Death Has Blue Eyes (To koritsi vomva) is an easy film to summarize but a difficult one to describe. It’s a science fiction thriller in a sexploitation package. Beyond this, though, is where the film gets tricky due to a behind the scenes journey that’s, frankly, fascinating. Thanks to a 2K restoration from Arrow Video, audiences can either revisit or experience, for the first time, this Greek giallo from writer/director Nico Mastorakis (Island of Death) in the comfort of their home before diving into the film’s background thanks to a small-but-rich set of bonus materials. If you’re in the mood for something strange and titillating yet altogether tame, Death Has Blue Eyes may just be the thing for you.
From the moment conman Robert Kowalski (Peter Winter) arrives in Athens to visit his gigolo friend Chess Gilford (Chris Nomikos), the two immediately jump from one scam to another in pursuit of pleasures. Along the way, they catch the attention of mother-daughter tourists Geraldine and Christine Steinwetz (Jessica Dublin and Maria Aliferi) who believe themselves in danger and are, therefore, in need of protecting. With their options limited, Robert and Chess agree to help the two women, unaware that in doing so they find themselves in a deep conspiracy with global implications.
As previously mentioned, there are a variety of types of films fans. From those who consume popular releases (major studios or Academy-recognized) all the way to cinematic historians who pour over each frame as a time capsule. Originally released in 1976, Death Has Blue Eyes most certainly would’ve found itself in the former, whereas, now, it’s most certainly in the latter. Mastorakis’s film showcases the kind of filmmaking that is lauded today by making the most of the least available. This means trading robust action scenes for character work, using his own home for production space, and any number of other things that haven’t been caught on record yet. The whole of Death Has Blue Eyes sparks memories of Robert Rodriquez’s El Mariachi (1992), which similarly made use of minimal resources in a variety of creative ways. The main difference between Blue Eyes and Mariachi is the greater number of sex scenes, though the ones included are extraordinarily laughable by today’s standards. There’s certainly nudity and the characters are definitely engaged in coitus, but the dialogue in these sequences (moaning, dirty talk, etc.) doesn’t match *any* of the movements of the characters; hence “laughable.” Still, though, even when the film seems to be completely unsure of what kind of film it is, it’s so self-assured at every given moment that you just roll with it.
What’s fascinating to learn in the first-pressing essay by Julian Grainger is that the film was originally titled Death Has Grey Eyes (Ο θάνατος έχει γκρίζα μάτια) before receiving a name change to Το κορίτσι βομβα (The Girl Bomb) and was originally 118 minutes. If this means nothing to you, the version restored by Arrow Video is 77 minutes, is the third cut of the film, and is the one released in the UK in 1986 on VHS with Death Has Blue Eyes as the title. According to Grainger, the reason for the two cuts reducing the length are unknown, but, having watched the film for the first time via the restoration, I can’t help but wonder if the stranger aspects of the film would’ve been more fleshed out or if what was cut leaned toward the more sexploitation aspects. Even for a tightly-budgeted thriller, taking the time to beef up some of the more flimsy areas would’ve made the often go-with-it attitude of the film a little less necessary. If tidbits like this are of interest, then you’ll enjoy the other historical elements Grainger includes tracking Mastorakis’s career. Additionally, Arrow Video produced two brand-new featurettes that are solo interviews with Mastorakis and Aliferi. I won’t speak on the Mastorakis one much because it’s such a treat and you should go in blind as the introduction is so sweet and wholesome. That said, Mastorakis describes it as “a confessional” because it’s just him telling stories on camera with images and footage edited in. For Aliferi, that one is more of a proper one-on-one as she speaks to an unseen individual about her experience leading up to, the making of, and after the release of the film. Additional bonus material is the usual audio-only option Arrow tends to provide, video/image galleries, trailers, and the ability to select either a full screen or widescreen viewing experience.
Bonus materials are certainly a strong incentive to pick-up any new release (restoration or otherwise), but how it looks can impact how well it’s received. Many have taken issue with Criterion’s Wong Kar Wai collection due to some changes many felt robbed the original releases of their power prompting the director himself to respond. In this case, I can confirm that Mastorakis was involved in the 2K restoration process undertaken at SteFilm, Athens, using the original 35mm negative. Additionally, the audio was remastered to match, upgrading the original mono audio as well. For clarity, the audio isn’t given a 5.1 upgrade, it’s just been cleaned up for use in modern stereos. On paper is one thing, but how does it look projected? Via my 43in 4K UHD television, the picture is solid. Not perfect, mind you, but the colors are distinct and the depth is apparent. This is a film with high production values, so glossy is not a word I’d use to describe it, but that doesn’t mean it’s drab either. What it is most certainly is a nicely captured time capsule of 1970s cinema. The sound isn’t a major component of the film, however, the dialogue is crisp and clean to the point that you get a sense of how much ADR went into the film without reading Grainger’s essay.
Though this may not be the first thing general audiences reach for, cinephiles and historians are likely to enjoy what the 2K restoration of Nico Mastorakis’s Death Has Blue Eyes offers. It doesn’t just present one of the stranger genre hybrids of the time, but includes features which help create a context that celebrates the endeavor. No one in their career sets out to make a bad movie and releases by boutique labels like Arrow allow the opportunity for films to be given that context and, perhaps, even find new legs. If you’ve made it this far into this article, you’re likely just the type of person who’d dig on this release.
Death Has Blue Eyes Special Features
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Julian Grainger
- Brand new restoration from the original camera negative approved by the director
- High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
- Two versions of the film: the widescreen 1.85:1 version and the full-frame 1.33:1 version
- Original mono audio
- Exclusive new interview featurette with Nico Mastorakis (24:43)
- Exclusive new interview with actress Maria Aliferi (17:44)
- Dancing with Death: tracks from the Death Has Blue Eyes original soundtrack (42:03)
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Original theatrical trailers
- Image gallery
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
Available on Blu-ray from Arrow Video beginning April 6th, 2021.
For more information or to purchase Death Has Blue Eyes, head to MVD Entertainment.