants to do better, but canít seem to find an opportunity to do so at a cost heís willing to bear. The women playing the sisters, meanwhile, convincingly render the pathological desperation driving their ends of the shared relationship with the handyman. Truth be told, thereís a pretty compelling (albeit acutely depressing) psychodrama in here about what very lonely people become willing to settle for when they rightly believe they have no better options. Itís just an awkward fit serving as a subplot in this anemic wannabe giallo.



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