Monday, October 12, 2009

Skräcken har 1000 Ögon

Skräcken har 1000 Ögon
Aka: Fear has 1000 Eyes,
Sensuous Sorceress
Directed by: Torgny Wickman

Horror / Eroticism, 73 min

Sweden, 1970

Distributed by: KlubbSuper8

If I ever had to single out a bunch of Swedish Exploitation flicks for an uninitiated fellow cineaste, then this would be among the few selected. The movies of Arne Mattson and Bo A. Vibenius in all respect, but Torgny Wickman’s Skräcken har 1000 Ögon (literally, Fear has 1000 Eyes) is one of my favourite Swedish exploitation flicks. Not because it ‘s very scary, neither is it especially erotic either, (there’s more nudity on the TV these days) but I dig it because it holds a magnificent ambience, it is a great document of a very special time in cinematic history and is pretty dammed near the witchcraft/occult/ exploitation flicks that directors like Renato Polselli and Luigi Batazella where churning out a few years later. Perhaps mostly recognised for his 1969 shock/documentary/educational/explicit study Kärlekens Språk (The Language of Love) 1969, Wickman's Skräcken har 1000 Ögon is something completely different, and the first ever attempt at combing eroticism with horror produced in Sweden.

Starting with a close up of dripping blood and the words “I hereby dedicate myself to the devil!” being written with the blood there’s a tone set for the movie which gets right to the point, there’s no need fiddling about and wondering what the heck this movie is going to be about, as it’s all there in an awesome opening sequence. The movie contains a fair deal of witchcraft, occult references and the complementary nudity to go with pagan rituals is all there. But for the most of the time there is more to be asked for, like a short scene where the village doctor’s x-ray plates show one of the villagers wearing an inverted cross. We already know who it is, Hedvig, and there’s nothing made of the find but a shallow “Do you see what I see? An inverted cross!” And there’s no name on the plates…” remarked by the Doctor and his staff. It’s opportunities like this that make the story feel somewhat wasted. Never the less the movie is quite fun anyhow, and sometimes you don’t need a perfect story to enjoy a movie. Especially if the movie holds a great atmosphere, has a splendid cast and a fabulous score to keep the mood flowing.

Sven [Hans Wahlgren] is a vicar in a small village in Sweden, he and his pregnant wife Anna [Anita Sanders, who had a short career in Italy and held both smaller and larger roles in movies by Fellini, Pasolini, Tinto Brass, Alberto De Martino and Pupi Avati] return home from a trip to Spain to be greeted by Sven’s aunt, Barbro [Barbro Hjort af Ornäs, who not only stared in many Swedish erotica movies (keeping her clothes on of course) but also acted in several Bergman movies too] Shortly after, their friend and maid Hedwig [the stunning Solveig Andersson] moves in with them. Andersson who you may have seen in the leading role of Wickman’s previous film Eva – den utstötta 1969 (Eva: Swedish and Underage), which also featured Wahlgren, and Hjort af Ornäs. She can also be seen as Christina Lindberg’s bordello mate in Bo A. Vibenius extraordinary Thriller – En Grym Film 1974 (Thriller - A Cruel Picture, Aka They Call Her One Eye)

Anna is suffering from her pregnancy, she can’t sleep and she’s having strange visions, and hasn’t slept for ages. She can’t stand lying next to Sven who sleeps like a baby all through the night. Hedwig starts her manipulation on a small scale suggesting that Sven could sleep in the library as to let Anna rest in peace. Obviously Anna suggests this to Sven who without any major objections gathers up his stuff and shuffles into the guestroom. Needless to say Anna turns up in her sexiest nightgown (definitely a Jean Rollin moment if ever there was one...) and after seductively slipping it off glides into his bed for a hefty session of lovemaking… but is it really Anna?

The movie ponders on; Hedwig seduces both Anna and Sven. In between sessions of seduction she’s tormenting Anna with fake visions, like the great scene where she exchanges the ordinary baby leggings that Anna is knitting for a three legged version! Anna find’s it screams and faints. The sinister Hedwig, switches back to he ordinary pair and claims that Anna imagined it all. To make things worse Hedwig keeps a bunch of self crafted Voodoo dolls that she uses to torment Anna, and even drives Barbro to her untimely death as she discovers Hedvig’s hidden past. Even the warm homely bread gets used as an ominous tool of Hedvig’s witchcraft. The seduction/mind games progresses until the threesome have a full-blown orgy after Barbro’s funeral where Hedwig going all in makes Sven smash a crucifix and then carves an inverted cross on the naked torso of Anna.

Plot wise the movie is in shambles. In at nutshell the problem is that there is never any real value at stake, Hedwig has no apparent agenda. She just sells her soul to the devil, seduces Anna and Sven the Vicar and goes about corrupting them, which also kind of fails, Anna leaves the house by her own free will with out any major obstacles but crawling up on the kitchen sink. Sure Sven smashes a crucifix and chucks it on the fire to keep them warm during the final orgy, and he’s already been unfaithful to his wife with the Seductive witch, but it’s not of free will as he’s put under Hedvig’s spell and has no recollection of the incidents at all when the firemen pull him from the burning vicarage. There’s never a conscious decision to abandon his faith as its all Hedvig’s doing. The same goes for Hedwig, she never really has that agenda written out, apart from selling herself to do the devils work. But opportunity is there, even though it is completely ignored by Wickman in his script. Was she planning on taking Anna’s child? Did she want to corrupt the vicar? Or what? We never know as the movie ends with the naked Hedwig laughing at the fire brigade and police officers outside the burning rectory, during their feeble efforts. It’s a strange and confusing ending. Neither do any of Hedvig's foes really make any honest threat to her, she easily manipulates Anna into believing that she’s going insane, and every other major threat is taken care of in the next scene. Sure she kills off her antagonists, but that’s all she does, there’s no build or suspense created around it.

