Parisian surgeon Dr. Genessier (Brasseur) lives in a foreboding suburban mansion with a secret operating room in the basement. Glimpsed around the house is a mysterious young woman (Scob) whose disfigured face is hidden behind a white mask. The doctor’s assistant Louise (Valli) abducts young women and brings them to the house for Genessier to operate on. Driven by guilt and love for his daughter, Genessier attempts to perform the first ever successful facial transplant.
One of the founders of the Cinematheque Francaise, director Franju demonstrates his love of film with this eerie genre piece that draws on both horror conventions and the lyricism of a Grimm fairytale. The reception in France was initially mixed, and the film was cut for its U.S. release. Restored to include the “gory” surgical scene (tame by today’s standards), and also a scene depicting the doctor in a more sympathetic light, this haunting work proved controversial in showcasing a “human” monster. Scob went on to make four more films with Franju and her masked image here is said to have inspired many future directors, including John Carpenter and Pedro Almodovar. Franju describes the film as one of “anguish”….but you’ll be flinching in fear nonetheless!