03 April, 2007

The Jess Franco DVD Boom Continues!

www.zonadvd.com has announced plans for the release of five Jess Franco films on June 27 in Spain from Filmax Home Video. At this point I don't have any further information on the specs, bonus materials or if English subtitles will be available.

Here are the films with some comments:
BESAME MONSTRUO (1967): One of the two "Red Lips" films coproduced by Adrain Hoven's Aquila Company in the same year as NECRONOMICON/SUCCUBUS. In this entry the labios rojos, Janine Reynaud and Rossana Yanni, are up against a plot to create an army of synthetic humans. Amusing and colorful, this should be the Spanish language "covered" version, which is quite different, in terms of footage, montage and musical score, from the more familiar English language variant, KISS ME MONSTER. I personally prefer the Spanish version.

Juego Sucio en Casablanca (1984): Produced by Franco's own Manacoa Films, this Santiago Moncada scripted crime thriller may owe its premise to the 1944 William Castle film noir, THE WHISTLER. An alcoholic writer (William Berger) arranges for his own execution but attempts to stop the hit at the last minute. A highly atmospheric neo-noir set in the mythical North African city. It was actually shot in southern Spain with some stock footage added. The tropical setting is well defined. William Berger gives what is perhaps his finest performance as the man who can't quite choose if he wants to live or die. The excellent supporting cast includes Ricardo Palacios, Luis Barboo, Antonio Mayans and the film's cinematographer Juan Soler Cozar, all playing heavies! It also features a terrific music score which perfectly compliments the locale. Moncada's script was also the basis for the 1974 film ACE OF HEARTS, featuring Mickey Rooney. Highly recommended.

La Bahía Esmeralda (1989): This is an example of Jess Franco attempting to do an almost mainstream film. Coproduced by Eurocine, it had a much higher budget than usual for Franco and features well known US actors George Kennedy and Robert Forster (JACKIE BROWN), along with such frequent US Europlayers as Brett Halsey and Craig Hill. This somewhat confused story of American intervention in a Central American dictatorship had many parallels with the situation in Panama which was playing out at the time of the film's production. The film is stolen by the hot-blooded charms of Sylvia Tortosa Davis. This kind of feels like a rejected 1980s US TV miniseries translated into an international coproduction deal. But it's still of some interest for Franco completists.

Viaje a Bangkok, Ataúd Incluido(1985): Another production from Franco's own Manacoa Films. I haven't seen this one yet. It's supposedly based on the Edgar Wallace "Sanders" character. Howard Vernon is featured.

¿Cuánto Cobra un Espía? (1984): Yet another Manacoa Films item. This is a very minor but somewhat successful screwball comedy set in Spain's coastal resort area. A goofy but good natured composer (Juan Cozar, the film's DP) gets involved with a group of spies who want his most recent composition, which they actually think is a secret formula. Antonio Mayans has an amusing bit but the extremely laid back style of direction (for Franco) deosn't quite capture one's full attention for the runtime. It's kind of like a live action cartoon at times or one of those harmless Walt Disney or Jimmy Stewart comedies of the early 1960s. A true oddity.

Thanks to Francesco Cesari for reporting this on the Franco Lounge at www.latarnia.com.

(c) Robert Monell, 2007


Anonymous said...

The Spanish version of KISS ME MONSTER is the only one that looks interesting to me. Hopefully they or some other company will do another batch with some more of his more interesting titles.

Robert Monell said...

...CASABLANCA is also top notch Franco. But that and MONSTER have a lot of dialogue and plot so unless you are a Spanish speaker you would need Eng subs for these. I have them both in Sp only and would like sub versions for myself.