26 February, 2017

DEVIL HUNTER (1980)

Since I originally wrote this review I have ascertained that the Carloto Perla credited as a singer on the music credit is actually Jess Franco in full voodoo mode.

I should also be noted that this film is now available on Blu-ray, along with the Eurocine cannibal epic CANNIBAL TERROR, with the English and Spanish language tracks available. Onscreen title EL CANIBAL.

Credited to "Clifford Brown" this German, Spanish, French and Italian coproduction features Al Cliver [Pier luigi Conti], most familiar from Fulci's ZOMBIE, as a mercenary hired to bring back a starlet [Ursula Buchfellner] who has is being held for ransom on a tropical island. The only interesting performances are given by the intense, late Werner Pochath and Antonio de Cabo as nasty and increasingly frantic criminals. Conti/Cliver looks as bored as usual while German starlet Buchfellner looks almost anorexic and spends most of her screentime tied up nude to a tree getting abused by the criminals and a giant black cannibal. Watching Europeans like Claude Boisson as the cannibal chief is a real hoot and the film in unconvincing in just about every department. Note the equipment and details in the film producer's office; everything in this film looks cheap/bogus. But it's Franco all the way in terms of out-of-focus shots both from the marauding cannibls POV and other images, mismatched filmstock (the film was reportedly begun by BLIND DEAD auteur Amando De Ossorio), and editing between events which looks like it was meant to mean something (the paparazzi and the fashion show are intercut with the jungle pursuit of another nude female victim who is later tied to a tree, gutted and disgustingly cannibalized). Totally incomptent on the FX level, the cannibal is shown chewing on bloody meat scraps in extreme closeup, this will give no competition to the other Euro cannibal films of that era (cf CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST). It's pure exploitation for very desperate audiences. There is an interesting primitivist score by Franco himself (and Daniel J. White) with a delirious male vocal by Carloto Perla, heard in other 1980s Franco films. The stalking bug-eye giant nude cannibl has to be one of the most blatantly racist images in the history of horror cinema or a tip to the zombie in I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE or both.
The Video Asia DVD of this, coupled with Manuel Cano's VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST (1972), is possibly the worst digital presentation of a Franco film yet. The opening credits are removed and the film starts in the middle of the first scene. There is digital censoring of the copious male and female nudity of the original, some extreme gore is cut and the bottom third of the image is masked presumbly to hide the presence of Japanese subtitles, video quality is significantly inferior to the more complete old TRANSAMERICA VHS: THE MAN HUNTER. I believe that this was indeed sourced from a Japanese video or disc and booted over here. The somewhat racist cover artwork reads TERROR TALES FROM THE HOOD: SPECIAL EDITION VOLUME 4. BLACK VOODOO EXORCIST (sic) plus THE GRUESOME SHOCK OF: THE DEVIL HUNTER A 170s style Afro coiffured feamle poses in a collage with a black glowing eyed gravedigger, green hands emerging from graves holding cigarettes [!], etc. The back features more dated jungle nonsense wigh some stills and amusing promo notes {"the long banned masterpiece...[!]"}. But for under 10 dollars it may be an outre collector's item for some. (C) Robert Monell 2006 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

04 February, 2017

DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER (Jess Franco, 1964) Redemption Films Blu-ray

I noticed some details in this HD upgrade I hadn't noticed over the course of many viewings, in particular the rough textured, cracked, dry skin of Andros mentioned by Tim Lucas in the very informative commentary. The exotic-erotic dance performances in the special features folder are full strength Euro-trashy, more Eurocine than Jess Franco. It fails the Howard Hawks test of a good film--three good scenes, no bad scenes (there are a number of very bad scenes)--but it's very much worth seeing as a progress report. The main problem I have with the film itself is the beefy Spanish actor who plays Dr. Fisherman/Jekyll, he's just a very bland performer and adds an unwelcome note of unintentional absurdity which breaks the somber mood. A horror film is as good as its villain and this has one of Franco's most uninteresting villains. It's a pretty rough hewn print, with noticeable scratches and marks throughout butt the enhanced detail, commentary and additional footage make it a worthwhile purchase. Transfer/video &  audio: B minus, Bonus material: B; Film: B minus.*
Directed by Jess Franco (Jess Franck)
Produced by Marius Lesoeru (Eurocine, Paris; Spain)
Cast: Agnes Spaak, Marcelo Arriota-Jauregui, Hugo Blanco, Pastor Serrador, Perla Cristal, Pepe Rubio, Magda Moldonado, Miguel Madrid
France/Sp[ain 1964 B&W 84 Min.
1920x1080p (1.66:1)
A
French soundtrack with optional English subtitles
English language soundtrack
Audio Commentary by Tim Lucas
Eleven minutes of alternate, erotic footage. 
French, Italian theatrical trailers

Below: alternate scene included in the French version featuring a different actress as the first victim of Andros, who is also portrayed by a body double. This scene is not in  EL SECRETO DEL DOCTOR ORLOFF, the Spanish version, where the  fully clothed victim is strangled as she sits at a bar in a jazz club and it is not present in the English language export version, DR. ORLOFFS MONSTER, which was distributed as a television version and released on VHS by Something Weird Video. Obviously, this was inserted at the behest of French co-producer Eurocine and likely filmed by Jess Franco himself.  An example of spicing up a film for a specific market. Image may contain: one or more people and indoor

* It should be noted that there are at least four separate versions of this title, including the Spanish language EL SECRETO DEL DR. ORLOFF which contains footage exclusive to this edit, including an alternate opening credits sequence, with Spanish titles, under which Dr. Fisherman is shown entering and walking through the house of Dr. Orloff as he prepares for their meeting.  The US television cut opens with a still shot of a footbridge outside of the Orloff mansion over which the credits role (Directed by "John Frank"). The French version just presents the credits in French over a neutral background. Some versions, including the one broadcast in Australia by SBS and the IMAGE DVD,  have another murder sequence where Jess Franco appears playing a piano just before Andros (an obvious double) conducts another home-invasion murder of a woman taking a bath. Why this isn't included on the Blu-ray is anyone's guess, but it may not have been provided by the right's holder. This insert was obviously filmed by Franco since he appears in the scene, he also appears as a different nightclub piano player in another unrelated scene. 

(C) Robert Monell, 2017.  

27 January, 2017

Goodbye to Mike Connors/Ciudad Baja (Downtown Heat) (1994)



Television and film actor Mike "Touch" Connors died at the age of 91 in California on Thursday, January 26. He appeared in many B movies (VOODOO WOMAN), some big budget ones, and became a star with his hit television series MANNIX (1967-1975), in which he played a detective. Known for being cast as tough guys, villains, policemen, may have led to his being cast as the rogue American federal agent Steve in Jess Franco's Ciudad Baja (Downtown Heat) (1994). Connors fits comfortably into this minor Spanish thriller which does not register as a typical "Jess Franco" film. 


