If you can believe it, a group of American tourists are enjoying a coach trip around the Spanish city of Barcelona in the mid 1970s.

Among this disparate group are the likes of elderly priest Bronson (George Rigaud), pretty secretary Paulette (Martine Brochard), wealthy yank Mr Hamilton (John Bartha) and his daughter Jenny (Veronica Miriel), older couple Robby (Daniele Vargas) and Gail (Silvia Solar), and glamour models Naiba (Innes Pellegrini) and Lisa (Mirta Miller) - who also happen to be lovers. The group are tended to by tour guide Martinez (Raf Baldassarre), who has a penchant for playing pranks on the younger females on the bus with clockwork spider and mouse toys.

The intricate relationship politics of the members of this group are explored for a short while, and Paulette's private life becomes a little more interesting when her married lover Mark (John Richardson) turns up unannounced. He's decided he's going to leave his wife soon, and has come to woo his estranged mistress back. Paulette clearly still has strong feelings for him, but is playing hard to get.

In the meantime, one of the group is slain during a day trip. Not just slain, but stabbed multiple times, and then suffers the indignity of having her left eye cut out with a blade.

Enter retiring police inspector Tudela (Andres Mejuto). He's got eight days left on the force and is determined to crack the case in that time, with the assistance of his young replacement, Lara (Jose Maria Blanco).

Well, they have no shortage of suspects to choose from. Chiefly because virtually everyone on the coach is beady-eyed, arousing suspicion merely by being present and acting shifty as fuck. But this wouldn't be a giallo without the odd red herring or two ...?

Remarkably the tour bus continues to go about its business. Which, of course, leads to another eye-gouging murder (this time perpetrated in an amusement park's "haunted tunnel" ghost train ride). Mark and Martinez both fall under Tudela's suspicion.

In the meantime, Mark is starting to wonder if his estranged wife Alma (Marta May) may be responsible: after all, she's suffered a nervous breakdown in the past, and may have been responsible for killing someone previously while removing their left orb. Which all sounds a tad convenient, perhaps, but ... she's supposed to be convalescing in America, until Mark makes a telephone call and discovers she never checked into the clinic she was meant to be spending time at. And then there's that note which Bronson hands to him, apparently written by Alma and claiming that she's staying in a Barcelona hotel ...

The body count rises steadily and the plot thickens as our suspicions flit from one character to another. Who is bumping off our Yank travellers one-by-one, donning a red raincoat and arming themselves with a knife to remove their eyes along the way, and why?

EYEBALL is a wonderful 1975 giallo from Umberto Lenzi.

Its plot is as absurdly convoluted and incapable of standing up to close scrutiny as any other great gialli title, and is great fun as a consequence. We're treated to a plethora of likely suspects - most of which the director uncharacteristically invests some time in, affording us to get to know these folk to an extent - and delivered with a pay-off which is as nonsensical as it is perfectly in fitting with the delirium which has preceded it.

Along the way, we get some beautiful compositions from cinematographer Antonio Millan, making full use of the often-stunning exterior locations. Bruno Nicolai's score is a work of art: its jazz lounge smoothness may suggest the cast are going to get naked at times, but it's still absolutely fantastic. The killer, in a red hood and cape, is an inspired faceless villain that manages to evoke both BLOOD AND BLACK LACE and DON'T LOOK NOW. THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE is clearly referenced in a couple of the hotel room-based terror sequences, right down to the expert editing and camerawork.

Richardson, Brochard and Mejuto head a reliable cast with strong, memorable performances. The dialogue, of course is hammy and hard-boiled like only the Italians could pull off. It's testament to both the cast and Lenzi's direction that pacing is never an issue.

In terms of exploitation, Lenzi ups the ante here in comparison to earlier gialli of his such as SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS and SPASMO. Female nudity is never far away, and each murder incorporates at least a little bloodshed. A show-stopping multiple stabbing and throat-slashing wins the prize for the film's grisliest moment, arguably prefiguring later genre flicks such as Lucio Fulci's THE NEW YORK RIPPER.

It's interesting to muse over whether Dario Argento was influenced by EYEBALL when making his later TENEBRAE too. Not only does the sub-plot of an estranged partner who's meant to be overseas but is believed to be in the vicinity, thus putting in the frame as potential murderer, ring true in both films, but there's also a scene here where a woman dances flirtatiously in a bar just to wind her lesbian lover up - resulting in said lover going home in a huff, and promptly falling prey to the gloved killer. Coincidence?!

