31 March, 2008

THE EUROSPY FILES:


Pierre Chevalier (aka Peter Knight) directed Jack Taylor through remote control by inserting footage of him into the 1974 Eurocine composite THE HOUSE OF THE LOST DOLLS. Ten years later Chevalier and Taylor worked together in the flesh on the Eurocine-backed PANTHER SQUAD, where Jack teamed up with co-producer Sybil Danning to save the World Space Program.


After appearing in AGENTE SIGMA 3--MISSIONE GOLDWATHER Jack Taylor went on to appear in numerous examples of European Trash Cinema as well as the odd Hollywood mainstream film (CONAN THE BARBARIAN; THE NINTH GATE) and became one the most familiar faces of the 1970s Spanish Horror boom.


Or how a 1960's Eurospy film devolved into an incredibly sleazy sexploitation epic featuring kidnapping, rape and white slavery via a Eurocine composite...


Maison des filles perdues, La (1974)
It's so bad that it's... well, let's just say that it's So Bad! But who to blame? THE HOUSE OF THE LOST DOLLS/GIRLS began its existence as an obscure Eurospy film made in Italy and co produced by Eurocine (we'll be copying this over to THE EUROCINE ARCHIVES).



Agent Sigma 3 (Jack Taylor) pursues the villain to his death! Taylor appeared in my favorite Jess Franco film NECRONOMICON (1967) and ten subsequent JF projects.*




AGENTE SIGMA 3, MISSIONE GOLDWATHER was the 1960's Eurospy item cannibalized for THE HOUSE OF THE LOST DOLLS (1974)and (OASIS OF THE LOST GIRLS (1981), among others.

Here's an expanded-updated version of an archived 2006 blog:

THE HOUSE OF THE LOST DOLLS (1974): A Franco-Italian production. Pierre Chevalier (THE INVISIBLE DEAD) actually "directed" this Eurocine composite under the name Peter Knight. This used to be listed by VSOM as a "Jess Franco" film in their old 1990's era catalogues, and the IMDB lists Franco as co-writer of the "script."

I fell for it and purchased one to discover footage from a 1967 Italian spy film featuring Jack Taylor AGENTE SIGMA 3: MISSIONE GOLDWATHER composited with footage from a French-lensed film about white slavers operating in Paris and Marseilles, presumably a Chevalier directed effort, title as yet unknown. BOTH of these feature Silvia Solar as a femme fatale in separate roles filmed in two different decades! So, it all gets very confusing. Sandra Julien (THE SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRE) also appears as a mini skirted undercover agent whom white slave kingpin (and frequent 1970's era Jess Franco performer) Olivier Mathot attempts to rape.

There also appears to be footage from a third unknown film in here of agents raiding a cargo ship and breaking up a rape of a nude slave in bondage below deck. It all adds up to a supersleazefest with music by Daniel J. White and uncredited cues from Bruno Nicolai's great score for EUGENIE DE SADE (1970, the cue I'm thinking of plays over Soledad Miranda's change into that wild rain gear before the first murder. The upbeat trumptet tempo is heard over during a nightclub scene, originally in SIGMA 3, in HOUSE.).

Footage from this composite was later mixed with scenes from an actual Jess Franco film, OPALO DE FUEGEO (1978) and was re released with newly shot footage by "John O'Hara" as OASE DER GEFANGENEN FRAUEN, at least that's the title of the German language version which was released on DVD a few years ago by the German company, X-RATED KULT DVD. There are also Spanish and French versions.

The French version is L'OASIS DES FILLES PERDUES. The new footage features Francoise Blanchard, probably best know as the title character in Rollin's LA MORTE VIVANTE (1982). "John O'Hara" is actually the Spanish director Jose Jara. It opens in a disco as Blanchard and friends party the night away only to be invited to an apartment by several sleazy looking males. Once there they are drugged with spiked champagne (these scenes are very similar in staging to the way the kidnappers in Jess Franco's own WILDE LUST/MADCHEN IM NACHTVERKEHR, a 1976 hardcore produced by Erwin C. Dietrich, who is sometimes credited with the direction). They are then taken onto a ship and molested in the hold by Yul Sanders (Claude Boisson), this 1980s footage is intercut with Chevalier's 70s footage of other actresses in the hold getting the same treatment from a obviously younger Yul Sanders. It goes on and on like intercutting footage from three, maybe four, directors and the SIGMA 3 reappears, only this time with different dubbing and scoring.

A prolific Eurotrash performer from the 1950s onward Silvia Solar's birth name was Geneviève Couzain.