A rather glossy production, DOWNTOWN HEAT is a gritty and pretty interesting crime flick. Mike "Touch" Connors is featured as a special agent out to bust Eurocrime Lord Radeck (Craig Hill). Connors, who started his career in such Roger Corman B film entries as the WIP SWAMP WOMEN, is his usual hard edged self and gives everybody hell. Many familiar television "Cop Show" tropes appear here. Radeck is, of course, a familiar name for villains in Franco's filmography. The film features a group of local police in a Central American country who form a vigilante group who work outside the law, including kidnapping and murder, to destroy Radeck and his international narcotics empire. Charles Chaplin's daughter, Josephine, appears as a vengeance seeking police woman. Her previous role  in a Jess Franco film was as a police decoy in Franco's JACK, THE RIPPER (1976).

Philippe Lemaire (AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO) is notable as a corrupt police official. Everyone spirals into personal/professional corruption here. The film sometimes recalls such Al Pereira titles as LES EBRANLEES (1972), but Oscar Ladoire plays another detective in the lead role, while Antonio Mayans has a brief role as an undercover officer. Lina Romay sports a short, punk hairstyle and wardrobe here. A jazz score, including themes by Franco and Daniel White comprise the score. Spanish horror regular Victor Israel (GRAVEYARD OF HORROR, HORROR EXPRESS) has a small role. This film marked the end of a certain era in Jess Franco's filmography. He would return after the failure of his DON QUIXOTE (1993) to embark on his final digital period. 



21 January, 2017

I'M IN A JESS FRANCO STATE OF MIND: VAMPIRE JUNCTION

I'M IN A JESS FRANCO STATE OF MIND: VAMPIRE JUNCTION: ONE SHOT PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS VAMPIRE JUNCTION Sandra Olsen, Fata Morgana, Victor Seastrom, Paul Lapidus With Lina Romay Music by ...

VAMPIRE JUNCTION






ONE SHOT PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS
VAMPIRE JUNCTION
Sandra Olsen, Fata Morgana, Victor Seastrom, Paul Lapidus
With Lina Romay
Music by Exequiel Cohen
Additional Music by Jess Franco
Written and Directed by Jess Franco
Image result for vampire junction (2001)
An erotic horror-western of the Internet Age, VAMPIRE JUNCTION can be read as a metaphor for the rising Phoenix of Jess Franco's career which seemingly crashed and burned with the disastrous reception of his labor of love, DON QUIJOTE. Rejected and forgotten by his own generation, labeled a hack and a pornographer who dared to meddle with the testament of bonafide genius, Franco would find an unimagined acceptance and fame with a new generation in the synthetic universe of the worldwide web, where everyone and anyone who posts on whatever omnipresent message board becomes instantaneously validated in every corner of that world, Jess Franco would be crowned king of his own empire. In Godard's seminal A BOUT DE SOUFFLE, Jean Pierre Melville, the father of the Nouvelle Vague, appears as a writer who is asked by the nihilistic heroine [Jean Seberg] to state his ambition. He answers, "To become immortal and then to die." This is perhaps the main theme of Jess Franco's life and career as well as that of VAMPIRE JUNCTION.

www.vampireflanagan.com... That's how you reach Father Flanagan. An ambitious 21st Century vampire just wouldn't be a player without his own website on the worldwide web. But he might be proactive and reach out to make contact. You'll be sitting at your laptop suddenly typing out like journalist Alice Brown (Lina Romay): FATHER FLANAGAN IS CALLING YOU...FATHER FLANAGAN IS CALLING YOU...

Jess Franco's best and most personal work tends to be cyclical, asymettrical, polyphonic and highly unstable. All of those terms apply to VAMPIRE JUNCTION, which can be described as a cyberpunk vampire video in Western drag. This is something more than just another Jess Franco erotic bloodsucking opus, with its fascinating subtext suggesting how the internet has affected both the way films are made and experienced. In a world of movie message boards and Jess Franco websites both his older films along with his ONE SHOT productions can be throroughly discussed at instant messaging speed complete with illustrative screen shots. Alice , the journalist who gets literally sucked into this erotic vampire vortex writes on the internet about the older civilizations which can be encountered in these southern climes. Father Flanagan (Victor Seastrom) and his vampire brides seem possessed by ancient evil spirits, they have become immortal, more incorporeal than solid. VAMPIRE JUNCTION signals that Franco has mastered an internet age, 21st century equivalent to the Gothic Expressionist Noir style of Murnau and Siodmak, both of whom made vampire films which Franco built his early cinema upon. In a world of high speed access and cellphones the distances between people are set into ironic relief. Alice is overwhelmed with anxiety from the outset while the residents overseen by the fat town Marshall (Paul Lapidus) seem frozen in pop-culture roles: Father Flanagan is always photographed as a gaunt, nearly motionless figure, looming in the distance in his long black leather coat and cowboy hat. He strongly resembles a drug pusher from a B crime movie. Vampire vixen Fata Morgana looks like a refugee from an MTV music video with her Day-Glo hair and black miniskirt. The drunken deputy (composer Ezequiel Cohen) calls himself Dean Martin, who played an alcoholic deputy to John Wayne's put-upon Sheriff in Howard Hawks RIO BRAVO (1959) and at times identifies himself as Andy Devine, who played the cowardly Sheriff in John Ford's seminal 1962 THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, a film which sought to debunk the conventional mythologies of both Western history and movie Westerns. Personality gives way to personality disorders while color and form continually evolve into startling patterns. 

You are arriving in Shit City. The burned out alcoholic Dr. Spencer (Steve Barrymore) describes the place as a "strange, parallel world" we're told, "an old Hollywood B-film set." If the name sounds familiar it's also the fictional name of the corrupt coastal town in Franco's LOS BLUES DE LA CALLE POP (aventuras de Felipe Malboro, volumen 8 ) a 1983 personal favorite of JF, where he turns his love for "Black Cinema" into a live acton comic-a kind of post MTV western-noir with punk aesthetics. This time Shit City is in the Southwest, of Spain or the US, it doesn't matter because this is really Francoland where all bets are off. It's a place, according to the town physcian who has summoned the investigative journalist, where B western icons Bob Steele and Tom Tyler would have felt at home, at the same time, the mood is altered to one of post modernist dread. A deliriously composed (in Hi-Def video) synthesis of neo-noir, Cyberpunk Eurowestern* and techno-metal vampire cinema. 

