30 October, 2008

JESS FRANCO HALLOWEEN COSTUMES!


The Dolmance Red Smoking Jacket [modelled by Christopher Lee]



Female Cat Burglar Mask [modelled by Janine Reynaud]


The BLUE RITA Gas Mask [modelled by Pamela Stanford]


The Skull [modelled by Guess Who?]


The Killer Couple Ensemble [modelled by Paul Muller and Soledad Miranda]



The Frankenstein Monster [modelled by Fernando Bilbao]








25 October, 2008

This Week's Quiz


What is the name of this German film and television director and who is the popular pulp fiction author whose books he, and Jess Franco, adapted into a number films during the 1960s and 1970s? Extra points if you can identify all the film titles of these adaptations which he and Franco made.




20 October, 2008

DEVIL HUNTER/EL CANIBAL: the Severin DVD


Mandingo Manhunter meets Cannibal Man!

Starlet Laura Crawford (Ursula Buchfellner) is abducted after arriving in a South American city. The kidnappers take her to the remote jungle island of Porto Santa Ana and contact her US based producer demanding a six million dollar ransom. Soldier of fortune Peter Weston (Al Cliver aka Pier Luigi Conti) is hired to deliver the money, bring the victim back safely and hopefully trick the criminals out of the loot and save the producer's investment in her publicity! In the meantime, a huge, nude cannibal god roams the island, kept alive by sacrificial victims fed to him by the local tribe. When the money exchange goes awry the kidnappers, Weston and Laura Crawford are trapped on the island without means of escaping the hungry monster.

Preposterous as the above plot set up is I have always enjoyed SEXO CANIBAL, at least somewhat more than the even more ridiculous, and disgusting, MONDO CANNIBALE/CANNIBALS, its 1980 flesh eating companion. That's not saying much, but I have a high tolerance for European Trash cinema. I still find it rather amazing that it took four countries, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany, to pony up the funds for this slapdash action-adventure-sex-gore spectacle.



Severin's rather glossy 1.85:1/16:9 anamorphic transfer of Jess Franco's 1980 expedition into Cannibal Exploitation terrain has been eagerly awaited and I can say I'm very pleased that they have unearthed a rather terrific looking (for the most part) 101+m print. I'm especially happy to have finally seen the opening scene which was covered by the opening credit cards in the abysmal late 1980s TWE video, THE MAN HUNTER, which I rented out from BLOCKBUSTER two decades ago, copied and have suffered through ever since. That's illegal and That's Dedication!

I sampled the French language track and, as I suspected, found that the film plays somewhat better with it as far as I'm concerned, English language subtitles are included as is the vintage English language track (which adds to its Grindhouse ambiance). Onscreen title: EL CANIBAL.

I can also report that the David Gregory documentary interview with Uncle Jess, SEXO CANIBAL, is brimming with our favorite director's cigarette smoking antics along with behind-the-scenes glimpses into the making of a film in a genre the director scorned with little in the way of resources [the famous bug-eyed look of the nude, towering Cannibal {NOT Burt Altman but a Portuguese-African gymnastic champion} was created by utilizing ping-pong balls with tiny eyeholes]. He also comments about working with Al Cliver, Ursula Buchfellner (whom Jess found to be more talented than MONDO CANNIBALE's Sabrina Siani, whom he ungraciously terms "a piece of...meat"), adding his rather interesting analysis of Ruggero Deodato's CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1979). A lot of information and entertainment packed into just over a quarter of an hour.


Severin's DEVIL HUNTER is at least 10 minutes longer than any version I've seen and now has the feel of a fullscale Eurosleaze Epic. Besides the previously blocked out footage at the beginning there's a lot of extra nude native dancing with Franco's telezoom exploring the exposed genitalia of the black dancer and Ms Buchfeller. There's even one shot, through the spread legs of native leader Claude Boisson revealing that he didn't wear any underwear beneath his native shirt. Too much information! The final struggle between the nude black cannibal and Al Cliver is also longer. There is also some extended dialogue in various scenes.

This is an interesting, luminous transfer of vault elements which sometimes is a bit soft, almost fogged, but that looks due to shooting conditions as much of his film seems to have been shot out of focus. That's not unusual in a Franco production (cf FEMALE VAMPIRE) but the POV shots of the cannibal are obviously deliberately either unfocused or filtered with something and the non POV shots of the cannibal's encounters with various human meals are also fogged. For me it just adds to the sense of jungle delirium and sex-gore transgression. Purists may be less forgiving. In terms of color it certainly looks better than ever beflore.

