10 January, 2011

Jess Franco's War

 ... Fassbinder episode 26 mins | http://archive.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/02/fassbinder...
R.W. Fassbinder's Nazi era musical melodrama

Lili Marleen - Edition ... | http://www.filmreporter.de/dvd/34898;lili-marleen-edition-deutscher

Fall of the Eagles | http://www.eurocine.net/eagles.html
"Lilli" Strauss (Alexandra Erlich) and Karl Holbach (Ramon Sheen) reluctantly go Nazi in LA CHUTE DES AIGLES (1990)

Director: Jess Franco
Artistic Direction: A.M. Frank

Lillian Strauss entertains wounded Nazi soldiers during World War II more out of a sense of decency and patriotism than any sympathy with Hitler's Nazi empire. The daughter of the wealthy Walter Strauss (Christoper Lee) she doesn't have to do this but she is a romantic at heart. She even has a music box similar to the one at the opening of Franco's equally dire cannibal epic, MONDO CANIBALE (1980). Then she ends up in CABARET drag doing numbers for Nazi officers, including Peter Foelich (Mark Hamill!), an unabashed Nazi fanatic. Look for long time Franco collaborator Daniel White as her pianist.

It opens with stock footage of Hitler raving and marching Nazi troops then cuts to the glossy opening credits image of a rose and a German officer's cap on an elegant table top. Also beware of more stock footage from Alfredo Rizzo's 1971 I GIARDINI DEL DIAVOLO*,  L'EST DE BERLIN and other Eurocine acquisitions. I think the latter also may have been used in ZOMBIE LAKE. This is a soberly directed and lit film and has a good supporting cast, including the estimable Craig Hill (ESMERALDA BAY-1989) and Teresa Gimpera (LUCKY, THE INSCRUTABLE). The Parisian villa representing the Strauss family estate was used by Eurocine as a backdrop for the nasty doings of Mathis Vogel in EXORCISM (1974) and Robert Ginty in MANIAC KILLER (1988)! Christopher Lee is very good, cast against type, as the conservative, aging banker and Hill would prove very effective in Franco's next  feature, LA PUNTA DE LAS VIBORAS (the underrated DOWNTOWN HEAT-1991). Franco was headed for big changes with the disastrous reception of his DON QUIJOTE (1992) and his re emergence with the digital era titles.

In FALL OF THE EAGLES we essentially are left with an epic scenario realized on a budget scale. Don't expect any impressive battle scenes. And Alexandra Erlich is no Liza Minelli or Hanna Schygulla.

 ... Lili Marleen
Fassbinder and his Lili Marleen in Berlin.

Von «Lili Marleen» bis ... | http://www.kultur-online.net/?q=node/2720&nlb=1
Fassbinder directs.LILI MARLEEN (1980).

Typical Nazi Exploitation.

Note the that the top two images are from R.W. Fassbinder's LILI MARLEEN which bascially tells the same story in a different context. Both films are worth seeing and make a fascinating double bill. What they share in common is the attempt to invoke the social class lure of Nazism, seeing it as a matrix of conformity rather than perversion (cf Visconti's THE DAMNED), downplaying combat while considering "performance" as a means of personal/political discourse. What I'm getting at is that Franco's intentions seem more in line with Fassbinder's than FRAULEIN ELSA SS or CONVOY OF WOMEN or any of the other Eurotrash Nazi exploitation of the era. But the film was so unsuccessful that it is perhaps time for a reconsideration, or at least a fair viewing.

According to OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO the film had serious post production issues concerning the soundtrack and was eventually taken out of the director's hands. Hence, the mysterious "artistic direction" credit.

I'm still looking for an English friendly video/DVD which might allow me to upgrade my rating. 

Thanks to Francesco Cesari for helping me see the French Video.

*Not that I'm complaining since I used that ancient standard as stock footage for my own 2010 web series RETURN OF THE BLOODSUCKING NAZI ZOMBIES (Mathis Vogel), but as a reference point/homage not in the representational mode. 

1 comment:

Douglas A. Waltz said...

I have an English friendly copy of this. Let me know where to send you one.
I recently wacthed this film and thought that it was done really well. There are a couple of Franco nods sprinkled throughout, but this is a good war movie from the German point of view.
Well done.