The opening credits sequence is alone worth the price of admission: Alice Brown drives toward this hellish wonderland through phosphorescent washes of chroma into an hallucinogenic ocean of generic icons. Marshall Joe Mendoza has posted a lowball reward for Billy the Kid and eyeballs the intruder warily. Visions of a female vampire with punk colored hair crawling down the wall. The imposing master vampire dressed in black leather duster and cowboy hat. The black countess (Samantha Olsen) emerging from a mirror, a black & white apparition with only a wash of crimson in her hair to remind us this is in color, and color, its endless permutations and possibilites is a major subject of this project. An extraordinary sonic experience with sparing, ellipitical dialogue, desultory narration, Goth organ music, electronic bleeps, distant, monotonous, malacophonous satanic litanies from a ancient vortex which coexists on the other side of the mirror. Any and all concepts of temporal normality, space and tincture are immediately shattered and replaced with an a temporal, multidimensional and iridian aesthetic. The sonic environment is oscillates between faint murmurings and jarring blasts of synthesizer generated notes and sounds. 

This film is an arc, a luminous discharge of electronic current, which seems to magnetically drain the atomic structure of all visible matter into an invisible, haunted realm, a place only Jess Franco knows. His precognitive cinema, encored with crimson sex and endlessly repeating mythologies which once generated can never be let alone. Like a traditional Hollywood western, they overwhelm the trivialities of the calmer, modern world with arid vistas which lead to sudden death. In a scene as aesthetically arresting as any in a Mario Bava gothic (cf. THE WHIP AND THE BODY, OPERAZIONE PAURA) we have Lina Romay walking down hallway flooded with pools of green light toward an vampiric ambush while outside the Old West style structures bake under the implacable Spanish sun.

But Franco is intensively interested in the curvature of Hollywood genre cinema toward an unknown space which he can provide a Cubist, Abstract-Expressionist, Surrealist, Minimalist or Pop Art portal. The structure of his filmography, and the individuals film contained within, tends toward curvilinearity. The are no straight lines in Franco's universe, but there are numerous spirals which cycle backward, forward and back again. Franco's approach to the vampire film, the noir, the western is hieractic. He wants to perserve the icons, the myths in miniature while shining a bright colored light behind them transforming them into something new and unique. 

Alice drives through the aquamarine rain into some kind of cognitive dissonance and, at the end, dissolves along with her molesters, leaving behind those trademark solar flares which are a kind of representation of Jess Franco's smile. She has experienced an erotic interview with a vampire conducted in the sealed off area of the Unconscious. Along the way there's time stopping, sensuous, blood-spattered encounters with the swallowers whose images seem to flicker on the surfaces these southwest desert lands. Franco has arrived, after nearly 50 years of cinema, at a totally Synthetic, personal and interactive cinema where intricate schemes of cross references become a kind of self satire designed to delight himself and those who choose to enter the grid. You have arrived at Shit City... .

Finally, the Internet gave Jess Franco his ultimate inspiration and validity, a space which welcomed and nourished him. Just as the cellphone became the tool of choice for recording the visions of Jean-Luc Godard in his equally challenging 21st Century films.

*There's also an ambitious villain in the Demofilo Fidani Spaghetti Western ERA SAM WALLASH...LO CHIAMAVANO COSI SIA (1972) named Flanagan, played by Dean Stratford [Dino Strano]. The film's protagonist is played by Robert Woods, a frequent player in early 1970's Franco-Robert de Nesle productions (AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPIJO, YUKA, PLAISIR A TROIS). Fidani was one of the one or two most prolific creator of Spaghetti Westerns. At their best they are Eurobis delights in the best JF tradition: lightning fast shooting schedules, frequently recycled sets, plots, actors and an obsession to keep churning out product despite lack of proper funding and planning. 

*Music and Jess Franco scholar Francesco Cesari points out that a cue from Franco's 1960 musical VAMPS 1930 is reused here, but reworked on a synthesizer.

Edited by: bobmonel at: 2/27/05 10:02 am

11 January, 2017

REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (Jess Franco & Antonio Mayans, 2013): Review of Jess Franco's final film

Image may contain: 1 person, phoneJess Franco plays himself in this sly comedy in which he is engaged in directing another erotic film while the subject of his previous film, private detective Al Pereira, attempts to relate to the eccentric film making process of Jess Franco. Pereira also has difficult relationships with his son and women in general, illustrated in various amusing vignettes. He travels to Germany where he becomes accidentally involved in a sort of international espionage affair due to his presence at a Communist gathering. Lead actor-co-director Antonio Mayans introduces the film as an "Audio-visualization... based on a surreal story", which is an appropriate enough synopsis. 

Back in Spain director Franco continues to film the alligator ladies, Carmen Montes, Irene Verdu and Paula Davis, in extended erotic interludes. Much of the Franco-directed footage is shot through mirrors showing both the erotic action and Franco directing it. These self reflexive images are a carry-over from Franco's previous Al Pereira adventure, AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES and his 1980 surrealist science fiction parody, EL SEXO ESTA LOCO. The scenes involving Pereria and his family, friends and associates, along with the scenes filmed in Germany were directed by longtime Franco actor-associate Antonio Mayans after Franco's death in April, 2013. Pereira is gamely played by Mayans as a long-suffering victim of everyone's ridicule, especially the director and the alligator ladies, who have the last word. The irreverent tone and sharp edged dialogue sometimes evoke the droll repartee of the W.S. Van Dyke's 1934 mystery-comedy THE THIN MAN. It should be noted that classic film was made on a B budget, on a rushed schedule by Woody "One Shot" Van Dyke. 

This is the last in a long running series of Jess Franco directed films about troubled investigator Al Pereira, the first being ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS/CARTAS BOCA ARRIBA (1966), in which Pereira was played by American singer-actor Eddie Constantine. A shorter, incomplete version of REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES, directed by Franco himself, is more focused on the director shooting erotic scenes with Montes and co. Franco's presence is again central, the film opens with him facing the camera, delivering a comic-esoteric monologue. His image moves even further into the mirror, and now he's on the other side of the mirror.

Other recommended Franco Al Pereira titles include LES EBRANLEES (1972), with Howard Vernon in the role, DOWNTOWN (1975), which features Franco himself as the detective, BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO (1982) and CAMINO SOLITARIO (1983), in which Mayans finally took over the role. 

REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES will be of interest to Jess Franco enthusiasts, cult film historians and collectors as the ultimate illustration of Jess Franco's obsession with the process of personal creation while continuing to throw himself into his work right up until his passing.

Robert Monell, 2017

07 January, 2017

ROLAND, THE WORLD'S SEXIEST MAN (1974) Updated....

