26 February, 2007


If you're like me and prefer your gialli served flaming hot then Lucio Fulci's 1969 entry, ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER, is your ticket. Actually, this is what I would term a prototype "erotic thriller", a superior murder mystery with elements of the police procedural. The plot takes dangerous curves with the greatest of ease, but watch out for appearances. Before looking at Severin Films new DVD let's consider what Fulci accomplished with this underrated title, known as UNA SULL' ALTRA in Italy and PERVERSION STORY in France.

Dr. George Dumurrier (BELLE DE JOUR's Jean Sorel) runs his upscale San Francisco "clinic" with the slippery side show morality of a seasoned carnival barker. His concerned brother (Italian giallo regular Alberto De Mendoza)takes him to task for suggesting the underfunded clinic host a heart transplant. On the personal front George's marriage to Susan, a homebound asthmatic, is a front for his hardly concealed affair with a bisexual fashion photographer (Elsa Martinelli). While away in Reno, Nevada on a gambling excursion George is informed that his wife has died from her condition. Upon his return he finds he has inherited a multimillion dollar fortune though his wife's will. As he is trailed by a suspicious insurance investigation he becomes obsessed with a stripper (DIABOLIK's Marisa Mell) who is the star attraction in a local psychedelic adult club. The stripper is a dead ringer for the late Susan which makes her all the more fascinating as the object of George's obsession. That's a lot of plot already and suffice it to say there are a mind boggling array of further twists and turns, none of which are predictable. That is, unless you've seen Hitchcock's masterwork VERTIGO. But Fulci is being Hitchcockian in a good/creative way rather than a bad way (cf Brian De Palma).

This emerges as the best written and constructed of all Fulci's 57 feature films and the scenario he has concocted with Roberto Gianviti and Jose Luis Martinez Molla is almost demonically clever in its layered ironies, rapid inversions and the way it plays with the element of time, the latter being the most crucial as the action crosscuts between preparations for George's execution in San Quentin's gas chamber and events which have unfolded sometime earlier on another continent. Fulci's judicious use of familiar San Francisco locations is every bit as original and unconventional as the one's Hitch chose for VERTIGO. The fact that the film opens and closes with aerial views of the famous bay bridge is doubly ironic since it represents the main theme of escape from reality.

The film's two setpieces, George's visit to the Frisco strip club and the death row climax are examples of a director working at top form, using color, framing, tempo, focal length, camera movement and actors like a symphony conductor. Fulci employs mirrors, overhead shots of the locations, a sylized palette, and startling angles in a carefully calibrated mise en scene. If it's still too early to call him an auteur, one can certainly discern such future themes as a critique of class prejudice, an unhealtly fascination with the living dead and, even though there's absolutely no preaching about it, a look at the realities of the death penalty which may make some supporters of it think again. It's all as impressive as anything he subsequently accomplished in his more explicit gialli (the delirious LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN) or his zombie gorefests of the 1980. Fulci was already a seasoned professional after 10 years of directing broad comedies like HOW WE STOLE THE ATOMIC BOMB and a terrific Spaghetti Western, MASSACRE TIME (1966). He is given significant support by the detailed, complex set ups of master DP Alejandro Ulloa (THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z) and first rate performances by Sorel, De Mendoza, Riccardo Cucciola, all of whom revolve around the feral Marisa Mell until their fates play out.

The one element which perhaps impresses me the most is a wild, hot jazz score of maestro Riz Ortolani which breathlessly combines swing, big band, lounge, sax, flute and booming bass instrumentation. It's one of the great giallo soundtracks from that era and on par with Ortolani's equally memorable compositions for THE ETRUSCAN KILLS AGAIN, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and many more Italian genre films. It's compulsively listenable and is presented on a separate CD in the new Severin Films double disc set. Presented as PERVERSION STORY, the English translation of the French title, the print here was discovered in France as an original vault negative. The onscreen title is UNA SULL' ALTRA, the original Italian. The transfer is glossy, has excellent resolution and bold in terms of definition and color. Obviously, the elements were crystal clear and the rich hues are a knockout. Presented in 16X9, letterboxed at 1.85:1, there are English and Italian language options with English subtitles. I would recommend watching it with the English track first, since it seems to have been shot in that language. Theatrical trailer included. A 103 m runtime is listed on the box. The film itself runs just over 97 minutes.

Leaving aside THE DEVIL'S HONEY. this registers as Fulci's most erotic film due mostly to the late Ms. Mell and the sex and nudity are presented full strength. I haven't seen the US version titled ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER, but there has been some internet chat that it is some minutes longer, apparently establishing shots and dialogue scenes on the Reno, Nevada locations. If that's so they certainly aren't missed here, unless one is waiting for them. This edit was the previously lost French theatrical one and I view it as a legitimate alternate Euro version. Some internet comparisons have this version containing over 4 minutes of footage not included in the US cut. If any of our readers have access to the Italian or US versions and can add any comments, please do. In any case, given that this is a first class revelation of Lucio Fulci's first (but not last) masterwork and that you get a CD of a score that will rock your world many times over this comes highly recommended.

(c) Robert Monell, 2007

24 February, 2007


A blue tinted shot of Christopher Lee as the title character in the new Dark Sky DVD of Jess Franco's COUNT DRACULA. The tinting is just one of a number of differences between this presentation and previous versions on home video. Thanks to Mirek Lipinski for the screenshot.

First, the good news. The Dark Sky DVD of Jess Franco's COUNT DRACULA [onscreen title: LES NUITS DE DRACULA] looks absolutely terrific in terms of color and resolution, a significant improvment over the 2003 DIVISA Spanish language DVD and the older REPUBLIC VIDEO presentation, both of which featured film versions supervised through post production by Jess Franco himself. The DS disc has the longest runtime [just under 97m] of any home video version so far released. There's also at least one scene, a shot of gypsies gathered under the window of Jonathan Harker's room at Castle Dracula [followed by a new Bruno Nicolai music cue], that is so darkened in the previous Spanish and US home video versions as to be virtually invisible, but looks crisp and clear here. The DS also includes a final credit scroll which extends its runtime while listing the cast and Italian technical staff, some of whom may have been included for coproduction/quota reasons. The longer runtime is not due to any further Franco footage. The end scroll was simply tacked on by the Italian producers.

According to the opening credits (which appear in Italian after the French main title) this version was edited by Bruno Mattei, who would later become a prolific hack director of Italian exploitation (RATS: NIGHTS OF TERROR; HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD; THE OTHER HELL). And that's where my reservations begin. Two important scenes have been edited in this version: the opening shot of a stark forest at twilight has been abridged by over 10s and the scene of a gypsy woman (Teresa Gimpera) pleading for the return of her child outside the walls of Castle Dracula has been removed altogether. In a fascinating and detailed discussion over at the The Franco Lounge on the LATARNIA MESSAGE BOARDS webmaster Mirek Lipinski has specualted that this may actually be the Italian version, appended with the LES NUITS DE DRACULA main title for exhibition in France, with the English language track overdubbed. One thing is for sure. This version was not the director's cut. I know that because I spoke with Jess Franco in 2005 about this film and he assured me he only supervised the post production of the English language version and then a Spanish language version, adding that he had nothing to do with the final cuts of the Italian, French and all other versions.

