27 February, 2013

AL PEREIRA VS. THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (2013)

Jess Franco's AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES qualifies as another Daughters of Fu Manchu adventure. Previous entries into this canon include his 1968 Harry Alan Towers produced THE GIRL FROM RIO/FUTURE WOMEN/SUMURU 2 and the tropical colors drenched ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN (1986). The world has heard from them again! At least Al Pereira has. The Alligator Ladies are informed by this mysterious Asian character that they are indeed Fu Manchu's daughters and they are here to kill or be killed! Bad news for Jess Franco's favorite private detective...
Photo: Jess Franco's AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES also qualifies as another Daughters of Fu Manchu adventure. Previous entries into this canon include his 1968 Harry Alan Towers produced THE GIRL FROM RIO/FUTURE WOMEN/SUMURU 2 and the tropical colors drenched ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN (1986). The world has heard from them again!




Look deep into the mirror and you will understand. The man in the mirror is, of course, Jess Franco directing his newest film from the other side of the mirror (also the title of his essential 1973 psychoanalytic thriller AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO). AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES is not only his most recent visit to his favorite PI, it's also the most anarchic, or as the director has recently indicated, an attempt at a totally free type of cinema. One thing is for sure, it is the work of a totally free man who we have the pleasure of seeing enjoying himself making the very film we are watching. 

Opening with Al (Antonio Mayans) thrashing about in bed in the midst of a nightmare. The remainder of the film projects the viewer into his dream state, populated with with whores, crazy nuns, doppelgangers, hangers-on and the director himself as either himself or a director making a very amusing, Surrealist/Dadaist* detective film. If you're looking for a "plot" keep on moving. What we have here is another cyclical, experimental genre busting charade along the delightful lines of EL SEXO ESTA LOCO (1980), another dream journey into the unconscious of Jess Franco, who also appears as a director making the film we are watching. 

The mirror cinema of Douglas Sirk, Jean Cocteau's Orphic Trilogy and Luis Bunuel's THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY come to mind, but APVTAL is One Million Per Cent Jess Franco! There's a lot of nudity and erotic dancing (Carmen Montes is especially entrancing here as the brunette Alligator Lady), but sex isn't really the point here. Sex is crazy in the sense that it's another state of being, a transcendent activity which brushes aside phenomenological reality. Jess Franco's most personal and memorable works take place in a world which is an imitation of life rather than a replication of it. Whether it's the comic book worlds of LUCKY THE INSCRUTABLE (1967) and LOS BLUES CALLE POP (1983) or the Hollywood Gothic Bis of DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN (1971) or the all nude Fumetti Neri antics in THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (1972), Franco creates alternate realities and populates them with figures from his own cinema drenched imagination. In APVTAL he is now working almost totally within negative space and even physically inhabits that space. It's a place of pleasure and creativity and where he obviously feels the most empowered and comfortable.


Longtime Jess Franco actor/production manager/associate Antonio Mayans knows the character well enough to indicate his hidden fears, impulsiveness and existential isolation from the rest of the world. The not-so-hardboiled detective was first played by the immortal Eddie Constantine in Franco's CARTES SUR TABLE [Attack of the Robots] in 1966 and has since been portrayed by Howard Vernon in 1972's LES EBRANLEES and the director himself in DOWNTOWN 1975). In this incarnation Al Pereira is the detective as voyeur, as stand up comedian in world which might have been designed by Salvador Dali and staged by Jean-Luc Godard. At the end, in the large hotel dining room which suddenly becomes the site of a Fellini 3 ring circus (cf 81/2), the actor Antonio Mayans and the character Al Pereira seem to be simultaneously enjoying the wild ride as Jess shouts directors from the the off space. With musical cues chiming in across the director's 50 year filmography (and APVTAL marks 60 years working in the film industry) the sounds of Jess Franco are as familiar as the characters and imagery, yet this film breaks through the boundaries of the Fourth Wall of cinema, the fiction/documentary dichotomy and conventional modes of representation. It also continues to utilize what I term the Secret Code of Jess Franco. For instance, the very first shot is a zoom shot of a boat at sea. This is an image which recurs almost obsessively in various places in such films as LA COMTESSE NOIRE to GEMIDOS DE PLACER to BARBED WIRE DOLLS to AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO. An image of escape? Romance? A reference to the aborted seafaring adventure TREASURE ISLAND, which Orson Welles and Franco planned to film in the mid 1960s? Who knows? The point may be that it doesn't matter. All that  matters to Jess Franco is to love cinema... and make films.