Jack Taylor and SIGMA 3 director Gian Paolo Callegari are not credited on the English language print of THE HOUSE OF THE LOST DOLLS.



(c) Robert Monell, 2008





29 March, 2008

Leon Klimovsky's THE DRACULA SAGA (1972)


Born in Argentina, Leon Klimovsky (1906-1996) became one of the prime practitioners of Spanish horror, directing the Godfather of the genre, Paul Naschy, in the breakthrough hit LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS (1970), followed by VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES (1972) and other key Spanish horror titles of the early to mid 1970s. Taking a break from his films featuring Naschy, LA SAGA DE LOS DRACULA is his visually surreal, wacky take on the legend of Count Dracula. Klimovsky, who worked as a dentist for 15 years in his homeland before turning to directing, also wrote film and music criticism in his native country and started Argentina's first cinema club, which featured showings of classic and art cinema. Klimovsky wanted to direct avant-garde films, but things would turn out diffently as he became a professional director of numerous popular genre films in Argentina and eventually in Spain.

Turning out over 75 films in a thirty year career including crime dramas like the 1956 MIEDO (scripted by Jess Franco), Eurowesterns like 1964's BILLY THE KID (with future Jess Franco star Jack Taylor) and war movies, Giugno '44 - Sbarcheremo in Normandia (1968) (as Henry Mankiewicz) ... aka Commando Attack
... aka Junio 44: desembarcaremos en Normandía (Spain), more westerns, Hombre vino a matar, Un (1968), until finally managing to ignite the Spanish horror boom at age 64, Klimovsky proved a reliable workhorse and was sometimes used as an in-name-only quota-director for Spanish-Italian coproductions (A FEW DOLLARS FOR DJANGO; HANDS UP DEADMAN, YOU'RE UNDER ARREST!). I once asked the star of UN HOMBRE VINO A MATAR, actor Richard Wyler, what Klimovsky was like to work with, he simply stated that Klimovsky was "a nice man." A generic reply, but probably an accurate one.


Count Dracula suffers a fate worse than death at the climax of LA SAGA DE LOS DRACULA. Narciso Ibanez Menta is impressive in the role. Born in Spain, he moved to Argentina to become that country's first and foremost horror movie icon. Like Leon Klimovsky he would leave to become involved in Spanish genre cinema. He would also appear in Klimovsky's ultra-bizarre science fiction item ODIO MI CUERPO/I HATE MY BODY (1974).

Leon Klimovsky's screwy, sexy and utterly delightful take on the legend of Count Dracula has finally made its way to a quality US DVD release.

Filmed as Spain in 1972 as LA SAGA DE LOS DRACULA, it features the titan of Argentinian fantasy, Naricso Ibanez Menta (MASTER OF HORROR), who makes a striking vampire king and looks very much like the way Count Dracula is initially described in the original Bram Stoker novel. The film's plot strays significantly and imaginatively from the novel, however. This time the focus in on the Count's granddaughter (Tina Sainz) who arrives in Transylvania with her dangerously bored husband (Tony Isbert), who quickly falls prey to the fetching local vampire women. Upon arriving at Castle Vlad the elegant, slightly grotesque Count greets the couple with his buxom brides (Helga Line, Maria Kosti) on display.

What the granddaughter doesn't realize is that it's all part of a carefully calculated plot to continue the bloodline of the vampire clan. As predatory gypsies hover outside the castle becomes a labyrinth of delirious horrors typified by grotesque mutant lad locked in the tower, the deformed Cyclops who feeds on local stragglers and is the result of the degenerate lineage. New blood is desperately needed. And blood will flow in the final scenes when the new mother goes on a rampage with an axe.

Scored with Bach harpsichord interludes and Daniel J. White compositions familiar from Jess Franco films (THE GIRL FROM RIO, BLOOD OF FU MANCHU) the film has a distinctive sound. Klimovsky's brisk staging of the Ionesco-esque screenplay (credited to "Lazarus Kaplan", actually Emilio Martinez Lazoro), the elaborately detailed, period settings of Andres, place it somewhere in the middle of post-modern vampire fare, amidst such 1960s and 70s parodies as THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (the highpoint) and THE VAMPIRE HAPPENING (a lowpoint). It's worth watching if only to compare with two other significant 1972 vampire films from Spanish directors, Javier Aguirre's Paul Naschy vehicle COUNT DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE and Jess Franco's LA FILLE DE DRACULA. They all present radically different approaches to the subject matter and totally unique looking Count Draculas. Deploying unusual camera filters, wide-angle lenses and unique creatures like the giant vampire bat seen in the dream sequence at the beginning of the film, Klimovsky shows he can be equally stylish.

