30 January, 2008

EUGENIE DE SADE: DVD


Contact Interpol immediately if you have seen this couple!


Please look over to our sidebar slideshow which contains a couple of examples of the crystal clear video quality of the EUGENIE DE SADE DVD from Blue Underground, which was taken from a pristine 1984 element. Onscreen title: EUGENIA.

Jess Franco's heartfelt 1970 modern day adaptation of Sade's 1788 "Moral Tale" EUGENIE DE FRANVAL, is actually an immoral tale which Sade himself wrote was about "the dangers of libertinage" a sort of cautionary tale. "To instruct man and correct his morals: such is the sole goal we set for ourselves in this story" is the opening sentence and it is a harrowing tale of transgression, murder and fate.

Under the opening credits Eugenie Radeck (Soledad Miranda) and her stepfather Albert (Paul Muller), a writer of essays on eroticism, are seen seducing and murdering a woman in the bedroom of their Berlin villa. It is actually film footage, recorded by the criminal couple, being watched by the writer-investigator Attila Tanner (Jess Franco), in his projection room. The remainder of the film is a long flasback which incorporates another Sade text DIALOGUE BETWEEN A PRIEST AND A DYING MAN (in this case a dying woman). This 1782 text was adapted into a sequence in Luis Bunuel's 1972 THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOUSIE.

Paul Muller informed me that the January 1970 shoot was in chaos over the lack of funds and the fact that the director was also filming at least one other project simultaneously, not to mention that there was no completed script, only last minute pages handed to the cast after Franco had scribbled them on set. Yet the finished film is a model of coherence in terms of thematic and character development and the episodic structure actually works in its favor. Made after Franco's artistically compromised EL CONDE DRACULA, EUGENIE DE SADE both confirms the erotic dynamism Soledad Miranda evidenced in that misguided production and once again illustrates that the director's best work is usually done in low budget set ups where he works like a jazz improvisationist rather than a symphony conductor. Perhaps Muller's professional anxiety over all this worked its way into his performance, which is a sharp edged portrait of a human monster, perhaps his finest in a very long career. There's an electric tension in his intellectual duels with Franco's Attila Tanner.

This is down-market Franco, the Real Thing. Some of the Bruno Nicolai cues are recycled from Franco's 1969 EUGENIE...HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION, but they work just as well in this context. Curiously, the photography credit, to "Man Merin" (Manuel Merino) and a "J.F. Manner" (Jesus Franco Manera?) listed as Special Consultant, are names which don't appear on the two previous DVD prints or any of the numerous video prints that have been around for years.

At nearly 91 minutes this is at least 5 minutes longer than the previous US DVD. The color scheme is more apparent than previous prints have indicated, especially the use of red and black costumes in various scenes. Of course, many consider this to be Soledad Miranda's best performance and signature role. I was struck this time by Jess Franco's Attila Tanner, a disturbing inquisitor, ambiguous at his core. In some ways, he could be considered the main character, and it's through his eyes we witness the story as it's related to him. In a sense the film visualizes an almost Hithcockian transference of guilt scenario and the weight of the truth seems to bear heavily on Tanner in the last shot, and the fact that Franco's friend, discovery and leading actress for six films would be dead in eight months time adds an even more macabre twist. Soledad Miranda is listed as Susan Korday on this print, not Susan Korda.



The murder of a model (Alice Arno) in Brussels baffles the police.


The new Blue Underground EUGENIE DE SADE DVD presentation contains the longest, cleanest, highest definition transfer yet of this key 1970 Sade adaptation and is presented widescreen 1.66:1/16:9 for the first time on a US R0 disc. It also is presented with an English track (which is painfully misbegotten in terms of voice casting and dialogue)and a superior French language option. The previous US DVD did not have a French language option and that makes a huge difference. It's certainly an improvement on every level over every previous DVD presentation. The fact that all the grain has been washed out and that all the previous scratches, speckling, splices, which always made it seem like a grindhouse artifact, are gone, may allow one to forget that it was originally targeted at and played in international grindhouse venues.

SUPPLEMENTS:
A 20 minute interview with Jess Franco covering his lifelong fascination with Sade and relationship with Miranda and a very lurid, English language trailer ("Based on the Marquis de Sade; freely adapted to our times...submission to the point of murder!")which has some alternate footage. I'm not sure if this trailer was made in the 70's or 80's but it's a terrific extra.

(C) Robert Monell, 2008




28 January, 2008

THE TURKISH CONNECTION


The Godfather of Turkish Exploitation Cinema



We recommend this very entertaining site dedicated to the Golden Age of Turkish Exploitation Cinema. Of course, several of Jess Franco's most interesting films were partially shot in Istanbul: RESEDENCIA PARA ESPIAS (1966); THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU (1970); VAMPYROS LESBOS (1970) and VENUS IN FURS (1969). We'll be discussing those and the many Turkish-Spanish-Italian genre co productions of those great years in the future. SINEMATIC has daily blogs by Cetin Inanc and others on those classics and the updated activities of Cuneyt Arkin and the major players of that era.


By the way, I just screened 3 SUPERMEN AGAINST THE GODFATHER, one of the 20 features on the GRINDHOUSE EXPERIENCE, Vol. 2. It's a Turkish-Spanish-Italian coproduction from 1979 with the legendary Cuneyt Arkin leading the red caped 3 Fantastic Supermen veterans Sal Borghese and Nick Jordan (Aldo Canti) into a wild science fiction scenario involving time travel and a vicious Mr. Godfather (Aldo Sambrell). Great fun! It's the old Greek prerecord slammed onto DVD! I noticed that it's co produced by Asbrell Films (A.S. Brell is Aldo Sambrell's rn). It's the Italian print, with Italian credits, dubbed into English. It's on DVD in Italian language only but I'm not aware of any other English language discs. It's a classic of Le Bad Cinema, for sure. Directed by the original Italian producer of 3 FANTASTIC SUPERMEN, Italo Martinenghi, with a Nico Fidenco score which is even more outre than usual for him!

