10 May, 2011

Franco's 80s actors: JOSÉ LLAMAS

In 1979, Antonio Mayans, who had previously acted with Jess Franco on an occasional basis six years before, was part of a theatre company that was putting on a play at the Alfil theatre in Madrid. When, two months later, the production got into money problems, Mayans quit the company on a Saturday. On Sunday he got a call from Alicante to appear in Franco’s first version of Poe’s The Gold Bug (unreleased as yet). The rest, as they say, is history.

Among those Mayans left behind in the acting company was a dark, slender, boyish actor named José Llamas. It seems to have been through Mayans that Llamas, three years after that failed stage production, was to become one of Franco’s regular 1980s players. According to Mayans, Llamas “was very good friends with my wife and daughters, so after a while we had him join the group. He was a very nice man, and almost like an older brother to my daughters. He was also a very good actor, he could dance and sing…” (1).

As part of “the group”, Llamas was assigned anything from minor roles to leads, sometimes on the heroic side, as in Viaje a Bangkok, ataúd incluido (1985) and several antagonists, such as his “Macho Jim” in Los blues de la calle Pop (1983). Strangest of all was Franco’s decision that he fill in the shoes of Bruce Lee in some of the pseudo-martial arts features the director was occasionally and inexplicably turning out in the eighties despite an absolute lack of demand in Spain for homegrown product of this kind, not to mention Llamas’s lack of an appropriate background. The actor certainly looked athletic, had black hair and, as Mayans has said, could dance, but in the words of David Domingo “he’s hopelessly clueless about martial arts” (2). These words are in reference to La sombra del judoka contra el doctor Wong (1982-85), with Llamas credited as “Bruce Lyn” and the real Bruce Lee featuring on the film’s poster!

Since Llamas flourished in Franco’s cinema in 1982, and given his youth and looks, it’s not altogether surprising, perhaps, that he should “graduate” (if that’s the word) to appearing in several of the hardcore features that engaged the filmmaker throughout much of the 80s. In this respect, the actor’s roles include that of the Russian seen dancing to In the Steppes of Central Asia in the 1982 screwfest Una rajita para dos (“What’s the matter?” he tells the girls. “Don’t you like Borodin?”). In the credits of these flicks, Llamas’s name was usually replaced by the facetious porn moniker “Pepito Tiésez”, which might be translated as “Joey Hardon”.

It was these, of all of Llamas’s Franco films, that led to roles for other directors, more specifically in porn movies made by Ismael González and Manuel Mateos, and occasionally in the company of Mabel Escaño and Verónica Arechavaleta, both of whom had acted for Franco.

1987 is the year in which Llamas’s filmography seemingly comes to a halt, unless we count the 1984 El abuelo, la condesa y Escarlata la traviesa, not released until 1992. Both Franco and Mayans are on record as stating that Llamas died in London, and the former adds that he had been suffering from an AIDS-related illness at the time (3). His date of death is, as yet, unknown, but it might have been towards the end of the eighties. He appeared in at least 26 films within a film career spanning half a decade.

José Llamas's imdb entry at:


(1) Interview with Antonio Mayans conducted by Ferrán Herranz and Francesco Cesari in book Il caso Jesús Franco (2010). Ed. Francesco Cesari. Granviale Editori.

(2) Review of La sombra del judoka contra el doctor Wong by David Domingo (5 June 2008) in blog La abadía de Berzano at: http://cerebrin.wordpress.com/2008/06/05/las-artes-marciales-en-el-cine-espanol-iii-la-sombra-del-judoka-contra-el-doctor-wong/

(3) Interview with Jess Franco conducted by "Chus" and "Al Pereira" (3 March 2002)for Francomanía website at http://members.fortunecity.es/francomania2/

Text by Nzoog Wahrlfhehen

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