As long as one is aware of what is missing and what has been added/altered this first R1 DVD in English of COUNT DRACULA is well worth purchasing for its superior video/sound quality and significant extras. The 1.33:1 transfer from virtually spotless, evocatively colorful elements reveals layers of detail in the sets, performances and Manuel Merino's lighting design heretofore obscured by dirty, worn prints. It also reveals a much more carefully composed film than had been indicated from the previous prints, which have always had rather murky night scenes [the DIVISA disc heavily artifacts during the entire coach sequence]. The REPUBLIC video and the DIVISA disc both have bold colors with the latter oscillating perhaps too much toward the Red end of the color spectrum. The colors are much more modulated in this transfer. For instance, the use of red, a key color in any vampire movie, seems more judicious and subtle, a vase of roses cutting into the frame here or a bright gypsy shawl there signal imminent vampire attacks. In the scene at the Opera house Maria Rohm's Mina is now enclosed in a warm bath of that color which warns of her close call with the Count. There are numerous shades of red here, signifying moods which range from contemplation of an obsession with blood to foreshadowing of danger to complete immersion in crimson fantasy. Also new here are previously unseen filtering effects. Harker's coach ride and most of the night exteriors now unfold under a blue filter which lends them a more spectral effect than they've ever had before. If this was not in Franco's original design it certainly gives the previously murky looking night scenes a much needed facelift. The other primary color is green, which isn't quite as prominent here as in the Spanish and US prints, but it's still vividly registered between the warring reds and blues (the colors of blood outside and inside the human circulatory system).

One thing which really hit me seeing this cleaner, brighter, more color-detailed version was both the "Spanishness" and irreality of Franco's aesthetic approach. "Spanish", not just because this was shot mostly in Barcelona by a Spanish director, but due to the fact that, outside of costuming, there is no attempt to make the action look like it's actually taking place in Transylvania and then London, 1897. In fact, Franco frequently underlines or foregrounds the Mediterranean foilage and topography instead of attempting to mask/transform them. For instance, one notices that the front door of Dracula's castle has potted tropical plants on either side of it, unlikely decorative flora for Transylvania.

The irreality of Franco's presentation is more apparent in the numerous odd set details which are now clearer than ever, like the plastic spiders strung about, fake bats and all too obviously artificial cobwebs (which seem deliberately sculpted around the candelabras and castle pillars). On one level reflecting budgetary restrictions, these elmenents also illustrate Franco's longstanding method of visual stylization just as Tod Browning's smoking fissures and armadillos add to the delirious mise en scene in his classic DRACULA (1931). Then there's the very surreal scene during which stuffed animals appear to come alive and threaten the male protagonists searching Dracula's hideout. The fact that the animals look mostly like cute child's toys and include a mixture of skunks, ostriches, foxes and a shark [!] evoke another Spanish surrealist, Luis Bunuel. Franco deconstructs this scene in the essential David Gregory directed interview extra, BELOVED COUNT (heavily supplemented with pertinent clips, images, finding Uncle Jess in high spirits, full of interesting behind the scenes stories and in full-cigarette-smoking-antics mode--cf our previous blogs on SMOKING WITH JESS FRANCO). He states that he deviated from the concept of following Stoker and created this outre interlude to illustrate how the very concept of Dracula is a violation of Natural Order, something which the Count himself expounds upon in the early scenes with Harker. BTW, watch this disc with the English subtitles on for a fuller level of comprehension and appreciation of the highly literate quality of the dialogue. Interesting that Producer-Scenarist Harry Alan Towers is not listed in the writing credits of this version.

On the two scenes which are missing or altered. The first 12 seconds of the opening shot, the aforementioned shot of a denuded forest which then slowly pans over to castle Dracula as Bruno Nicolai's eerie score gradually fades in is not only a highly effective opening but illustrates the theme of nature stripped bare by the fetish of vampirism while the hysterical presence of the gypsy mother in search of her child just before Dracula gives it to his brides powerfully acts out the relationship of Dracula to Fuedalism. This version now rather awkwardly opens in the middle of the original camera movement, making it seem like the action was meant to begin in media res, which was not originally intended. When you take away or alter a film's opening image it's rather like chopping the topic sentence of a complex essay. It's sure to affect the remainder of the work. If you are not familiar with these scenes then these omissions might be insignificant but it is part of my purpose here to report them.

The definitive DVD presentation of COUNT DRACULA would, imo, be a 2 disc set of the English version which was released by REPUBLIC VIDEO and the Spanish language version with English subtitles, since both were seen through by the director. The loss of several scenes from those versions and inclusion of new images, cues and effects may obscure the issue for now, but this is a more than interesting DVD presentation which gave me some new takes on the film. Recommended.

Special thanks to Squonkmatic, Mirek and the rest of the posters over at the Franco Lounge topic at The Latarnia Forums.

(c) Robert Monell, 2007

21 February, 2007

Meet Agent 069!

At least that's what he was called in the French dubbing of one of JF's Eurospy adventures. The above actor played the agent after playing a important role in one of Franco's previous films. This actor turned 86 yesterday, so this is a belated birthday quiz.

Who is this actor and what are the films in question?

20 February, 2007


Francesco Cesari sends this image of Lina Romay and Martine Stedil sneaking a smoke in the slammer. Note that the set looks like a parking lot surrounded by a typical stockade fence! Typical mid 70s JF mise en scene. From the DVD of the 1975 Z grade WIP DES DIAMANTS POUR L'ENFER [yes, that's the film Franco made in secret while filming BARBED WIRE DOLLS, even the actors didn't know what was going on!}. This film is known as WOMEN BEHIND BARS in its English language version. It's very amusing and one of my favorite JF WIPs.

Francesco comments: "This is a film about smoking girls!"

Indeed it is. Thanks, Francesco.

And look out for the guards, girls!


Masked superhero films are always fun. Here are two European models from the 1960s. Roger Browne as ARGOMAN (1967) and Georges Franju's JUDEX (1963). I understand the former is now on DVD, I would like to hear of any comments. JUDEX is certainly in need of a R1 DVD presentation. I've always found the film very slow but compelling.

18 February, 2007


German producer (MARK OF THE DEVIL), director, actor and singer Adrian Hoven as Radeck, the mad artist who creates a wolfman, attempts to relieve the stress of it all by taking a drag in SADISTEROTICA/TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS/EL CASO DE LAS DOS BELLEZAS (1967).

He doesn't appear to be enjoying it, does he?

16 February, 2007


Of course you've noticed how much Jess Franco smokes during his numerous DVD interviews and public appearances. Jess really loves to smoke, that's for sure. And he fills his films with characters smoking. He even named all the main characters in his marvelous Noir parody LOS BLUES LA CALLE POP (AVENTURAS DE FILIPE MARLBORO, volumen 8) after popular American cigarette brands (Saul Winston was the villain and Jess himself played a paino player named Sam Chesterfield). Jess and his characters always smoke compulsively (it IS an addiction) but with class. Can you imagine Bogie without a Lucky Strike between his lips?

Above is a shot of the late, great Soledad Miranda enjoying a smoke between murders in SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY. Smoking can also be sexy in JF's universe, especially when Soledad is doing the puffing. There's no doubt Franco is one of the all time great smokers and it plays a prominent role in his films. Of course now that smoking is recognized as a deadly addiction it's no longer cool and become somewhat politically incorrrect. It's difficult for me not to light up when watching a Jess Franco film.

