30 September, 2006

BRING ME THE HEAD OF CHANO URUETA

Chano UruetaNacimiento: 1895
 (Chihuahua, M?xico )
Fallecimiento: 1978
 (M?xico D.F., M?xico)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We have a correct answer for our trivia question: In what two Sam Peckinpah films did the veteran Mexican director Chano Urueta (THE WITCH'S MIRROR; THE BRAINIAC) appear and what were the roles he played? See the comment section below.
 
Jess Franco has claimed in interviews that he worked with Chano Urueta on at least one production. We would like very much to know what the title is since even Jess couldn't remember the last time we talked with him. Given that it was in the vicinity of 50 years ago and considering Franco's gargantuan output since, that's understandable.
 
When we return we'll take a close look at select films by this obscure Mexican auteur and consider how they might have influenced the work of Jess Franco.
 
In the meantime, if you are a fan of Mexican horror you won't to miss the excellent CasaNegra DVD's of Urueta's THE WITCH'S MIRROR and THE BRAINIAC.

27 September, 2006

SINFONIA EROTICA on DVD

 
From Manga DVD: Spain. This 1979 Spanish-Portuguese coproduction, a gorgeously lensed Sadean melodrama, is finally available on DVD.

This is an elegant tone poem based on the same Sade story Franco filmed as 1973's PLAISIR A TROIS and as GEMIDOS DE PLACER in 1981. Martine de Bressac (Lina Romay) the wife of wealthy Marquis Armando returns from an asylum after suffering a breakdown. She finds the Marquis involved with his male lover and a runaway nun. Complications arise. Franco and his expert DP Juan Cozar flood the images with light and the camera often wanders away from the twisted characters to the distances between them, a favored Franco theme according to the man himself. The images of the statues, architecture, lakes and foilage of the estate are photographed in the style of Resnais LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD. A lush period piece which illustrates Liszt's piano sonata, which Franco adapted himself into a score part Romantic-part Gothic horror. But this is not a horror film per se.

This can be ordered through www.dvdgo.com. It's PAL R2, 1.66:1, 4:3, Dolby 2.0. In Spanish language only and reportedly uncut at 84m. The liner notes are by Franco expert Francesco Cesari.


COPYRIGHT BY ROBERT MONELL: 2006

26 September, 2006

NASCHY'S DRACULA RIDES AGAIN

COMMENTARY BY ROBERT MONELL: My favorite Spanish Dracula film, Javier Aguirre's EL GRAN AMOR DEL CONDE DRACULA (1972)in my opinion beats out Jess Franco's strained EL CONDE DRACULA (1969) and Leon Klimovsky's parody LA SAGA DE LOS DRACULA (also 1972) in terms of personal vision and idiosyncratic atmosphere. Written by and starring the legendary Paul Naschy (rn: Jacinto Molina), it presents an original, detailed and alternate mythology for the Count Dracula character and has as much to do with local ethnology, Molina's subterranean positioning as a genre historian and 20th Century history as Bram Stoker. In other words, I take it seriously. Perhaps too seriously. I really can't be happy with the new DVD, hosted by "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark!", which presents this fascinating and macabre work as of secondary value to the popular 1980s TV scream queen. This is yet another fullscreen 83 mn version which some references list as originally over 90m. I'm not here to argue that point. Aguirre, who also had a career as an experimental filmmaker, creates one coup de image after another and much of the bold visual quality, a unique mood drenched in a fantastique that is at once 19th Century, 1972 Spain and eternal, is lost when seen panned and scanned. Even the entrance of Molina's Dracula is elided offscreen.

I actually almost purchased this at a local Best Buy before regaining my senses. Something told me to WAIT. There was a 2002 fullscreen DVD from an I.S.Filmworks/Yes Video: "Totally uncut! Nudity." Is that all there is to this? No. It's a rather important film not only in the career of Molina/Naschy but in the chronology of Spanish horror and in the catalogue of cinematic Draculas. One sales site for this new DVD categorizes it as either HORROR or CAMPY. It becomes an object of ridicule and an automatic "bad" movie in our present popular culture, which is obsessed with appearances and labels. I have no interest in lining the pockets of this disc's makers and distributors and while I don't want to deny the lady a living her "humor" and appeal are totally lost on me. Some might even enjoy it playing in the background of a loud party at 4am. All well and good. Maybe I'm out of touch but I find it an intense, poetic film.