Updated from the Robert Monell Archives
(C) Robert Monell 2015
Roland, the World's Sexiest Man

1974 104 MINUTES European Trash Cinema (U.S. import) DIRECTED BY CLIFFORD BROWN (JESUS FRANCO) WITH: FRED WILLIAMS, LINA ROMAY, BIGOTINI, WILLY BRAQUE, OLIVIER MATHOT, PAMELA SANFORD, MONICA SWINN, ANNA GLADYSEK, RAMÓN ARDID, VICTOR COSTA, VICTOR MENDÉS, SUZUKI, CAROLINE RIVIÊRE.

(a.k.a. ROLAND, L'HOMME LE PLUS SEXY DU MONDE; LE JOUISSEUR; DER SEX PLAYBOY)

I once called this one of JF's "finest" De Nesle efforts but I've changed my mind as it doesn't hold up very well despite an admirable premise....

A wealthy ex-playboy, Roland (Fred Williams) tires of married life and decides to return to his old ways. He poses as a butler and becomes a servant to rich and beautiful women, but many complications ensue. His "wife" is the imposing Barbara Bolt (Brigitte Monnin) is a frisky career woman, the President of an International Organization of porno stores, whose demands cannot be met by the intimidated Count Roland. An interesting class-gender conflict ensues, allowing Roland to have numerous erotic encounters to satisfy his bruised ego, the paying porn cinema customer but not necessarily the average fan of Jess Franco's outre vision.

The title of this sly comedy of manners indicates Franco wanted to infuse this amusing trifle with a sense of irony. Roland may be handsome but as played by Williams behaves like a run-of-the-mill male model, albeit with a little more humor and liveliness than this usually dull actor musters in his other Franco roles from this period. He's especially inadequate as the hobbled super spy in THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA. Franco aims for the tone of a Howard Hawks screwball comedy, but verbal and visual puns, not physical comedy, are more his forté. And as the only available videos on the U.S. mail-order circuit are in French, those unfamiliar with that language will miss the satiric barbs at male chauvinism and upper-class arrogance.
As Roland's pudgy, mischievous manservant Malou, Richard de Conninck aka Bigotini, a familiar Franco actor who often worked as the director's assistant, just about steals the show from Williams. Most of the footage follows Roland as he is seduced by various women, and in an especially amusing scene, tries to avoid the advances of one husband who also happens to like men.

The cinematography is colorful, with occasionally interesting camera angles, but the lack of any action other than sexual may bore those who are not Franco enthusiasts. This 1974 sex farce is one of Franco's least screened Robert De Nesle features, although released on French VHS [Videobox] it is not available in anything near HD in any format. A sometimes subtle, somewhat tender look at social roles and the presence of invisible class barriers which cut people off from erotic expression. It almost makes one wonder what the result would have been played straight.... Actually, this is the kind of French bedroom farce at which Blake Edwards excelled.

Andre Benichou's swinging Jazz score is wonderful and the sun dappled, color intensive, cubist frames remind one of Cezanne with a touch of Impressionist color patterns. And no film with Pamela Stanford, Monica Swinn and Lina Romay (as Loulou Laverne) in the cast can be all bad. It remains, alas, rather tiresome at its full length. The version under review is reportedly cut from 120 m!

Don't hold your breath for a Blu ray restoration.... but you never know. 

22 December, 2016

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND DESIRES [MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE]: Mondo Macabro Blu-ray


