"A young woman is on the way to New York in order to be separated finally from her husband. Yet she decides spontaneously to make a bus trip. Onto a bunch of carefree tourists comes a cruel incident, an inexplicable murder shake the group. The young people must face this terrible event and the murders go on. While they all guess who could be the mysterious killer, each fears they could be the next victim. The murderer however has a further secret, he always steals an eyeball from the victim. " [Very roughly translated from German!]
"Gorgeous Barcelona!", yells the sleazy latin lothario tour guide in Umberto Lenzi's trashy, fun packed giallo, to a bus full of 'American' tourists on holiday in sunny Spain. They're an unlikely mix (the kind you'd expect to see going to the bottom of the Ocean in flared dinner wear in a 70's disaster movie): the grumpy middle-aged couple, the black, statuesque multi wigged model and her lesbian lover/photographer, the Lolita-esque, hot panted schoolgirl and her bug-eyed father, the humble priest, the secretary with sunglasses like JOE 90, and a handful more.
When the group sashay into their hotel the practical joke obsessed tour guide gives the group one of his wolfish smiles and barks again: "OK everyone, you have half an hour and then off to the Ramblas!".
The group breaks up and explores the famous shopping strip, as the ubiquitous (and highly hummable) theme tune whirs away in the background (in fact, it's hardly ever off the soundtrack). Lisa (Mirta Miller), the sapphic photographer, snaps away at her lover, Nabia (Ines Pellegrini), outside a flower stand. The model asks, "Do you like chrysanthemums?", to which Lisa quips back, "The flowers of death? ... I'm hardly ready!". However, somebody's time is up: a girl, who's not part of the group, who was just kissing her boyfriend earlier, skips off the Ramblas and into a deserted square. She bends down to pick up a discarded flower - a chrysanthemum, no less (!). In classic POV an unidentified figure approaches, and the girl asks them if the flower is theirs, to which the rude reply is a knife to the guts as a figure in red lashes out wildly with the blade. Her screams bring assorted members of the group to discover her now lifeless body; with horror they see that the killer has plucked out her left eye and left a bloody gaping hole.
Paulette (Martine Brochard), she of the monster sunglasses, is whisked away by Mark (John Richardson (whose idea of acting in EYEBALL seems to extend to flaring his nostrils)), her employer and lover, who has hunted her down and conveniently turns up at the crime scene. He tells her that he is worried about his wife, Alma (who we saw at the beginning of the film boarding a flight to Barcelona), who he believes may be unstable; she may, he suspects, be responsible for an eye mutilation murder back in their home town of Burlington (where, incidentally, all the tour group come from), earlier in the year (which is understandable, as he found her unconscious, with a bloody blade in one hand and a human eyeball in the other!).
Now the police are involved - a young impulsive cop teams up and a older wrinkly one, who's only a week off retirement ("I'll stop chasing criminals and start chasing trout!"). At the girl's autopsy one of them, noting the gaping eye socket, asks of the coroner,"Would you say the killer was a sadist?", who, in a moment of rare insight says, "I wouldn't rule it out"!
To cheer themselves up the group go on a jolly jaunt to a local fairground. As it's pouring with rain the tour guide hands out a red plastic rain mac to all of them. Soon one of their number, a teenage girl, is attacked by a knife wielding, red mac wearing assailant whilst hurtling around in the dark on the ghost train; her slumped body, missing its left eye exits into the light, in full view of the majority of the tour group, their mouths flapping like guppy fish.
The accusations fly and the fingers are pointed (initially at the tour guide whose toy spider was discovered with the dead girl). However, not everyone is convinced that the police have their man and a veritable shoal of red herrings swim into view as every one of the tour group get their moment of shifty-eyed screen time: they get caught with cut-throat razors, are found lurking in the bushes, glimpsed cleaning mud off their shoes, or all manner of daftly suspicious behavior. The genre has more than its fair share of these whacky tricks, but Lenzi's EYEBALL takes the proverbial (Amaretti) biscuit!
Somewhat hilariously, as the locals and assorted members of the tour group continue to fall to the assassin in red (making a nice change to the usual black), the police are happy for them to carry on with their holiday itinerary, even though every excursion ends up with an eye plucking murder! It's Flamenco, a healthy swig of sangria and bloody murder all the way for these foolhardy tourists!
Lenzi's giallo is often nonsensical and clumsily crafted, but it's also a deliciously daft and thoroughly entertaining slice of pasta flavoured nonsense. Any fan of the genre couldn't help but be enthralled by the heady brew of groovy 70's fashions, jiggling breasts, more twists than a mountain road, bloody slash action (although don't expect the kind of eye popping violence Lucio Fulci would perfect by the end of the decade), and some choice, choice dialogue (one of the tour group, glimpsing the killer escaping a crime scene, tells the police, "This person looked like a cat - a big red, kinda crimson cat!"). The real treat, however, comes at the end of the movie as the killer's identity and motive is finally revealed. Somewhat hilariously, the killer is clearly shown, in broad daylight, no less - complete with red gloves clasping a dagger - lurking behind a flower stall on the Ramblas, in one of the photographs the late Lisa took of her lover, when they come back from the developers! The motive and explanation as to why the killer plucks out the left eye of the victims is one of the most outlandish and unlikely in a genre not known for sensible denouements and is lipsmackingly daft.
EYEBALL is probably Lenzi's least accomplished giallo but it's a thoroughly entertaining 90 minutes of slasher trash and recommended whole-heartedly to fellow HYSTERIANs.
BODYCOUNT 7 female:6 / male:1
1) Female stabbed to death and eyeball plucked out
2) Female stabbed to death and eyeball plucked out
3) Female stabbed to death and eyeball plucked out
4) Female stabbed and throat slit
5) Male found with throat slit
6) Female stabbed to death and eyeball plucked out
7) Female shot dead