EYEBALL is an intriguingly daft, deceptively well-made whodunit with aesthetic panache and trashy entertainment to spare.

The film comes to dual format blu-ray and DVD, courtesy of those awfully decent chaps at 88 Films.

The blu-ray disc presents the film as an MPEG4-AVC file, in full 1080p HD resolution. This is a new 2K transfer which has been struck from original elements, taking in extensive restoration and regrading. The original 1.85:1 ratio has been adhered to and, naturally, is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Colours are bold and true in feel, while an absence of compression issues ensures the many shades of black and instances of fog are rendered expertly throughout. Flesh tones are always accurate; light grain is natural and reassures us that noise reduction has been kept to a minimum; contrast and depth retain a healthily filmic texture. The onscreen title here is GATTI ROSSI IN UN LABIRINTO DI VETRO.

Lossless mono audio is proffered in both English and Italian variants. Both are evenly balanced, clean and clear prospects. The Italian track comes with optional English subtitles, which are quite different at times to what's being said in the English dubbed track.

The disc opens to a static main menu page. There is no scene selection menu to speak of, but you do have the option to traverse your way through the film via 10 chapter stops - accessible through your remote control handset.

A plethora of extras begin with an audio commentary track from the ever-dependable The Hysteria Continues team. Moderated by "Teenage Wasteland" author Justin Kerswell, this is a fun and highly informative track which helps viewers appreciate how fondly remembered EYEBALL is, and takes a considered look at both where its influences came from, and how it influenced films to come. Delivered with zest and a healthy amount of humour, this is a fun accompaniment piece to the main feature. What was that I heard though - John Richardson was under consideration for the role of Bond when Sean Connery wanted out?!

"All Eyes on Lenzi: The Life and Times of the Italian Exploitation Titan" is a fantastic new 84-minute documentary on the late director. It features contributions from writer John Martin, critic Rachael Nisbet, historian Mikel Koven, CANNIBAL FEROX co-stars Danilo Mattei and Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Nocturno magazine's Manilo Gomarasca, filmmaker Scooter McCrae, and previously unseen interview footage with Lenzi himself.

This covers the bulk of the auteur's film career, looking at his forays into gialli, Eurocrime and - of course - cannibal movies with enthusiasm. Lenzi remains unrepentant about the animal slayings in his movies, while Radice is steadfast in his condemnation of CANNIBAL FEROX. Although both men do agree that they only agreed to make the film to pay their respective bills.

There are some great tales from Lenzi about how car chases were achieved in the likes of VIOLENT NAPLES and ALMOST HUMAN, and how Maurizio Merli was such a tough guy that he performed all his stunts without ever breaking a sweat.

Peppered with clips from FEROX, EATEN ALIVE!, NIGHTMARE CITY, ALMOST HUMAN, EYEBALL, SPASMO, THE CYNIC THE RAT AND THE FIST and more, this is a tautly edited, constantly engaging proposition which ably demonstrates how Lenzi took on most genres during a directorial career which spanned more than three decades. Not only that, but it puts forward a convincing argument that the late filmmaker was anything but a hack.

Next up we get a new interview with actress Brochard. She's in fine fettle (as is her cat, who briefly appears on screen) while she discusses how nude scenes never bothered her, how she enjoyed being considered a sex symbol, and how Lenzi was a chatty, occasionally grumpy boss to work for. This runs for an affable 16 minutes.

A 2-minute featurette follows, comparing locations from the film between how they looked in 1975 and how they appear now. This seamless merging of film clips and fresh footage is set to the strains of the movie's main theme tune.

Two trailers and a TV spot follow, the most graphic of which is the US trailer.

This release also contains a DVD which contains all of the above content, albeit in standard definition. Of course.

Now, a word on the packaging. Which is a bonus in itself. The discs are housed in a clear keepcase, which itself is wrapped up in a rather beautiful slipcase. Double-sided cover artwork is provided, with the reverse offering the beautiful original Italian poster art. Inside the package you'll also find a colourful 36-page collectors' booklet containing a new essay and an archive Lenzi interview conducted by Eugenio Ercolani. We're also treated to a set of four beautiful postcards reproducing original lobby card artwork.

All in all, this is a fantastic release for a great film. To get the film and the feature-length documentary in one release is outstanding value. Everything else serves as most welcome icing on top of a highly recommended cake.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by 88 Films