We'll also be discussing such Turkish-Italian coproductions as REVENGE OF THE GODFATHER and THE DIAMOND CONNECTION.

In the meantime visit SINEMATIK via the new link on the sidebar.

There are also Italian and English language options in the works.

Thanks to Cetin Inanc.

27 January, 2008

THE MAN WHO LIES (1968)


Alain Robbe-Grillet filming GRADIVA in 2006.

"...Robbe-Grillet's own list of allusions for his film extends from "Don Giovanni" to Pushkin to Pirandello. Indeed, so long as you can read "The Man Who Lies" in terms of something else, it engages the attention in a speculative way. But it is finally so repetitively dull in its detail, and so closely committed to a dramatic view in which there is no reality but only accounts of reality, that it becomes no more than the terms of its own rhetoric." Roger Greenspun, April 1970, THE NEW YORK TIMES


"Part spy novel, part textual game, Repetition is not for those who dislike feeling disoriented. (...) What slowly emerges from the fog is a Sophoclean oedipal revenge drama, complete with incest, blindness (Walther's war wound), parricide and fratricide. Mirrors, doubles, double agents, repetitions, trompe l'oeil war paintings, dream sequences, sexual torture, a criminal mafia of postwar Nazis and murky memories add to the disquieting, disorienting literary puzzle." - Heller McAlpin, San Francisco Chronicle

The above excepts of reviews for Alain Robbe-Grillet's novel LA REPRISE and his film L"HOMME QUI MENT (1968) are quoted for comparison purposes only.

Structured, according to the critic Roy Armes,* with the precise mathematical symettry as his other 1960's b&w features, L'HOMME QUI MENT (1968) is Robbe-Grillet's most difficult and difficult to see film. Despite the rush of negative reviews his most recent film GRADIVA (2006) faced when released in France in early 2007, the important thing is that at 85 years Alain Robbe Grillet is still an active filmmaker and still mad as hell at the film making establishment which has always rejected his work as director, but not as a screenwriter, novelist and literary theorist.

The 1960s was a decade in which war movies from THE LONGEST DAY to THE DIRTY DOZEN to ANZIO to WHERE EAGLES DARE ruled at the box office. I saw all of them at the movie theater and enjoyed each one. L'HOMME QUI MENT (THE MAN WHO LIES) is kind of an anti-war movie war movie, but NOT an anti-war movie. Cyclical rather than linear, reflective rather than dynamic, static rather than active, it breaks all the rules of what an audience would reasonably want from this genre. That's not to say that it's great or that you are going to enjoy it. In fact STOP READING THIS BLOG if you want a clear analysis, recommendation or even a basic description of this film. I can't give you that. What I can do is report some random thoughts and observations on a film which totally undermines conventional procedures of character development, plotting and genre representation.

The fact that L'HOMME QUI MENT was filmed in Czechoslovakia about the same time that the Soviet Union ordered tanks and troops into the streets to crush a local uprising was coincidental, but not without ironic import. It opens with heavily armed Nazi troops pursuing resistance leader Boris Varissa (Jean-Louis Trintignant) through a heavily wooded area. Hand grenades and machine gun fire explode and crackle behind the fugitive as the hand held camera follows him deeper into the forest. As the credit sequence ends Boris is cut down by a burst of machine gun fire and falls dead as Alain Robbe-Grillet's writer-director credit appears.

But... Boris is not dead. He rises and enters the small village where the return of his colleague Jean Robin, a legendary Resistance hero, is the main topic of conversation at the local pub. Nearby is the Castle where Robin's wife and sister also await his return. But he can't return because... . Let's just say that many accounts of the fate of Jean Robin will be offered throughout the rest of the film, all of them equally unreliable and potentially fascinating. This takes us one step farther than Kurosawa's RASHOMON, it's not that there are conflicting depictions of events but that the possibility of any external reality whatsoever is brought into question. There is only, in the end, what the characters say, which is sometimes contradicted by what is staged for the camera. Boris may be a coward, a traitor, a liar, but he is relentlessly pursued by Jean Robin, the "hero", and in the final shots, the camera, which is once again filming the pursuit through the forest, becomes a predatory presence, it may be Jean Robin, or it may be the representation of our own expectations.


World War II is over, it has receded into history, into myth. There is only the haunted perceptions of its participants, traitors and heroes, but as in OEDIPUS REX, the detective is also the criminal. Igor Luther's camera sprints past the naked trees toward the terrified Boris, the musique concrete is disturbing, offering no marches or lyrical interlude. Only the ongoing myth, a cycle repeated in each subsequent era in each various culture, remains.

As in other Robbe-Grillet films shattering glass is used as an audio-video segue within and between scenes and you may feel like smashing something after getting up from watching around 90 minutes of endless equivocation. We've all met liars and we all have lied. We go to the movies, at least I used to (I no longer enjoy the contemporary multiplex experience), to get out of ourselves. But L'HOMME QUI MENT replaces that potential window into another world with a sharply focused mirror.

