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],

Frank Latimore (Don Jose de la Torre/Zorro)


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]
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
1hr 23m 2s
Frank Latimore and María Luz Galicia in
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
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 only 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 squrare, 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 film director as Trickster. 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 JF 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 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 used to be distributed in the US by some gray marketeers. 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....


(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.

Image result for dracula contra frankenstein Divisa DVD 

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.

17 October, 2016


GUEST REVIEW by Scott Allen

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Runtime: 1:22:07.500
Disc Size: 23,108,077,697 bytes
Feature Size: 20,974,374,912 bytes
Video Bitrate: 28.99 Mbps
Chapters: 9
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: October 4th, 2016
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio French 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
English, None
• Audio commentary by film historian Tim Lucas
• Alternate safe footage (less sexually explicit) (3:19)
• Original theatrical trailer (4:38) 

Jess Franco's LA FILLE DE DRACULA was released on Blu-ray by Redemption earlier this month. It had been speculated for some time this release, especially after Redemption released a DVD version of it in PAL/Region 2 back in 2014. Redemption, a long champion of Jess' work has spent recent years reissuing old titles on Blu-ray and making announcements for films that never yet surfaced like on DVD or Blu-ray, "Les Chatouilleuses". Redemption's silence on the matter seemingly gave way to very impressive Blu-ray releases of "Erotic Rites of Frankenstein" and "The Demons". These releases  were staggeringly good especially after the misfire of the Blu-ray release of "A Virgin Among The Living Dead" that used a very bad print.
This particular film was one of the few from his early 70s films with a monster emphasis, including "Dracula Contra Frankenstein" (aka THE SCREAMING DEAD as it was known in U.S. on videotape)  and "The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein". Dracula Contra Frankenstein played it most safe in the trappings of horror only and didn't seem to push the limits of the erotic that Jess used so well in his films with Soledad Miranda. "The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein" Spanish variant played almost like a companion film with the Spanish version having a horror only focus. In 2015, Redemption unearthed the long delayed French variant and reportedly Jess's preferred film - complete with what seemed like longer takes than the Spanish version and more sexual content. Until seeing the French version, the Spanish one always felt disjointed and less coherent so it appeared like a revelation to be seeing this in a better form at last.LA FILLE DE DRACULA appears the slightest and fastest made of this bunch with beautiful Britt Nichols as the protagonist but like her role in THE DEMONS she doesn't get enough screen time.     
 The release of LA FILLE DE DRACULA seems to use a similar print that X-Rated Kult used for the German release in terms of visual quality. If you view the Redemption Blu-ray up close you do see more of the flaws of dirt and grain and at some points what looks like white dust. This mainly was noticeable when making screenshots with phone from the disc as I needed to be closer to the screen. Normally the print looks really good from a regular watching distance, perhaps not to the high levels of Erotic Rites of Frankenstein or The Demons; but still enjoyable enough. The film's draw is for Tio Jess' audience and to have more of Britt Nichols in HD. You can see Jess having a good time with a film that uses the Dracula backdrop in a very mild way to sell a film that could be more categorized as a thriller or lite-giallo.

There are a few instances where Jess visual poetry really shines through - particularly a scene where a stripper is killed by vampire bite and her body zoom leads to Nichols playing piano for a conversation scene with Anne Libert, it's these kind of scenes that have kept my interest in Jess cinema for years. The story itself seems a minor one, tossed off while Jess presumably worked on bigger projects and this was done in down time using the same Portugal castle as many films he made during that period. It falls firmly in not being his best nor his worst, but very much worthy of the personal upgrade in my collection. 

 The Blu-ray comes with a few extras include some alternate partially clothed seduction scene with Libert and Nichols and an informative commentary by Franco-authority Tim Lucas. Lucas shares some insight regarding locations and parallels of the characters in this and Jess earlier outing The Sadistic Baron von Klaus. His commentary, although consistently enjoyable, featured one small gaffe, he stated that Jess was engaged to actress Ana Castor, but he actually was engaged to Isana Medel. Both actresses appeared in his second feature film, LABIOS ROJOS (1960).

