I believe that what makes a B-movie is not the films’ production values or the story, but the whether or not the movie chooses to take its subject matter seriously. For example, 1954’s “Godzilla” is not a B-movie due to its strong connection to the Japanese people and putting their struggle and horror above the titular monster. But a film like “Plan 9 From Outer Space” is a B-movie because of stilted performances from actors who would probably burst into laughter if they read the plot out loud.
Just because a film contains a monster or ridiculous plot doesn’t automatically make a B-movie. That would be if most of the film is played for laughs.
I bring this up because this French-Italian horror film, “Eyes Without A Face,” has a similar plot to a movie I once saw on “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” entitled “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.” Both films are about a young woman being horribly disfigured or close to death due to the actions of a loved one in a car accident, and the loved one using their vast knowledge of medical science to keep them alive, but not for long. The loved one, in “Eyes Without A Face”‘s case it would be her father, must resort to kidnapping young women who look like his daughter and perform a medical procedure to give his daughter that missing body part.
“The Brain That Wouldnt Die” is certainly a B-movie, but “Eyes Without A Face” is far from it.
Part of this is because “Eyes Without A Face” puts the horror on full display and does not shy away from the more grotesque imagery. We get to see the procedure of this man removing a young woman’s face so that he can give it to his disfigured daughter. I wouldn’t recommend this film to those who are squeamish, but this film tops “Psycho” for the amount of violence for 1960.
Then there’s the father, Dr. Genessier (Pierre Brasseur), who is uncaring at times in the way he treats his victims, but has nothing but love and hope for his daughter to still live a happy life. He puts all the blame on himself and takes full responsibility for ruining her chance at happiness. Everything he does is for her. “The Brain The Wouldn’t Die”‘s lead doctor mostly does it to prove that science has no boundaries and can bring the dead back to life, and so he can be sleazy towards other women.
“Eyes Without A Face” takes its subject of a man taking extraordinary medical measures to save the woman he loves with all the seriousness that deserves, while not moving away from the horror of it as well. We see the mad scientist, but also man behind the mad. “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” doesn’t seem to care about the subject matter and spends most of its time with the main character learing after other women and a head in a pan concocting a plan with a monster in the closet.
That is the difference between a B-horror movie and an A-horror movie.
Final Grade: B+