One might not approve of what LA SAGA DE LOS DRACULA ultimately delivers, but it does deliver. The new BCI-DEIMOS SE presents a vividly colorful open matte print from the vaults of Victory Films, with a very welcome Spanish language option with easy to read English subtitles. The film plays much better in Spanish than it does with it's rather foolish sounding English dubbing track. The High Definition image is always sharp, bursting with crimsons and primary hues. The print is uncut and if the Fullscreen 4X3 presentation sometimes results in an awkward composition one must remember that the film was shot open-matte and intended to be exhibited theatrically in various matted projections. Thanks to Spanish horror expert Mirek Lipinski for that information.

The bottom line is that the film, transferred from the original negative, looks very good and this presentation highlights how a good DP (Francisco Sanchez), careful direction, and a good element can enable a fresh evaluation.

Alternate clothed sequences for the original Spanish release, the Spanish credit sequence, additional footage and trailers for other BCI discs are included as Special Features.

Aka, DRACULA, THE BLOODLINE CONTINUES... {US VIDEO}

(c) Robert Monell, 2008









28 March, 2008

THE TROLLS HAVE ARRIVED!



They're also on CINEMADROME, where my promised review of the FILMIRAGE Bad Cinema classic TROLL 2 is now up on the JOE D'AMATO FORUM. Click on the link at the top of the sidebar at left.

Thanks to Fantaddict.




25 March, 2008

TROLL 2 IS COMING!


Go to Nilbog and get eaten alive! A Troll demonstrates living and eating Green.




Laura Gemser aka Black Emanuelle designed the threads...


If you haven't seen it, you haven't lived. Joe D'Amato produced it, "Drago Floyd" aka Claudio Fragasso directed it, and "Black Emanuelle" Laura Gemser did the costumes, now it's a kind of oddball phenomenon with pockets of fans all over the country... and there's a documentary being made about it and the director is trying to put together a TROLL 3! It's what happens when an Italian company [FILMIRAGE] attempts to make an American horror film and everything goes perfectly wrong...

Find out who David Hills and Fred Slonisko and Clyde Anderson really are. Whatever happened to Michael Stephenson? Where is the real Nilbog? Check out those greedy goblins and those hateful vegetarians on the MGM Double Feature DVD [you can skip TROLL]. All will be revealed [even the director doesn't understand it] soon on the JOE D'AMATO FORUM on CINEMADROME.

You won't ever want to eat Vegan or go Green again...




22 March, 2008

GEORGE A. ROMERO'S DIARY OF THE DEAD


Something's happening here, but you don't know what it is... George A. Romero is asking the questions in DIARY OF THE DEAD, and you might not be able to answer them.


Jason Creed learns the meaning of Jean Luc Godard's comment that cinema is life at 24frames per second.


"It used to be us against us; now it's us against them ... except, they are us."


I am pleased to report that I spent the first 95 minutes of my 56th birthday at a Midnight showing of GEORGE A. ROMERO'S DIARY OF THE DEAD (onscreen title). After you reach the big 5-0 you don't so much celebrate birthdays as survive them. So I was really taken by the fact that Romero's fifth zombie film is about the nature of Survival, the quality of life as it's experienced in the early 21st Century and the meaning of Death in the Information Age. In other words, it's a zombie film for thinking people which delivers the gory goods for those demanding ever new ways of destroying the living and disabling the brains of the undead.

A Romero zombie film has to be experienced at a Midnight showing or not at all. That's the way I first saw his first, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), and have never quite shaken off the experience. Some 40 years and three zombie titles later the maverick director has more on his mind than ever and doesn't hesitate having his characters speak his cynical, gloomy, very un-mainstream of consciousness. And, first and foremost, it's a genre satire, a pitch black one...

GEORGE A. ROMERO'S DIARY OF THE DEAD is really about American Mainstream Culture, how it has evolved since the 1960s, invaded the rest of the world through television and the Internet and been reflected by Mainstream movies. At the ripped out heart of it all is a fearless auto-critique of Romero's career, from the maker of possibly the first Post-modern horror film to his attempts at entering the Mainstream after the success of his own DAWN OF THE DEAD, to the compromises of DAY OF THE DEAD and LAND OF THE DEAD, to his return as the man who continues to pose the most unnerving questions to his audience and himself.

