24 April, 2013

PAROXISMUS...The Ectoplasmic Cut of VENUS IN FURS you've never seen!

The title credit of PAROXISMUS...

Wanda (Maria Rohm) is approached by a medium who is introduced discussing "ectoplasm" in PAROXISMUS: ...Puo una morta riviere per amore?, the Italian remix of  Jess Franco's VENUS IN FURS, in one of several scenes shot by Jess Franco but not in the US release version. These additional scenes, plus much more of interest, appear in this edit.

First I would like to thank Howard S. Berger and blog co-administrator Nzoog for recently making it possible for me to see the rare Italian edit of Jess Franco's VENUS IN FURS (1969). Franco had wanted to call it BLACK ANGEL, but that title and many of his original ideas fell by the wayside to the demands of the distributors of the film. I'll be discussing those ideas and just how the VENUS IN FURS we know today came into being and how it was recut by Bruno Mattei for Italian consumption some time later. I call this version the "Ectoplasmic" Cut, for reasons I will explain in a future blog when I have absorbed what this version reveals.

PAROXISMUS is a very different animal than VIF, eliminating the entire voice-over narration of James Darren and the colored filter-wavy image optical effects added in post production to make it more salable in the US market to the members of the psychedelic generation. But the Italian version adds even more bizarre effects and makes for a fascinating viewing for comparison and contrast
 In my next blog I'll go into more detail and provide more images from this alternate version. Stay tuned....

Additional thanks to Francesco Cesari and Eric Cotenas.

(c) Robert Monell 2013

20 April, 2013


I'm looking forward to the REDEMPTION Blu-ray release of this important, favorite Jess Franco title. It will be coming later this year. I have already spoken with their representatives and encouraged them to remaster the shorter "Director's Cut" rather than the longer, censored/covered Spanish version, made to comply with the tough censorship there in the early 1970s. REDEMPTION has assured me they have all the necessary elements in hand, including the stronger, more explicit version. I'm hoping it will be remastered with it's French track with English subtitles.
Sep 17, 20
Jess himself told me he prefers the "erotic" version, which would run around 70m NTSC. The longer version features the late Lina Romay in her first appearance in a Jess Franco film. It's a rather unnecessary role in what I find rather off base filler, although the appearance of the white shrouded ghouls in the mist is effective. 
The shorter version would be the French Les Experiences Erotiques de Frankenstein. Rather confusingly, there's a 90m runtime listed in OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO for this version. A version this long has never surfaced.
The covered Spanish version is La Maldicion de Frankenstein [The Curse of Frankenstein], released by IMAGE DVD in 2005 as THE RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN [85m] with the original Spanish language track. My local public library actually has it in their collection!
I'll be following up on this in the near future, including as assessment of this outre, fumetti influenced Franco version of  the Universal classic, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN....

16 April, 2013

DELIRIUM: legendary alternate ending of NECRONOMICON/SUCCUBUS

I finally got to see the legendary Italian ending of Jess Franco's NECRONOMICON, titled SUCCUBUS for North American release as an X film. It was recut as DELIRIUM, possibly by future director Bruno Mattei, for release in Italy. The site, which is linked below, has clips from the complete presentation broken up into bits running from seconds to several minutes. It was all camcorded off a video monitor, so quality is poor. But this is a must-see for Jess Franco followers/scholars/historians. I'll be researching this in the future and will attempt to watch the entire collection of clips. It won't be easy, but it should be fascinating and fun.

All this certainly was not approved by Jess Franco, who wasn't even aware of this ending. Frames from an Italian fumetti version of this cut appeared in VIDEO WATCHDOG #1, 23 years ago [!], where I first viewed these images. I never expected I would ever see proof of its existence on film.

More clips, images and information will be forthcoming. Stay tuned....

Thanks to The Franco Lounge on THE LATARNIA FORUMS, where I noticed the link posted

08 April, 2013

Maria Towers remembers Jess Franco

Many thanks to Maria Towers for this memoir of working with the late Jess Franco on eight of the nine films he directed for her husband, British producer Harry Alan Towers. She infused those films with a certain radiance, warmth, mood of sensual mystery, demonstrating the ability to play a variety of roles.

Her hypnotic presence as Wanda Reed in VENUS IN FURS and Mme de St. Ange in EUGENIE...THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION, two of Franco's most memorable works, provide those films with an essential emotional center.

 "Jess was a very interesting director to work with. Without a doubt he was very talented. His first love was music, jazz to be precise, and we would talk about and listen to jazz for hours. There was a nightclub in Paris called Calvados with live jazz where we spent a lot of time. Like many creative people Jess had off days which were not so much fun. But when he was "on" he was a delight to work and be with.

With 200 or so films under his belt I believe Jess was able to express most of what he felt and wanted to say as far as films were concerned. I was not able to talk to him in person after Lina passed away but I got a couple of messages to him via friends. As you know he was working until the end which very much reminds me of Harry who was working on developing projects until the last day.  All the best, Maria..."