Supposedly Wickman based his screenplay on a series of events that happened in a small rural village where he spent his childhood, and that could be the case, there’s nothing to prove the opposite.

Now perhaps the movie doesn’t make much of an impression with today’s standards, as it solemnly finds a spot somewhere in between the nudie-cuties/ roughies of Doris Wishman, Russ Meyer, George Harrison Marks and the wave of innovative porno chic movies that where to be produced a few years later, both in Sweden and outside it. The novelty of porno chic decimated the demand for soft erotic imagery; especially as full hardcore could be seen on the big screen in almost every major city. But there is a certain charming innocence to these movies of the past as they explore how far they can go without crossing the border. Ironically they could have gone much further with the events about to take place.

Skräcken har 1000 Ögon was one of the first really genre specific movies out of Sweden that I saw many years ago after a dear friend gave me a few VHS tapes with Swedish titles he demanded that I watch. (This guy was amazing at locating former starlets of the seventies and getting interviews with them for the magazine we used to work for back then. Christina Lindberg was one of them he profiled in the magazine. He’s still a, finger on the pulse guy, currently working for one of the leading Swedish movie magazines.)

I had always ignored Swedish film, apart from the mandatory; Ingmar Bergman, Vilgot Sjöman and Victor Sjöström, so these tapes really blew me away! Watching stuff like Bo A. Vibenius Thriller – En Grym Film 1974, Arne Mattson’s Smutsiga Fingrar 1973 (Dirty Fingers) and Wickman’s Skräcken har 1000 Ögon 1970, opened my eyes to a complete new world in my own backyard. Yes backyard, as these movies where shot in and around Stockholm, and a ten-minute walk from where I lived at the time. And the basic fact that these movies where shot in the same studios as Bergman used is exhilarating. I’ve said before that a whole bunch of Swedish directors vanished under the shadow of Bergman’s marvel, and that’s where you find these guys.

Although I’m sure that VHS version of Skräcken har 1000 Ögon was longer and contained more nudity, and it’s often rumoured that there was a longer print, which could partially be responsible for the erroneously quoted 99 minute run time. But for there to be an additional almost half-hour there has to be a whole load of stuff missing, I’m only missing a few longer scenes of seduction, especially the one where Sven pulls the wig of Anna only to reveal Hedvig. Then again there could be a whole lot of shagging in 26 minutes of missing footage so perhaps that rumoured longer version could have contained the sex Wickman was accustomed to directing. It’s a teasing thought, but producer Inge Ivarsson says in the interview featured on the disc that he had to hold Wickman on a short leash so that the “erotic” elements didn’t get out of hand. So presumably the longer print is a figment of wishful thinking, and if there were an extra half hour of skin and smut, the movie probably wouldn’t have faded into oblivion shortly after it’s release.

What I find so fascinating about the movie is how obvious the Sweden + Nudity + Horror epithet worked so well as a marketing banner. According to producer Inge Ivarsson the movie regained all it’s costs on the international market alone, which he also claims was the prime target audience for these flicks and the two words Swedish Erotica will even today receive a joyful grin from people acquainted with the genre. There was a huge market for Swedish erotica overseas, and recently this retro niche has been rediscovered with the advent of DVD. I think it would be fair to claim that starlet’s of the seventies, like Christina Lindberg for an instance, have a larger fan base now then all those years ago. Well perhaps not the same kind of fan base at least.

Yeah, in many ways The movie is a kind of cute and innocent flick, and all credit has to go to Wickman and Ivarsson who at least tried to create the first erotic horror ever produced in Sweden, and I say cute in the context to Wickman’s previous movies like Kärlekens Språk and Eva - Den Utstötta and his later ones, as he just like so many other directors that had been dabbling in erotica, ended up directing full blown porno’s at the end of his career. Also to that discussion there’s the fact of the casts of these movies. There are many really great well known and recognizable actors seen through out these movies, many beloved Swedish faces and names, even though there’s some nudity and erotic subplots going on. Even a few international Swedish stars, Stellan Skarsgård to name the most renown of them all, participated in these movies. There’s almost the same type of mentality as the Japanese actors took when they where only offered pinku roles during the pinku era of Japanese Cinema. They took it at face value, a job is a job and you do the work that is requested of you as an actor. This is quite an admirable approach to your acting career, as a few years later actors in movies containing eroticism and sexually graphic imagery where considered porn actors and that brings a complete different set of luggage with it. Eroticism to enhance your story, and a story to motivate your eroticism is one thing, but when fuck scenes after fuck scenes are all that your movie is about it’s no longer interesting

Finally the biggest surprise of the film comes with the soundtrack! The score that Mats Olsson put together for this one is a fantastically suave new-Jazz groove strut that definitely could have been found on Italian Giallo and Poliziceotti flicks of the time. Great stuff that someone should re-release some day, it’s a winner to say the least.

Image: Originally shot in 1,66:1, but brought into some kind of semi 4:3 full screen in the scan.

Audio: Swedish dialogue, Mono. Unfortunately as I have whined about before no subtitles at all are available on the KlubbSuper8 DVD’s.

Extras: Bolmört i mitt öra (Henbane in My Ear - the intended original title), a nine minute short interview with producer Inge Ivarsson and Klinga Wickman about he movie and the actors. A few deleted scenes (once again perhaps from that legendary longer version?) unfortunately without any audio, a whole load of still from the movie and behind the scenes, Biographies for cast and crew and theatrical trailers for Fear has 1000 Eyes 1970, Anita 1973, and Kärlekens XYZ 1971 also available from

1 comment:

SNy. said...

Vänskap räcker livet ut säger man ju... Du är då alldeles för snäll mot en gammal tidningskollega ;-)

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