DIARY is more in the lineage of the first Post-post-modern horror films, exemplified by Lucio Fulci's NIGHTMARE CONCERT (1990) and Ruggero Deodato's CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1979), where the filmmaker places himself and his craft on the firing line and comes up guilty. I'm not even going to mention the two US horror films this is being endlessly compared with, let's just say that DIARY is far more thoughtful and outrageous. And his final image is the most disturbing one he's created since the apocalyptic pyre which concluded NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

Unless you live in a big city, this is not an easy film to see and I thought I would have to wait for the DVD. Interesting that David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE, which was equally subversive both stylistically and thematically, also had spotty theatrical distribution. So it goes. This is most compelling US film I have seen since INLAND EMPIRE and my favorite Romero zombie film since 1978's DAWN OF THE DEAD. It's totally unlike any of Romero's previous films except that it's obviously made by George A. Romero. The Panic Room in which the survivors entomb themselves is as symptomatic of our age as the farmhouse was in NIGHT and the mall was in DAWN. And the final question posed over that hideous and haunting final image is one most will not wish to linger upon.

You know the set-up, the characters, the plot and that it's presented as a cam corded, lap-top edited film-within-a-film, THE DEATH OF DEATH. The special effects/video game designer I went to see it turned to me at the end and said, "Romero's a genius." I would say he's a visionary, or maybe someone who can see and hear through the wall of video and sound coming out of innumerable available portals out there. Romero is able to transcend each and every zombie movie/comic cliche and come up with a nonstop stream of new visual frissons, my own favorite in DIARY are the zombies floating in the swimming pool who are digitally activated for the final attack. It's something that Jean Rollin might have come up with.

After spending more time than I would like to admit on message boards and blogs during the last decade I had to laugh out loud when a Japanese poster on a You Tube message board advises the world, "Shoot in head!".

Keep going downmarket, George, keep on asking those chilling questions and thanks for the great birthday present.

(C) Robert Monell, 2008






20 March, 2008

COCKTAIL SPECIAL (1978)


Christopher Lee, in his memorable crimson smoking jacket, as the vicious Sadean perpetrator/narrator, Dolmance, seen in this vintage advert for Jess Franco's first version of Sade's 1795 literary outrage PHILOSOPHY IN THE BEDROOM.


The Divine Marquis wrote it. Did Brigitte Lahaie refuse a role in it?


[Feuchte Lippen]*

COCKTAIL SPECIAL is a hardcore remake of EUGENIE, THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION (1970). Actually, the second remake after PLAISIR A TROIS (1973), which also featured some hardcore action, but much less than in this entry.

This may have been chronologically the last film Franco made for the prolific producer Robert de Nesle, who is credited with the script. De Nesle reportedly died in 1978.

The titular drink may be especially disgusting but there are reasons to examine this film, outside of its interest to those who must see each and every film Franco made during his 50 year and still ticking directorial career. Visually exotic, with bizarre masks, strobe lighting, esoteric set-ups, this brief, ingeniously composed adult programmer is interestingly scored by Franco and Daniel White (as Pablo Villa, these delirious cues would be heard in many of his 1980s period films). Touxa Beni is a dark, rather mysterious Eugenie and a makes an equally compelling protagonist as the other actresses (Marie Liljedahl; Alice Arno; Katia Beinert) who have played the role for Franco.

I disagree with the review in OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO, which dismisses this film while pushing the suggestion that Franco did not direct it. There may have been some inserts added but there are many trademark Franco images and details.

With Karen Gambier as the most significant eye candy, outside of Ms. Beni, in the film, there's little to behold outside of the endlessly interesting ways Franco finds to illuminate the penniless production, often large lamps are just placed directly behind the actors as the camera shoots into them, breaking one of the cardinal rules of "well made" cinema.

Shot in Portugal, one wonders if this was the film Franco offered to to Brigitte Lahaie in the wake of another de Nesle Portuguese-lensed hardcore, JE BRULE DE PARTOUT [type the title in the blog's search engine for my archived review]; she summarily refused the offer.

One wonders why Franco kept returning to the original Sade story, published as seven "Dialogues" in 1795. Reading it is a shocking experience as one realizes, with reference to the five Jess Franco versions, it's much, much more explicit, violent and transgressive than any or all of them put together. The extended hardcore sequences in this film are very mild in comparison. The final twist in COCKTAIL SPECIAL is that Eugenie's own father is tricked into incest during the masque, but in the Sade original it's Madame de Mistival who ends up as the victim of a brutal physical-sexual assault by Eugenie under the close direction of Dolmance, played by Christopher Lee in the the 1970 version. Eugenie's subsequent dialogue highlights her delight in her role as multiple transgressor.