I smiled all the way through AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES. It's a relaxed experiment in pure cinema, personal cinema, no budget cinema. Some might say it's not cinema at all. An anti-masterpiece of anti-cinema. 

*Jess Franco scholar Francesco Cesari suggested that the film may be in the Dadaist modality after reading this review. 

(C) Robert Monell 2013

23 February, 2013

AL PEREIRA VS. THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (2013)





Look deep into the mirror and you will understand. The man in the mirror is, of course, Jess Franco directing his newest film from the other side of the mirror (also the title of his essential 1973 psychoanalytic thriller AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO). AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES is not only his most recent visit to his favorite PI, it's also the most anarchic, or as the director has recently indicated, an attempt at a totally free type of cinema. One thing is for sure, it is the work of a totally free man who we have the pleasure of seeing enjoying himself making the very film we are watching. 

Opening with Al (Antonio Mayans) thrashing about in bed in the midst of a nightmare. The remainder of the film projects the viewer into his dream state, populated with with whores, crazy nuns, doppelgangers, hangers-on and the director himself as either himself or a director making a very amusing, Surrealist/Dadaist* detective film. If you're looking for a "plot" keep on moving. What we have here is another cyclical, experimental genre busting charade along the delightful lines of EL SEXO ESTA LOCO (1980), another dream journey into the unconscious of Jess Franco, who also appears as a director making the film we are watching. 

The mirror cinema of Douglas Sirk, Jean Cocteau's Orphic Trilogy and Luis Bunuel's THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY come to mind, but APVTAL is One Million Per Cent Jess Franco! There's a lot of nudity and erotic dancing (Carmen Montes is especially entrancing here as the brunette Alligator Lady), but sex isn't really the point here. Sex is crazy in the sense that it's another state of being, a transcendent activity which brushes aside phenomenological reality. Jess Franco's most personal and memorable works take place in a world which is an imitation of life rather than a replication of it. Whether it's the comic book worlds of LUCKY THE INSCRUTABLE (1967) and LOS BLUES CALLE POP (1983) or the Hollywood Gothic Bis of DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN (1971) or the all nude Fumetti Neri antics in THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (1972), Franco creates alternate realities and populates them with figures from his own cinema drenched imagination. In APVTAL he is now working almost totally within negative space and even physically inhabits that space. It's a place of pleasure and creativity and where he obviously feels the most empowered and comfortable.


Longtime Jess Franco actor/production manager/associate Antonio Mayans knows the character well enough to indicate his hidden fears, impulsiveness and existential isolation from the rest of the world. The not-so-hardboiled detective was first played by the immortal Eddie Constantine in Franco's CARTES SUR TABLE [Attack of the Robots] in 1966 and has since been portrayed by Howard Vernon in 1972's LES EBRANLEES and the director himself in DOWNTOWN 1975). In this incarnation Al Pereira is the detective as voyeur, as stand up comedian in world which might have been designed by Salvador Dali and staged by Jean-Luc Godard. At the end, in the large hotel dining room which suddenly becomes the site of a Fellini 3 ring circus (cf 81/2), the actor Antonio Mayans and the character Al Pereira seem to be simultaneously enjoying the wild ride as Jess shouts directors from the the off space. With musical cues chiming in across the director's 50 year filmography (and APVTAL marks 60 years working in the film industry) the sounds of Jess Franco are as familiar as the characters and imagery, yet this film breaks through the boundaries of the Fourth Wall of cinema, the fiction/documentary dichotomy and conventional modes of representation. It also continues to utilize what I term the Secret Code of Jess Franco. For instance, the very first shot is a zoom shot of a boat at sea. This is an image which recurs almost obsessively in various places in such films as LA COMTESSE NOIRE to GEMIDOS DE PLACER to BARBED WIRE DOLLS to AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO. An image of escape? Romance? A reference to the aborted seafaring adventure TREASURE ISLAND, which Orson Welles and Franco planned to film in the mid 1960s? Who knows? The point may be that it doesn't matter. All that  matters to Jess Franco is to love cinema... and make films.

I smiled all the way through AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES. It's a relaxed experiment in pure cinema, personal cinema, no budget cinema. Some might say it's not cinema at all. An anti-masterpiece of anti-cinema. 

*Jess Franco scholar Francesco Cesari suggested that the film may be in the Dadaist modality after reading this review. 