Yeah, I know, I need to quit... But I HAVE cut down to less than 10 a day!

COMING SOON: More shots of Jess and his characters smoking like crazy....

(c) Robert Monell, 2006

13 February, 2007

Barbara McNair: Death of a Singer...

and actress. Probably first and foremost a Jazz singer she performed a soulful rendition of the song heard at the opening and closing of Jess Franco's 99 WOMEN (1968) and, of course, was featured doing several vocal performances while playing the singer who witnessed the tragic fate of James Darren in VENUS IN FURS (1969). She also appeared on the Broadway stage, hosted her own US TV variety show, and continued to perform live, in films and on CD through 2006 until she lost her battle with cancer on Febuary 4, 2007. Her last CD was ironcially titled "Here's To Life."

Her film career also included the controversial X rated crime melodrama "IF HE HOLLERS, LET HIM GO...", which resulted in a PLAYBOY spread right before she got her prominent role in the also X rated VIF. She also appeared as a nun in Elvis Presley's last dramatic film, CHANGE OF HABIT. Appearing as a participant in an interracial romance in a Jess Franco film, as a nun opposite Elvis Presley and [as an African-American woman in a pre Black Power era] hosting a TV show pretty much made 1969 her big year. The rest of her personal and professional life was marked by probably more downs than ups but she kept on working.

She certainly makes an impression as both an actress and vocalist in VENUS IN FURS, the only film I've seen her in. I can still see and hear her singing the title song in the mirror surrounded by the Manfred Mann group and finally breaking up in almost metaphysical laughter at VIF's delirious musical climax.

For more information on her life, career and films [including a VIF screenshot] go to her website: www.barbaramcnair.com

I wasn't aware of her passing until yesterday. Most of the online obits I've been able to find omit mention of VENUS IN FURS.

Thanks to Michael Orlando Yaccarino.

(c) Robert Monell, 2007

12 February, 2007

Jess Franco on Blu-ray

Anyone remember the very first Jess Franco DVD? To rephrase: Anyone remember what was the first JF film to appear on DVD? Of course, now there are "Jess Franco" DVDs of his current shot-on-vid epics (I recently spoke with the CEO of that company) as well as companies like BLUE UNDERGROUND and the recently formed SEVERIN FILMS who do elaborate, high quality reconstructions, supported by impressive supplements, of his films. The now apparently defunct German company KULT was a particular favorite with some collectors. But we live in changing times....

So what does Blu-ray, if it survives and prospers, hold for Jess Franco? One of the few technical things I can tell you is that Blu-ray holds more pits than HD DVD and if you don't know what pits are you will in the future. Also, perhaps more significantly, it has more storage than HD. BR will be the more expensive medium for reasons I won't even go into here. In terms of quantity and quality it beats of HD so far in my book. I just spent several weeks, with guidance, comparing the BR vs HD sound and image and BR is the superior format, by some calculations I've read 6 times finer than HD.

The age of DVD of as we know it is bascially over. Forget about the old days of VHS vs Beta, Laser Discs and DVD, they are gone. Well, DVD is still around, for now. I now own 6 DVD players, something I couldn't have imagined a decade ago. And DVD has enabled the international resurgance of interest in the films and career of Jess Franco, who has more films on DVD than any half dozen current Hollywood directors. He has become a genre. With over one hundred JF related DVDs out there and many more to come how can I say that Blu-ray would probably be the most comprehensive way to fully understand the cinematic legacy and importance of JF? Well, I'm not saying that, just considering possiblities.

But there are no JF Blu-ray discs at the presnet and there may not be any for years. According to industry sites the key factors in deciding its fate will be: deliverable and reliable COPY PROTECTION and PORNOGRAPHY. Yes, you read right, the Porno industry is one of the big players! Studios like Disney and Paramount are most concerned about the security of their content and one the the biggest players is the Adult film industry as there are about 10.000 porno titles a year! And they have a built-in market which doesn't haven't worry about appealing to the tastes of "mainstream" viewers. We all know that Jess made XXX versions of some of his horror films and a number of out and out hardcore efforts (EL OJETE DE LULU, a 1985 hardcore quickie narrated by.... Lulu's 'ojete', which includes a pan from a cum shot to an replica of an Oscar). But hardcore films and Jess Franco don't get considered for Academy Awards.

Just Google Blue-ray vs HD and you'll get over 4 million possibilities. Here's one which was posted by Ryan Block on www.engadget.com in 2005. Of course, Playstation 3 is already here and where do we go... And Blu-Ray will also be usurped if it wins the war or can exist side by side with HD. There's another format out there which could perhaps hold the entire Franco - Eurocine on one small disc, or the Harry Alan Towers JF productions, or The Golden Films Internacional, or the finally discovered Robert de Nesle collection...[RM]

[This is the text of Ryan Block's 2005 Engadget post]
Well, as far as HD DVD vs. Blu-ray goes, it looks like we've pretty much passed the point of no return now; with each passing day it seems less and less likely that a compromise will be reached on a next-gen format. The ongoing peace talks between the two camps, which have been on-again, off-again for months now, seem to have finally dissolved. It's disappointing, but however you feel about the fact that the HD DVD and Blu-ray factions squandered countless chances to make it right and come together, it looks like in just a few short months they're going to be duking it out mano a mano right in our livingrooms. There may not be a lot we can do to fight back — apart from refusing to adopt either format out of sheer spite of their pigheadedness — but no matter what we might as well at least arm ourselves with the knowledge necessary to understand the nature of the situation at hand.

Here's the background:

Philips's development of the Laserdisc in 1969 yielded many of the technologies Sony carried over and adopted when they partnered with Philips to create a little something called the CD way back in '79. Both companies were hard at work together once again in the early 1990s on a new high-density disc called the MultiMedia Compact Disc (MMCD—original name, guys), but their format was eventually more or less abandoned in favor of Toshiba's competing Super Density Disc (SD), which had the vast majority of backers at the time, such as Hitachi, Matsushita (Panasonic), Mitsubishi, Pioneer, Thomson, and Time Warner.

The two factions cut a deal, brokered by IBM president Lou Gerstner, on a new format: DVD. Toshiba wound up on top after the dust settled in 1995/1996, and Sony and Philips, who weren't cut in on the standard (and royalties) nearly as much as they'd have liked, immediately started work on a next gen system. The Professional Disc for DATA (aka PDD or ProDATA), which was based on an optical disc system Sony had already been developing in the side, would eventually become the Blu-ray disc. Toshiba, not to be outdone by the pair, also started work on a next gen system, the Advanced Optical Disc, which eventually evolved into the HD DVD. After thirty-five years of optical audio/video disc development we're back where we were years ago: two money-grubbing factions fighting each other and threatening to wreak havoc on the consumer electronics industry. Apparently history really does repeat itself.

So here's the technical nitty gritty before we drop the graphs n' charts on ya. Both systems use the same kind of 405nm wavelength blue-violet laser, but their optics differ in two ways. Since the Blu-ray disc has a tighter track pitch (the single thread of data that spirals from the inside of the disc all the way out-think grooves on a 12-inch vinyl single vs. an Elvis Costello full-length album), it can hold more pits (those microscopic 0s and 1s) on the same size disc as HD DVD even with a laser of the same wavelength.