The final dialogue concludes with the lines which Lee speaks (with acidic irony) in a key scene: "I never dine so heartily, I never sleep so soundly as when I have, during the day, sufficiently befouled myself with what our fools call crimes." That's Entertainment, Sade style.



*[There is only the main title and a FIN card on the print I screened]; most of Franco's de Nesle backed film of this period were signed as Clifford Brown or Jacques Garcia.

Thanks to Francesco Cesari for helping me to see this rarity via DVD-R.

(C) Robert Monell, 2008







15 March, 2008

Jess Franco's CANNIBALS (1980): DVD


Bloody disgusting! Jess Franco's answer to Ruggero Deodato's CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. According to Uncle Jess, who is interviewed on Blue Underground's DVD presentation of CANNIBALS, his film is better! It was banned in the UK as a Video Nasty.

Dr. Jeremy Taylor (Pier Luigi Conti aka Al Cliver) attempts to launch a rescue expedition up the Amazon years after his wife was killed and his daughter was abducted by a local cannibal tribe. Finding backing from the sexually ambiguous Mr. Fenton (Franco regular Olivier Mathot) and the wealthy Barbara Shelton (Shirley Night), who invite their idle friends along for a pleasure cruise [!], he arrives back in the South Amercian rain forest only to survive another brutal attack from the same tribe who now worship his grown daughter (Sabrina Siani) as the White Cannibal Queen.

Jess Franco has made a number of cannibal films during his highly varied directorial career. They range from the exquisite (LA COMTESSE PERVERSE) to the ridiculous (DEVIL HUNTER). CANNIBALS (aka MONDO CANNIBALE, WHITE CANNNIBAL QUEEN, LA DEESSE DES BARBARES, LA DEA CANNIBALE, MONDO CANNIBALE 3: DIE BLONDE GOTTIN, UN FILLE POUR LES CANNIBALES) is not the worst, but it's close. Dismal photography, crudely inserted stock footage, excruciatingly protracted entrails eating interludes made even more unbearable by being shot in extreme close up and slow motion, doom this film to the lower rungs of Le Bad Cinema. Al Cliver is acceptable enough as the hero but Sabrina Siani looks spaced out and in need of something or other as the White Cannibal Queen. Besides wasting such interesting performers as Antonio Mayans and Pamela Stanford the film takes forever to get to its raison de etre, the cannibal scenes, and they're way beyond disappointing. Pamela Stanford would go on to make another Eurocine backed cannibal film, the even more wretched CANNIBAL TERROR (1981), which shares some other cast members and footage with CANNIBALS.

The BU disc is an excellent transfer but would have been a whole lot better if it offered the French language track, which improves the film considerably. I've had the French language version on video for years (as MANGEURS DES HOMMES) and it's 100%more watchable if only because of the fact that the voice casting in the English language dub is laughably poor. Ms. Siani sounds like she was dubbed by a clueless New Jersey party girl. Jess Franco's Mr. Martin is supposed to be a Portuguese guide but is dubbed by some guy who sounds like a backwoods hick. The 1.66:1/16:9 transfer is sharp and colorful and it's certainly the best this film will ever look.

The best thing about this presentation is an amusing and interesting interview with Uncle Jess, who explains that he was disgusted by Deodato's 1979 CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST because of its realistic depiction of cannibal atrocities and deliberately made MONDO CANNIBALE (original title) as a kind of regressive Hollywood-style adventure- fantasy. Not a bad idea. It works for the first scene with the parents watching the child falling asleep to her music box but Franco is quickly defeated by inadequate technical resources. The original French trailer is included.


Eurotrash goddess Pamela Stanford (Monique Delaunay), behind the gas mask in the above screenshot from BLUE RITA, made her final appearance in a Jess Franco film in CANNIBALS only to get eaten alive in the opening scene (what a waste!).


Dr. Jeremy Taylor (Al Cliver) recovers with the help of his nurse (Lina Romay) after losing his wife, daughter and an arm to a cannibal tribe while on an Amazonian expedition. He should have watched CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST first!


Mr. Fenton (Oliver Mathot aka Claude Plaut) and Barbara Shelton (Shirley Night) want to turn Dr. Taylor's rescue mission into a party on the love boat!