Overall, a very fine Blu-ray release from Redemption.... Bring on LES EBRANLEES already, dammit! :)     

(C) Scott Allen, 2016

11 October, 2016

Dorado Blu-ray JESS FRANCO'S FORGOTTEN FILMS Vol. 1: Special Features

 Here's a list of the Special Features which will be on the Ultimate Edition of Dorado's upcoming double feature Blu-ray JESS FRANCO'S FORGOTTEN FILMS Vol. 1. Dorado informs me the HD screencaps will be posted on Wednesday, along with HD video clips
1. Dual layered Blu-Ray containing two feature films:

2. BOOKLET     
         by Francesco Cesari and Roberto Curti
This will be illustrated by us, with poster art of some of the films mentioned which are ours. 
         "Revenge of the Alligator Ladies"
          "Al Otro lado del Espacio" 
          "La Noche de los Asesinos"
          "Botas Negras Latigo"
          "Venus in Furs"
          "The Hot nights of Linda"
          "The Green Eyes of the Devil"
          "99 Women
          "Count Dracula"
          "LA Noche de los Asesinos"

     Six or more







05 October, 2016


Thanks to Midnight Video's BILL KNIGHT for posting this on FACEBOOK. I thought readers here would appreciate this vintage VHS box image. I have numerous vintage VHS copies of this, including the English langauge EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN, Dutch VHS versions, but I don't think I have this one. The image of the monster on the cover is really strange because it looks nothing like the silver skinned creature, played by Fernando Bilbao, seen in the film.

French Secam VHS on Budget Video
Uncut original French nude, Robert de Nesle version
1972 - Dir: Jess Franco
15 seconds longer than the Dutch Sunrise release

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22 September, 2016


The protagonist of EL SADICO DE NOTRE DAME, Jess Franco's 1979 composite film, Mathis Vogel/Laforgue, is a sexually twisted, religion-obsessed psychopath who murders Parisian women. The film represents Franco's most severe vision of madness and evil. The fact that the obsessed killer is played by Jess Franco himself only intensifies the atmosphere, giving the film a razor sharp personal edge. The thematic questions are numerous.What responsibility does religion have in the consequences of its doctrine when applied by a disturbed individual? What is the relationship between art and crime. What constitutes evil? Is the film an allegory, spiritual autobiography or just a hacked together sexploitation "roughie"? These are familiar themes in Franco's works, but he rarely posed them so clearly and powerfully as here.

I recently watched the Spanish DVD of Jess Franco's EL SADICO DE NOTRE DAME, which features the director's own voice on the soundtrack as Vogel, the mad writer-killer who stalks the Notre Dame section of Paris in search of female victims, fallen women/prostitutes/loose women, whom he will murder in order to cleanse them of their sins. The director voices himself in the hardcore variant, SEXOCISM, also. There are numerous versions of these films and the film they are based upon, the 1974 EXORCISM/EXORCISM AND BLACK MASSES/EXORCISME, a grim, artless creation which is further intensified when incorporate into the even more personal, confessional EL SADICO DE NOTRE DAME. None of these are easy to watch but they all are crucial to the understanding of the massive filmography of their creator. This is the first part of a multi part series on the films. Partially updated and expanded from my previously published articles on the film in various publications. The Blu ray release of EXORCISM, future HD release of EL SADICO and some VHS versions will be discussed in further blogs.


This outrageous project exists in so many variants, at so many different running times it would be impossible to view them all (since some are not even available on home video) much less detail the differences. Of the versions now available on tape, the softest is undoubtedly the cut Wizard Video version, DEMONIAC, released in the late 1980s. A running time of 87 minutes is listed on the Wizard video box, which also sports stills of scenes not included in this particular cut. They released a recut version of LA SADIQUE DE NOTRE-DAME a 1979 Spanish-French co-production that mixes footage from Franco's 1974 EXORCIME ET MESSES NOIRES and scenes shot five years later on Parisian locations. This film has a softcore sex and violence, English-language variant, titled EXORCISM, which was the film which started it all. This would eventually be released on Bluray.

The 1975 hardcore version of this film, retitled SEXORCISME, can be had in two slightly different cuts available from U.S. mail order companies. These include an 71-minute English-subtitled version, taken from a French-language video; and a longer 82-minute variation which also has a slightly different scene arrangement. The latter is available in French language only.. Both of these version drop much narrative material and several major characters to include several lengthy and over-the-top XXX sequences, some of which show Franco himself participating in hardcore action! The gory, English-language EXORCISM was unavailable for many years and in some ways it is the most disturbing of all the versions.