The differing track pitch of the Blu-ray disc makes its pickup apertures differ, however - 0.65 for HD DVD vs. 0.85 for Blu-ray - thus also making the two pickups technically incompatible despite using lasers of the same type. HD DVD discs also have a different surface layer (the clear plastic layer on the surface of the data - what you get fingerprints and scratches on) from Blu-ray discs. HD DVD use a 0.6 mm-thick surface layer, the same as DVD, while Blu-ray has a much smaller 0.1mm layer to help enable the laser to focus with that 0.85 aperture.

Herein lies the issues associated with the higher cost of Blu-ray discs. This thinner surface layer is what makes the discs cost more; because Blu-ray discs do not share the same surface layer thickness of DVDs, costly production facilities must be modified or replaced in order to produce the discs. A special hard coating must also be applied to Blu-ray discs, so their surface is sufficiently resilient enough to protect the data a mere 0.1mm beneath - this also drives the cost up. The added benefit of keeping the data layer closer to the surface, however, is more room for extra layers.

Still with us? No? Blu-ray discs are more expensive, but hold more data - there, that's all.

So now that you know why Blu-ray discs cost more and why Sony/Philips and Toshiba are all harshing on one another so much, we can get to the really important stuff: the numbers, and who's supporting who.



ROM single layer:
ROM dual layer:
RW single layer:
RW dual layer:
Highest test:
Theoretical limit:
23.3 / 25GB
46.6 / 50GB
23.3 / 25 / 27GB
46.6 / 50 / 54GB
Single layer:
Dual layer:
Highest test:
Theoretical limit:



Microsoft Video Codec 1 (aka VC1, WMV HD, etc.)
H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC
Microsoft Video Codec 1 (aka VC1, WMV HD, etc.)
H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC



Mandatory HDCP encrypted output
ROM-Mark watermarking technology
BD dynamic crypto (physical layer)
Advanced Access Content System (AACS)
Mandatory HDCP encrypted output (for HD)
Volume identifier (physical layer)
Advanced Access Content System (AACS)

Studios (movie and game) listed as supporting members


20th Century Fox
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Electronic Arts
MGM Studios
Paramount Pictures
Sony Pictures Entertainment
The Walt Disney Company
Vivendi Universal Games
Warner Bros.
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
New Line Cinema
Paramount Pictures
The Walt Disney Company
Universal Studios
Warner Bros.

Format founders

Blu-Ray HD DVD
Sony Corporation
Royal Philips Electronics
Toshiba Corporation
Hitachi Corporation

Companies listed as Members of the Board or Managing Members

Blu-Ray HD DVD
Apple Computer Corp.
Dell, Inc.
Hewlett Packard Company
Hitachi, Ltd.
LG Electronics Inc.
Mitsubishi Electric Corporation
Panasonic (Matsushita Electric)
Pioneer Corporation
Royal Philips Electronics
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
Sharp Corporation
Sony Corporation
TDK Corporation
Twentieth Century Fox
Walt Disney Pictures and Television Memory-Tech Corporation
NEC Corporation
Sanyo Electric Co.

Companies listed as Members, Associate Members, or Contributors
(may include duplicates and/or subsidiaries, major companies are bolded, major companies common to both camps are also italicized)

Blu-Ray HD DVD

3oh!5 Creative, Inc.
Adobe Systems
Almedio Inc.
Alpine Electronics Inc.
AMC Co. Ltd.
Anwell Technologies USA
Aplix Corporation
ArcSoft Inc.
Asahi Kasei Microsystems Co.
ashampoo GmbH & Co. KG
ATI Technologies Inc.
AudioDev AB
B.H.A. Corporation
Bandai Visual Co. Ltd.
BenQ Corporation
Broadcom Corporation
Canon Inc.
Ciba Specialty Chemicals Inc.
CMC Magnetics Corporation
Coding Technologies GmbH
Conexant Systems Inc.
Cryptography Research Inc.
CyberLink Corp.
D&M holdings, Inc.
Daewoo Electronics Corporation
Daikin Industries
DATARIUS Technologies GmbH
Deluxe Media Services Inc.
Digital Theater Systems Inc.
Dolby Laboratories Inc.
Eclipse Data Technologies
Electronic Arts Inc.
Elpida Memory, Inc.
ESS Technology Inc.
Expert Magnetics Corp.
Fuji Photo Film Co.
Funai Electric Co.
Horizon Semiconductor
Imation Corp.
Infomedia Inc.
Intersil Corporation
InterVideo Inc.
Kadokawa Holdings Inc.
Kaleidescape, Inc.
Kenwood Corporation
Konica Minolta Opto, Inc.
Laser Pacific Media Corp.
Lead Data Inc.
Linn Products Ltd.
LINTEC Corporation
LITE-ON IT Corporation
LSI Logic
M2 Engineering AB
Maxim Integrated Products
MediaTek Inc.
Memorex Products Inc.
Meridian Audio Ltd.
Mitsubishi Kagaku Media Co. / Verbatim
Mitsui Chemicals Inc.
Mitsumi Electric Co.
Moser Baer India Limited
MX Entertainment
Nan Ya Plastics Corporation
Newtech Infosystems Inc.
NEXAPM Systems Technology Inc.
Nightjar LLC
Nikkatsu Corporation
NTT Electronics Corporation
nVidia Corporation
Onkyo Corporation
Ono Sokki Co.
OPT Corporation
Optodisc Technology Corporation
Pixela Corporation
PoINT Software & Systems GmbH
Prodisc Technology Inc.
Pulstec Industrial Co.
Ricoh Co.
Ritek Corporation
Sanyo Electric Co.
SDI Media America
ShibaSoku Co. Ltd.
Shinano Kenshi Co. Ltd.
Sigma Designs Inc.
Singulus Technologies
Sonic Solutions
Sony BMG Music Entertainment
ST Microelectronics
Sun Microsystems, Inc.
Taiyo Yuden Co.,
Tao Group Limited
Targray Technology International Inc.
Teac Corporation
Teijin Chemicals Ltd.
Toei Video Company Ltd.
Toho Company
Toppan Printing Co.
TOPTICA Photonics AG
Ulead Systems Inc.
UmeDisc Ltd.
Unaxis Balzer AG
Universal (inc. Music , Vivendi Games, Pictures)
Victor Company of Japan (JVC)
Vidiom Systems Corporation
Visionare Corporation
Yamaha Corporation
Yokogawa Electric Corporation
ZOOtech Ltd.
Zoran Corporation Acer Inc.
Almedio Inc.
Alpine Electronics, Inc.
Altech Ads Co.
Arcsoft, Inc
B.H.A Corporation
Bandai Visual Co.
Canon Inc.
Cyberlink Corp.
D&M Holdings Inc.
Daikin Industries
Digion, Inc.
Digital Site Corporation
Digital Theater Systems
Disc Labo Corp.
Diskware Co.
Enteractive Gmbh
Entertainment Network Inc.
Expert Magnetics Corp.
Finepack . Co.,Ltd
Fuji Photo Film Co.
Fuji Seiki Co.
Funai Electric Co.
The High-Defition Marketing Company
Hitachi Corp.
Hitachi Maxell
Hoei Sangyo Co.
Imagica Corp.
Imation Corp.
Intervideo, Inc.
Jp Co., Ltd
Justsystem Corporation
Kadokawa Holdings, Inc.
Kaleidescape, Inc.
Kenwood Corporation
Kinyosha Printing Co.
Kitano Co.
Konica Minolta Opto, Inc.
M2 Engineering
Mcray Corporation
Memory-Tech Corporation
Mitomo Co., Ltd
Mitsubishi Kagaku Media Co. / Verbatim
Mitsui Chemicals, Inc.
Moser Baer India Ltd
Nec Corporation
Nec Electronics Corporation
Nec Fielding
Nichia Corporation
Nihonvtr Inc.
Nikkatsu Corporation
Omnibus Japan
Onken Corporation
Onkyo Corporation
Paramount Home Entertainment
Pico House Co.,Ltd
Pixela Corporation
Pony Canyon Inc.
Ponycanyon Enterprise Inc.
Prodisc Technology Inc.
Pryaid Records Inc.
Pulstec Industrial Co.
Ricoh Co.
Ritek Corporation
Sanken Media Product Co.
Sanyo Electric Co.
Shibaura Mechatronics Corporation
Sonic Solutions
Sumitomo Heavy Industries. Ltd
Super Vision, Inc.
Taiyo Yuden Co.
Teac Corporation
Teijin Chemicals Ltd.
Toei Video Co.
Toho Company, Limited.
Tokyo Laboratory Ltd.
Toppan Printing Co.
Toshiba Corporation
Toshiba Digital Frontiers Inc.
Toshiba Entertainment Inc.
Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology Corporation
Toshiba-Emi Limited
Toyo Recording Co.
Transmix Co.
Trendy Corporation
Tri-M, Inc.
Ulead Systems, Inc.
Unaxis Balzers Ltd.
Universal (inc. Music , Vivendi Games, Pictures)
U-Tech Media Corp.
Vap Inc.
Video Tech Co.,Ltd.
Visionare Corporation
Warner Home Video Inc.

