Inspired by a late night trek through California's Death Valley, during which white line fever (or "highway hypnosis") nearly lured him into a fatal stupor, magazine photographer and TV writer William Read Woodfield concocted a movie gimmick by which audiences would be hypnotized into thinking they had seen a great film and compelled to spread the word. Allied Artists bought the pitch but demanded an actual movie. Surprisingly ghastly for its day, The Hypnotic Eye
(1960) starred Ginger Rogers' ex-husband Jacques Bergerac as a suave mesmerist whose subjects meet gruesome post-performance fates. Allied Artists marketed the film as having been shot in "HypnoMagic," suggesting that moviegoers could become entranced by the action onscreen. Drafted into service in cameos calculated to goose publicity were true life criminal Fred Demara (played by Tony Curtis in The Great Imposter
the following year) and Venice Beach beatniks Lawrence Lipton and Eric "Big Daddy" Nord; Woodfield also offered to have Death Row inmate Caryl Chessman put under as a PR stunt but instead joined the ultimately unsuccessful cause to stay Chessman's May 1960 execution. Adding to The Hypnotic Eye
's cult cache is the presence of Allison Hayes, fresh from her big break in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman
(1958), as Bergerac's sultry assistant.
By Richard Harland Smith
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