23 May, 2009


Jess Franco "does" Maciste....

"Wal Davis" also appeared in this excellent Jess Franco film... in a "serious" role.

Was Waldemar Wohlfahrt aka Wal Davis really the "world's sleaziest actor" as referenced in OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO?

I wouldn't know. But I sure enjoyed watching him "act" in the delightfully absurd EL VAMPIRO DE LA AUTOPSIA (1970), better known as Jose Luis Madrid's THE HORRIBLE SEXY VAMPIRE. I'll be reviewing that here in the future. In the meantime my most recent reflections on one of the several titles he acted in for Jess Franco in the mid 1970's:

YUKA [onscreen title]
Directed by Clifford Brown [Jess Franco]

Pygar (Robert Woods) meets with Maciste (Wal Davis) in a Medieval pub where he recounts his recent adventure in the land of the Amazons. He tells of his capture, rape by and escape from the ferocious females, led by the sadistic sex-crazed Queen (Alice Arno. He persuades Maciste to join him in a follow up expedition with hopes in robbing the Amazons of their well-guarded treasure. Everything goes wrong, though, upon arrival in the Amazon's village. Recaptured, tortured, made into sex slaves, the party plans escape... but not without the treasure.

1973 was a busy year for Jess Franco, a year in which he made some 12 feature films This one was made on Madeira (according to Robert Woods who just snickered when I asked about details and confirmed it was made in about a week, simultaneously with LES EXPLOITS EROTIQUES DE MACISTE DANS L'ATLANTIDE, a week of very long work days in the heat of that summer.

The frenetic quality of the film, speed-freak editing of wildly composed angles in the thick bush with thumping drum and lounge xylophone accompaniment endears it to this viewer at least. Thrusting into the sensual flesh and bursting fauna with breathless zip-zooms which find cubist spaces not unlike certain films of Jean-Marie Straub (the connection with Straub is also mentioned in a CAHIER DU CINEMA sidebar reproduced in Alain Petit's original MANACOA FILES). Having admired and met Straub in 1976, along with the late Danielle Huillet, and having had the opportunity to question Jess Franco at length I can state that both filmmakers are concerned with a raw, direct exploration of extra-realistic spatial possibilities, or other dimensions, to the point of totally abandoning any interest in attempting to reproduce what is generally agreed up as "ontological" reality, or recognizable space, in a cinema which wants us to enter into it without danger, imagination or the resulting rewards of hard fought adventure.

No, I refuse to condemn this film or throw it to the dogs of lazy film criticism. One only has to study and enjoy three sequences: the worship of the talking icon as Yuka kneels before it as a zoom back from its mouth to long shot and up into an dazzle of tree tops; the stimulation of Montie Prous's nude privates by Yuka once again as the zoom takes us back from the wise cracking icon to spiral over the massaging by tree branch and once again diving into the sky not unlike the final shot of Robert Altman's NASHVILLE (1975) {BTW, Franco was very much impressed and influenced by Altman's films of this period, which also use the telezoom as an aggressive investigatory/distancing/commenting tool}, finally the recapture of the party in which sudden telezooms into the female archers and then away from them, camera tilts of Maciste's struggle and Pygar's sprint which becomes a fall into a brush filled chasm. And there is absurd genre parody as Wohlfahrt drums his naked chest after a bare-assed wrestle with the wicked queen.

A deliriously entertaining 73 minutes full of belly laughs, fascinating Z-grade mise en scene, tragedy and the promise that Maciste will fight another day. He did in the even more experimental sister feature which I'll be reviewing here in the future under its alternate title, LES GLOUTONNES.

The very absurdity of this enterprise is its saving grace in Franco's hands.  He zooms right into the that absurdity, literally and figuratively. The zoom lens becomes a voyeuristic eye racing through the jungle foliage of the location toward the erotic configurations formed by the Amazons as they forage for men to make into slaves. Featuring a feminist subtext where women rule and men are there for pleasure toys. And the music sounds like something from a children's television show of the 1950s! Both of the 1973 Maciste adventures need a HD release.

[Source print: VSOM video dub from French VHS]

(C) Robert Monell, 2017

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