Some hope is given on the Latarnia Forum's Paul Naschy topic area where Mirek Lipinski reports that a new commentary has been recorded in Spain including Molina and Aguirre and that it could be a future R1 release from the BCI label. I hope. In the meantime, I bet the Elvira DVD version will have more than healthy sales.



COPYRIGHT BY ROBERT MONELL: 2006

22 September, 2006

DE SADE

Louis (Deke) Heyward
AIP's DESADE, which I saw at the local Adult theater THE RIVIERA circa 1969 is a film I wish that Deke Heyward had assigned to Jess Franco. AIP's biggest budgeted project to that date, they made the fatal error of casting Kier Dullea in the title role, at least Franco had the sense to cast Klaus Kinski as the "Divine Marquis" in JUSTINE. Unfortunately, they put Cy Enfield (ZULU) in the director's chair. Eventually Roger Corman had to be called in to sex it up ("Sam, we've run into a hitch on this DE SADE thing. Do you think Roger could fly over to Berlin to help us out?"). Future Franco producer Artur Brauner (VAMPYROS LESBOS, THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA, X-213: FLIGHT TO HELL) provided the German cofinancing and arranged the entire shoot at his heavily guarded CCC facility in Berlin. The estimable Richard Matheson talks on the DVD about how his original script for DESADE was in the style of Robbe-Grillet's LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD but was rejected by the powers-that-be, presumably led by Deke. According to Heyward's CV (up at his ASK DEKE site), he was the head writer on the TV classic, THE ERNIE KOVACS SHOW, which introduced me to surrealism in the dark and distant 1950s. As Head of European production for AIP from 1963 to 1973 he was involved in the writing and production of such interesting films as Michael Reeve's WITCHFINDER GENERAL and the Lovecraft adaptation THE CRIMSON CULT.

Jess tells an amusing story on the 99 WOMEN DVD how Heyward told him he'd never work in Hollywood after viewing Franco's cut of that film only to invite him to dinner and congratulate him after it topped the VARIETY boxoffice charts a few months later. Heyward was also responsible for the US versions of Mario Bava's PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES and DR GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS (in which he appears in a small role as a General). To his credit he attempted to set up a Mario Bava directed version of Lovecraft's THE DUNWICH HORROR which unfortunately fell through. He employed Vincent Price in the Harry Alan Towers-Eurosleaze item HOUSE OF 1000 DOLLS, which would also have benefited from the Franco touch as opposed to the terminally dull direction of Jeremy Summers, whom Franco would proceed to replace on Towers' THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU.

Deke has been dead and buried for four years now and maybe he wasn't fully to blame but DE SADE, given Matheson's original conception, could have been Franco's masterwork...

LA MANSION DE LOS MUERTOS VIVENTES

Mansion of the Living Dead
 
Absurd, grotesque and a total put-on this is Franco's commentary on sexual hypicrosy, specifically related to the Inquisition and the twisted rituals carried on by mad monks who inhabit a monstery near a resort in the Canary Islands. I once termed this a blind dead film without blind dead, but it's not part of that series of 1970s films. Franco inverts the imagery and finds jet black humor as the "undead" rape, torture and murder the scantily clad friends of Lina Romay. But nothing is as it seems in this subversive burlesque of Spanish Horror.
 
Based on a novel by "David Khunne"[?!] this is a gorgeously shot film which only reveals itself after repeat viewings, if then. We very much look forward to the upcoming DVD from Severin Films which restores the film to its 2.35:1 OAR, most important in a mise en scene where objects and spaces gradually displace conventional narration, dialogue and character. We'll be previewing this much anticipated presention in detail soon...

