Donald Cammell only direct­ed four films before his untime­ly death but they’re all surg­ing with life and an uncom­pro­mis­ing artis­tic sen­si­bil­i­ty. He was a tor­ment­ed, dif­fi­cult fig­ure who could chan­nel his inner chaos into films that take con­ven­tion­al sto­ry forms and dis­tort them into some­thing unusu­al and inter­est­ing. White Of The Eye was the next to last of his direc­to­ri­al ven­tures and, on paper, this mur­der mys­tery should have been the most com­mer­cial of the bunch. However, it plays out in as uncon­ven­tion­al a style as his oth­er work.

WhiteOTE-posThe plot seems pret­ty straight­for­ward. Joan White (Cathy Moriarty) is a wife and moth­er who seems to liv­ing out a nor­mal if some­what bohemi­an exis­tence in Arizona. However, her small town home is a rocked by a string of bru­tal mur­ders of local wom­en — and Tuscon cop Mendoza (Art Evans) begins to focus his inves­ti­ga­tion on Paul (David Keith), Joan’s lov­ing hus­band.   As the bod­ies pile up, Joan’s present and past col­lide in ways that reveal things she nev­er knew about either.

However, the style in which White Of The Eye is told is clas­sic Cammell. He rev­els in quirk­i­ness, off­set­ting act­ing sce­nes that have a play­ful, improv edge with styl­ized visu­als and cross­cut­ting that give the plot an unearth­ly atmos­phere. Horror fans will be daz­zled by how he han­dles the mur­der set­pieces, all of which are full of swoop­ing steadicam shots by cam­era operator/co-cinematographer Larry McConkey and syn­th-drenched rock scor­ing from Nick Mason and Rick Fenn that would make Dario Argento swoon.

That said, the hor­ror and mys­tery ele­ments are just part of the eccen­tric stew here — and the over­all feel of White Of The Eye is more akin to an abstract art­house film crossed with an indie film explo­ration of a trou­bled romance.

WhiteOTE-02Cammell’s off­beat approach works because he pays as much atten­tion to the per­for­mances as he does the visu­als. Moriarty presents an inter­est­ing mix of tough resource­ful­ness and emo­tion­al vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to her role while Keith finds a vari­ety of com­plex shad­ings beneath his ini­tial “good ol’ boy” affect. Evans adds cred­i­ble sup­port as the dark­ly humor­ous detec­tive and Alan Rosenberg is com­pelling as Joan’s gen­tle but dam­aged ex, who holds a key to the mys­tery.

There’s no point in say­ing much more about White Of The Eye as it is best to allow its unortho­dox approach to mys­tery, hor­ror and dra­ma to cast a spell on its terms. The one thing left to say is a sum­ma­tion: this film is a chal­leng­ing but worth­while trip for the cult movie buff to take.