Jess Franco's first, and best, cannibal film, LA COMTESSE PERVERSE (1973) is a jet black comedy of manners set on island ruled by upscale flesh eaters played by Franco icons Alice Arno and Howard Vernon. Avant-garde photography and music make this a must-see, one of JF's all time best. Now, let's have it on a quality R1 English friendly DVD presentation of that!


The DEVIL HUNTER (SEXO CANIBAL/JUNGFRAU UNTER KANNIBALEN/THE MAN HUNTER/MANDINGO MANHUNTER/IL CACCIATORE DI UOMINI) DVD, probably the most wretched digital presentation of any Jess Franco film so far! The only compensation is that it's dirt cheap and you get the fun VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST (in scratchy VHS quality) as a second feature. From the notorious VIDEOASIA. Type the title in the blog's search engine for my archived review.


Lurid advert for Jess Franco's other 1980 French-Italian financed, Spanish lensed cannibal epic. This one also features Italian actor Al Cliver and had some German input from Lisa Films/Munich who sent Ursula Buchfellner to get stripped, bound and abused by kidnappers and then the towering cannibal god with bugged-out eyes. An appalling racist fantasy if there ever was one. Both films are candidates for a JF's all-time worst list.

This print is introduced as A Franco Prosperi Film, Directed by Jess Franco.

(C) Robert Monell, 2008







14 March, 2008

New RICCARDO FREDA Forum!


Freda's first giant monster science fiction film. He turned over the production to Mario Bava when he found out it was really about tripe! I'll be presenting an eye-catching journey through this personal favorite Saturday matinee item illustrated with screenshots, rare posters and vintage images later on the new Riccardo Freda Forum at CINEMADROME.



ZORRO meets THE WHITE WARRIOR...


Rare Spanish poster for Riccardo Freda's LA VENDETTA DI AQUILA NERA (1951), a brief review of this visually fascinating historical adventure is now up on the new RICCARDO FREDA forum on CINEMADROME [www.cinemdrome.yuku.com] or just click on the link at the top of the sidebar at left.


I've created this forum to examine, discuss and illustrate the career and films of my favorite Italian director of genre films from 1942 to 1994. The taskmaster of Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and many more who worked with him and studied his ultra stylish synthesis of visuals, music and montage.

We'll be looking at some of his more obscure projects as well as his more well known horror films, gialli, Eurospy, and peplum titles, complete with production stills, posters and other images.






Wish I could be there....



Jean Rollin and other luminaries of cinefantastique, Eurobis, etc are going to be there.

Thanks to Nicolas...





10 March, 2008

Alain Robbe-Grillet's L'IMMORTELLE (1963)


Francoise Brion (ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS; AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO) is L, the eternal feminine, the mystery woman, the angel of death in Alain Robbe-Grillet's first film as director.

N (Jacques Doniol-Valcroze) lost in the labyrinth of myth, geography, intrigue, memory and reality which is Istanbul. Valcroze, a journalist, co-founder of CAHIERS DU CINEMA in the early 1950s and later a film director, was married to the film's female lead, Francoise Brion, at the time of shooting.


"...it's all false. They're engaged in building Byzantium."


Françoise Brion is L, the Woman, the sometimes narrator, the one who observes the false surfaces of Istanbul. Jacques Doniol-Valcroze is N, the Man who we will mainly remember as a stooped-over, recessive figure in a conservative suit who makes little impression as a individual character. Ms. Brion's face is impossible to forget, while the journalist-director Robbe-Grillet settled on as his male lead (after considering Jean-Louis Trintignant) is a non-actor, a form which will fill a void, or a near-void. It's almost as if he's been projected onto the reality of Istanbul, or the unreality which is Byzantium, which is being archaeologically restored just outside of view.

M, the Stranger (Guido Celano) is the burly man who wears expensive suits, sunglasses and may or may not be the controller/pimp of L. who may or may not be a prostitute, or a candidate for a white slave opportunity. One can't critique the actors because there is no real acting, there are movements, the smile of L., the sudden withdrawl of N. from the jealousy window where which he has been observing the waterfront where M. walks his dogs. The dogs, the ones people tend to tense up around, Dobermans. The film was originally to be titled LES CHIENS. M always seems to have control of the animals which makes it all the more alarming when one of them is suddenly there, right in the middle of the dark road as your car approaches and it's too late to avoid a crash.... but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Written before, and released after, Alain Resnais 1961 film L'ANNEE' DERNIERE A MARIENBAD, which was written by Robbe-Grillet, who shot L'IMMORTELLE on location in Turkey at the same time as the MARIENBAD shoot. MARIENBAD was nominated for a best original screenplay ACADEMY AWARD and became a famous conversation piece of the 1960's while L'IMMORTELLE, while winning the Louis Delluc prize, went on to relative obscurity.


