30 August, 2009
Here's what they want over at amazon.com:
Customer image from W. S. Smith "out-of-print-video" [see above image]
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Starring: Gilda Arancio, Alice Arno Rating: NR (Not Rated) Format: VHS Tape
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3.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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3 used from $31.95 2 collectible from $59.99
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DVD $24.99 $22.49 24 used & new from $15.99
Ha! Just a play on words in the blog's title. I was just struck how the old OOP FORCE VIDEO [72m; 1.33:1] of LA COMTESSE NOIRE (1973) is going for twice the price of the superior [video-wise] and much longer IMAGE DVD!
I just revisted the FORCE VIDEO VHS last night and will port over some commentary from www.cinemadrome.yuku.com THE WORLD OF JESS FRANCO FORUM.
Do any readers actually have the FORCE VIDEO prerecord of EROTIKILL? It's one of a series called WICKED/WILD WOMEN, other titles include Luigi Bazzoni's PRIMAL IMPULSE, which I still have the oversized box for but can't located the actual VHS!
27 August, 2009
The late Alain Robbe-Grillet's final masterwork is now available on DVD...
GRADIVA (C'est Gradiva qui vous appelle) 2006 France/Belgium-119m.-1.85:1 anamorphic;
In French with English subtitles
Written and Directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet
Gradiva is Latin for "she who walks" and the walker in Alain Robbe-Grillet's final film (he made ten in a directorial career which began in 1963 with L'IMMORTELLE)transforms walking into an erotic art form. At least when the walker is a beautiful blonde ghost [?] of a woman perhaps dead a century. Or is it a figure in a painting of an executed woman which has come to life to tease art researcher John Locke (James Wilby in a subtle performance with no apologies to the 17th Century empiricist philosopher) into altered states of consciousness. Locke is in Morocco to study the North African period drawings of Eugene Delacroix. The film opens as he proceeds through a series of transparencies of Delacroix's mystery woman, horses, an arched foot. He is startled by the sound of a horse in the courtyard, glancing out his window he glimpses the iconic woman whom he will pursue for the remainder of the film. Sex, mythology, a murder mystery [VERTIGO by way of Euripides], fetishism intertwine immediately, leading to obsession and...death. But not a death which you will see coming.
Loosely based on Wilhelm Jensen's 1903 novella [the subject of Freud's essay Der Wahn und die Träume in W. Jensens Gradiva]the film is a sort of grand summation of Robbe-Grillet's filmography and something of a slap in the face to those who maintain his films are a minor facet of his legacy. One can understand why Jensen's story fascinated Freud and the Surrealists of that generation.
Surely one of the key writers of the second half of the 20th century ARG may also have been one of the most innovative and courageous filmmakers. He never settled down as a director, always pushing the envelope of representation, boundaries of accepted "good taste" and good film making. As he says in the essential 30m interview on the MONDO MACABRO disc, his films defy and deny conventional realism/don't give the audience the comfort of the illusion of realism. That's a pretty gutsy methodology and he paid the price. GRADIVA... had a rough time with French critics and audiences in 2006 and some critics have had a tendency to classify his films as soft core porn with arty airs.
GRADIVA...C'est Gradiva qui vous appelle is a serene contemplation of the aesthetics of picture making, sex and death. That might sound unbearably pretentious... but it's not. At least not here. Robbe-Grillet intercuts images from his 1970 EDEN ET APRES (a film which I had the good luck to view theatrically with the writer-director in attendance), another erotic adventure set in North Africa [Tunis]. It's a startling effect which non-ARG scholars may not get. I found the film entrancing, unpredictable, original and moving. GRADIVA is unlike other ARG films in that it has fairly recognizable human characters who seem three dimensional compared to the rather abstract figures in his earlier films. Wilby and Dany Verissimo, as Locke's ambiguous concubine, have a "reality" that other characters in his films do not. The director makes a point of differentiating "realism" from reality in the interview, which also covers his cinema influences (Antonioni, Bunuel, Godard, Cocteau), Sade, censorship and Feminist criticisms of his continuing obsession with S&M images of bound and tortured females. These figures are often used in both part of an overall design and as reflections of the dynamics of pleasure and pain. But even toward the end of his long life the writer-director does not make excuses for his work. He's still excited and engaged in the challenge of stimulating thought/discussion, which is all one can ask of an artist.