Other interesting facts:

The Nichi Corporation, who holds the design patents to the Blu-ray’s laser system, sits as an associate member of the HD DVD Promotion Group.
Even though Apple sits on the Blu-ray Board of Directors, its DVD Studio Pro software supports authoring HD DVD media.
Blu-ray, unlike HD DVD, requires a hard coating on its discs because it’s 0.5m closer to the surface. The polymer coating it uses, called Durabis, was developed by TDK and is supposedly extremely resilient and fingerprint resistant.
The Java platform is mandatory on Blu-ray as it’s the standard for menus/multimedia (i.e. all Blu-ray systems must support JVM)
Though Microsoft has not officially sided with either format, it has a number of long-standing IP cross-licensing deals with Toshiba. HD DVD systems will run Windows CE; the standard is currently the only next-gen optical standard with announced support in Longhorn, and an HD DVD version of the Xbox 360 is rumored for the future.
The first consumer Blu-ray device in the US market is expected to be the PlayStation 3.

Version 1.01, last updated 10.20.2005

10 February, 2007

The Most Dangerous Book?


Le sujet de cette nouvelle est inspiré d'une histoire vraie, celle de Abdul Alazred surnommé 'l'arabe fou', auteur du livre maudit: LE NECRONOMICON. Ce livre contenait des formules et des descriptions de rites magiques pour faire appel à des démons d'une autre dimension. Ces incantations maléfiques étaient perpétuées souvent dans le but d'acquérir la vie éternelle et c'était en appliquant ses propres sortilèges qu'Abdul Alazred était devenu fou."]

{From a single early-2006 post, with no replies, on a French board-"Vladek"}. He seems to be discussing the 15th Century text by A. Alazred, which got him executed according to Jess Franco during the interview supplement on the 2006 BU disc of SUCCUBUS and upon which he based his film NECRONOMICON. It seems to be the same esoteric text which he borrowed from a rare book collection and worked into a treatment... See the David Gregory produced interview.

I'm not asking anyone to translate this until I can ascertain if it's indeed the same text and writer... But it sounds like it, although the author seems unaware of the 1967 film. I'm always intrigued by esoteric texts and grimoires.

Reading is always a potientially dangerous, subversive undertaking in the films of Jess Franco, witness the fate of Madame St. Ange in EUGENIE...HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION. Curiously, Phil Hardy's THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE HORROR FILM mentions the 15th Century "Abel Alazred" text as a possible basis for Franco's 1973 horror-cannibal-sex epic LA COMTESSE PERVERSE, a kind of version of "The Most Dangerous Game."

OR...is it all a fiction courtesy of H.P. Lovecraft, his precusors and colleagues which is being latched onto? There are certainly more than a few films and books with the title NECRONOMICON. I've been reading Frank Belnap Long's 1975 Lovecraft biography and intend on rereading HPL's oeuvre. My favorite film adaptation of HPL's work is Roger Corman's THE HAUNTED PALACE, from "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward." But that's another blog...

Medieval grimoires, demons, the Inquisition, writers of the arcane, Lovecraft, the Old Ones, it kind of sounds like the word association game in SUCCUBUS. Feedback and comments are always encouraged here, but beware of a potential curse...!

08 February, 2007

Happy Birthday, Miles Deem...

wherever you are. AKA Demofilo Fidani he was born in Caligari Sardinia this day in 1914. He passed away in 1994. From 1967 to 1973 he made 12 or 13 totally mad, grade B- Spaghetti Westerns. It's difficult to get an exact count on his SW output since several are composites.

Fidani remains the most prolific, along with Spain's Joaquin Romero Marchent, maker of Eurowesterns. After Leone, he's my favorite above Sergio Corbucci and many more qualified candidates simply because I love homemade spaghetti and involuntary Surrealism. He was an original who built a kind of anti-aesthetic based on spinning cliches into previously unknown dimensions. One has even made it to US DVD: HIS NAME WAS SAM WALLASH, BUT THEY CALLED HIM AMEN (1972) aka SAVAGE GUNS [Great American Westerns: vol. 12, PLANTINUM]. It looks pretty good for a quick slam onto a cheap DVD set and it's more complete than some versions I've seen on VHS. AND.... it also stars the leading actor in a number of 1973 Jess Franco titles, Robert Woods [PLAISIR A TROIS, LA COMTESSE PERVERSE, among others]. I've had some chats with the genial actor who remembers his days with Fidani and Franco as wild and fun times. More about that in a future blog.

Try to locate the old video prerecord of FISTFUL OF LEAD (1971), featuring Klaus Kinski as a horseshoe playing Padre, Gordon Mitchell as an hysterical villain and Jack Betts as Butch Cassidy, notice the climactic restaging of the moving forest from Shakespeare's MACBETH! It was all lensed by Aristide Massacessi before he became the prolific exploitation director known as Joe D'Amato.

My favorite of Fidani's many onscreen akas is "Slim Alone"...

Oh yes, he became a successful medium after retiring from film directing and even wrote a book on psychic phenomena.

I'll be blogging much more about the otherworldly Signor Fidani...

(c) Robert Monell, 2006

06 February, 2007

Franco Talks; Tim Lucas Translates...

Here are the first translations of the previous blog's Jess Franco interview courtesy of our valued contributors Tim Lucas, Francesco Cesari and Doug Waltz. And there may be more on the way... It's always interesting to get multiple perspectives.
Many thanks, guys!

