05 November, 2006


Last night I visited with two of my favorite vampire hunters: Dr. Nietzche (Luigi Batzella/Paolo Solvay) in Roberto Mauri's THE SLAUGHTER OF THE VAMPIRES and Dr. Roberts (Jess Franco) in FEMALE VAMPIRE. Baztella/Solvay was by no means the Italian Jess Franco, having only directed 15 (admittedly sleazy) genre items, ending as IVAN KATHANSKY for BLACK GOLD DOSSIER (credited to sometime-JF cover "A.M. FRANK" in its French version) and went uncredited as the director of Bruce Le's GYMKATA KILLER (1980)), a title I'm still trying to track down on any home video medium. One Gray Market dealer used to promote BLACK GOLD DOSSIER as "Jess Franco's GASOLENE WARS"! This Z grade spy adventure does feature 1970s Franco regulars such as Olivier Mathot and Claude Boisson, and star Richard Harrison would go on to portray the director of the CIA in Franco's own DARK MISSION (1988) . There is even some doubt if Batzella is Solvay's real name or vice versa, and he has numerous other covers, as does JF. The fact that they both ended up as A.M. Frank on some credits probably has more to do with Eurocine's financial imperatives than anything else.

Dr. Nietzche is played by LB (as we will label him) as an avuncular scourge who wants to rid the earth of the vampire plague, vowing "The moment has come at last when vampires shall disappear from the earth." LB acted in 18 films, according to the IMBD, and he seemed to have a knack for playing authority figures, his last role being a cop in THE BLOODSUCKER LEADS THE DANCE (1975), directed by Alfredo Rizzo, the actor who helps him hunt overdressed vampire Dieter Eppler in SLAUGHTER and later involuntarily contributed war movie footage to Jess Franco's OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (1981) when Eurocine cannibalized his 1971 I GIARDINI DEL DIAVOLO! In 1973, when LB was directing (as "Paul Solvay", the credits were so thoroughly anglicized that I had no idea back then that it was an Italian film) Rosalba Neri (as Sara Bay) in the female vampire film I saw at the drive-in as THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT, Franco wrote, directed, edited, shot and appeared (as Jess Franck) as "Dr. Roberts" in LA COMTESSE NOIRE, most famously known as FEMALE VAMPIRE. Dr. Roberts is the local ME on the island of Madiera where the Countess Irina Von Karlstein (Lina Romay) is draining the male and female population of their sexual fluids (in XXX detail in some versions). Dr. Roberts tells the loutish local inspector that, "Lines in parallel never meet." Obviously, they don't see eye to eye. Unlike the florid Dr. Nietzche, Roberts dresses like a refugee, and sports a very 1973 goatee and hippie hair style. His conversations with the Timothy Leary-like "Dr. Orloff" (film historian Jean-Pierre Bouyxou) focus on metaphysics. Note that Orloff has a model of a Galleon and at least two telephones on his desk. Jess Franco can be a marevlous actor and his expression as he watches the Countess drown recalls his witnessing of Eugenie's (Soledad Miranda) demise in 1970's EUGENIE, in which he also cast himself as a hunter of the unknown.

In 1974 (the year the female narrator in FV dates the action) Batzella/Solvay directed the Ed Woodish spectacle NUDA PER SATANA, with "James Harris" (top picture) as Satan. "Harris" also appears in Franco's 1973 BRUTAL NIGHTS OF LINDA and KISS ME KILLER. LB continued his career in Eurosleaze with the notorious THE BEAST IN HEAT. His memorable Dr. Nietzche suggests he may have been a better actor than director. But who can forget Rosalba Neri arising from her blood bath in THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT?


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