This is a film which constantly speculates on the nature of cinema representation. The Nazi's who occupy the village are always seen as sleeping on guard duty or just missing the boat. The are incompetent fools. Character is reduced to cliche. Boris is a trickster who enjoys boasting how he drove the hay wagon past the checkpoint. We see that staged for the camera, but wonder if it really happened, only to immediately remember that we are only watching a movie and nothing REALLY happened. All events are presented as qualified by the teller's level of reliability, which is zero. This will drive the literal minded viewer absolutely around the bend. It critiques the seemingly universal expectation that a feature film must be a streamlined construct without visible plot holes, have characters and dialogue familiar from other movies, popular novels or our everyday life and that a character must have psychologically sound motivations and is classifiable as "good" or "evil" or somewhere in between.

Movies always have a point of view, the director's, the producer's, the actor's, the product placement rep's, the DP's, the editor's, the composer's, the exhibitor's, the projectionist's. And we bring ourselves to movies. It is that Self which is ruthlessly interrogated by the films of Alain Robbe-Grillet.



26 January, 2008

DEADLY JAWS (1974)


DR. HARALD REINL (1908-1986)


Toter Taucher nimmt kein Gold, Ein (1974)
... aka Deadly Jaws (USA)
... aka No Gold for a Dead Diver (UK)

Retitled and repackaged as a JAWS rip off in the mid 1970's, this obscure German action adventure title is now available apparently slammed onto DVD by FORTUNE 5 DVD with 19 others films as GRINDHOUSE EXPERIENCE VOLUME 2. "All new world exclusive films now showing" the box reads. This "20 FILM FEATURE COLLECTION" is packed with mostly 60s, 70s and 80s Italian items like Enzo G. Castellari's SHARK HUNTER, with Franco Nero (the old Dutch video looking really bad here and difficult to track), Ruggero Deodato;s ATLANTIS INTERCEPTORS, the 60s Eurospy 077: MISSION BLOODY MARY, Stelvio Massi's BLAZING MAGNUM, CATHAGE IN FLAMES, an early 60s peplum, and 3 SUPERMEN AGAINST THE GODFATHER, among others. Most of the prints look transferred from old videos with no attempt made at any kind of video or sound remastering. You can't go wrong, right? Wrong!

EIN TOER TAUCHER NIMMT EEIN GOLD was directed by the Austrian born veteran Dr. Harald Reinl (THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM; THE RETURN OF DR. MABUSE) and Jurgen Roland who, like Reinl, made "Krimis" in the 1960's (THE CRIMSON CIRCLE). Roland is uncredited and may have been called in to replace the busy, or disgusted, director of name.

The version seen on this collection comes complete with Japanese subtitles and highly variable picture quality, obviously from a video release.

Not that the film itself is any kind of lost classic. It's the kind of throwaway adventure that makes one wonder why anyone wasted time and money producing it in the first place.

An unscrupulous ship's captain (Marius Weyers) and his sexy girlfriend (Sandra Prinsloo) trap a professional diver (Hans Haas Jr) into helping them recover a fortune in sunken 15Th Century Spanish gold guarded by skeletons, a squid "monster" and hammerhead sharks. The squid monster looks like something out of Jerry Warren's THE INCREDIBLE PETRIFIED WORLD (1957), and sharks are added via stock footage. The villain is supposed to have a sound setup which projects his voice to fellow divers and to the surface, but it sounds like a post-dubbed attempt to make the extensive footage of divers looking around the ocean floor less boring. Local gangsters attack in boats and planes when they find out about the loot, but the day is saved when the Mexican Coast Guard shows up at the last minute to rescue our hero.

It's all pretty dumb and predictable. The main device Reinl and co. use to film events is the zoom lens. At one point, the camera crew can be seen reflected in a window. By this time in his long career Reinl seems to have been operating on autopilot. On the upside, Marius Weyers is quite effective as the bipolar villain and Sandra Prinsloo is quite hot as his tricky assistant. If these two actors look familiar you may have seen them playing very different roles as the bumbling couple in the 1980 international hit comedy THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY.

Jess Franco fans might notice that the credited cinematographer and set designer are, respectively, Franz X. Lederle and Peter H. Krause, who were also listed as performing those functions on NECRONOMICON/SUCCUBUS (1967). We now know that their names appeared on the Franco film for quota purposes. Their actual work here is undistinguished. Jess Franco soundtrack collectors will also hear uncredited cues from a number of his 60's and 70's titles, including Bruno Nicolai compositions from NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT (1970).

Born 9 July 1908, Bad Ischl, Salzburg, Austria-Hungary, Dr. Harald Reinl went from mountain films in the 1940s and 50s, to take over the DR. MABUSE series for Artur Brauner's CCC after Fritz Lang refused to become involved in Brauner's proposed follow ups to his THE 1000 EYES OF DR MABUSE (1960). He also made several of the picturesque "Winnetou" westerns, THE TREASURE OF THE SILVER LAKE and THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, among others. His fanciful 1967 horror film DAS SCHLANGENGRUBE UND DAS PENDEL featured his first wife Karin Dor (TOPAZ) and Lex Barker from THE INVISIBLE DR. MABUSE (1961), a more sober Reinl production. He contributed to the popular (in Germany) Jerry Cotton series and would helm the highly successful "documentary" CHARIOT OF THE GODS (1970) and WILLIAM SHATNER'S MYSTERIES OF THE GODS (1977), coercive attempts to promote belief in UFOs in order to sell tickets. Reinl's fifty year career came to an end on 9 October 1986 in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Spain when he was stabbed to death by his second wife.




25 January, 2008

EUROCINE QUIZ



In what Eurocine concoction does this image appear? There's a hint in there somewhere...