A delirious exercise in horror y sexo, this pitch black Film Noir is one of Jess Franco’s most visually arresting entries from his early 1980s Spanish period. NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND DESIRES aka MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE is one of the series of films he made for producer Emilio Larraga’s GOLDEN FILMS INTERNACIONAL S.A., based in Barcelona. These productions were low budget films covering a variety of genres, including an outstanding follow up to GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (1961), EL SINIESTRO DR. ORLOFF, softcore romps like LAS ORGIAS INCONFESABLES DE EMMANUELLE, erotic crime-thrillers, BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO, and Sade adaptations, GEMIDOS DE PLACER (all 1982). There were also Poe adaptations EN BUSCA DEL DRAGON DORADO and even martial arts adventures LA SOMBRA DEL JUDOKA CONTRA EL DOCTOR WONG (both 1983). From Clasificasa S softcores to Kung Fu to children’s adventures, what locks all these films together, good, bad, or not completed, was that they are all 100 percent undiluted Jess Franco in terms of style, tone, music and content. They were not just simple jobs for hire, hack work done to pay the bills with little evidence of the director’s signature. They were films he wanted to make and he made them the way he wanted.
MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE is one of the high points of this series. Rich in oneiric atmosphere, an erotic Film Noir suffused with exotic imagery, enhanced by an eerie, resonant soundscape, it resonates in the mind long after a viewing. The plot may seem familiar to those who have seen Franco’s 1970 erotic thriller NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT. Irina, an emotionally vulnerable psychic (Lina Romay) murders a group of guests at a luxury hotel* while under the mental control of a ruthless criminal. The villain of this piece is Fabian (Daniel Katz, very ably voiced by long running Franco actor-collaborator, Antonio Mayans), the gigolo manager of Irina who travels from hotel to hotel with her, performing mind reading acts in nightclubs.
The action of the film is set over several days in a coastal resort (it was filmed on Spain’s Costa Del Sol and in Las Palmas, Canary Islands) during which Irina is mentally programmed by Fabian to seduce and murder a number of the hotel’s guests, all of whom are owed money by Fabian for assisting him in a criminal operation. It sounds like a pulp fiction set-up but is transformed into a weird psychodrama by focusing on the dysfunctional emotional ties between the co-dependent Irina (one of Lina Romay’s most intense and unpredictable performances) and the manipulative Fabian, who has much to hide from her and the rest of the world.
Irina is also being treated by a psychiatrist, played in a reserved manner by Franco himself, who will play a pivotal role in the twisting narrative.  The plot is sketchy and interrupted by regular stalk, seduce and kill interludes as Irina, commanded by the disembodied voice (which sounds a lot like Jess Franco) of Fabian to isolate, seduce and eliminate his former partners. She uses an elaborate, curved blade with arcane imagery sculpted into the handle. The details of the setting are carefully studied by the director’s slowly tracking camera while the slow zoom shots into bright pools of  blood oranges, lush emeralds and canary  yellows immerse the viewer in the exotica by heightening the normal hues into sensuous eruptions of pure color. This is a gorgeous film.
There’s very little dialogue, the plot is illustrated by disorienting camera set-ups, frequent Dutch angles, and third degree lighting of the tropical settings which creates a series of shimmering hallucinations, an approximation of the environment as experienced by the mentally compelled Irina. Franco’s 1967 masterpiece NECRONOMICON/SUCCUBUS is also referenced in the character of Irina and the story of the Prince killed by Satan’s daughter, which is repeated here by Fabian. The viewer is given extended visits into Irina’s hermetically sealed consciousness, which is repeatedly invaded by Fabian’s commands.  Encounters with mirrors and Irina’s ability in teleportation give the overall sense of a sinister alternate dimension in which she is trapped.  At times the film recalls Hitchcock’s psychoanalytic thriller SPELLBOUND (1946), in which the imagery of surrealist painter Salvador Dali was used to unravel a murder mystery. Dali would also be directly referenced in Franco’s 1980 EUGENIE, HISTORIA DE UNA PERVERSION.
I had a chance to talk about this film with Jess Franco when I interviewed him in 2004, during the making of one of his digital films.* He remembered it as one of what he called his “black films”, by which he meant Film Noir, a genre which he loved perhaps more than any other. Especially the ones made in the  1940s by Robert Siodmak (THE KILLERS, PHANTOM LADY). He was surprised when I praised the film’s dense, toxic atmosphere and told me it was a very rushed and micro-budgeted film, made with little money but in complete freedom from producer interference. He noted that he was influenced by John Farrow’s 1948 similarly titled THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES, which featured Edward G. Robinson and Gail Russell in the lead roles. He also acknowledged the strong influence of  the crime fiction of Cornell Woolrich, on which the 1948 film was based. Franco was quite surprised that I singled MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE out for praise, thanking me and mentioning that it was one of many projects completed during a time of constant filming in absolute freedom. Ironically, the film did not make much of an impact on the Clasificada S market when released in March 1984. Hardcore had been legalized in Spain by that time and that drew the "S" clientele away from that previously reliable market. 
Credited to Pablo Villa, the musical choices add another layer of fascination to the film. Irina’s sensual interludes are sometimes scored with Daniel J. White’s lovely melancholy main theme from Franco’s 1973 FEMALE VAMPIRE, while the murder sequences are scored with the jungle-voodoo cues heard in DEVIL HUNTER and MACUMBA SEXUAL (1980).  The feverish drumming and native chanting (again sounding voiced  by a synthesized Jess Franco) are very effective here. Bird calls, industrial sounds, electronica and the sounds of the nearby sea are always in the background, an almost subliminal presence lulling the viewing into a vaguely menacing audio environment. As in NECRONOMICON and  EXORCISM and many other Franco films it opens with a performance which is not what it seems to be, acts which slowly or suddenly reveal hidden agendas. Performance and the role of the audience/viewer is the key matrix in Jess Franco’s best and most personal films.
MONDO MACABRO has given this entrancing film a deliciously detailed 2.35:1, 1080p transfer from the 35mm negative with Dolby Digital PCD 24fps mono audio which really provides overwhelming soundscapes to this 94 minute fever dream. At times the film has an almost 3D quality with the vivid hues, heated up sets and layered soundscapes reaching out to pull the viewer into this unique, disturbing world.  Special features include newly created optional English subtitles (this is the film’s English friendly, as well as HD debut), a 30 minute interview about the film with Jess Franco author Steven Thrower, a vintage Eurotika! documentary on the director and a Mondo Macabro preview reel.
An overpowering visual and audio experience, this dreamlike thriller is in the style of classic Hitchcock and David Lynch. One of Jess Franco’s most delirious and sought after films finally makes its world Blu-ray debut from Mondo Macabro. Highly recommended
Thanks to Kris J. Nygaard-Gavin for making it possible for me to interview Jess Franco.
  • Thanks to Nzoog for additional information used in this review.
  • *The Arabic style villa which is the main setting, with its fantastic indoor decoration and elaborate fountain, is actually Bil-Bil Castle in Benalmádena, Málaga. This exotic structure also looks a lot like the villa of character played by Boris Karloff in the 1967 Spanish horror film, CAULDRON OF BLOOD. 
(C) 2016 Robert Monell

21 December, 2016

THE MIDNIGHT PARTY (1975, Spanish version)

THE MIDNIGHT PARTY (1975- versions)

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ABOVE: Ramon Ardid and Monica Swinn prepare Lina Romay for torture under the careful direction of Jess Franco,.

aka La Coccolona (Italian release), Heisse Beruhrungen (German version). LADY PORNO (Spanish version) Directed by Tawer Nero (Julio Perez Tabernero) for Titanic Films. This is a sexy spy film once directed by Jess Franco in just a few days at Le Grande Motte,  a hotel in Southern France. A typical Franco strategy. Around the same time, he shot two other films there using the same notel rooms, casts and crews (DE SADE’S JULIETTE, SHINING SEX).
The version under consideration here has the onscreen title LADY PORNO [Porno Dama], a Spanish variant of Franco’s original MIDNIGHT PARTY. Julio Perez Tabernero, an actor turned producer-director (he can be seen in Franco’s own SADISTEROTICA/Two Undercover Angels)acquired it for his Titanic Films (Julio, your company needs a new handle!) and reconstructed it as an “American-Belgian” co-production. It’s very amusingly redubbed and rescored with lewd comments, bawdy music and direct-to-the-viewer takes. –Sylvia is a very hot stripper who is introduced dancing in a glittering silver costume. Off stage she carries on an affair with a cheap detective, Al Pereira (Olivier Mathot) behind the back of her longtime squeeze Red Nicholas, a communist musician frenetically embodied by Franch film historian and Jess Franco friend, Alain Petit . This is not really another of Franco’s Al Pereira episodes, as he is mainly a player in Sylvia’s story.

This is kind of like a live action cartoon (cf LUCKY, THE INSCRUTABLE) with Lina Romay giving it all she has as the resourceful Sylvia. This might actually be my personal favorite of her performances, she mercilessly teases the viewer directly as the interactive approach allows her to pose, stick her tongue out, and make alluring remarks to the audience before turning back to the scene and players at hand, resuming in the traditional fourth wall mode. It’s all a lot of good natured fun. Except that the subject is torture. Torture that doesn’t draw blood but really hurts!
Sylvia is taken by Radeck/Agent 008 (Jess Franco himself), a spymaster and professional torture mogul who takes his business very seriously indeed. Look at the way he abuses poor Sylvia: after being stripped and sexually abused by henchmen Monica Swinn and Ramon, she’s poked, punched and cigarette burned by the ingrates under the very close supervision of Radeck. They take her to the “torture clinic” which, this being a Jess Franco shoot, merely means another hotel room (or the same hotel room slightly redressed and shot from a different angle). Choosing pliers they try pulling out her toenails, as Radeck is beginning to lose his patience. At this point one of my favorite moments in Franco’s monumental filmography occurs, and it only last a few seconds–Radeck simply puts a cigarette in his mouth and lights it. That’s it! The exact way which actor Jess Franco suddenly jabs the cigarette into his mouth and fires it up has to be experienced first hand. It’s a grand bit a business, something small made into something very special by a seasoned professional. It will bring a smile to the face of all Franco enthusiasts.
Franco drops the Radeck pose at the end, as Sylvia and Al are escaping he faces the camera and admits to us that it was all an illusion, only a movie. It is Jess Franco talking to us now. We have been spectators. But what are we doing at this venue? Of course, that question is implied rather than asked. Alain Petit is very droll as the Marxist jazz singer. Billed as “Charlie Christian” (cf JUSTINE, the 1979-80 Joe D’Amato composite where he is likewise billed. His footage in that and MIDNIGHT PARTY is rolled over with scenes from SHINING SEX into a unique reedit) he performs his infamous “La Vie est une Merde”, also heard in a blues rendition during Franco’s 1982 EMMANUELLE EXPOSED and in Petit’s documentary THE MAKING OF TENDER FLESH (1997).

