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  • Writer's pictureEllen Cheshire

Face 2 Face: Films featuring plastic surgery (a Gothic reading)

Updated: May 5, 2023

Next month I will be giving a conference paper on films featuring plastic surgery which is part of my research for my MA in Gothic studies.

So far in my research I have watched 50+ films and half a dozen TV shows! (see list below)

As you can see they cover a wealth of genres: sci-fi, crime, comedy, horror, action, melodrama.

From these I noted that the four most frequent plot devices are:

  1. a disfigured person is made physically attractive (usually working on the premise that if you look monstrous, you will be a monster, or treated as such).

  2. an aging, plain or overweight person wants to remain young or look lovely (which initially succeeds and then often goes wrong – either physically or emotionally)

  3. a criminal on the run needs to change appearance.

  4. a ‘mad’ surgeon disfigures and/or makes beautiful.

And the three most frequent literary references were to Pygmalion and Galatea, Frankenstein and The Phantom of the Opera. With Jekyll & Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray being referenced too.

The four films I will be focusing on are:

The Shape of Things (2003) written and directed by Neil LaBute, adapted from his play.

Behind the Candelabra (2013) directed by Steven Soderbergh, based on the memoirs of Liberace’s lover Scott Thorson.

Stolen Face (1952) directed by Terence Fisher, from an original screenplay.

The Skin I Live In (2011) written and directed by Pedro Almodovar from the novel Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet.

Here's the full list of films and TV I have watched for this project, do tweet me any further suggestions @cheshellen.

Note by reading this list there may be PLOT SPOILERS!Plastic Surgery Films

200 Pounds Beauty (Yong-hwa Kim, 2006, South Korea) American Mary (Jen and Sylvia Soska, 2012, Can)

Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra, 1944, USA) Ash Wednesday (Larry Peerce,1973, USA)

The Awful Dr Orloff (Jesús Franco, 1962, Spain/France)

Behind the Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh, 2013, USA) Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985, UK) Burn After Reading (The Coen Brothers, 2008, USA) Charlie Chan and the Wax Museum (Lynn Shores, 1940, USA) Cinderella (Bong Man-dae, 2006, South Korea)

Circus of Horrors (Sidney Hayers, 1960, UK) Dark Passage (Delmer Daves, 1947, USA) Death Becomes Her (Robert Zemeckis, 1992, USA) Devil’s Double, The (Lee Tamahori, 2011, USA) Die Another Day (Lee Tamahori, 2002) USA/UK) Doc Hollywood (Michael Caton-Jones, 1991, USA)

Eyes without a Face (Georges Franju, 1960, France) Faceless (Jesús Franco, 1987, Spain/France)

Face of Another, The (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1966, Japan) Face of Another, The (Pappi Corsicato, 2012, Italy) Face/Off (John Woo, 1997, USA) Fedora (Billy Wilder, 1978, USA)

The Girl Most Likely to... (Lee Philips,1973, USA)

Goodnight Mommy (Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, 2014, Ger)

Holy Mountain, The/La Montana Sagrada (Alejandro Jodorwsky, 1973, Mexico/USA)

Johnny Handsome (Walter Hill, 1989, USA)

LA Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997, USA) Mad Love (Karl Freund, 1935, USA) Mighty Like a Moose (Leo McCarey, 1926, USA) Natale col boss (Volfango De Biasi, 2015, It)

Nighthawks (Bruce Malmuth, 1981, USA) Open Your Eyes (Alejandro Amenábar, 1997, Spain)

Perfection (Christina Beck, 2014, USA) Phoenix (Christian Petzold, 2014, Germany) Predestination (Michael and Pieter Spierig, 2014, USA) Promise, The (Gilbert Cates, 1979, USA) Repo! The Genetic Opera (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2008, USA) Rabid (David Cronenberg, 1976, Canada) Raven, The (Lew Landers, 1935, USA) Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966, USA) Shape of Things, The (Neil La Bute, 2003, USA) She Devil (Susan Seidelman, 1989, USA)

Tourist, The (Florian Henckel Von Donnesmarck, 2010, USA)

Tropic Thunder (Ben Stiller, 2008, USA) Tusk (Kevin Smith, 2014, US) Vanilla Sky (Cameron Crowe, 2001, USA) Vengeance of Fu Manchu, The (Jeremy Summers, 1967, UK) Woman’s Face, A (Gustaf Molander, 1938, Sweden)

Woman’s Face, A (George Cukor, 1941, USA)

Plastic Surgery TV

Avengers, The: They Keep Killing Steed Castle

Elementary: Ears to You Frasier: Ros and the Schoz Nip/Tuck

Quincy: The Depth of Beauty This is Jinsy

Twilight Zone, The: No 12 Looks Like You Twilight Zone, The: The Eye of the Beholder

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