There may be more than one answer...

Extra points if you can name the very well-known actor climbing the stairs.




21 January, 2008

THE EUROSPY FILES


Enzo G. Castellari at work on the 1967 Eurowestern VADO, L'AMMAZZO E TORNO


A GHENTAR SI MUORE FACILE (1967)

There is no English language release of this film on any home video format as far as I know. If anyone is aware of one, please correct me. And I'm not sure if there was ever an English playoff of this 1967 spy/action/comedy/adventure featuring George Hilton, much more famous for his appearances in late 1960s Italian Westerns (Lucio Fulci's MASSACRE TIME, as Sartana in C'E SARTANA...TRADE YOUR PISTOL FOR A COFFIN, and in early 1970s giallo thrillers, often opposite Edwige Fenech (THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH).

This is an ambitiously plotted but obviously rushed production in which Hilton can hold his own amidst chaotically staged action sequences but is not quite as adept at doing numerous double takes in the way too many slapstick comedy routines. I'm not that fond of spy spoofs, unless they are as dry as vermouth (ie Riccardo Freda's Coplan films) and this doesn't quite have that touch. Like some of the lesser Roger Moore Bond titles it tends to get rather silly and then can't quite regain its composure as an action film.

A plane is shot down over a Middle Eastern military dictatorship (the film was lensed in Spain and Morocco) in the opening shot, probably the most impressive stunt in the movie. An American agent (Hilton) emerges from the ocean, stowing away on a cargo ship which pulls into port. Sneaking into the capital city he eventually enables a revolution against the unpopular dictator (Alfonso Rojas), aided by the ruler's progressive-minded underling (Ennio Girolami aka Thomas Moore). It's all pretty standard stuff and the scenes of the revolt are mildly involving. There's a good sequence where Hilton has to lead a break from a work camp, but the rest is a very uneven blend of broad physical comedy and perfunctory action scenes. Hilton can do comedy as he proves in the magnficent MASSACRE TIME, but the slapstick action tends to go on too long here. The film might have been better if it had been played straight thoughout.

Credited to Leon Klimovsky, I have to thank Bertrand Von Wonterghem for sending me issue n. 6 of the Italian publication, CINE 70 in which Hilton is interviewed and reveals that the actual director on this film was Enzo G. Castellari, the brother of Ennio. The prolific veteran Marino Girolami (RAPTUS; ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST), the father of Enzo and Ennio, is listed as production manager. Hilton also appeared in Castellari's much more successful blend of comedy and action VADO, L'AMMAZZO E TORNO (avoid the FORTUNE 5 "GRINDHOUSE EXPERIENCE" fullscreen DVD of this, GO KILL AND COME BACK, which crops all of Castellari's breathtaking 2.35:1 compostions) the same year (a production still of Castellari at work on that Spaghetti Western appears at the top of this blog). It seems that Klimovsky was on set and credited for Spanish co production tax purposes. Hilton says he had a pleasant time on the shoot, but one can understand why it's not better known, although it probably did well in certain European venues. A GHENTAR SI MUORE FACILE is kind of a Eurogenre completest's film.

Spaghetti western singer Don Powell (AND GOD SAID TO CAIN...) performs the theme song which effectively establishes a Eurospy lounge atmosphere. Carlo Savina wrote and conducted the score. Enzo G. Castellari reportedly was the uncredited director of the Anthony Steffen western A FEW DOLLARS FOR DJANGO (1966), another Italian-Spanish coproduction signed by Klimovsky.

Thanks to Matt Blake for the video of this rarely seen title.

(C) Robert Monell, 2008




20 January, 2008

GIALLO



Death in Venice, but you can't see it...



"The woman then, twixt the Brute and the Superman..."


SUMMER, 1972: I'm sitting in a loud, dark, hot bar on The Westcott Nation with Nick Ray, who is in town to visit the Everson Museum in between working on his multi format student film/experimental epic as a visiting Professor at a downstate college. I write for a weekly local and have been introduced to Nick, who doesn't look well at all, by a college Professor friend. As we sip our beers and try talk over the blaring rock music Nick keeps saying over and over again, as if in mourning, "I heard that Farley died in Italy..." He's talking about the actor Farley Granger, who had been the male lead in Nick's 1948 Film Noir THEY LIVE BY NIGHT. But that was a quarter century ago and Nick was no longer a viable Hollywood director. In a sense, Farley Granger, once the popular star of stage and screen, HAD died in Italy. Although Nick didn't know it, the actor was busy filming a series of sex and violence filled Italian giallo-thrillers which would eventually appear in the US under titles like THE SLASHER IS A SEX MANIAC, SOMETHING CREEPING IN THE DARK, and AMUCK...

THE INTERNET, 2008: I've just been informed that Dario Argento is preparing a new project, to be filmed in Turin, titled GIALLO. I would be surprised if the title sticks, but good for him. He was a prime mover of the genre, an innovator. I think he's getting kind of a raw deal from American fans and critics on the internet right now over his most recent release, LA TERZA MADRE, which opened in Italy in late October 2007 to very mixed reviews and steadily decreasing box office. Now, it's one thing for writers who have seen the feature in Italy or at a fest showing to cover it. But it hasn't opened in the US and is not out on Italian DVD as of yet. I've been reading a lot of similarly worded pans, trashing the film and the director. They claim it's not up to SUSPIRIA and INFERNO, the first two elements in the trilogy of terror. It doesn't have the bright colors, the pacing, the verve, and it has bad CGI and awkward dialogue. I'm not talking about people who saw it theatrically here. How have these US based commentators seen this film? Apparently it can be downloaded with fan created subtitles and there may be a bootleg or two going around. I just don't think it's really fair to savage the film and director based on this type of viewing. If you've seen it on the big screen, then have at it... . This is the downside of the internet. Making a product available in a compromised, not quite authorized fashion, so everyone and anyone can be a critic before it has a legit theatrical/home video release here. This is much worse than bootlegging an older film, since this is still in play for possible N. American theatrical/video venues.