The kinky tableaux depicting the S&M orgies of an international crime cartel may or may not be "real" but they do present an alternate "reality" which takes one out of this world and into a world of intoxicating legend. You may not want to go there. But once you do, it's mind expanding and addictive... in a good way. This is still the same man who wrote the original screenplay for LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD,* the 1961 Alain Resnais film which remains one of the most influential in all "art" cinema. Filmmakers as Joseph Losey, Stanley Kubrick, Paul Schrader and, yes, Jess Franco, among many others, have returned to MARIENBAD again and again in their own films.
The MONDO MACABRO DVD couldn't be a better presentation. The 1.85:1 framed print is in excellent shape both in terms of video and audio, with delirious, intense hues which tell so much more than dialogue. Extensive text notes will be of value to those wishing to explore the background and making of the film. The original theatrical trailer is also included.
GRADIVA... may or may not be a masterwork but it is the work of a master image-maker... delirious, haunting, disturbing, transgressive and transforming images.
*MARIENBAD's influence is also apparent in Dario Argento's INFERNO (1980), not only in the plot and characters but in Argento's casting of MARIENBAD's Sacha Pitoeff as the antique dealer. The plot, main characters and ambiance of L'IMMORTELLE are virtually recreated in Franco's PAROXISMUS/VENUS IN FURS.
(C) Robert Monell, 2009
22 August, 2009
Have you seen DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN (1971)?
Even if you have...
you probably haven't....
Go to www.cinemadrome.yuku.com for some thoughts on
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18 August, 2009
I don't exactly remember what I was doing on August 18th, 1970, the day Soledad Miranda died after a car accident near Lisbon, Portugal. I had heard of Jess Franco the year before but she was not on my radar. I didn't know about VAMPYROS LESBOS or EUGENIE DE SADE or any of her previous non Jess Franco films.
Since her death she has become an icon. After dying at the age of 27 she has become immortal. I often wonder what would have happened to her if she had lived. She was going to sign a contract with CCC executive Artur Brauner. She was set to appear in another Franco film. She might have gone onto further international stardom in the 1970s and perhaps would have eventually worked in German television. Perhaps she would have retired from cinema, as she had previously done to focus on her family.
Who knows? She was certainly a multifaceted talent and could play polar opposites as she does in EL CONDE DRACULA and VAMPYROS LESBOS. In one she's a victim in the other a predator. In EUGENIE DE SADE she's both.
I'm particularly interested in seeing some of her earlier non-Jess Franco work. I guess this is a day to think about her... what could have been and what was.
Thanks to www.soledadmiranda.com for the above image. Please visit this essential site today.
16 August, 2009
The real deal...
I recently revisited the original Spanish version of CECILIA, which Eurocine expanded and reedited. Lensed on the same Sintra, Portugal locations as A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD (1971), I noted that the location of the title character's (Muriel Montossey aka Vicky Adams) nude swim is the same as the nude swim which Christina Von Blanc took in VIRGIN... nine years earlier. This time I noticed that the camera angles are also the same! Some would criticize this as laziness or unimaginative repetition. For me it creates a welcome sense of obsessive (mine) deja vu.
There's an excellent review [in Spanish] by Alex on his essential Jess Franco blog, EL FRANCONOMICON of the original 1980 Spanish version of what later became CECILIA when Eurocine took over and had actor-director Olivier Mathot film about twenty minutes of inserts shot in France. Mathot aka Cole Polly/Claude Plaut, is a better actor (a Franco icon in EXORCISM/THE SADIST OF NOTRE DAME and a number of his 70s French films) than director. The inserts are rather bland, silly and add nothing, but disrupt the mood of hermetic eroticism of the original. As Jess Franco insists on the CECILIA DVD interview featurette, "There is no Cecilia!" The Mathot footage features the actor at a party with some upscale hedonists who have nothing to do with the main plot and some tourist views of Emmanuelle/Cecilia in Paris.