The Spanish language version which was screened for this review (subtitled in English) is very much in keeping with the joker/trickster impulses which frequently bubble to the surface of Franco’s work. The finale, a shootout with the cops (a minimalist debacle) followed by shots of birds flying in the distance as our couple floats away on a pleasure craft, is post-ironic in the sense that it delivers on expectations which Franco obviously considers bogus while gleefully curving past the generic demands of representational, grade B sexploitation production methodology. In other words: don’t worry, be happy, it’s only a movie.
Tabernero seems to have simply reedited, cut down, dubbed/ rescored the director’s cut. Ther is also the 90m THE MIDNIGHT PARTY, in English, which may be the best way to ascertain the director’s intent since it includes the interactive opening in which Lina Romay frolics on a queen size bed while she lasciviously addresses the viewer. The longer version does stretch the very broad humor to its absolute limits. But at least it never crosses over into hardcore terrain.
The gangling Tabernero can be seeAn as a supporting plalyer in such 1960s Eurowesterns as FURY OF THE APACHES (1964), SEVEN GUNS FOR THE  MACKENNAS(1965) and in Eurospy titles such as RIFIFI IN AMSTERDAM (1966) as well as in his own SEXY CAT (1972), his best film as a director , a highly entertaining  Spanish giallo done in the style of cine-comic strip complete with a black clad villain who kills with long, razor ship fingernails a la Franco’s MISS MUERTE (1965). Private Investigator Al Pereira would appear in more Jess Franco directed features, including his final completed film, AL PEREIRA VS. THE ALLIGATOR LADIES, his ultimate interactive experiment, with the director himself placed at the center of the action.
The Spanish version discussed here seems to have had a 1981 release date.
REVIEWED BY ROBERT MONELL (C) renewed 2016

18 December, 2016

FALL OF THE ANGELS (1989) New Review...

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LA CHUTE DES AIGLES aka LILLI, UNE CHANSON POUR BERLIN/FALL OF THE EAGLES/UNA CANCION PARA BERLIN (Spanish video title): Working titles: WAR SONG/WAR ZONE
France-Eurocine, Paris

It opens with documentary footage of Adolf Hitler emoting and reviewing marching Nazi troops, but if you are expecting a traditional, action oriented war film you are going to be disappointed by Jess Franco's FALL OF THE EAGLES (1989). You may also be surprised, this a Jess Franco film, after all, that it contains absolutely no erotic scenes, no gore and not a hint of sleaze. It was a set-up for a hack to step in and deliver a typical Eurocine genre film, cheaply and quickly. But Jess Franco delivered something more than that. Despite the inclusion of a generous amount of stock footage from previous Eurocine war films (including EAST OF BERLIN-1978, the closing credits read "Pre-recorded footage by LES [Lesoeur?] Company"*) this maintains a sober focus on a group of Germans who live through, and are profoundly changed by, the tragedy of World War II. 

The scenario, by veteran Eurocine founder Marius Lesoeur, writer-director Georges Freedland and Franco, covers the crucial years of 1939-1945. The main story opens with the birthday party of Lillian Strauss (Alexandra Erlich), the daughter of wealthy banker Walter Strauss (Christopher Lee), who is making a fortune selling war bonds. Lilli is a talented singer and a young woman who also supports Germany's political/military aspirations. Her goal is to sing for wounded Wehrmacht soldiers in hospital. Lilli is in love with Peter Frohlich (Ramon Sheen), a young idealistic musician who does not share her enthusiasm for Hitler's political and military plans. She is pursued by Nazi supporter Peter Froelich (Mark Hamill), who already wears a German uniform. Lilli and Peter also join the Army. Peter is sent to the North African theater, where he becomes cynical and refuses to answer Lilli's letters. He is seriously wounded in battle and hospitalized while Lilli is sent to the Russian front where her train comes under attack. She survives, falls in love with a young Russian folk singer who is killed while trying to sabotage a Nazi meeting place. She makes friends with a secretly gay Nazi officer (Daniel Grimm), who is also killed. Lilli finally reaches the bedside of the mortally injured Peter and agrees to marry him and deliver a last kiss before he dies before her eyes. Finally reunited with first love Karl,  But her downward spiral is completed when he is shot down by American forces as they try to escape the carnage. Hitler is dead and Germany is defeated. The last scene takes place in a crowded pub as Lilli now sings tawdry songs for the Allied victors as her now destitute father, ruined by the economic collapse of Nazi Germany, looks on disapprovingly. 

There's a lot of plot here, most of it telegraphing the theme of the futility of war in the fashion of high melodrama. Given that the war scenes occur via either stock footage, reported by radio broadcasts or are talked about after the fact, it is left up to the actors to engage interest. With the exception of an pathetically unprepared Ramon Sheen, they do a pretty credible job, especially the aging but still towering Christopher Lee as the slowly deflating banker and Alexandra Erlich who performs her musical numbers and love scenes with equal verve. Her cabaret scenes are accompanied by frequent Franco composer Daniel J. White, who plays piano in front of a Nazi flag toward the beginning and in front of a large American flag in the final scene. The dialogue, adapted by Franco and veteran Eurocine scribe Georges Freedland, is sincere in a 1980s television miniseries mode, "People hate us, They should realize it's for their own good. We're bringing them a new order for a better world." The final shot of Lilli's emotionally ravaged, hardened, coarsened face telegraphs the theme more effectively. 