The main problem these people are having is that Argento has dared to evolve away from the flashy aesthetics of SUSPIRIA, which I liked when I saw it theatrically in 1977 and still like. He has taken risks. The director who once made DEEP RED was also heavily criticized for his 1996 giallo THE STENDHAL SYNDROME. It wasn't as colorful or stylish as DEEP RED. Nothing that Argento can do and will do can ever be properly evaluated since it will always be compared to a preexisting model. He still makes occult horror and gialli, but in a very different style and with a new tone. I can't think of any other living director whose always much anticipated new work is so consistently and eagerly trashed. I happen to think THE STENDHAL SYNDROME is his most mature and fascinating work, and I wasn't expecting it to look like DEEP RED, a film made two decades before! I wanted it to be new and daring, and it was. I'm not going to download LA TERZA MADRE and I'm not going to read anymore internet reviews which even mention SUSPIRIA and INFERNO. I will eventually see it and judge it on its own terms. End of Rant.


AMUCK: Released in Italy 21 March 1972 as ALLA RICERA DEL PIACERE and in the USA June 1978, a friend who lives in Los Angeles claims he aaw it under the title MANIAC MANSION, AMUCK is also known as Hot Bed of Sex, UK; Leather and Whips USA [78m cut]
Replica di un delitto Italy. I have it under the title AMUCK, from the vintage prerecord [98m). This fullscreen version is basically unwatchable, destroying each and every composition, and the 2.35:1 LEATHER AND WHIPS (SWV) is missing at least 20 minutes of footage. So you can't see this film both complete and in its OAR. And it's one of the best giallo films of the 1970s. Too bad. I don't know if a delirious Nick Ray would have approved of AMUCK, he probably never knew it existed.

Granger is the Superman, a Hemingwayesque novelist living im a remote swamp villa outside of Venice with his partner in crime Eleanora (Rosalba Neri). Into this hot bed of sex comes Greta (Barbara Bouchet)the new personal assistant to Granger, she's actually gathering information on the disappearance of a childhood friend at the estate. There are some very cleverly engineered plot twists, excellent literate dialogue (Granger dubs himself), a woman-hunt out of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, a slow motion sex scene between Neri and Bouchet, an orgy which turns into an attempted rape and murder and an hauntingly tacky score by Teo Usuelli "quoted" in THE BIG LEBOWSKI.

Venice is really the main character here and there is an sequence which lingers on the reflections of the sinking buildings on the polluted canals which is very evocative. Granger's character loves the dying, submerged city and it becomes a metaphor for his decadence. There are numerous sex parties throughout, complete with stag films and full frontal nudity from Ms. Bouchet and Neri, or their body doubles.
Granger is very effective as the outwardly charming writer who has as his goal the perfect murder and Bouchet is the ripe victim in his master plan. Rosalba Neri (JUSTINE, LUCKY THE INSCRUTABLE) is bathed in ambiguity throughout and meets a fitting end at the hands of the Brute and her own insane lust. Amadio had a minor career in the Italian genre cinema from the 1950s to the 1980s. His other 1972 giallo SMILE BEFORE DEATH, also with Neri, is worth seeking out. Farley Granger later returned to the US to continue his acting career.

Thanks to Greg Hillabrand for helping me see LEATHER AND WHIPS.

(C) Robert Monell, 2008



18 January, 2008

JESS FRANCO MEETS VAL LEWTON!


Jacques Tourneur made films which spoke in whispers...



Jess Franco remade Tourneur's masterwork.... twice!

In the wake of watching the Martin Scorsese produced and narrated VAL LEWTON: THE MAN IN THE SHADOWS on TCM Monday Night I lingered to re watch the Lewton produced, Jacques Tourneur-directed THE CAT PEOPLE (1942) followed by I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943), and if the underrated THE LEOPARD MAN (1943) had followed I would have stayed up to watch that also. The documentary is an excellent primer on the life and career of Lewton.

Even though I had long been familiar with just about every fact gone over from my own reading and had seen the major Lewtons many times three things struck me: giving Lewton a voice (Elias Koteas) was a brilliant idea, allowing him to return from the dead in a certain sense; the footage from the rarely seen Lewton non horror YOUTH RUNS WILD and MADEMOISELLE FIFI; the interview footage of Jacques Tourneur (in French), allowing me a look at a director whom I've long admired. I could have done without some of the talking heads and it could have been longer but Scorsese's urgent delivery somehow holds it all together.

Seeing the films again I reflected that the main subject of our blog seems to have been deeply influenced by Lewton's vision. Irena (Simone Simon) of THE CAT PEOPLE can be seen as a precursor of the similarly lonely, obsessed Countess Irina of Karlstein in FEMALE VAMPIRE (1973), not being able to live in this world while condemned forever to kill they ones they desire. All of Lewton's major films deal with mental states which control the character's actions. You become what you think you are. The most fearful demons are the demons of the mind. That's what also interests me about Jess Franco's best films.