[From Tim Lucas]
A rough translation but better than nothing:

When Quentin Tarantino visited our country to present Kill Bill, Vol. 2, he regretted not being able to enjoy the boundless liberties of a filmmaker such as Jesus Franco and confessed that it would please him to someday shoot "a movie full of naked girls" like the ones that run rampant through the huge filmography of this auteur of Grade Z sub-genre movies. "The only liberty it takes to do anything I have done is a set of balls," retorted Jesus Franco during a recent visit to Madrid - "a city that has always seemed to me 50% Detroit, and 50% lower Villaconejos" - to participate in one of the roundtables planned in the celebration of the scene.

The cinemateca of the Museum of Fine Arts of Bilbao has also yielded recent tribute to Jesus Franco, rescuing his second short film Pious Baroja (1958) and dedicate to him a retrospective that will be prolonged over the next sixteen days. "You invent your own liberties yourself, though half the country strikes back," continues Franco, "but I have not yet thrown in the towel. Right now I consider three movies to premiere that they are cojonudas. Understand me, with all the limitations that be wanted, but my work has evolved and become purer, more Bressonian". Snakewoman, La muñeca y una para todas, shot on digital video, are the latest releases of a career that is about to reach 200 titles.

With the impetus of an authentic movie-manifesto, his first feature film, We Are 18 years old, opened in 1959 a window of eccentricity in the Spanish movies of the epoch: the mixing of genres and the influence of the popular culture sat down the bases of a speech that would reduce ad absurdam a good number of alien mythologies and archetypes. "Always I have considered myself a jazz musician who makes movies rather than a filmmaker", affirms Franco. He was right-hand man of Orson Welles during the filming of Chimes at midnight (1965) and from Welles he learned to remove party to all kinds of limitations, he fascinated Pedro Portabella in the starts of the School of Barcelona -from there he made Vampir Cuadecuc (1979), trial filmed during the filming of The count Dracula (1969), of Franco- and now there is the attention of José Luis Garcia Sánchez who, after offering him a role in a future film project to adapt the grotesques of Valley-Inclán, will prepare a documentary about his star that already has collected 180 hours of material in the can. It impelled in finding a form for that documentary one that be so little educator as the Franco himself, Garcia Sánchez announces his intention of structuring the movie in the fragmentary and sensationalistic manner of the program Aqui hay tomate, in which the director detects the distant echoes of the unorthodox film-trap of F For Fake (1974). Franco and Garcia Sánchez are also collaborating on on a future edition of a complete and annotated filmography for the Fundacion Autor.

The film work of Jesus Franco has a good number of critics that are used to considering it as the quintessence of dandruff movies: poor, rough and redundant. The visual harshness of a good part of this work seems to give them good reason, but only in appearance. Set against them, an increasingly more abundant cultured one franquiano international studies in great detail its works, traveled through by a libertarian and iconoclastic spirit that seems to owe him so much al Marquis of Sade as al Manuel Vázquez of the cartoons of Bruguera. The seal of American DVD Blue Underground has just launched al market a care edition of the diptych comprising the movies Two Undercover Angels and Kiss Me Monster (1969). In Spain, Manga Films published recently in DVD some of its movies carried out between ends of the seventy and principles of the eighty: Opalo de fuego (1978), Sinfonia Erotica, El Sadico de Notre Dame, Las Chicas de Copacabana (all of 1979) and El Sexo esta Loco (1981).

Names such as those of Romina Power, Janine Reynaud, Ajita Wilson, Monica Swinn and, very especially, Soledad Miranda and Lina Romay (his two great muses) accredit their fame of sex-addicted: "My good eye for the actresses has been always instinctive. When in my movies there is a woman that is a vegetable, it's because the producers imposed her on me. I have always liked my actresses and to create an aura of mystery around them", confesses Franco. The actresses Fata Morgana and Carmen Mount are the last discoveries of a creator that will continue generating passions and hatreds, but rarely indifference."
Publish (Tim Lucas) 1:55 PM

[Francesco Cesari adds]
"Cinema is going to disappear in a moment, even if the show will continue. The cinema of the theaters, with lights down, opening curtains and the Metro Goldwyn Mayer logo, has its day numbered. What the cinema of today lacks are independent producers like Mark Hellinger, who made classics like Robert Siodmak's Forajidos (1946), Jules Dassin's BRUTE FORCE (1947) and THE NAKED CITY (1948), one per year. He was the author. As a producer he succeeded in printing his signature over all these works."

The recent Franco projects are moving far from the narrative model of genre cinema: "I think that it was Godard who was right, he who, in my opinion, is the key-factor of modern cinema. The classic storyline cannot be used any more."

[From Doug Waltz]

Okay, here's the translation courtesy of BabelFish:

"the cinema is going to disappear" When Quentin Tarantino visited our country to present/display Kill Bill, Vol. 2 was lamented of not being able to enjoy the freedom without limits of a film director as Frank Jesus and confessed that it would enchant to him to be able to someday roll "a full film of naked girls" like whom the enormous filmografía of this estajanovista of series Z and the cinema of subgenera are accumulated in. "the freedom to be able to do all that me I have taken it by cojones", talks back Frank Jesus during its recent visit to Madrid -"una city that always has seemed me 50 % Detroit, 50 % Villaconejos de Abajo" - to participate in one of the programmed round tables in the celebration of the moved one.
ESSENTIAL TITLES the news in others webs webs in Spanish in other Blogs languages that connect here the film library of the Museum of Beautiful Arts of Bilbao also has rendered recent tribute to Frank Jesus, when rescuing its film Guipuzcoan Stamps number 2: Pío Baroja (1958) and to dedicate a cycle to him that will extend until next day 16. "the freedom always you invent you you yourself, pegándote with average country", continues Franc, "and I have still not thrown the towel. Right now I have three films to release that they are cojonudas. Entiéndame, with all the limitations that are wanted, but my speech has evolved and it has become purer, bressoniano ". Rolled in digital video, Snakewoman, the wrist and One for all are the last deliveries of a race that is on the verge of reaching the 200 titles.
With the authentic impetus of a film-manifest one, its first largometraje, We are 18 years old, opened in 1959 a window of eccentricity in the Spanish cinema of the time: the crossing of sorts and the influence of the popular culture laid the the foundations of a speech that would reduce to absurd a good number of other people's mythologies and archetypes. "I have always considered a jazz musician that makes films before a film director", affirms Franc. (1965) were man of confidence of Orson Welles during the running of Campanadas to midnight and of him it learned to remove party to all type from limitations, fascinated to Pere Portabella in the beginnings of the School of Barcelona - it left Vampir Cuadecuc there (1979), test filmed during the running of count Drácula (1969), of Franc and now it has abduced the attention of Jose Luis Garci'a Sanchez who, after offering a paper to him in their future cinematographic project to adapt the Valle-Incla'n absurdities, prepares a documentary one on their figure of which already she has been to collections 180 hours of material. Pawned on finding a form for that documentary one that is so little academic as the own Franc, Garci'a Sanchez announces their intention to structure the film under the inspiration of the assembly sensationalist and fragmentary of the program there is tomato Here, in which the director detects the distant echoes of the heterodox film-trap of Orson Welles Fraud (1974). Franco and the Garci'as Sanchez also work in the future edition on the part of the Foundation Author of a complete and commented filmografía of first.
"the cinema is going to disappear from a little while to another one", foretells Franc, "although the spectacle is going to continue. The one of the room of cinema with the lights extinguished, the curtain that is opened and logotipo of the Goldwyn Meter Mayer is counted. What him lack to the today cinema is producing independent of the caliber of Mark Hellinger, that made classic like Forajidos (1946), of Robert Siodmak; Brute Force (1947) and the city undresses (1948), of Jules Dassin in three years consecutive. The author was he. As producing he was able to print his seal to all those works ". Yet, the recent projects of Franc have been separated from the narrative model of the sort cinema: "I am convinced that who took the reason it was Godard, that, for me, it is the señero element of the modern cinema. The classic story cannot be stretched more ". The cinematographic work of Frank Jesus has a good number of detractors that usually consider it like the quintessence of the casposo cinema: poor man, coarse and reiterativo. The visual harshness of good part of its works seems to give the reason them, but only in appearance. In front of them, more and more nourished cultured international franquiano it meticulously studies his works, crossed by a libertario spirit and iconoclasta that seems to as much have to Marquess de Sade like a the Manuel to him Vázquez of the tebeos of Bruguera. The North American seal of DVD Blue Underground finishes sending to the market a well-taken care of edition of the díptico integrated by the films the case of the two beauties and Bésame, monster (1969). In Spain, Sleeve Films recently published in DVD some of its films made between end of the seventy and principles of the eighty: Opal of fire (1978), erótica Symphony, the sadist of Notre-Dame, the girls of Copacabana (all of 1979) and sex is crazy (1981). Names like those of Romina Power, Janine Reynaud, Ajita Wilson, Monica Swinn and, very specially, Solitude Miranda and Lina Romay (its two great musas) credit their fame of erotómano: "My good eye for the actresses has been always instinctive. When in my films there is a woman who is a plant, has been because me the producers have imposed it. I have always liked to portray them and to create I pull ahead of mystery around them ", confesses Franc. The actresses Fata Morgana and Carmen Montes are the last discoveries of a creator who will continue generating passions and hatreds, but rare time indiferencia."Siempre I have considered a jazz musician that does películas""Mi good eye for the actresses has been always something instinctive..."

