11 July, 2009

Favorite Jess Franco Dr. Orloff Movie

This is a slightly expanded version of a topic I already posted on www.cinemadrome.yuku.com/ . I moved it over here to get some feedback from the blog readers. There are already two votes for EL SINIESTRO DR. ORLOF...

There are four "official" Jess Franco Dr. Orloff films: GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (1961), EL SECRETO DEL DR. ORLOFF (1974), THE EYES OF ORLOFF (1972) and, my personal favorite, EL SINIESTRO DR. ORLOF (1982). I like it so much because even though it has similar characters and plot to the original GRITOS (which was, after all heavily influenced by Georges Franju's LES YEUX SANS VISAGE-1959) it has a visual style and mood all its own. Very oppressive ambiance highlighted by the Pablo Villa/Jess Franco score which the director himself performs on a synthesizer. Long deep, Goth organ chords which are synthed into shrieks not unlike the hookers kidnapped and experimented on by the SON of Dr. Orloff, effectively played by Antonio Mayans.

Franco's early 60's German-style Expressionism in such films as GRITOS..., EL SECRETO..., LA MANO DE UN HOMBRE MUERTO aka THE SADIST BARON VON KLAUS is indebted to early Fritz Lang, Murnau's NOSFERATU and John Brahm's THE LODGER. But by the early 80s the director had developed a new style highlighted by garish colors, reflections within reflections, telezoom-plan sequences and a tendency to pattern actors within a highly artificial mise-en-scene. One scene in EL SINIESTRO... features a shot of the elderly, wheelchair-bound Orloff (Howard Vernon) whose aging, vulture-like head is haloed by a bright green tropical plant leaf as he argues with his son, making a silent visual comment on the old man's vegetative but tenacious physical state. Then there's another Franco "red room" in which the victims are strapped nude to a floor level table and disintegrated by the younger Orloff's ray only to be re integrated into the shell of his beloved mother, Melissa (Rocio Fexias (GEMIDOS DE PLACER has a ambiguous sensuality in her double role). Tony Skios (Antonio Rebello) and Juan Soler Cozar (the film's DP) are amusing as they have fun with their Inspector Tanner and Malou roles.

The film is essentially a running dialogue between Orloff Senior and son Alfred on medical ethics and hidden motives. Alfred admits to being stimulated by the cries of his victims, the "gritos en la noche" are music to his twisted consciousness.
Andros (Raf Smog=Rafael Cayetano) is now a burly, leather jacketed figure who looks like he might be a bouncer in the local disco but behind his sunglasses he's eyeless and as helpless a victim as the women he captures. This has a completely delirious visual/audio atmosphere which overwhelms the derivative plot and familiar characters. As Franco's comment on the denizens of the disco age and the hedonistic "new democracy" (which Franco himself parodies as the flaming gay "witness") of early 1980's Spain. Once again, style becomes content. The synth theme MELISSA was written by Franco and Rebecca White.

The opening aerial images of the smog choked city of Alicante are a kind of late twentieth century counterpart to the foggy 1912 streets of Hartog in GRITOS... . And the ending is rich is irony, with Vernon's chilling laugh. Not on DVD anywhere that I'm aware of, this needs a R1 presentation.

There's a Spanish video version of this retitled EXPERIMENTOS MACABROS [Aper Video] which was subtitled by a US gray market company.

EL SINIESTRO DR. ORLOF is not tier one Franco, but I would place it high in tier two. It should have been part of the "ORLOFF COLLECTION" released on DVD some years back, instead of THE INVISIBLE DEAD, which has Dr. Orloff as a character (played by Vernon), but is not a Jess Franco film. The character of Dr. Orloff resurfaces again and again throughout the director's vast filmography.

I'll be discussing the equally obscure EYES OF DR. ORLOFF here in the near future.

I would be interested in knowing which JF Orloff films are personal favorites.

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Anonymous said...

I'm guessing it wasn't part of the Orloff set because Eurocine didn't own it.

I don't recall any of the shots on either side of the Spanish cover actually being in the film.

Robert Monell said...

Spanish cover actually being in the film.

Do you have the Spanish video cover? It would be interesting to see it.

Robert Monell said...

because Eurocine didn't own it.

Yeah, they just put together the Eurocine Orloffs. I should add that I know of a DVD company who has access to the rights and materials of this. I hope they decide to release it.

aleXz said...

I also prefer the 80s version, it has powerful images never seen anywhere. Even EL SECRETO DEL DR ORLOFF, though not as polished as GRITOS, has more interesting and modern themes, as the suggested homosexual relationship between the two brothers.

Robert Monell said...

also prefer the 80s version, it has powerful images never seen

Yes, this looks and sounds different from the other Orloffs and FACELESS: I like it better than the FACELESS also because it's more interestingly composed and Franco seemed to have a freer hand.

dfordoom said...

I've only seen the first of Franco's Dr Orloff movies. I really should try to track down some of the others.