The main characters in NECRONOMICON, VENUS IN FURS, FEMALE VAMPIRE, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR, LORNA THE EXORCIST, LA COMTESSE PERVERSE, PLAISIR A TROIS and GEMIDOS DE PLACER and many others are like mental patients run amok until the final tragedy. In fact, the female predators in the last two were actually recently released from mental hospitals. Characters, mostly female, who see visions, cause pain and death. VENUS IN FURS concludes with the same John Donne quote which inspired Lewton's THE SEVENTH VICTIM, evoking the certainty and release of Death. Lewton's horrors are film noirs, truly Black Cinema, and it's probably no accident that Tourneur, Wise and Robson did arguably their best post-Lewton work in that category. Franco often speaks about his obsession for what he terms Black Cinema, Film Noir. One of the most fascinating things about THE LEOPARD MAN is that it looks like a Film Noir and feels like a horror film.

The most frightening experience movie-related experience I've ever had was seeing Mark Robson's THE SEVENTH VICTIM in 35mm at a lower Manhattan cinema in the early 1970's as part of a day long Lewton fest and then walking out at night into the actual locations where the action is set and feeling that the film was following me into the street. I couldn't shake it and it was all around me. I felt like the detective the heroine hired who walked into that bottomless black space to his doom.

It should be noticed that Jess Franco remade Jacques Tourneur's I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE twice, with 1973's LA COMTESSE PERVERSE, which climaxes with the exact same image of a weak male protagonist carrying a dead woman into the waves, followed four years later by RUF DER BLONDEN GOTTIN/VOODOO PASSION (1977), which is virtually a scene by scene, shot by shot, reprise of the Tourneur film, following an innocent woman's descent into the mysteries of voodoo bound Haiti. Tourneur's film evokes the feeling of awakening to whispers in the dark while Franco's 1970's revisions scream amidst a blindingly colorful mise en scene.

One of the great things about Lewton's films, as with Jess Franco's, is they give us plenty of room for free association...

(C) Robert Monell, 2008



14 January, 2008

THE JESS FRANCO DVD POLL BEGINS!


To the blog readers:


With another year upon us I thought a constructive thing to do would be to conduct a readers poll of which Jess Franco titles they most want on DVD. The titles are listed on the sidebar to the left. You may have to page down a bit.

You can vote for more than one film. The ones with the most votes by the end of January 2008 will be placed in another poll to ascertain which one or two would be the most desired.

Be aware that several major DVD companies regularly track this blog and are watching the results. Here's a way to possibly have a say in what may appear in the future.

I may add a few more titles as we go along.

I can't guarantee they'll be on Blu-ray or HD, but please specifiy your preferred format and specs [use the comment function for these].

I keep getting emails from readers and hearing complaints on messsage boards, now here's a chance to do something.

Thanks for your continued interest and participation.


11 January, 2008

Review: ANTENA CRIMINAL


"I love women... in most of my films women are the real protagonists... I think that women are much more important than men... I like to show them dominating the world... I am a feminist...a total feminist."
Jess Franco in ANTENA CRIMINAL: MAKING A JESS FRANCO MOVIE [TRASH PALACE]

Shot and edited by Brian D. Horrorwitz during the Costa del Sol shoot of BLIND TARGET in January-February 2000, this shot-on-video documentary actually made me want to revisit that odd (for Franco) blend of South American political melodrama, martial arts action, relatively mild sexual interludes and torture. That's high praise from me as I consider BT one of the my least favorite Jess Franco films.

Brian Horrorwitz is an actor and musician who worked in those capacities on the feature while making this sometimes revealing, amusing and fast paced documentary. It's a compelling look at the legendary filmmaker in action on one of his typically iconoclastic projects, but one which he obviously undertook with complete seriousness and dedication.

As with many Franco films it was shot mostly in and around a hotel(in Malaga, Spain) and its low budget shows throughout. It does feature a lively rock soundtrack by the Ubangis (also heard on the documentary music track) and professional performances by Lina Romay (as an enthusiastic South American torture specialist) and Linnea Quigley (who has a very sexy voice, by the way) as a double dealing bimbo. The rest of the performances and the perfunctory staging of the martial arts action leave something to be desired. But it's nonetheless fascinating to witness Jess working against all odds. Tenacious, observant, fussing over every detail, acting as his own camera operator, he's the whole show, exploding at an actress who just can't deliver a line after an hour of prompting or following the action as he's pushed in his wheelchair-dolly, he's always giving 1000 percent of his energy to the task at hand.

There are short interview segments with the director between footage of the shoot during which he discusses the origins of the project (it is based on the actual experiences of a politically active actress he worked with during the 1960's) and his views on women, film making, other directors, actors and eroticism. There's also welcome glimpses of such key players as his laid back producer, Kevin Collins, his universal helpmate, actress Lina Romay, his assistants and technicians. A rather bizarre detour to a Chicago fan convention where a Jess Franco style S&M act is performed is also included.

Horrorwitz uses onscreen titles, wide angle lenses, split screen, and, very much in the spirit of Franco's early 70's works, an actively probing telezoom, to get at the heart of the action and keep things visually interesting. Everything from Franco's obsessive cigarette smoking rituals to the way he almost sexually clutches his beloved camera is duly recorded. The often hand-held verite-style camerawork is very suited to its subject. Clever editing gives some perspective for Franco veterans, such as when a clip from DEMONIAC/EXORCISM of Jess Franco's character attacking Lina Romay is interspersed with the director's frustrating encounter with the actress over the aforementioned line reading.