CECILIA runs about 105m and is out on an excellent BU DVD with a French language track as well as in English. Aberraciones is in Spanish only on the 85m print I have [thanks to ECC], shorter than the 98m print reviewed by Alex. But it's far superior in terms of a mood of exotic, humid fantasy. It all takes place in the lush tropical gardens near Sintra, Portugal, and, as pointed out above, the location itself acts as Franco's commentary and allows him to create his personal environment for his take on the EMMANUELLE franchise.
The Eurocine-Mathot shot inserts are glossy sleaze, Franco's film is pulp poetry. There's a difference. You don't need to understand Spanish to understand that the film's focus is on female degradation/humiliation/rape fantasies within the structure of an open, "romantic" marriage. At the end, Franco seems to lean toward heterosexual monogamy as a nesting preference, after bursts of dangerous sexual experimentation.
Tropical plants and wild flowers abound from the opening credit sequence to the final image of a floral arrangement, a Buddha like ceramic and a tray of long stemmed glasses. Pull focus. Fin.
In between are long, languorous strolls by the characters and Soler's very mobile camera, slowly tracking past the tropical vegetation decorating the fantasy villa, a castle of erotic hallucinations.
If you've only seen CECILIA it's worth giving Aberraciones sexuales de una mujer casada a look. It's shorter, more to-the-point, plays best in Spanish and is 100% Jess Franco....
Thanks to Alex for the image.
Thanks to Eric Cotenas for helping me see ABERACCIONES SEXUALES DE UNA MUJER CASADA.
(C) Robert Monell, 2009
13 August, 2009
Vintage OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES VHS...
I keep advising a friend who has amassed a sizable vintage VHS collection over the last three decades to transfer them to DVD-R before they are gone forever. He keeps resisting and he may have a point. These oversized box/Mom n' Pop video store/grey market treasures may be the real deal when the inevitable end comes to the present DVD era. The end may already be in sight.
A few weeks ago a fascinating article in TIME magazine on the impact of NETFLIX on DVD buyer's habits and on popular culture in general caught my eye. TIME movie critic Richard Corliss laments the passing of the likes of Kim's Video in Manhattan while noting that DVD sales have dropped by nearly 20% in the first half of 2009. At the same time NETFLIX rentals have surged. People may be going out to see movies in theaters more often but they are purchasing fewer DVD's and renting more. He speculates that we are possibly at the end of the DVD era and heading into a Streaming Video era, where movies will be delivered on the Internet and TV through cable providers and Internet hookups. In fact, it's already happening. You can download just about anything off the Internet, including legitimately released DVD content. This has to be hurting sales. You can download movies that have never been on video or DVD anywhere. You can even download movies currently playing at your local multiplex.
I tend to think he has a point. DVD's will be around for some time but people have less disposable income in the wake of the economic downturn and would rather rent or download content out of economic necessity. I can't blame them. It's free and easy. It's only a matter of time before it all becomes Corporate. Market value may be damned, but it is rarely ignored.
We've seen the end of the VHS/Mom and Pop Video store era (and I really miss those venues), the coming and going of Laser discs. I'm buying fewer DVD's myself, but I still don't plan to get into frequent downloading or streaming video or increase my mainstream movie going.
But I do wonder what the DVD landscape will look like, say, five years from now. Will Blu-ray DVD be booming or struggling. If people can't afford regular DVD's...
I'm going to appreciate my own collection of vintage VHS more.
10 August, 2009
Carloto Perla is credited as the singer who delivers those eerie voodoo tribal rhythms in Jess Franco's DEVIL HUNTER. The director is also co-credited with the score of that film. Perla's distinctive vocals can also be heard on the tracks of such JF 1980s films as MACUMBA SEXUAL, LA NOCHE DE LOS SEXOS ABIERTOS and the Spanish version of OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES. Although he gets onscreen credit on certain films, on others he's uncredited.
