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The Magnificent Mia Farrow Blogathon: See No Evil (1971)

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Gabriela at Pale Writeris hosting this blogathon in honour of actress Mia Farrow. Be sure to visit her site to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. See No Evil is a Horror/Thriller which features Mia Farrow at her very best playing a vulnerable,but determined, blind woman who is being stalked by a killer. The blind person in peril plotline certainly wasn’t new by the time it was used in this film, but few of the other films with similar stories to See No Evil are as creepy or suspenseful as it is.

Two key earlier films featuring a blind person in great danger are 23 Paces To Baker Street(1956), in which Van Johnson’s blind playwrite overhears a murder plot and becomes the target of a killer. The other one is Wait Until Dark(1967), a thrilling home invasion film, in which Audrey Hepburn’s blind character is terrorised by a gang of thieves.

See No Evil poster

See No Evil is directed by Richard Fleischer and is written by Brian Clemens(The Avengers, And Soon The Darkness). The film not only has some extremely suspenseful moments, but it also does a great twist on the murder discovery scene having Mia’s character unaware that she is walking into a murder scene, while we keep catching glimpses of dead bodies and disturbed furniture etc as she moves through the house.

Director Richard Fleischer was no stranger to films about murderers, having directed 10 Rillington Place, Compulsion and The Boston Strangler. I’ve always appreciated that these particular films don’t wallow in the horror of the site of murders/murder victims, but rather briefly show a shot which is enough to sicken and shock audiences without shoving their faces into protracted and unpleasant sequences of gore. Such is the case with this film. While this film certainly plays out more like a slasher film than the gritty docudrama style of the three other films I mention, Richard Fleischer still shoots the murder discovery sequence in a way which makes this one very similar to those other films. 

                                Part of the opening sequence. Screenshots by me.

See No Evil plunges the audience straight into darkness the second it begins. The opening title sequence(accompanied by a cracking score by Elmer Bernstein) shows us just how violent and warped society and entertainment have become – the man who will later be revealed as the killer is seen leaving a cinema which is showing the double bill of The Convent Murders and Rapist Cult. We see only the killers legs and feet(clad in cowboy boots)as he walks out of the cinema and walks off through town.As the killer walks through town, we see toy guns and soldiers in a shop window, a sight which emphasises the fact that many boys are encouraged to play with such things, and that they could very well come to think that guns must be “cool” because playing at shootouts and soldiers is weirdly considered to be a healthy and perfectly normal thing for kids to do.

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The boots of the killer. Screenshot by me.

We then see a newspaper stand which displays violent and brutal headlines. We see a TV store where the TV sets in the window are playing the 1967 film Torture Garden, and we see a scene from that film where Burgess Meredith is getting brutally attacked. Both of these things serve to show how society is constantly surrounded by violence. The killer then stops to light a cigarette, and he is splashed by a passing car. He gets confrontational and the driver leans out and apologises and the killer decides to walk away. 

I think the title sequence shows just how desensitised we’ve become to violence and how normal it’s become, and it also highlights that violent scenes often feature in our entertainment and people don’t see a problem with watching such content. As violence happens so often in daily life it unfortunately rather loses its shock value, something which has always troubled me. It’s not hard to see how an already twisted mind could become further warped by seeing constant violent and unpleasant news reports, films and television. The final shot of the film comes back to this idea, by showing a group of ordinary people pressed up to the gates of the house fascinated by the grisly events that have taken place within. Many people have a morbid curiosity with killers and murders, rather than being disgusted and not wanting to know any more about a murder/murderer past the basic facts.

                                      Mia Farrow as Sarah. Screenshots by me. 

The film takes place in England during the 1970’s. Sarah(Mia Farrow)is coming to stay with her aunt, uncle, and cousin(Robin Bailey, Dorothy Alison,Diane Grayson) at their home, after recovering from a very bad riding accident which caused her to fall and left her blind. She is still fiercely independent and is just starting to get used to her disability. Her uncle is the driver who splashed the killer at the beginning of the film.

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Sarah is horrified by what has happened to her family. Screenshot by me.

One day she goes out with her ex-boyfriend, Steve(Norman Eshley)and returns to find the house strangely quiet. As she walks through the house we start to see that something is very wrong. Things look like they’ve been disturbed, the gardeners lawnmower has been abandoned, a pair of legs can be glimpsed by a chair, a shotgun cartridge is blowing around on the ground outside. As night turns into morning we see more and more of the horror that Sarah unknowingly finds herself surrounded by. Her family have been murdered and their bodies discarded around the house. Two of the most upsetting scenes are where Sarah discovers her dead cousin in their shared bedroom, and finds her uncle shot in the face and lying in the bath. It’s grim stuff. Unbeknown to Sarah, the killer has lost his bracelet and is on his way back to the house to reclaim it. And soon Sarah finds herself the next target of this lunatic.  

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Sarah hides from the killer. Screenshot by me.

This is a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat and keep you guessing about the identity of the killer. One of the things I like most about the film is that it really isn’t possible to guess who the killer is until he’s actually revealed at the end of the film. 

Mia is fantastic as Sarah. She really captures her strength and determination to be independent and continue to make a life for herself despite her blindness. As the film goes on she also captures Sarah’s vulnerability and fear, and she does it so well that you want to leap through the screen and comfort her. I consider this to be one of Mia’s best performances. 

7 thoughts on “The Magnificent Mia Farrow Blogathon: See No Evil (1971)”

  1. I might be wrong, but not many people seem to mention Mia Farrow when talk turns to great actors, but her filmography is hard to argue with: Rosemary’s Baby, See No Evil, The Great Gatsby, A Wedding, Death on the Nile, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Hannah and Her Sisters, Another Woman, Crimes & Misdemeanors, among others. The emotion of Mia’s character seeps right out of this film and it’s easy to feel the panic and vulnerability Sarah felt. The ending was a little abrupt, but I suppose there wasn’t much left to be said at that point anyway.

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  2. Loved your write up on this, Maddy, and I totally agree with you about how the film makes us confront our own complacency when it comes to violence. I really think that Mia should have received far more acclaim for her performance in this film, and I think that it highlights why she’s such an underrated dramatic actress. Thanks so much for writing yet another great post for my blogathon!

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  3. Not only are you spot-on about the heavy use of the “blind/disabled person in peril” story line, but it seems to me that the early 70’s is heavy on the “shows us just how violent and warped society and entertainment have become” theme. When I read that line in your post, things like “Clockwork Orange” and “Straw Dogs” immediately popped into my head.

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  4. This is another “new” film you’ve introduced me to, and it sounds engrossing. I like the idea of not being able to guess who the killer is until the very end. That kind of surprise doesn’t happen very often.

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