I would especially recommend this for the legion of Franco naysayers who insist that he is a lazy, indifferent director. This offers continuous evidence of his frenetic care over details, willingness to do it over and over until it's right, his passion for film making in general. He's a steamroller who just won't stop and he obviously believes in what he's doing. Make up your own mind if he's a hack or a genius. This is going to be a must have for those serious about the films of Jess Franco as well as anyone interested in the day to day mechanics of making a B minus Euro-exploitation film.


A second disc includes an exclusive interview with the director in which he answers give some interesting responses to questions about his focus on eroticism in his films and his influences. There's also 50 minutes of outtakes, a 21 minute digital photo gallery, an 3m trailer, liner notes by Mondo Macabro's Pete Tombs and more. There are some video glitches here and there, along with some heavily accented dialogue which remains impenetrable but these are acknowledged upfront and easily overlooked considering the amount of information here and the extended look at the work ethics of a controversial film making legend. If you're Franco-curious, a Franco completist, or a Jess Franco skeptic this documentary may make you reconsider your position.

[2 DISC DVD-R SET: In color with some b&w sequences/DD Stereo Sound/Full-frame; 83m-feature]
www.trashpalace.com/Antena.htm

(C) Robert Monell, 2007

09 January, 2008

R2 MANSION OF THE LIVING DEAD DVD SET

Menu for the late 2007 R2 DVD set from Germany.

The hotel manager (Antonio Mayans) and his chained woman (Eva Leon) share a quiet moment in LA MANSION DE LOS MUERTOS VIVENTES.


The above screenshots are for informational/comparison purposes only.
I've copied the information here from the German site re the 2 DVD set released in November, 2007


Screenshots


Lieferstatus:
i.d.R. in 2-7 Tagen Versandfertig
Veröffentlichung:
14.11.2007
Jahr/Land:
1985 ( Spanien )
Laufzeit:
94 min.
FSK/Rating:
JK
Genre:
Horror
Bildformat:
Widescreen 2.35:1 ( INFO ) (Anamorphisch) ( INFO )
Sprachen:
Deutsch: Dolby Digital 5.1 ( INFO )Deutsch: Dolby Digital 2.0 (Stereo) ( INFO )Español: Dolby Digital 2.0 (Stereo) ( INFO )
Special Features:
- Interview mit Jess Franco & Lina Romay- Fotogalerie- Trailer- Slideshows zur Reitende-Leichen-Saga- Restaurierte Uncut-Szenen- Splittscenes-Featurette "Geisterschiff"


Compare the listed 94m runtime (including PAL conversion differential, if any) with the the superior 2006 Severin Films release. I don't see any English friendly options. Note the supplements include a "Featurette" and extra scene/image galleries, along with a trailer, presumably on the 2nd disc. Has anyone seen this? One wonders if the Franco/Romay interview is the same as the one on the Severin presentation. NOTE: Although the specs list it as a 1985 film, this Golden Films Internacional Production was filmed on location in the Canary Islands in 1982.

Any further information would be welcome along with comments on the video/sound/extras quality. Some of the screenshots look a bit dark.

Thanks to Kaya O.

07 January, 2008

ALAIN PAYET: 1947-2007

Alain Payet: A Career in European Trash Cinema...

Vintage video box art from Alain Payet's TRAIN SPECIAL POUR HITLER (1977).

This 2002 film was typical product made by Payet during his prolific career; the French director often directed under the name "John Love"...More obscure X product from Alain Payet...


Catwoman in one of the numerous French X films directed by the late Alain Payet.

Réalisateur, Scénariste:
[ le 17 Janvier 1947 Décédé le 13 Décembre 2007] French director, screenwriter, in Paris, from cancer, according to some reports. Thanks to Frederick Durand for noting his passing in a reply here to the previous blog. Included above are some images from his films.


Alain Payet was a sometime Eurocine "house" director who made many X films under the name "John Love" and also used the name James Gartner. He codirected at least one film which also had input by Jess Franco, Les Amazons du Temple d'Or aka GOLDEN TEMPLE AMAZONS (1984) which, according to OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO, was begun by JF and completed by Payet. The only scene in that project which I'm sure was directed by Franco was the torture scene where Emilio Linder and Alicia Principe are whipped while tied together over a bed of spikes (cf LA MALDICION DE FRANKENSTEIN -1973). It would be interesting to confirm exactly which scenes were directed by Payet. He may have also been anonymously involved with alternate versions of other JF films, according to some reports.


"James Gartner" was also used as a front for other Eurocine directors., including Jess Franco.

The IMDB credits him with over 80 films from 1975 to 2007.


If anyone has any further information, corrections, clarifications re his career, associations with Eurocine/Jess Franco please feel free to use the comment function.





(C) Robert Monell, 2007



04 January, 2008

Eurocine's ELSA FRAULEIN SS

Vintage Wizard Video cover art is better than the film. Lurid, colorful and banned in the UK!

Entertaining Nazi troops aboard a train outfitted with hookers and hidden microphones!


I'm not a fan of ILSA-SHE WOLF OF THE SS, which I saw (in an altered state of consciousness) at a Midnight Movie Ilsa triple bill in the late 1970s, but that at least had the Dominatrix-From-Hell aesthetics of Dyanne Thorne (cf Jess Franco's 1977 GRETA, HAUS OHNE MANNER, where her character's name was changed to Ilsa in the English language version). But Eurocine's 1977 ELSA FRAULEIN SS is a poor exploitation of that le bad cinema franchise of a generation ago. Ms Thorne had humor and a steelyard eroticism which Malisa Longo, as the title character here, cannot match.