02 April, 2013

Dear Jess..... RIP (1930-2013)

Jesus Franco Manera passed away earlier today at the age of 82 in the wake of a massive stroke which he suffered last week. He was preceded by his life long mate, muse and caregiver, Lina Romay (Rosa Maria Almirall), who succumbed in February, 2012.

 Rather than write a grieving obituary I choose to celebrate his life and work here. After the initial shock of hearing about his death I felt a sense of gratitude that he was able to make one final film in the last year of his life, AL PEREIRA VS. THE ALLIGATOR LADIES, a marvelously entertaining fantasia which encapsulated his entire career in a Fellini style circus atmosphere. It even got a limited theatrical release in Spain, his first in nearly 20 years. Jess was back and up to his old tricks again! I also felt gratitude for the lifelong inspiration he gave me in my career as a journalist, a writer of plays, scripts and stories, and in my own films. I made my first film in 1971, already somehow under his spell, although I had yet to understand his significance and am still involved with writing and producing films, a continuing passion which is always refueled and refreshed by infusions from his extensive 60 year long filmography. Thank you, Jess.

 I first came across the name Jesus Franco while reading a cinema magazine in 1969. The name, which composited the founder of Christianity and the then dictator of Spain, stuck with me. I went through a period of hating his work after seeing EL CONDE DRACULA on TV in the mid 70s. It just seemed the height of ineptitude and boredom to me. Give me Terence Fisher any day! Years later, on cable TV and during the VHS boom, I would begin to discover his hermetic, intensely personal world.

  There was something about his films which made them unique, difficult to get a handle on, and wonderful. He made films as a free man, fearless films. His last film was perhaps the most free form, personal and fearless of all. He enjoyed life, which was for him making and planning films. The shooting was almost a second thought. He always was planning more films. I spent many hours interviewing him in 2005 and found him to be a trickster (he insisted he was born in 1935), but also a generous, humble, dedicated cineaste. He was, as he said, a musician who made films and could talk endlessly about music. We spent a long time talking about classic American cinema, which he especially admired.
There was also a child like quality about him. He loved Walt Disney cartoons, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse (their images are in some of his films) and spoke about them fondly. He became irritated when I inquired about his health. No problems there, he insisted, obviously concerned about his status as an insurable, bankable filmmaker. When I asked him who his favorite director was he answered without equivocation, Orson Welles. He also enthused over the Mexican master of Fantastique Chano Urueta (THE BRAINIAC) and film noir master Robert Siodmak (THE KILLERS).

In a way Jess Franco was the Aldous Huxley of cinema in that his films explored the limits of perception and attempted to open the doors of consciousness to alternative cinema and present new ways of perceiving and experiencing reality. But he was no obscure maker of experimental cinema. He was, from the beginning, a worker in the salt mines of mainstream commercial cinema in Spain, then France, then Switzerland, then internationally, finally returning to his base in Spain for his last few decades of production. And did he ever produce! Over 200 features, including alternate versions. He's not the most prolific commercial feature film director (Joe D'Amato and William Beaudine may have him beat) but he's the one who most consistently made personal, experimental, obsessively improvised and transgressive, genre films (and sometimes created his own genres). At the end he became his own brand, his last film is one million percent "Jess Franco" and the film of someone who has nothing left to hide or lose. 

He was a genuine auteur, but one who emulated old time Hollywood directors who just got the job done. He sometimes worked on 4 or 5 films at once, keeping his notes to himself (he disliked completed scripts). There are several years in the 70s and 80s where he completed 12 feature films, one for each month! 1973 may have been his Great Year, the year of LA COMTESSE NOIRE, AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO, LA COMTESSE PERVERSE, all of them no-holds-barred, no-budget, visionary journeys into uncharted alternate worlds. Delirious, erotic horrors which traveled under the radar and directly into your nightmares.

 There are many ways to examine his filmography and individual films, you can watch one a half dozen times and see a different film each time. They are multi dimensional, multi linear, polyphonic entertainments, unpretentious and often filled with technical gaffes which somehow become endearing on repeated viewing. 

He worked in every genre, turning out musicals, film noirs, gothic horrors, comedies, women-in-prison epics, westerns, cannibal/gore films, XXX porno, martial arts adventures, jungle films and even fare suitable for the whole family. He never stopped working and stretching his limits.

And now the necessary, updated reevaluation of his career must begin. He wasn't a hack, although he seemed at times to be one, he was closer to the kind of anarchist-artist figure so prevalent in the late 1960s. His heroes were jazz musicians like Miles Davis and Clifford Brown (a frequent JF beard on films made after 1970). There's so much more... the music of Jess Franco, the actors and actresses of his world, the locations, the hidden codes....

There will never be another Jess Franco...

I will be leading a reevaluation right here, starting right now....

Give my regards to Lina, Jess....