"Beautifully photographed" according to the Leonard Maltin blurb on the US video box of LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, something one wouldn't think to say about L'IMMORTELLE, which is stylistically conservative in comparison. It couldn't be more different than MARIENBAD while restating that film's thematic obsessions, plot outline, characters, nonlinear structure.

Leaving MARIENDBAD aside, L'IMMORTELLE is a radical experiment in alternative feature fiction film structure, a cyclical mind fuck, an endgame which plays with classical mythology in the city where FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and a thousand and one imitations unfolded. The city of Eurospy films (COPLAN CASSE TOUT), masked super villains (KRIMINAL), KILLING ISTANBUL'DA, Jess Franco's RESEDENCIA POUR ESPIAS, THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU and VENUS IN FURS. But before that it was Byzantium.

"...it's all false. They're engaged in building Byzantium."

The false prisons, brothels, often spoken of, are never seen, but somehow always present. The city of repetitions. The end of the Western world and the gateway to the East.

"And I don't want to be bothered with eternal complaints about inexact or contradictory details. This report is concerned with objective reality, not with some so-called historical truth," Robbe-Grillet wrote as an epigraph to his 2001 novel REPETITION, and it pertains to all his novels and films from LES GOMMES to THE MAN WHO LIES. With no one around to "report" it, is there an objective reality? It's the old question about the tree falling in the midst of a remote forest. L'IMMORTELLE takes as one of it's main subjects Robbe-Grillet's "concern" with how "reality" in fiction and film is often confused with... quoditian reality.

The Universe can be explored with mathematics as well as with sophisticated, man made crafts, and perhaps it is more practical to keep our theories statistically grounded. Roy Armes has made a case for the symmetrical structures of this and other ARG films, and I'm not going to provide my own counter calculations. My own favorite science-fiction film remains Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYESSY where HAL 9000 fucks up big time and kills everybody, but it ends up being OK because it was all in the Plan. And I'm not talking PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. In theoretical math, algebra, geometry, trignometry there are L's, N's, M's, X's, Y,s, and Z's.

Back on Earth L'IMORTELLE opens and closes with images, taken cinema-verite style from a moving car, of the crumbling walls of Byzantium. The female narrator speculates on the geographical/archaeological/mythological positioning of the city.
Both N. and L. will meet death, or what appears to be death, as they drive past these sames ruins, attempting to flee. Driving in a circle which seemed to be a straight line, they had appointments to keep. L'IMMORTELLE spends most of its run time examining every nook and cranny of Istanbul, the Golden Horn, the towers, the sinister little shops, the mosques, the side streets which all seem maddeningly similar. N. is a French professor in town to lecture but he encounters something outside of his intellectual ken, the beautiful woman with the high cheekbones and entrancing eyes who will lead him down that road where the dogs will be waiting. Twice.

Istanbul is the overwhelming presence in L'IMMORTELLE, a site which promises everything and reveals nothing. Human character is unknowable and not really dependable. There's a thousand and one plots or no plot at all. The potential to imagine intrigues is the most exciting of all intrigues. And in the end there's Death. L.'s face coming into and going out of focus. She's laughing at him, at us, as she rides on the ferry in the final image. Or maybe she's just laughing.

Given the fact that Robbe-Grillet struggled with his crew over the way the film was to be shot, the contribution of sound editor Michel Fano becomes of enormous importance. The exotic music of Georges Delerue and the wailing female vocalist present an audio scenario of equal fascination to the visual mise-en-scene: the sounds of construction, the crashes, the various narrations/voiceovers, the barking of the dogs give us an alternate scenario which can be experienced with or without reference to what one sees. It's an eerie and rewarding experience to just sit back, eyes shut, and LISTEN to this film.

Although it's related to the nouvelle vague L'IMMORTELLE is not really a New Wave film in the way Godard's A BOUT DE SOUFFLE or the debut features of Truffaut, Rivette, Chabrol and Resnais are. It occupies its own unique spatial-temporal continuum. It doesn't break away as much as it reinvents reality and cinema, offering a formal path of consciousness which one may take or leave.

Thanks to Robert Guest.

(C) Robert Monell, 2008








08 March, 2008

THE SISTER OF URSULA DVD: Review


The black gloved killer strikes again in the 1978 giallo LA SORELLA DI URSULA. This screengrab is from the Severin Films DVD which will be available on March 25th. A detailed review with more screencaps is now up on the BLOOD & BLACK LACE GIALLO FORUM of CINEMADROME. Just click on the link at the top of the sidebar at left.