19 September, 2006

MICKEY HARGITAY: 1926-2006




 
 
Most Eurogenre enthusiasts will remember him as Travis Anderson aka The Crimson Executioner in THE BLOODY PIT OF HORROR, a Sadean exercise in high camp directed with style by Massimo Pupillo in 1965. Others will first note that he was the husband of Jayne Mansfied and the father of Mariska Hargitay. Fans of bodybuilding will remember that he was MR. UNIVERSE 1955. Mickey Hargitay was called a "magnificent individual" in a tribute by Gov. Arnold who credited him as an "inspiration" in that Hargitay was an unknown immigrant who made good in the worlds of international body culture and Hollywood. The former performer in Mae West's 1950s revue was remembered by Ms West as the man who stole her show and gave it to "that woman". That woman, Jayne Mansfied, would star alongside Hargitay in several mainstream Hollywood films like WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER? and PROMISES! PROMISES! and the Italian peplum THE LOVES OF HERCULES. But Mickey survived Jayne and went on to his own career in European cult films like VENGEANCE OF THE GLADIATORS, STRANGER FROM SACREMENTO, THE SHERIFF DON'T SHOOT (an obscure Renato Polselli western I would really like to unearth), CJMANGO, WANTED: RINGO, SEVEN GOLDEN WOMEN VS 2,007, LADY FRANKENSTEIN, and again for Polselli, DELIRUM and THE REINCARNATION OF ISABEL, those final two mindspinning Italian horror projects revealing him an actor capable of a surprising range of emotion. I wish he had continued to make more films after that but he went into the contracting business in California. Appearing on a making of documentary of Anchor Bay's DELIRIUM DVD, he showed an engaging sense of humor and perspective about his colleagues on that film and his career in general. Just before he died, Gordon Mitchell wrote to me that Mickey Hargitay was a longtime loyal friend who stood by him in his darkest days. Now Mickey Hargitay's time has come. I was saddened to hear of his passing but will remember him for the high spirited enthusiasm with which he threw himself into roles like The Crimson Executioner and DELIRIUM's lounge-lizard/forensic scientist/tormented husband/pscyho-killer Herbert Luytak. Many thanks Mickey for the many hours of pleasure you provided with your distinctive presence in the above mentioned films and the dedication you showed to your friends and fans. Adios!

18 September, 2006

DETOUR, JIM THOMPSON, ORSON WELLES & THE NOIR CONNECTION...





 



 

 

 

 
 

Watching Edgar G. Ulmer's 1945 minimalist noir DETOUR always reminds me of just how much can be done with so little. A man, a woman and a telephone cord were Ulmer's tools, imparting a sense of Greek Tragedy to his B-scenario of a piano player on the long road to Hell.  The scene involves the kind of plan-sequence, a crazy pan shot going and in out of focus as it represents the delirium the protagonist, which anticipates the rack-focus aesthetic (or anti-aesthetic) of numerous post 1970 Jess Franco projects. Try watching it on a double bill with GEMIDOS DE PLACER (1981). Franco often talks of his debt to Robert Siodmak (who was the codirector with Ulmer of the 1930 City-Symphony, PEOPLE ON SUNDAY) but Ulmer, the workhorse of PRC who shot DETOUR in just a few days with pitiful resources, was a Poverty Row Expressionist has always seemed to me to the Hollywood director (along with Sam Newfield and Alan Dwan) whom one can most profitably compare Franco with.  I hope they never do a big-budget remake of DETOUR but Franco himself would have been the perfect director and lead (Jess is always the piano man) for my fantasy remake.

I had the chance to discuss film noir with Jess some time ago and found he was a fellow JIM THOMPSON enthusiast. Thompson (1906-1977) was an obscure crime novelist who connects with Stanley Kubrick, Sam Peckinpah and Orson Welles.  Jess told me that Welles talked with him about turning Thompson's disturbing novel  THE KILLER INSIDE ME (1952) into a film.  We'll be discussing Thomspon, Kubrick, Welles, Franco and the NOIR connection in the future. In the meatime read Robert Polito's excellent, Edgar Award winning Thompson bio SAVAGE ART (Vintage Books, 1996).

COPYRIGHT BY ROBERT MONELL: 2006 


12 September, 2006

ALBERTO DALBES: Franco's Dr. Seward

Alberto Dalbes is the madman behind Le Rayon Infernal in DANGER! DEATH RAY, one of the numerous Eurospy adventures he appeared in during the 1960s. Between 1970 and 1973 this busy Argentinian actor worked on at least 12 Jess Franco projects before disappearing into minor roles in Spanish features. He died in 1983 at the age of 61 from a heart attack.
 