The XXX hardcore sex versions were desperate attempts to make an unpleasant film more commercial, at least on the adult movie market, and the hardcore situations only enhance the film's sense of sexual delirium and blasphemy. The fact that all these version have scenes which later found their way into the 1979 remake SADIST OF NOTRE DAME indicates that Franco was attempting to more bucks out of burnt-out material.
The hardcore versions look so cheap and shoddy, though, that one guesses they had difficulty even on the "money-back guaranteed" sex circuit of the mid 70s, which probably explains why he recycled the scenes.

The English language EXORCISM anticipates in tone and style such slasher fare as THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and Franco's character is in some ways even more sinister than Hannibal Lector. However, EXORCISM and the later SADIST OF NOTRE DAME are very somber. The gore scenes are repugnant, and include the torturing of both Carole Riviere and Lina Romay with a knife. As they are being cut up, the killer chants sections of the Roman Catholic mass in Latin.

The most grotesque addition is a scene which shows him murdering The Countess (France Nicholas) on a hotel bed. This is accomplished by shots of him slashing her open and ripping out some of her internal organs. Also, this version also makes clear the Black Masses Vogel witnesses are staged events, the human "sacrifices" are not harmed but are willing participants, the knives they are "stabbed" with have retractable blades, and the blood is fake. with the notable exception of a dove which is decapitated in the opening credit sequence of  EXORCISM/SEXORCISMES. This time the director is the audience and the scenes he witnesses, his own creations, become a substituted reality. As in NECRONOMICON and many other Jess Franco titles the theme of appearances rears its head, as well as his career long examination of performance art and the audiences who watch it.

As these explanatory scenes are missing from all other versions, Vogel's mania and the Satanist's agenda are a lot clearer -- Vogel is a deluded fanatic and the Satanists are just harmless hedonists, even though their dedication to evil is total. Another aspect this version restores is a conversation between the various police inspectors (Olivier Mathot and Roger Germanes) and an Interpol investigator, in which Vogel's murders are linked to rituals from the Inquisition. Connect this with Vogel's description of himself in SADIST OF NOTRE DAME as an agent of the Inquisition.

EXORCISM has the same storyline as all the other versions, minus the 1979 footage of Vogel repeated visiting the Notre-Dame cathedral, and confessing his murders to a priest who was a friend in the seminary that Vogel left. Without these scenes, EXORCISM and the hardcore SEXORCIMES are much more nihilistic. Vogel seems much more monstrous and, ironically, slightly more sympathetic.
Some of Vogel's background and motives are not explained, which colors him as a mysterious, almost abstract, icon of insanity. He is insane, but perhaps not evil in the same sense as the Satanists, who are upper-middle class dilettantes and choose evil as a way of life. Vogel's self-proclaimed holy war upon them and the loose women of Paris is his philosophical statement on the amorality of the modern world, but he sees his sick actions as totally moral, a necessity in the face of perceived evil.

EXORCISM and its many variants are not conventionally well-made films. The minimalist visual style, underlit cinematography, ragged editing (exacerbated by the XXX inserts of some versions), and painfully slow pacing contribute to a viewing experience which is hard on the viewer's eyes and patience.
Perhaps this reaction is precisely what Franco was looking for, as the theme of the film is the nature of "viewing." Vogel sees the sadomasochistic rituals, which he misinterprets, and we are the viewers of Franco's sado-thriller. Where does Franco's responsibility end and ours start? Sadism and pornography were not created by Jess Franco. They have been constant throughout the human and Art history.
EXORCISM's opening credits are printed over an eerie, satanic S&M ritual (missing from SADIST OF NOTRE DAME and DEMONIAC), in which a nude Lina Romay, writhing and bound to a martyr's cross, is whipped, caressed, and then smeared with the fresh blood of a beheaded dove (we actually see this appalling animal violence as the credit "Directed by J.P. Johnson" appears onscreen).