The vintage English language track is very full-bodied, some may say loud, and since most of the characters are Americans I guess it works. I'm just pleased that both the English and French tracks were included. The interview is really worth the price of admission. Jess is in full-cannibal-ridicule mode and I had to break out in sustained laughter as he describes how in the Italian cannibal films of that era they always eat the "nasty" parts rather than the "nice" parts like "tits." Jess once again proves to be a world class raconteur.

Although it wasn't his idea and he still dislikes the cannibal-exploitation genre Jess seems to have enjoyed doing this more than CANNIBALS aka MONDO CANNIBALE even though he seems to be less talented at action-adventure than jungle fairy tales. He notes that this was a "monster" movie for him rather than a cannibal film, the monster just happens to like to eat people and is the god of the locals. As far as Franco's 1980s jungle filmography goes I personally prefer his non-cannibal LA ESCLAVA BLANCA (1985), a even more low-budget and "naive" jungle outing which delights as a perfect Saturday Matinee item.

(C) Robert Monell 2008




19 October, 2008

BLOODY MOON: Severin DVD


International Boarding School of Languages, Alicante: During a dance at the language school for young women the facially deformed Miguel (Alexander Waechter) steals a Mickey Mouse mask and stalks an attractive student, brutally stabbing her to death in bungalow #13 to stop her horrified screams when she discovers his grotesque features. Several years later Dr. Domingo Aunous (another cameo by Uncle Jess) releases Miguel from psychiatric confinement into the care of his sister Manuela (Nadja Gerganhoff), the lover of Alvaro, the language school's director who is trying to cover up his financial mismangement. The couple are mistrusted by the elderly Countess, who controls the family fortune and intends to disinherit niece Manuela, leaving Miguel set to inherit the Countess' considerable estate.

But Miguel will become a key suspect when several of the new batch of female students are found murdered in cursed bungalow #13. Is this all a plot by Manuela and Alvaro to set up Miguel? You bet. In the meantime the frantic imagination of the recently arrived Angela (Olivia Pascal), looking more like a runway model than a student, becomes overstimulated as the killer begins to leave body parts in her room like ritual offerings.



Depite the presence of the Franco's familiar Toxic Family Syndrome this attempt at a HALLOWEEN/FRIDAY THE 13TH type slasher film borrows many plot points, characters and images from those films as well as Mario Bava's superior 1971 template, BAY OF BLOOD, Hitchcock's PSYCHO and the 1970s output of Brain De Palma. One of the director's most impersonal works, he winks at the material by casting himself as the smug psychiatrist, DIE SAGE DES TODES [onscreen title] does have some incidental interest, particularly in the sexual tension developed in the relationship between the manipulative Manuela and the predator/victim Miguel.

Franco includes a series of rhyming telezoom shots from the craters of the moon to the voluptuous Manuela bathing her nude torso in the nimbus of the celestial body. The victims are skewered, garroted, beheaded by circular saw in the most infamous scene, the mutilated bodies hung from coat hangers, light fixtures and under the bedding of the endlessly terror-stricken heroine. This is all intercut with much juvenile horsing around by the students as they flirt with the male staff and lounge around the swimming pool in bikinis. You get the picture.

Directing the by-the-numbers action with detached professionalism, the director points out in the amusing accompanying interview he had little regard for production manager Erich Tomek's script (credited to a nonexistent "Rayo Casablanca") and the "easy listening" disco style score of Gerhard Heinz (he was promised a Pink Floyd composed score), both of which were imposed on him by the German production company.

As a 1980s-era body count movie BLOODY MOON is more stylish and has more going for it than most FRIDAY, THE 13TH sequels. Franco had a fairly healthy budget and it appears that the director's usual ironic touches were held in strict check. The director makes some interesting points about the banality, cliches and limitations of the slasher film genre in the featurette interview, FRANCO MOON. He notes that although BLOODY MOON had twice the budget of another 1980 Lisa Film German-Spanish production, LINDA aka Orgia de Ninfomanas, that film is much richer in terms of his personal touches and that he had more creative freedom. The focus in LINDA is on eroticism rather than gore and suspense as in BLOODY MOON. Eroticism is a Jess Franco specialty whereas gore effects and conventional plotting are obviously not.