There are little "Jess Franco" touches throughout, such as the elegant music box topped with waltzing ballerinas which is used as a transitional device and the "last kiss" between Erlich and Hamill. The most interesting character, the gay Nazi officer, delivers a line which is pure Jess Franco, "Nobody respects a nice guy," before expiring. This does not look or play like any other Jess Franco film, it's played straight and serious from beginning to end. It probably won't please fans looking for scenes of the director's trademark "horror y sexo" nor will it satisfy war movie enthusiasts. But given the material and conditions it's obviously that Franco took it seriously and did the best job he could. It's not as unwatchable as most Eurocine World War II exploitation (HELLTRAIN, ELSA FRAULEIN DEVIL SS), has a number of effective dramatic scenes and delivers its admittedly unoriginal message that "No one wins wars, everyone loses" in a fairly resonant manner. The use of music, a wedding march played like a dirge by a Nazi, the war songs given a sexy twirl by Lilli and some familiar Daniel J. White cues are sometimes the only indicator that this is a Jess Franco film. Also, the inclusion of "good Nazis" in the sweeping scenario may cause some to feel this is a morally ambiguous, agathokakological war film. 

The end scroll includes a lyrics credit for "Clif Brown" and the final Ultra Stereo mix by Eric Lardy (who would co-produce Franco's next project, LA PUNTA DE LAS VIBORAS/DOWNTOWN HEAT--1990) has stability and resonance in the English language version screened for this review, which thankfully includes the real voices of Christopher Lee and the other actors, recorded in what appears to have been in direct sound. Other versions are reportedly more problematic. Franco had considerable difficulty with the system during post-production, prompting him to walk away, severing his longtime ties with Eurocine.  For comparison sake, a viewing or reviewing of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's LILI MARLEEN (1981) or Bob Fosse's CABARET (1972) is recommended. 

Thanks to Nzoog.

*There also appears to be some additional footage from Patrice Rhomm's 1977 ELSA FRAULIEN SS and Alain Payet's TRAIN SPECIAL POUR SS here and there.  Footage from Alfredo Rizzo's Spaghetti War epic I GIARDINI DEL DIAVOLO (1971) was also acquired and is extensively used, as it was in Franco's previous Eurocine Nazi-related co-production LA TUMBA DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTE/OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (1981), and as in that project the grading, formatting and style of that Italian war movie obviously clashes with the Franco shot footage. This Italian produced footage was also used in RETURN OF THE BLOODSUCKING NAZI ZOMBIES, a 2103 horror-war web series by Mathis Vogel and Robert Monell, available on Blu-ray and DVD from Spain's CAMEO MEDIA S.L., as a supplemental feature to Jess Franco's last completed film, AL PEREIRA VS. THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (2012).

(C) Robert Monell, 2013

16 November, 2016

LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO (Joaquin Romero Marchent, 1962)

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LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO; ZORRO LE VENGEUR (French release); ZORRO, THE AVENGER (US DVD title); ZORRO, DER SCWARZE RACHER (West Germany)/LA MARQUE DE ZORRO (French re-release version, credited to "James Gardner")*: L'OMBRA DI ZORRO (Italian title): LA SOMBRA DEL ZORRO (Spanish alternate title).
Copercines [Madrid]
Eurocine [Paris],
PEA-Rome, Explorer Films-Rome[OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO]
Presents

Frank Latimore (Don Jose de la Torre/Zorro)
in

ZORRO, THE AVENGER (1962)


Directed by J.R. Marchent [Joaquin Luis Romero Marchent]
Sc: Jess Franco, JR Hernandez, Jose Mallorqui Figueroa
[US Version 76m]
With Maria Luz [Galicia], Ralph March [Rafael Romero Marchent], Mary Silvers [Maria Silva], Paul Piaget, Maria Anderson and Howard Vernon (Colonel Clarence), [Marco Tulli, Antonio Molino Rojo, Fernando Sancho (Sargento), Jose Marco Davo, Diana Lorys.
DP: Rafael Pacheco
[Music: Manuel Parada]
Asst. D: Daniel Lesoeur
[Scr: Joaquin Romero Hernandez, Jesus Franco, Jose Mallorqui Figueroa]
Laboratory-Madrid
Copy: C.T.M.-Paris
English Version: Record Film
Production Supervisor: Gerard Cohen
Film Editor: C.H. Nobel
Screenplay: G. Rhuis
Associated Producers: E. Manzanos, M. Lesoeur

Spanish version/VHS
[Credits]
1hr 23m 2s
Frank Latimore and María Luz Galicia in
LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO
With José Marco Davó, Howard Vernon, Jesús Tordesillas
Paul Piaget; Fernando Sancho; Antonio Molino Rojo, Emilio RodrÍguez
Rafael Romero Marchent with a whole screen to himself
Music by Manuel Parada
DP: Rafael Pacheco
A COPERCINES production in EASTMANCOLOR
Director: Joaquín L. Romero Marchent

[This version has a completely different opening than the Eurocine French/English language release version. This one opens in a modern day [1962] setting, on the front porch of a home. An old man wearing a white, broad brimmed "peon" hat, but otherwise in modern dress, relates a story to a group of children, also in modern dress. Since the film's music and credits are the only things heard and seen we can assume he is telling the children the legend of Zorro. The film then cuts to a scene in 1800s California, Don Jose walks through an open market in the village square, greeting merchants while being watched by Union soldiers. This goes on for several minutes. None of this footage appears in the approx. 76m English langauge ZORRO, THE AVENGER, or at least not on the PLATINUM DVD. The copy on the back of the DVD mistakenly references it as an "Italian-produced opus" when actually it was a French [Eurocine] Spanish [Copercines] co-production. The next Marchent directed Zorro title, CABALGANDO HACIA LA MUERTE (1962), is sometimes confused with LA VENGANZA... or incorrectly given as an alternate version/title of LA VENGANZA.... . Jess Franco was not involved in that follow-up, which was filmed in the soon to be famous FISTFUL OF DOLLARS western town at Hoyo de Manzanares, near Madrid.]


The mysterious masked rider, Zorro, protects the natives of California from corrupt Union officials, especially the arrogant Colonel Clarence (Howard Vernon), a swaggering sword fighting enthusiast who oppresses the local Hispanic population and sets up a dissenting  innkeeper (Rafael Marchent, the brother of the director) on charges of murdering the beloved Father Francisco, who was actually killed during a robbery by Union soldiers. Zorro will set the record straight and right the injustice, but not before many innocent people will die. Ironically the obsession the Colonel has with sword duels will prove to be his ultimate undoing.....

"Be careful of that man...he is not what he appears to be," Colonel Clarence is warned by his fencing partner. Just as Don Jose survives and triumphs through subterfuge, Jess Franco at this time was forging a career of a Spanish film director who is a kind of Trickster. A director in Spain during the earlyu 1950s had to be a con man/trickster to survive, avoid the strict censorship and not be politically too radical.  Here he gives us a Zorro film which is really a Coyote film and possibly an allegory of his own methodology of giving the powers that be (producers) what they want while remaining "Jess Franco." When Don Jose is described as an "idiot" who is used by Colonel Clarence one thinks of the slug like characters Jess Franco the actor played in VAMPYROS LESBOS and VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD, a mentally defective henchman of the powerful. Franco often has said his films are only entertainments and has a reputation as a careless hack from the point of view of most casual observers of European exploitation. The man who finished off the FU MANCHU and DR. MABUSE cinematic franchises in less than stylish fashion. The man who made hardcore porn and attempted to assemble his own version of Orson Welles' legendary DON QUIJOTE.