The camera obsessively follows the movement of a leather-clad torturer (Lynn Monteil), as the unholy and gothic atmosphere intensifies with Andre Benichou's funereal, haunting score (the SADIST OF NOTRE DAME version was re-scored by Franco regular Daniel J. White). Seen in its uncut form, this scene echoes the sado-performance rituals which open one of Franco's best earlier works, NECRONOMICON (1967).
It is also instructive to note that Vogel's occupation, a writer. His soda-masochistic tales are actually first-hand accounts of his own murders. They are published by "The Dagger and Garter," a sleazy magazine operated by one of the organizers of the satanic masses. Vogel may be a demented visionary, but the Satanists are shown as seemingly normal citizens who are able to hide their perverted activities from the authorities, something Vogel cannot do.

The publishing offices and the rococo castle in which the orgies are held are facades which exclude the outside world. Franco expresses this theme of deceptive appearances by the way he shoots these locations, panning and zooming into the architectural details whose aesthetic qualities ironically contrast with the blood orgies executed within.

These visual tidbits may also underscore the ancient or Medieval nature of Vogel's obsessions. The casting of beady-eyed Pierre Taylou and Lina Romay, as the arrogant publisher and his airhead secretary, works in perfect contrast to Franco's performance as the seedy Vogel. Taylou, in his tacky mid-70s leisure suit, and Romay, in her then-fashionable maxi-coat, represent common complacency and hypocrisy. In contrast, Vogel appears at least honest about his crusade. "One must know evil in order to fight it" he tells them. This battle between Vogel's mania and the cult's more socially acceptable depravity is the film's main trumpet call. The endings of EXORCISM and SADIST OF NOTRE DAME are quite different. In EXORCISM, Taylou jumps into the pursuing police car after Vogel has murdered a cult member (an interesting touch reminding one of Fritz Lang's M, in which the police and the underworld both pursue a killer). In SADIST OF NOTRE DAME, the chase is abruptly cut off when Vogel is taken into custody at Notre-Dame. In EXORCISM, Vogel is tracked to his suburban house where the lead inspector takes him out with a DIRTY HARRY-style shot that just misses Lina Romay, who is being held hostage. As Vogel falls dead into the front seat of his car, a dog howls mournfully in the distance. This effective touch can only be heard in the French-language version.

The film ends as the camera quickly pans up to the roof of Vogel's house as the police absurdly speed away, leaving the dead Vogel and his traumatized hostage unattended! Even with all these rough edges, EXORCISM and its many variants haunt the memory as an uncompromising version into the center of madness and depravity.

Franco's own performance here is brave and affecting, the total opposite of his usual tongue-in-check cameo appearances in his own movies. The voyeuristic scenes where he spies on Romay and her lesbian lover are especially chilling, due to the subdued way Franco moves his eyes and body as he peers through the window. Although he doesn't utter a word, his emotions are clear. The fact that Franco's acting here is superior to the direction indicates that the role itself was more important to him than the resulting film.
Completest collectors will probably want all these alternate versions and make up their own mind about which is the most effective as both a psycho-sexual thriller and modern morality play. Or maybe it's just another chapter in Jess Franco's 200 title filmed autobiography.

Robert Monell updated and expanded 2016

21 September, 2016

Pre order Jess Franco double bill from Dorado Films



The HD Jess Franco double bill of UN SILENCIO DE TUMBA and THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF are now available for preorder.

31 August, 2016



30 August, 2016


MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE: Jess Franco's delirious erotic thriller is finally getting the HD release it deserves from MONDO MACABRO. Look for a Fall/Winter date. One of Franco's most intense, visually accomplished films.

22 July, 2016


1982--89 MINUTES Directed by Jess Franco; Written by Clifford Brown Jr.
European Trash Cinema (U.S. import); KING VIDEO VHS (Spanish VHS)


Jess Franco would return to film episodes in the life of the Spanish PI Al Pereira throughout his career. He first appeared as a spy played by Eddie Constantine in the 1966 spoof CARTES SUR TABLE, one of the director's most successful genre riffs. The character would be played by Howard Vernon and Franco himself in LES EBRANLEES (1972) and DOWNTOWN (1977), micro budgeted thrillers which unfolded in fallen tropical destinations. But Antonio Mayans is the definitive interpreter of the character and Franco's very last film would feature Mayans as Pereira in AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (2013), a kind of mixture of the director's 81/2 style auteur fantasies and a lot of softcore sex episodes.  A post mortem follow up is in the works, with Mayans as the completion director of the unfinished REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES, the film Franco was shooting at the time of his death in 2013.