I first saw this as one of the 1980's CAPTIVE WOMEN video series, as CAPTIVE WOMEN IV (another of the CAPTIVE WOMEN numbers is actually Jess Franco's 1980 Women-in-Peril German-Spanish coproduction LINDA). The ridiculous plot concerns the adventures of the Nazi operative Elsa as she commands a train equiped with special cars containing women forced into prostitution (Eurocine's HELLTRAIN was another 1977 Nazi-exploitationer which had basically the same plot with Monica Swinn in the Elsa/Ilsa role, this Alan Payet directed item is a bit more watchable, which isn't saying much). Elsa's stated mission (the officer who develops the idea is immediately executed) is to provide R&R for weary troops but the actual agenda involves exposing anti-Nazi plots. Who knows, maybe there was a Nazi deal to uncover traitors by having prostitutes weasel anti Hitler sentiments out of them while in bed, but I doubt it.

Ms. Longo is a rather impressive bitch goddess in such films in Al Bradley's WAR OF THE COSMOS (1978) and Fulci's CAT IN THE BRAIN (1990), but she doesn't get any direction or heat going here. Credited to "Mark Stern" (Patrice Rondard) the war action is as ineptly staged as the hi jinks in Elsa's boxcar.

Olivier Mathot (the homicide detective in EXORCISM and numerous roles in 1970's/80s Eurocie/Jess Franco titles) plays the obligatory "good Nazi" who, with the local partisans, puts an end to Elsa's railroading tactics. This boring, talky Euro nudie-roughie is not as nude or as rough as most other Nazi sexploitation from France and Italy of that era. You'll prove to be a better person than myself if you're able to sit through it without numerous sanity breaks.

The best thing about it is Pamela Stanford (30 October 1950, Fontainebleau, France
Birth Name: Monique Delaunay), LORNA, THE EXORCIST herself, and one of our favorite Eurotrash goddesses of the 1970's. She appears as Gundrun, and performs a rather hot cabaret number with Jess Franco actor-composer-collaborator Daniel White backing her up on the piano. She also appears in HELLTRAIN. M. White does not look happy to be involved in this affair.

Jess Franco directed a nonsexploitation World War II movie for Eurocine in 1990, WAR SONG, with Christopher Lee, which my friend Francesco Cesari finds rather interesting. I'm waiting to see this rather dialogue heavy melodrama in English, which I'll be reviewing here in the future. On cursory viewing I can report that it's certainly more interesting than ELSA FRAULEIN SS. Aka FRAULEIN DEVIL. Lina Wertmuller's great SEVEN BEAUTIES acts as a definitive critique of this entire unfortunate sub-genre.

This may all be a bit unfair to Ms. Longo, who has a fun website and appears to still be in good humor.: http://www.malisalongo.it/




Thanks to David Z, who is up for a battlefield promotion.






(C) Robert Monell, 2007

01 January, 2008

THE EUROSPY FILES: MEXICAN SLAYRIDE (1967)

Poster for the original French version of MEXICAN SLAYRIDE.



aka
Coplan III
(undefined)
Coplan cambia de piel
Spain (working title)
Entre las redes
Spain (dubbed version)
Frank Collins 999 - Mit Chloroform geht's besser
West Germany
Mexican Slayride
USA
Moresque: obiettivo allucinante
Italy
Todesspur
West Germany
Tulitusta Meksikossa
Finland


In its full length, OAR format this is one of my favorite Eurospy films of the 1960s due to the fascinating, stylized direction of the great Riccardo Freda. MEXICAN SLAYRIDE is actually the radically truncated English language version of Freda's COPLAN OUVRE LE FEU A MEXICO. The original French version is reportedly 98m long, I'll be reviewing that alternate version (I have a tape of the letterboxed, but still incomplete longer version in French language only) in a future blog.


French Secret Service Agent Francis Coplan (Lang Jeffries) is sent to Mexico to investigate the murder of a colleague who was about to expose an international art smuggling operation. The famous artworks were stolen by the Nazi's during World War II but another group now controls them and is using the proceeds from art auctions to build an underground installation from which a series of a tunnels will lead to the construction of a secret missile base under the Texas ranch of LBJ!


The basic plot is very similar to one of the James Coburn FLINT films of the same period. Future director Bertrand Tavernier (COUP DE TORCHON) worked on the script for the French language version. It's based on Paul Kenney's novel COPLAN FIAT PEAU NEUVE (Ed. Fleuve Noir). It was Freda's second Coplan film, after 1965's COPLAN CASSE TOUT which featured Richard Wyler in the title role. Both were partially financed/distributed by Robert de Nesle's Comptoir Films.


I really can't discuss the merits (and they are considerable) of this film based on this hideously panned and scanned presentation. Originally lensed in Cataluna, Spain, and Paris in 2.35:1 Techniscope, a format which Freda mastered to create dynamic, efficient, striking compositions, it is both ugly and incomprehensible in this flat, grossly incomplete version. It's just 55 minutes long! That means that 40 plus minutes is missing. After 30 minutes of playing it simply jump cuts to last 20 minutes of action, leaving a gaping 40-plus minute hole in the middle! [World Wide Video Inc. Presents, St. Regis Films International Ltd.] If you happen to dig up this ancient video, avoid watching it at all costs.


I'm not aware of any complete, English language version of this title on any home video format, and I wonder if it ever played theatrically in the US. The French version is available from some grey markets, but also has some problems, as I will outline. I am still looking for the [reportedly longest] Spanish dubbed version, ENTRE LAS REDES. If anyone has it or knows where to find it or a longer version in good video quality please contact me.


(C) Robert Monell, 2007