Who is the real Jess Franco? Like ZORRO here he wears an [existential] mask and seems an isolated silhouette on the horizon of the Spanish mainstream. But Zorro was a Hollywood icon who fought Spanish officials while here the character kills U.S. soldiers and kidnaps the Governor's daughter. In today's world he would be a terrorist. He is closer to the nihilistic El Coyote than the dashing Zorro played by Tyrone Power. El Coyote is a subversive while Zorro is a Hero. It's notable that he wears a kerchief which covers his lower face rather than mask over  his eyes, as in the more traditional Zorro films and serial, making his somewhat less elegant and sinister. 

This would be the final collaboration between Mallorqui, the creator of the El Coyote character, Franco and director Marchent, who would go on to be the most prolific maker of Spanish westerns (notably the violent, nihilistic CONDENADOS A VIVIR (1971). The next Zorro outing would exclude Franco as co-writer but include most of the original cast, DP Pacheco, Manuel Parada as composer, while adding Alberto Grimadli's PEA as an Italian partner, influsing the production with a healthier budget than LA VENGANZA....

"At the time when Old California became part of the Union..."

The Platinum DVD cover adds: "Mexican Zorro is given another go-round in this Italian-produced opus. American actor Frank Latimore, a 1940s leading man who bears a dim resemblance to Tyrone Power, stars in the dual role of foppish Don Jose and his dashing, Z carving alter-ego Zorro [Latimore's  kerchief around his lower face in the film, rather than the famous mask with the eye-holes worn on the DVD cover image, may disappoint those expecting the classic Zorro mask on the character]. In this feature-length episode of the popular comic-strip saga, the dashing Spanish avenger and his father are tossed into jail after they discover a political conspiracy."  The writers of this promo must not have consulted the actual film in which Zorro does not get thrown into jail and does not have a father who appears anywhere in the action.

The run-time of the DVD is incorrectly listed as 84m, which is actually the approximate run-time of the Spanish version. A 95 minute run-time is listed for the Spanish version in JOAQUIN ROMERO MARCHENT: la firemza del profesional, 1999, Carlos Aguilar. Other sources list a 90 minute runtime.

During the 1940s Frank Latimore was sometimes a leading man in such Hollywood films as 13 RUE MADELINE (1945). He began his acting career at 20th Century-Fox. From 1949 to 1974 he lived and worked in Rome, appearing in Eurowesterns and swashbucklers, among other genre items. He eventually appeared in such high profile American films as PATTON (1970) and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (1976). He's perfectly cast in LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO, being able to lithely move from light comedy moments to physical action such as sword fighting to more dramatic scenes. Alain Petit's review of GRITOS EN LA NOCHE in THE MANACOA FILES also notes that F. Latimore is listed on a poster as conductor of the spurious Meyerbeer FAUST opera/ballet in which Wanda Bronsky performs in Franco's first horror film..

Although he is listed as a performer playing a Sergeant in most published credits of this film, I have not been able to spot frequent Spaghetti Western bandit Fernando Sancho after numerous close viewings.

Jess Franco would return to a Zorro style adventure with the 1974 comedy THE CRAZY NUNS, which featured a female Zorro (a forthcoming Blu-ray release of this rarely seen title would be welcome in 2017).

LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO was retitled and rereleased by Eurocine in 1975 with a Marius Leseour directed pre-credit sequence featuring Monica Swinn (as another female Zorro) and film critic-actor (FEMALE VAMPIRE)-director Jean-Pierre Bouyxou.**  This version used to be distributed in the US by some gray marketeers under various titles. The IMDB also lists Jess Franco as a co-director of this alternate version, but he didn't do any directing on the added pre-credit sequence or on the original LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO.

*OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO, review of LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO by LB, p. 42
**THE MANACOA FILES, review of LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO by Alain Petit





(C) Robert Monell, 2016

contact the author of this post @ monell579@hotmail.com

03 November, 2016

Jess Franco aspect ratios

Here are two aspect ratios, on two Jess Franco related films ,which I've never encountered. The Kinoscope ratio is, I assume, a 2.35:1 format. The top film LLEGARON LOS FRANCESES, was directed by Leon Klimovsky. I'm not sure what Panorvision indicates on the VAMPIRESAS 1930 credit card on the bottom. Being a Eurocine co-production, I doubt that it was shot in a scope format, but would like confirmation on that. It should also be noted that I have seen numerous Jess Franco films on Spanish VHS and DVD, which are presented at the wrong aspect ratio. This usually happens when films shot in 2.35:1 scope (Techniscope, etc) are presented in non scope formats such as 1.85:1 or thereabouts. This is the case with the 2003 DIVISA DVD of DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN, which crops the Techniscope format to 1.85:1, ruining the director's carefully calibrated 2.35:1 framing. I spoke with Jess about his use of the scope ratio and he insisted this kind of cropping was unacceptable.

Llegaron los Franceses is a 1959 historical film set in 1808, during the Napoleon war. It was written by Jess Franco and stars Elisa Montes (DER TODESRACHER VON SOHO-1972) and Isana Medel (LABIOS ROJOS-1960)




















Below: the incorrectly framed Divisa DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN DVD. Unacceptable, according to Jess Franco. This film really needs a restored HD release. It's one of Franco's most stylish and deliberate uses of Scope and the telezoom as aesthetic tools. It's also a highly amusing monster rally, Universal by way of Jess Franco.

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More images and information related to Spanish aspect ratios on the Hispanoscope site, link below;

hispanoscope.blogspot.com site

24 October, 2016

Goodbye to Video Watchdog (1990-2016)

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Goodbye to Video Watchdog (1990-2016): I vividly recall purchasing this very first edition at the now defunct Twilight Games and Video store a quarter century ago. Tim's article HOW TO READ A FRANCO FILM was a seminal influence on my own career as a film journalist in numerous zines and books from that date onward and a key inspiration for this long running Jess Franco blog.

This was a publication dedicated to the films I loved and collected. Today's announcement that no more print copies will be published marks the end of an era just as the demise of Craig Ledbetter's European Trash Cinema did in the 1990s. The white hot cauldron of the INTERNET has consumed yet another artifact of the print era. I will post any links if a digital version of the magazine is planned.