Franco also recounts how he was asked to provide a film with fifty shock moments, many more than the baker's dozen in BAY OF BLOOD. He delivered them but without the panache of a Mario Bava or a Dario Argento. A knife through the breast is a knife through the breast here and it may be shocking to see someone suddenly get chainsawed in half but the shock is gone within two seconds. The lingering on the girl riding the slab toward the buzz saw is effective but as soon as her [obviously prosthetic) head is sheared off and a jet of blood shoots from her torso the mind clicks into suspension of disbelief mode.

For BLOODY MOON's R1 DVD debut Severin has come up with richly colorful (Juan Cozar's cinematography comes off much better here than in past VHS/DVD incarnations with some particularly gorgeous shades of blue on display), nearly pristine elements and provide this admittedly lower tier effort with a razor sharp, eyeopening 1.85:1/16:9 widescreen anamorphic transfer which is far superior to the previous German R2 DVD. The film is presented with its familiar, vintage English language track, but the credits indicate a German source print. BLOODY MOON has never looked this good on any home video presentation and I don't doubt that this will be the definitive version. Whatever its shortcomings this High Definition transfer certainly greatly enhances its entertainment value.

An English language trailer is also included.




13 October, 2008

CLAIRE: Joe D'Amato composite


Joe's back.... and up to his old tricks again!



I'm looking for some exact information on CLAIRE, a very obscure 1979 "composite" put together by Joe D'Amato, reportedly intended as a porn item which combined scenes from a Jess Franco film, a B Lahaie film and a D'Amato film into a new stand-alone feature. Credits from Franco's 1978 ELLES FONT TOUT, one of his last Robert De Nesle produced hardcores, are included.

Has anyone actually seen this? I'm wondering which D'Amato and Lahaie films were edited in with the Franco footage.

I would also be very interested in any information on where to find adverts/promotional material for this film. Thanks.




10 October, 2008

This Week's Quiz


The questions are: Who is the Spanish actor-director seen above in an image from one of the 1960s Spaghetti Westerns in which he appeared? He would go on to become involved in two Jess Franco films. Please name those films and identify the exact nature of his involvement.


Thanks to Bertrand Van Wonterghem for the image.





05 October, 2008

THE JESS FRANCO-BURT KWOUK CONUNDRUM


Burt Kwouk played a villain in THE BRIDES OF FU MANCHU (1966) who got cut and pasted into Jess Franco's THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU (1969). How's that again?

Burt Kwouk looks like he's mad in the above image... Is he steamed at Jess Franco?


Burt Kwouk as a villain in another mid 1960's cult movie... well, let's just say the image is not from THE BRIDES OF FU MANCHU or THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU.


Having picked up the new Warner Brothers DVD of Don Sharp's THE BRIDES OF FU MANCHU I was amused to see again the "safety lock" scene [that's what I call it] toward the end of the film wherein Fu Manchu (Christoper Lee) and henchman Feno (Burt Kwouk) argue over the "safety maximum" registered on the "Quadrature" gauge reading of the control room. This operation is brought to a climax with Fu Manchu summarily executing his assistant who falls on the safety lock unleashing doom on the innocent. Burt has held his own against Christopher Lee and paid the price...

The elaborately detailed control room complete with all kinds of dials, blinking lights, levers, glowing electrodes, et al may look familiar as does this entire scene. And it is if you've seen Jess Franco's THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU made three years later in Spain for the same producer-writer, Harry Alan Towers. Franco/Towers cut and pasted this entire scene into the opening of CASTLE... intercut with yet more stock footage from Roy Ward Baker's unrelated Titanic epic A NIGHT TO REMEMBER and other films.

They didn't care a damn about continuity or poor Burt Kwouk, best known as Cato of the PINK PANTHER films, who doesn't get billed in CASTLE (I wonder if he even got royalties?). This is all meant as a light hearted interlude and not intended to be taken at all seriously or meant as an accusation against anyone. Both Burt and Jess turned 78 this year and one hopes that Burt is blissfully unaware of the matter. Both films are fun in their own unique way and who cares if THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU pretty much sunk (like the Titanic) the long running film franchise. In any case, my favorite was THE MASK OF FU MANCHU (1932) with Boris Karloff, who nailed Fu Manchu forever. Burt Kwouk went on to a busy, successful career as a popular character actor in numerous films and TV shows.

My review of the new Warner Brothers DVD is on my cinemadrome site www.cinemadrome.yuku.com or just click on the link at the top of the sidebar at far left.




02 October, 2008