Antonio Mayans, the definitive Al Pereira....

One of Franco's favorite characters, private investigator Al Pereira (Robert Foster, a.k.a Antonio Mayans), has the addiction and he's got it bad. The kind where he just can't keep it in his pants no matter what. It's gotten him in trouble before, but this time it will be the end of him.

It opens as Al is frantically packing, trying to get away from trouble with sex/women/money, and all the people who are after him. Then Candy  (Lina Romay) walks in. She's bleach blonde, wide eyed, and those long legs under her trench-coat seem like they just can't wait to wrap themselves around their next victim, who this time around happens to be Al.

She just wants him to pick up some dirty money stashed in a wrecked car at the local car cemetery, that's all. But Al doesn't bargain on having to kill two thugs, just so he could get back to his seedy apartment, where Candy waits with her legs spread wide. He doesn't bargain for the strip-club where she works and Candy's male friend, who likes to wear make-up and women's clothing.

Then there is the phony Dr. Rosenthal and her friends, who play S&M games with black boots and leather whips. When they make Al strip after trapping him in an office and start beating him, he really loses it and begins shooting. An act of sheer rage and another impulsive mistake. So, running from the police and the mob he drives to end of a misty bayou, where he meets and makes love to Candy one last time. As the seagulls scatter overhead, stirred up by Candy's cries of pleasure, she pulls a small pistol out of her trench coat pocket (she's nude underneath) and pumps a few slugs into Al's side. "Puta" is the only thing he can get out as he falls to his knees, pants still around his ankles. Death was coming to the party, and Al will be the guest of honor.

As with Robert Mitchum in the classic American noir OUT OF THE PAST (1947), he plays the sap right to the end. The burning, wet feeling in his side has finally made the lump of flesh between his legs go soft. He always called the nude playmate taped to his wall, "mi madre"... but where was she when he really needed her? Or was he just another pathetic Mama's Boy? The bitch of it all was that Candy, who was long gone, hadn't gotten him, the mob hadn't gotten him, the cops hadn't gotten him. He got himself. Bogart would have gotten out of this mess. But Al isn't that smart and lucky.
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BLACKS BOOTS AND LEATHERS WHIPS is the blackest panel of Franco's career spanning series of films about eternal fall guy, Al Pereira. It's a Spanish neo noir rendered in the saturated tropical  shades of orange, lemon and aquas of the glittery, trashy Costa del Sol. As embodied by Mayans (in one of his most dead-on performances in his extensive Jess Franco portfolio), Al is a frantic, at times charming and boyish, womanizer who has a deep seated problems with obsession, compulsion and self image. He even attempts to radically alter his appearance, but it doesn't solve his real problem.

Romay's femme fatale is lush, slutty sexuality with an icy edge, her devious agenda is barely perceptible to the average male voyeur and totally invisible to Al. This time around, Al resembles a doomed character out of Jim Thompson novel,* and his grim finale is inevitable for a man whose thinking capacity never rises above his waist.

Daniel White's urgent score is perfectly appropriate for this rush-toward-death cautionary tale. Franco and Juan Cozar's neon color scheme has never seemed quite as ironic and becomes a post-modern Costa del Sol equivalent of those liquid black nights and mean streets filmed by Robert Siodmak (THE KILLERS-1945, one of Franco's all time favorites), Edgar G. Ulmer (DETOUR) and Joseph H. Lewis (THE BIG COMBO).

*When I interviewed Jess in 2004 he told me he was a great admirer of the "black writing" (noir writing) style of Jim Thompson (THE KILLER INSIDE ME, THE GETAWAY) and wished he had filmed on of his stories. 

(C) Robert Monell

14 June, 2016

GEMIDOS DE PLACER: Spanish DVD [Updated]


A female predator (Rocio Freixas) moves toward a fateful encounter in Jess Franco's GEMIDOS DE PLACER (1982), a remake of PLAISIR A TROIS (1973), credited as "based on the writings by the Marquis de Sade." The impressive villa where the action is set was owned by the film's producer, Golden Films Internacional S.A. founder/CEO, Emilio Larraga.