I've always thought his vocals add considerable moody ambiance to the proceedings of these films. But I would like to know more about him. Is he Spanish? Portuguese? He is also associated with a group called the Hildagos or Hidalgos or something like that... I can't properly read the musics credit on the dupey video I own of Franco's L' ESCLAVA BLANCA (1985). Does anyone know anything more about him and that group?
04 August, 2009
Peter Welbeck aka Harry Alan Towers contributed to the script on this intelligent Lucio Fulci adaptation of Jack London's story.
I wanted to watch a Harry Alan Towers related film last night so I put on my old [cut and fullscreen] prerecord of the Towers co-scripted and Lucio Fulci directed WHITE FANG (1973). It's an above average adventure based on the writings on Jack London.
Spaghetti Western legend Franco Nero [DJANGO] is featured as Jason Scott, a New York Herald Tribute journalist who uncovers the corrupt activities of a sleazy business developer in Dawson City during the gold rush. This story is intertwined with the story of the half-wolf dog White Fang who is trapped by Charlie (Daniel Martin), an Eskimo, and his young son. The boy befriends the dog, but the father mistrusts its wolfish nature. The animal, of course, saves the boy. After getting badly mauled by a bear in a sadistic show put on by the villain, White Fang comes back to save the day when the town is threatened by the businessman's planned sabotage of a dam. There are some fairly disturbing scenes of violence here, but they seems to be an integral part of the story and ambiance.
It sounds corny but it's not. The animals are well-trained, completely credible and have as much character as the humans. John Steiner makes a memorable, slimy villain with his slicked back hair and laser stare. He looks like one of those moustache twirling cads in an silent film. This could actually be called a communist western considering that private business interests are presented as evil and self destroying while collective action sets things right. It also has something to say about human nature. When a gold strike in Nome is announced the locals can't wait to abandon the town. Once can really sense Fulci's hand here. This is the same director who made DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING the year before.
Excellent cinematography by Erico Menczer and an atmospheric score by maestro Carlo Rustichelli really boost the action.
A strong supporting cast includes Virni Lisa, Harry Carey Jr., Rik Battaglia and Fernando Rey.
I sure wish I could have seen this in 2.35:1 with good video quality. This needs to be on a deluxe DVD with the Fulci-directed follow up, Ritorno di Zanna Bianca. Joe D'Amato reportedly helped out with some scenes in these films.
Fulci's Eurowesterns, especially MASSACRE TIME (1966) and FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE (1975,) are among the best the genre has to offer.
I'm not certain of Towers exact contribution to the script but this is a well-written, multi-layered Jack London screen adaptation.
RETURN OF WHITE FANG
a.k.a. Challenge to White Fang, Ritorno di Zanna Bianca, Le Retour de Buck le Loup, Die Teufelsschlucht der wilden Wölfe. 1974.
Directed by Lucio Fulci. Produced by Ermanno Donati. Written by Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, Alberto Silvestri. Cinematography by Silvano Ippoliti. Music by Carlo Rustichelli.
Cast: Harry Carey Jr. (Tarwater), Renato Cestie (Bill), Raimund Harmstorf (Kurt Jansen), Virna Lisi (Evangeline), Franco Nero (Jason Scott), Werner Pochath (Bandit), John Steiner (Beauty Smith), Donald O'Brien (Bandit), Renato De Carmine (Leclerc).
a.k.a. Zanna Bianca, Colmillo blanco, Croc-blanc. 1973.
Directed by Lucio Fulci. Produced by Ermanno Donati. S/P- Roberto Gianviti, Piero Regnolli, Peter Welbeck, Guy Elmes, Thomas Keyes, Guillaume Roux. Cinematography by Erico Menczer. Second unit director: Tonino Ricci. Music by Carlo Rustichelli. 101 min.
Cast: Carole André (Krista Oatley), Ricardo Battaglia (Jim Hall), Harry Carey Jr., Daniele Dublino (Chester), Raimund Harmstorf (Kurl Jansen), Virna Lisi (Evangeline), Daniel Martín (Charlie), Franco Nero (Jason Scott), Fernando Rey (The Priest), John Steiner (Beauty Smith).