07 March, 2008

CECILIA: Images


You just can't keep a good man down: frequent Jess Franco and Eurocine performer Olivier Mathot (left) aka Claude Plaut joins in the fun at a party in CECILIA. Plaut "directed" the French version, which means that he called the shots for the 15 minutes of extra footage which appears on the BU DVD presentation. Another frequent Jess Franco performer, Pierre Taylou (EXORCISM) is seen at the right.


One of a constant flow of Juan Cozar's lush compositions which capture the gorgeous locations near Sintra, Portugal. This minor softcore programmer is nonetheless a visual feast.


Una Mujer Casada/Cecilia/Emma Fargas, depending on what version you see, played by the luminous Muriel Montossey aka Victoria Adams [a lot of names to remember!] seen in a typical Franco rack focus shot.


Two years before the mast? No, it was two years after the 1980 Spanish financed ABERACCIONES SEXUALES DE UNA MUJUER CASADA that Eurocine turned it into CECILIA, "directed" by Claude Plaut (seen at the top of the blog). Franco's name as it appears in the new BU DVD presentation. This is certainly the best ever DVD presentation of what is known as a "Eurocine composite."

Thanks to Eric Cotenas for the screengrabs, more of which will be appearing over at THE WORLD OF JESS FRANCO folder on CINEMADROME soon

(C) Robert Monell, 2008.




06 March, 2008

THE SISTER OF URSULA DVD: PREVIEW!


They sure don't make them like this one anymore!



He Came, He Saw, He did What?! LA SORELLA DI URSULA writer-director Enzo Milioni discusses his outrageous giallo in THE FATHER OF URSULA.

I've just sampled THE SISTER OF URSULA DVD presentation which will coming from Severin Films on March 25.

For a brief preview of what looks like another excellent Severin presentation go to BLOOD & BLACK LACE: GIALLO NOTES, a new forum on my CINEMADROME board, by clicking on the link at the top of the sidebar at left. A full review will be up soon.




02 March, 2008

Notes on the CECILIA DVD


Don't mess with Claude Plaut aka Olivier Mathot! He had the final cut on CECILIA, the Eurocine composite version of a Jess Franco film...

Until I get the Spanish version of CECILIA (Aberacciones Sexuales de una mujer Casada) I won't be able to do a detailed comparison with the recent BU DVD, but I do have some interesting notes on my CINEMADROME board in the meantime. Click on the link at the top of the sidebar at left.




01 March, 2008

Warren Kiefer's JULIETTE DE SADE (1968)


Directed by Warren Kiefer
Cast: Maria Pia Conte, Christine Delit, Angela de Leo
Rating: NR
"Juliette (Maria Pia Conte) is a schoolgirl expelled from the convent for engaging in autoerotic activity. She travels to Rome where she vows to fulfill her wild sexual fantasies. There she has some conventional affairs before encountering an older man who is a proponent of the Marquis de Sade. She also falls for a lecherous lesbian and takes an LSD trip in this mild exploitation feature." ~ Dan Pavlides, All Movie Guide*

Has anyone seen this 1968 Italian-Swedish co-production? Or does anyone have a video copy? There is a German video according to the IMDB review. The story seems to predate Franco's modern Sade adaptations: EUGENIE, HER JOURNEY...; EUGENIE DE SADE (both 1970). I might be interested to consult for background. Warren Kiefer is a beard for Lorenzo Sabatini who also directed CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964) and one other feature. I have no record of any directorial activity for him after 1970.

If anyone has seen it please comment below, and if anyone has any video version or the CD listed below please contact me.

It may have had a US release in the late 1960s through distributor Paul Maslansky, who also produced Kiefer's CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD. Presumably, it would have played the Adult theater circuit. Interesting to note that Jess Franco writer/actor/associate Alain Petit (author of the essential MANACOA FILES) is listed as a member of the supporting cast. Petit also appeared in Jess Franco's 1975 DE SADE'S JULIETTE, which is presently MIA.

*The plot summary/review is from ALL MOVIE GUIDE.

On the CD:
Music by Bill Conti [!]
Sade E I Suoi Vizi (Juliette De Sade / Hetrosexual)

Composer : Bill Conti

Conductor : Bill Conti

Label / No. : Cam Original Soundtracks CAM 508951-2

Year of release : 1968

CD release: 2003

Thanks to Mirek for the image.