Franco has said there are approximately 20 shots in this film, but I have counted over 30 at various times based on my viewings of the old Caliente Video from Million Dollar Video Corporation (cropped at 1.33:1) Spanish language VHS and this 2006 Spanish DVD. This DVD version is part of the CINE EROTICO ESPANOL series- CLASIFICADA "S", licensed from VIDEO MERCURY FILMS S.A., Formato 4:3 [non-anamorphic, and it shows]; Mono; Multizona "0"; DVD5; aprox. 83 min. Genero: Erotica; Boutique Multimedia S.l. Grupo Edider 88, S.L. there's even a Madrid ground mail, and this web address www.internacionaldersa88.com


"Una presumible orgia con un desenlace soprendenta" [or, as I said to Jess when we first met: "Lo siento, no hablo Espanol"]

Back copy: [Un liberal matrimonio quieren probar a realizar un trio sexual con una amiga de ambos. Pero en relaidad la utilizan para matarse el uno al otro con argucias y todo tipo de artimanas. El desenlace es sorpendente."]

Anyone who has seen it knows it's a great film, one of Franco's most personal and experimental works. It unfolds in flashback, narrated by mentally challenged guitar player, Fenul (DP Juan Soler Cozar, dubbed by Jess Franco himself]. The extended takes suggest a link to Hitchcock's ROPE, also a story of murderers and their victim. The opening take, zooming slowly back from a yacht in Alicante Bay to pan over the villa, its swimming pool and a floating dead body (cf SUNSET BOULEVARD), is a tour de force.  A tale told by an idiot signifying the corruption of its four main characters, two of whom will die in paroxysms of sexual violence during the course of the film.

This opening immediately recalls the stunning plan sequence which opens Orson Welles' noir masterpiece TOUCH OF EVIL. The constantly probing camera here is as much of a character as the occupants of the villa. Like Hitchcock and Welles, the director wants to make us complicit in the following action, which is a study in casual amorality. The camera is always a voyeur in any film, but Franco takes this concept to its absolute limit here. With very little dialogue and an overwhelmingly toxic ambiance, offset by Fenull's wandering guitar improvisations, the film becomes a kind of Sadean daydream ending in death, decay and a silent scream recorded from a final God's-eye camera angle. As the mesmerizing instigator of the increasingly complex erotic games, Rocio Freixas emanates an powerful ambiguity which immerses the proceedings with a slow burning sense of danger. At any given moment she seems capable of anything and appears to exert a kind of mental control over the participants.
 I find this DVD to be lacking in the kind of sharpness, detail, luminosity and color I prefer (cf. Severin's glowing releases of MACUMBA SEXUAL; LA MANSION DE LOS MUERTOS VIVENTES). The opening reel is plagued with visible print damage involving specs, which recurs at reel changes, but it's not very distracting, but it IS there. Also, this doesn't seem to me to be a full 2.35:1 presentation. Maybe closer to 2.20:1. I don't measure these things, but that's my approximation. The only extra is a scene access.

Still, it looks very good compared to the DVD-R's and videos going around, it's acceptable, but not ideal, and, of course, there are no English options of any kind.

So, let's see if there's any interest in a new anamorphic 2.35:1 OAR R1 release w/English subtitles available.

I wish for a new, HD transfer of this. That's why I keep bringing it up here.

Thanks to Francesco Cesari for sending this DVD and the screenshot.

(C) Robert Monell, 2008-2016 [Updated]

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ecom said...
I'd love to see this one on an English subtitled DVD.
Steve Langton said...
One of many Franco flicks that has thus far eluded me, and also one that I've yearned to see for ages. Good to see you trumpeting this one for release.
Tim Lucas said...
It would rank high on my Severin wish list, as well.

11 June, 2016

Favorite Jess Franco CDs/soundtracks

OI can't narrow mine down to just one. But Jean Bernard Raiteux's Trafic Pop Logere would be high on the list, including a lot of cues heard in LES DEMONS (1972). Also AMBIENZA ACOUSTICA, containing many Daniel White-Jess Franco/Pablo Villa cues from his later 1970s and 80s period.

An all time favorite soundtrack would be the Bruno Nicolai cues heard in NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT. A mix of experimental, jazz and rock interludes.

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