03 August, 2009
Harry Alan Towers calling Orson Welles... or Jess Franco!
Maria Rohm, the wife of Harry Alan Towers, was featured in what many consider to be Jess Franco's best film. Ironically, Towers didn't write this one...
Few appreciated the Towers-Franco-Christopher Lee Fu Manchu productions...
The Towers produced THE GIRL FROM RIO (1968) was supposed to be a sequel to his 1967 production THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU. It turned out to be a cut above the Towers-Franco Fu Manchu-Sax Rohmer projects.
Below is the copy from VARIETY, Sunday, August 2:
"Prolific B-movie producer and writer Harry Alan Towers, who made more than 100 films working with cult stalwarts such as Christopher Lee and director Jess Franco, died of heart failure in Toronto on Aug. 2. He was 89.
While Towers generally worked on low-budget fare, he favored literary adaptations by such writers as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Alan Poe, Agatha Christie and Edgar Wallace.
During the 1960s and 1970s, he wrote and produced dozens of films, sometimes credited as Peter Welbeck. Among the actors he worked with were Orson Welles, Michael York, Michael Caine, Richard Harris, James Earl Jones and Tony Curtis.
Towers often shot in locations such as South Africa, Ireland and Bulgaria on films such as “The Face of Fu Manchu,” Iran-filmed “Ten Little Indians,” South African classic adaptation “Cry the Beloved Country” and “Klondike Fever.”
His association with Italian giallo auteur Franco produced films which have become underground classics including “Venus in Furs,” “Eugenie,” “Marquis de Sade: Justine” and “Night of the Blood Monster.” "
The somewhat amusing description of Franco an an "Italian giallo auteur" indicates the state of confusion which still surrounds his career among the mainstream press. But it must be some kind of coup that the legendary publication now considers VENUS IN FURS and NIGHT OF THE BLOOD MONSTER aks THE BLOODY JUDGE as underground classics!
Towers was a rogue writer-producer who produced many entertaining films, many of which he wrote under the beard Peter Welbeck. His script for Franco's EUGENIE...THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION (1970) qualifies as one of the best things he ever wrote. He also supplied our "Italian giallo auteur" with larger than usual budgets and such international stars as Christopher Lee (EL CONDE DRACULA), Jack Palance (JUSTINE), George Sanders (THE GIRL FROM RIO) and Mercedes McCambridge (99 WOMEN) among others.
Towers also produced the Orson Welles radio program THE LIVES OF HARRY LIME (1951-52) and the 1972 film version of TREASURE ISLAND, featuring Welles. This was a project which Welles attempted as an actor-producer in 1965 with none other than Jess Franco as director! Not surprisingly, it was never completed.
I'm attempting to list favorite Harry Alan Towers produced films. Candidates would include THE FACE OF FU MANCHU (1965), THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU (1967), among others.
Towers also wrote the Spaghetti Western/adventure WHITE FANG (1975), directed by Lucio Fulci.
The complete adventures of this lovable rogue have yet to be told...
01 August, 2009
Thanks to David Z. for posting about this SE of A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD
which contains an infamous orgy sequence. I've always found this scene, which
was filmed several years after the original's completion without Jess Franco's
involvement, to be somewhat in the same spirit of Cinema-Bis surrealism as the
the Franco-shot footage.
Information and images can be found at David's TOMB WHOM IT MAY CONCERN blog.
David has emailed me that the sequence was apparently directed by Pierre Querut, a Jess Franco/Eurocine associate. I believe that Querut may be the actor who plays
the sleazy Madeira police inspector who dismisses Dr. Roberts in FEMALE VAMPIRE.
This insert features a masked queen (Alice Arno) presiding over a garden orgy. One
of the participants is Wal Davis/Waldemar Wohlfarht (THE HORRIBLE SEXY VAMPIRE, YUKA). There will be more on him in a future blog.
More information can be found at Jeremy Richey's Fascination: The Jean Rollin Experience blog where the director comments on his involvement.
Rollin directed some, but not all, of the added scenes.
Both blogs are linked on the left sidebar.
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