05 February, 2007

New Franco Films/Interview....

Here's a look [in Spanish only, unfortunately] at a new interview with Jess Franco where he discusses his most recent projects, including a new digital film, THE DOLL. He also talks about some of his cinema influences including classic noir and Godard. There is an ongoing retrospective of his films underway in Bilbao. Also, a new complete Jess Franco filmography with the director's commentary and a documentary on his career is being made by Jose Sanchez. There has been some discussion of a theatrical release and it's almost certain to eventually show up on DVD.

A lot of news on the Franco front. I wish I could provide a translation of the text below. If anyone reading this can translate even a few key sentences for our readers it would be very much appreciated. Looks interesting...

"El cine va a desaparecer"
JORDI COSTA - Madrid - 02/02/2007

Vota Resultado 3 votos
Cuando Quentin Tarantino visitó nuestro país para presentar Kill Bill, Vol. 2 se lamentó de no poder gozar de la libertad sin límites de un cineasta como Jesús Franco y confesó que le encantaría poder rodar algún día "una película llena de chicas desnudas" como las que se acumulan en la ingente filmografía de este estajanovista de la serie Z y el cine de subgéneros. "La libertad para poder hacer todo eso me la he tomado por cojones", replica Jesús Franco durante su reciente visita a Madrid -"una ciudad que siempre me ha parecido 50 % Detroit, 50 % Villaconejos de Abajo"- para participar en una de las mesas redondas programadas en la celebración de la movida.

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La cinemateca del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao también ha rendido reciente tributo a Jesús Franco, al rescatar su película Estampas guipuzcoanas número 2: Pío Baroja (1958) y dedicarle un ciclo que se prolongará hasta el próximo día 16. "La libertad siempre te la inventas tú mismo, pegándote con medio país", prosigue Franco, "y yo todavía no he tirado la toalla. Ahora mismo tengo tres películas por estrenar que son cojonudas. Entiéndame, con todas las limitaciones que se quiera, pero mi discurso ha evolucionado y se ha hecho más puro, más bressoniano". Rodadas en vídeo digital, Snakewoman, La muñeca y Una para todas son las últimas entregas de una carrera que está a punto de alcanzar los 200 títulos.

Con el ímpetu de una auténtica película-manifiesto, su primer largometraje, Tenemos 18 años, abrió en 1959 una ventana de excentricidad en el cine español de la época: el cruce de géneros y la influencia de la cultura popular sentaron las bases de un discurso que reduciría al absurdo un buen número de mitologías ajenas y arquetipos. "Siempre me he considerado un músico de jazz que hace películas antes que un cineasta", afirma Franco. Fue hombre de confianza de Orson Welles durante el rodaje de Campanadas a medianoche (1965) y de él aprendió a sacar partido a todo tipo de limitaciones, fascinó a Pere Portabella en los inicios de la Escuela de Barcelona -de ahí salió Vampir Cuadecuc (1979), ensayo filmado durante el rodaje de El conde Drácula (1969), de Franco- y ahora ha abducido la atención de José Luis García Sánchez que, tras ofrecerle un papel en su futuro proyecto cinematográfico de adaptar los esperpentos de Valle-Inclán, prepara un documental sobre su figura del que ya lleva recogidas 180 horas de material. Empeñado en encontrar una forma para ese documental que sea tan poco académica como el propio Franco, García Sánchez anuncia su intención de estructurar la película bajo la inspiración del montaje sensacionalista y fragmentario del programa Aquí hay tomate, en el que el director detecta los lejanos ecos del heterodoxo filme-trampa de Orson Welles Fraude (1974). Franco y García Sánchez también trabajan en la futura edición por parte de la Fundación Autor de una filmografía completa y comentada del primero.

"El cine va a desaparecer de un momento a otro", pronostica Franco, "aunque el espectáculo va a continuar. Lo de la sala de cine con las luces apagadas, la cortina que se abre y el logotipo de la Metro Goldwyn Mayer tiene los días contados. Lo que le falta al cine de hoy son productores independientes del calibre de Mark Hellinger, que hizo clásicos como Forajidos (1946), de Robert Siodmak; Brute Force (1947) y La ciudad desnuda (1948), de Jules Dassin en tres años consecutivos. El autor era él. Como productor consiguió imprimir su sello a todos esos trabajos". Con todo, los recientes proyectos de Franco se han ido apartando del modelo narrativo del cine de género: "Estoy convencido de que quien llevaba la razón era Godard, que, para mí, es el elemento señero del cine moderno. El relato clásico no se puede estirar más".

La obra cinematográfica de Jesús Franco tiene un buen número de detractores que suelen considerarla como la quintaesencia del cine casposo: pobre, tosco y reiterativo. La aspereza visual de buena parte de sus trabajos parece darles la razón, pero sólo en apariencia. Frente a ellos, un cada vez más nutrido culto franquiano internacional estudia minuciosamente sus trabajos, recorridos por un espíritu libertario e iconoclasta que parece deberle tanto al Marqués de Sade como al Manuel Vázquez de los tebeos de Bruguera. El sello de DVD norteamericano Blue Underground acaba de lanzar al mercado una cuidada edición del díptico integrado por las películas El caso de las dos bellezas y Bésame, monstruo (1969). En España, Manga Films editó recientemente en DVD algunas de sus películas realizadas entre finales de los setenta y principios de los ochenta: Ópalo de fuego (1978), Sinfonía erótica, El sádico de Notre-Dame, Las chicas de Copacabana (todas de 1979) y El sexo está loco (1981).