 Dalbes really made the rounds after numerous film roles in Argentina from the mid 1940s to the mid 1960s. Relocating to Spain he found steady work in Spanish coproductions. Franco cast him as Dr. Seward in DRACULA PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN and CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. He was also "Renfield" in THE DEMONS. Jess Franco got a lot mileage out of character's names from Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula" which he fimed, ineptly, in 1969. Dalbes is a reasonably believable hero in these monsterfests and is effective in his villainous roles in such titles as TENDER AND PERVERSE EMANUELLE, LA NOCHE DE LOS ASESINOS (both 1973 thrillers directed again by Franco), THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE, where he played the Dr. Frankenstein role, sending hunchback Paul Naschy in search of body parts, and the ambiguous convict in CUTTHROATS NINE (1972).
 
According to the IMBD, Dalbes appeared in 69 feature films.

BLOODSUCKING NAZI ZOMBIES

 
The Nazi undead arise in the North African desert to attack a several groups seeking Hitler's gold. This Spanish version, LA TUMBA DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTES, featuring Eduardo Fajardo and Lina Romay, is superior to OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (the French cut dubbed into English), which is now out on at least two different US DVDs including the 50 movie box set, CHILLING CLASSICS. This budget disc has terrible video quality, is fullframe and is not recommended.

  A favorite alternate title of this project, BLOODSUCKING NAZI ZOMBIES [!], which in the late 1980s was a Mom and Pop video store stalwart. It's better than Jean Rollin's Spanish-French Nazi zombie film, ZOMBIE LAKE (1980), which Franco was at one time set to direct from his own story. Several years ago I had the oppurtunity to interview the talented M. Rollin. He winced when I mentioned ZL and and laughed uncomfortably. Other Nazi zombie films are SHOCK WAVES and Lucio Fulci's GHOSTS OF SODOM.

Your best bet in terms of video quality is the IMAGE OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES disc which also features a French audio option (sans Eng. subtitles) and is at least letterboxed. LA TUMBA... has yet to appear on R1 DVD but is available on the Spanish DIVISA label.
 
 

COMMENTARY BY ROBERT MONELL
COPYRIGHT BY ROBERT MONELL: 2006

10 September, 2006

THE FILMS OF SUMURU

3 FACES OF SUMURU: FUTURE WOMEN

 

 



COMMENTARY BY ROBERT MONELL: THE GIRL FROM RIO was never theatrically released in the US. It ended up as a direct to TV release with the somewhat more appropriate title, FUTURE WOMEN. This main title is printed over a freeze frame of Beni Cardoso (a live-action shot in both THE GIRL FROM RIO and the German version, DIE SIEBEN MANNER DER SUMURU) watching the torture of a male agent from behind one of the plexiglass barriers within the walls of the all female city of Femina. This scene is part of a precredit sequence in both THE GIRL FROM RIO and the German version which was dropped from FUTURE WOMEN.

This was just one of many changes executed by editor Alan Morrison for this TV version. Others include the removal of all nudity and numerous images of erotically charged torture and sexually suggestive dancing in the streets of Rio by scantily clad female participants in the 1968 Rio Carnival.

Inserts of footage from another, still unidentified film of military installations and aircraft exploding were added to support the footage Franco shot of the final assault on Femina. These poor-resolution images were originally shot in desert locations which obviously clash with the tropical Rio environment! It's more than a bit ironic that Franco's director credit is missing from the shortened opening credit sequence.

FUTURE WOMEN runs approximately 79m, while the 2004 BU DVD of THE GIRL FROM RIO clocks in at 94m making it the longest, but still incomplete, version. We'll explain why in a future blog...
COPYRIGHT BY ROBERT MONELL: 2006

COMING IN OCTOBER

[ESP, PORT] ?palo de Fuego: Mercaderes del Sexo , 1980

Pr?ximamente DVD Cine, Varios Comedia, Comedia Espa?ola, Thriller Espa?ol

9,99 eur / Dto 5% -0,43 eur

Precio 9,49 eur

0,17 eur bonus pts coste de env?o

Stock ?Pr?ximamente!