Nombres como los de Romina Power, Janine Reynaud, Ajita Wilson, Monica Swinn y, muy especialmente, Soledad Miranda y Lina Romay (sus dos grandes musas) acreditan su fama de erotómano: "Mi buen ojo para las actrices ha sido siempre instintivo. Cuando en mis películas hay una mujer que es una planta, ha sido porque me la han impuesto los productores. Siempre me ha gustado retratarlas y crear un halo de misterio alrededor de ellas", confiesa Franco. Las actrices Fata Morgana y Carmen Montes son los últimos descubrimientos de un creador que seguirá generando pasiones y odios, pero rara vez indiferencia."Siempre me he considerado un músico de jazz que hace películas""Mi buen ojo para las actrices ha sido siempre algo instintivo"

Thanks to Francesco Cesari who originally posted this in THE FRANCO LOUNGE on The Latarnia Forums.

03 February, 2007

The Fu Manchu Cycle: SLAVES OF CRIME

Producer: Herminio Garcia Calvo / Madrid.
Director: James Lee Johnson [Jess (Jesús) Franco].
Cast: Lina Romay [Fu Manchu's daughter}, Jose Llamas, Marco Moriarty, Mel Rodrigo, Maite Saury, Yolanda Morbita, Eric Raymond, Maria Gunhill.
Screenplay: David Khunne [Jess Franco].
Photography: Juan Soler.
Music: Daniel J. White.
90 min, color.

Leaving aside THE FIENDISH PLOT OF FU MANCHU with Peter Sellers, Jess Franco directed the last "serious" Fu Manchu film, the Harry Alan Towers Production THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU (1968). CASTLE... was already a cut-rate production, marking an endpoint to the long Fu Manchu cinema-cycle.

The 1986 Fervi production ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN is a deliriously filmed erotic adventure that updates Sax Rohmer's characters (Rohmer receives screen credit, as "S. Rohmer")into a kind of post-modern programmer with a B minus budget.

Lina Romay appears as the daughter of Fu Manchu, made up with exotic eye mascara (to appear Oriental) and an outlandish hair style. A title card explains it takes place "in an exotic corner of the distant east, [a] paradise of the drug and the corruption."

Members of the ROCKY WALTERS rock and roll band are kidnapped by her seductive agents and transported to a hotel in the jungle, which doubles as an armed camp. There they are drugged, tortured, and forced to sign over bank accounts and other financial holdings.

This criminal enterprise is investigated by a karate fighting investigator and an Interpol agent. The movie climaxes with an air strike carried out by Jump-Jets delivering a napalm payload into the encampment represented by an outrageously obvious use of stock footage.

An amusing if sometimes slow-paced trifle is most interesting for the eye-popping colored lens flare effects, which fill many scenes with intense halations and bright hues which sometimes obscure the action. These shots would probably be rejected as mistakes or unprintable by many DPs and directors. Franco has said that he especially favors these startling light effects over conventially illunimated compostions.

The female bunch are a scantily clad and buxom army of Amazons who recall Shirley Eaton and her followers in FUTURE WOMEN (1968). There's much more nudity here though, demonstrating the relaxed Spanish censorship of the mid 1980s. This is a more personal and eccentric effort than that 1968 Harry Alan Towers production.

A somewhat miscast Lina Romay gets to repeat the old Fu Manchu standard at the end: "The world will hear from me again!" It didn't...*

Since graphics for SLAVES OF CRIME are difficult to come by I decided to illustrate this blog with a related favorite Jano poster.

*cf the somewhat related DR. WONG'S VIRTUAL HELL

(c) Robert Monell, 2006 [updated version]

02 February, 2007

Jess Franco's Favorite Jess Franco Films...

The expression on Jess' face in the above pic perfectly sums up the kind of week I've had. Or maybe he's just lost in thought....

In any case, we must move forward. I thought I would share with you which of his many films Jess Franco himself is most pleased with, most attached to, or is most proud of. I had a number of very long, detailed conversations with our favorite filmmaker as he was preparing SNAKEWOMAN. Jess was very busy but found the time to discuss many aspects of his career with me. He is a compulsive and delightful conversationalist, enthusiastic about discussing his favorite subject: cinema. Of course, if anyone here managed to talk with him today he might give completely different titles, but I think these films really still stand out in his mind.

I found that Jess is as modest and self critical as he is prolific. You have to press him to evaluate his own films, he would rather talk about his favorite director, whom he immediately identifies as Orson Welles when asked. If he is not actively directing a film then talking about films is his second favorite activity. When I asked what is his favorite of his films he hesitated a second or two....

"VENUS IN FURS, it's a film I really wanted to do. It's based on story Chet Baker told me in a nightclub."

"DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN" he said next and without hesitation as if it occupied the #1 position alongside VIF but the "Jazz cinema" element brought the former to his lips first. He mentioned he filmed it as a deliberate "cartoon" style and how he meant it as a hommage to the 1930s and 40s Universal Horror Films [HOUSE OF DRACULA, of course, was the template]. He also spoke at length about how he used the 2.35:1 scope format to have a stylized look and create multiple staging areas within one frame.

"LORNA [THE EXORCIST] is one of my best films, I think. I also prefer
THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN [aka EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN], the erotic [unclothed] version." He talked a bit how he had to film the Spanish version due to the censorship restrictions in early 1970's Spain.

"BAHIA BLANCA is also one I think works well." I was pleasantly surprised he bothered to mention this one. It's a personal favorite of my own. Outside of Jess, the only other person I know who admires it is my friend Francesco Cesari... I wish I had the presence of mind to ask about the possible influence of Nicholas Ray's JOHNNY GUITAR on this underrated, rarely seen and even more rarely discussed blend of Douglas Sirk style melodrama, neo western and rural crime film.

All these choices seem to have in common an agressive use of experimental scoring [Fusion Jazz, minimalism, progressive, folk music), uninhibited mixing of genres -crime, musical, horror, drama, erotic., along with the onscreen presence of JF himself, except for DCF, but he could have easily played the necrophile Morpho instead of Spaghetti Western giant Luis Barboo. I believe he remembers them well because they are films he really wanted to make and he made them his own way, which is why we are here.

When I then mentioned how I admired some of his more obscure 1980s Golden Films Internacional films, he seemed surprised and asked me what I specifically liked about them. I was somewhat surprised he didn't mention any of his films featuring Soledad Miranda, but perhaps, given her tragic early death, it's still a painful subject for him. I have also read other interviews where he mentions GEMIDOS DE PLACER, EL MIRON Y LA EXCIBICIONISTA and LOS BLUES DE LA CALLE POP as projects with which he is especially pleased. Of all the above mentioned films the only one which has a definitive DVD release is VENUS IN FURS. The IMAGE presentations of CURSE.. and DPOF are both lacking in key elements, while LORNA is in desperate need of ANY kind of DVD presentation, but that's a subject for another blog...

Thanks to Kit Gavin and Jess Franco for his generousity.

(c) Robert Monell, 2006