Lanzamiento 18/10/06



Click on some of these links for more information on this coming Spanish DVD presentation. It will be a PAL R2 release in Spanish language only, unfortunately without English subtitles. A plus will be informative liner notes by Jess Franco expert Francesco Cesari.

09 September, 2006

LAS VAMPIRAS vs VAMPYROS LESBOS

COMMENTARY BY ROBERT MONELL: The white hot stripteases performed by the Countess Korody (Soledad Miranda) with a living "mannequin" were heavily suppressed in the Spanish version of VAMPYROS LESBOS. The famous  Hubler-Schwab score was also replaced by cues written by Franco himself, under his David Khunne cover. Released in Spain to in 1973, LAS VAMPIRAS plays and sounds quite differently, but it's a nonetheless fascinating artifact and contains some footage (the Countess standing in a boat; some shots of her dance) not in VL. Franco's score is in some ways even less conventional and stranger than the more familiar Hubler-Schwab cues, which remain more immediately listenable and propel the images with a tremendous pace while creating an outre atmosphere which hasn't dated at all. There have been two US DVD's of VL, but the DVD presentation we would include the version with the onscreen title VAMPYROS LESBOS-ERBIN DES DRACULA. We'll outline the reasons when we return to this subject...

COPYRIGHT BY ROBERT MONELL: 2006

SOLEDAD MIRANDA LIVES!

I was in Borders yesterday to purchase the new DVD of my favorite 1950's sci-fi film, THIS ISLAND EARTH. On my way to the checkout the recent DVD of the 1969 Spanish-lensed US western 100 RIFLES caught my eye. I looked at the back cover and got a quick chill from being greeted by an image of the late, great Soledad Miranda in bed with one of the film's stars, Burt Reynolds. At this time both Reynolds and Miranda were working their way up the ladder to international stardom. The film's leads are Jim Brown and Raquel Welch, around whom most of the publicity was centered. But I was immediately reminded that Soledad could match Miss Welch, who was already a Superstar due mainly to her ONE MILLION YEARS BC poster, in sex appeal and acting chops anyday.
 
Even a quick glimpse of her image through the shrink wrapping on a DVD cover conveyed something of her ferocious erotic intensity which would be exploited to the maximum in a series of films to be directed by Jess Franco in early 1970: EUGENIE DE SADE, VAMPYROS LESBOS, SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY, THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA. We're still anxiously awaiting the appearance of the ultra-rare SEX CHARADE on DVD. These 1970 features became both the foundation and the heritage of her short career as she was tragically killed in an automobile accident in August 1970.
 
We'll be returning soon to talk about Soledad Miranda in the two different versions of a Franco project shot under the title, THE SIGN OF THE VAMPIRE: VAMPYROS LESBOS and LAS VAMPIRAS. We'll also be getting back to our series on the three versions of Franco's SUMURU project.

03 September, 2006

THE FILMS OF SUMURU: THE MILLION EYES...


Poster for the film.
The first Harry Alan Towers produced SUMURU film was 1967's THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU, released by AIP. It was not commercially or critically successful, but Towers went on to produce Jess Franco's SUMURU 2 [FUTURE WOMEN, THE GIRL FROM RIO] the next year. Towers retained the rights to the Sumuru character and produced yet another version in 2003, see blog below, featuring Alexandra Kamp in the title role. THE MILLION EYES...was filmed on location in Hong Kong, Franco's version was lensed in Spain and Rio locations, the 2003 project was shot in South Africa with Maria Rohm, who played supporting roles in the first two Sumurus, acting as an associate producer.

SUMURU LIVES!

Sumuru Posterart
Towers of London (Sumuru) Ltd. presented a German financed production featuring Sax Rohmer's creation and forming a trilogy (with Lindsay Shonteff's THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU and Jess Franco's THE GIRL FROM RIO) of SUMURU films produced and scripted by Harry Alan Towers (aka "Peter Welbeck") over a period of 36 years.

This 2003 epic was lensed in South Africa and brought the character into the 21st Century. The title character was embodied by former model Alexandra Kamp (probably not a coincidence that CAMP was the term most reviewers who saw this futuristic romp used to describe it). Where's Shirley Eaton when you really need her?!