(C) Robert Monell 2013

14 February, 2013

Fourteen Jess Franco Films Heading to Blu-ray


Fourteen Jess Franco Films Heading to Blu-ray


Posted February 13, 2013 05:58 PM by Webmaster
Redemption FilmsCult label Redemption Films has revealed that it is planning to bring to Blu-ray fourteen films directed by Jess Franco. Amongst the films that will get the HD treatment are A Virgin Among the Living Dead, The Demons, The Awful Dr. Orloff, The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, Nightmares Come at Night and the never before released Les Chatouilleuses a.k.a Crazy Nuns.


This news was announced on Blu-ray.com by REDEMPTION Films. Specs and bonus materials will be announced in the future. I'm hoping to see the French, uncovered versions of THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN as an estra on that disc. The rarely seen period comedy CRAZY NUNS (1974) is an especially welcome addition to the Franco Blu-ray collection.

08 February, 2013

Al Pereira vs. the Alligator Ladies (2012) - Theatrical Trailer

Al Pereira vs. the Alligator Ladies (2012) - Theatrical Trailer

Jess Franco's newest shot-on-HD movie marks his most recent foray into the wild world of  the wonderfully sleazy, cheap Spanish P.I., Al Pereira, whom the director has been tracking for 50 years. The character was first introduced, as an INTERPOL agent played by Eddie Constantine, in  the 1966 Eurospy CARTAS BOCA ARRIBA (US title ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS).

The character has also been played by Howard Vernon (LES EBRANLEES-1972) and Jess Franco himself (DOWNTOWN--DIE NACKTEN PUPPEN DER UNDERWELT-1975). He is played here by longtime Franco regulaR, Antonio Mayans, who also played the character in my own personal favorite, BOTAS NEGRAS-LATIGO DE CUERO (1982), among other entries in the series.

Producer Ferran Herranz informs me that this is the first Jess Franco film to open theatrically in Spain since KILLER BARBYS (1996), and will premiere on March 22 at select theaters in Madrid and Barcelona.


01 February, 2013

TWO FEMALE SPIES WITH FLOWERED PANTIES - The Spanish soundtrack


Below you will find the acting and Spanish dubbing credits of this Jess Franco film. Although it is known in the Anglophone world as Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties under which guise it has circulated in the DVD-R trading market, it may be better known now among Jess Franco fans the world over via the Spanish-language version, known as Ópalo de fuego (Mercaderes del sexo), released on DVD by Manga. For this reason, I have thought that some of the following may be at least of some interest to Franco followers regardless of mother tongue. 

Made in 1978, legalized in 1979 and eventually premiered in Spain in 1980, Ópalo de fuego appears to be the first film Jess Franco made on returning to his home country in 1978. The credits on the Spanish version, the only one known to me, state that it is a co-production between Spain and Portugal, although other sources and much of the cast suggest a participation from France’s Eurociné outfit. This is not acknowledged in the Spanish credits. The English-language version appears to stem from the French cut, which is reportedly different in some details from the Spanish equivalent. I am only familiar with the latter.

Among Franco’s films with a Spanish soundtrack, about a third were given sound at the Arcofón studios, and this includes both his Spanish (or partially Spanish) films and a number of entirely foreign productions that got shown on Spanish home video in the 1980s. In this, his homecoming debut, however, Arcofón had no involvement. Either on Franco’s decision or that of the production company Tritón P.C., the studio chosen for the occasion was Sincronía, which had already provided Spanish-language versions of Kubrick’s films, with that director’s personal supervision, and was at the time busying itself with the Spanish-language soundtracks of the Charlie's Angels TV series – itself, like Franco’s film, concerned with female investigators. Sincronía does not figure often in Franco’s filmography: to my knowledge, only two other films of his were dubbed there: the Swiss production Love Letters from a Portuguese Nun and, much later, the eighties spy movie Dark Mission (Flowers of Evil). 


In Ópalo de fuego, none of the actors, even those who had Spanish, were recalled for post-production. Although Lina Romay was eventually to act as her own preferential voice in the 1980s, the woman we hear in her part here is Paloma Escola – among other occupations, the Spanish voice of Kate Jackson. 

Now, Paloma Escola (whose dad, the late Joaquín Escola, can be heard as the voice of Albino Graziani) may come comparatively closer in this role to Romay’s real tones than any her other vocal substitutes – including, in fact, Escola return to the same actress in Aberraciones sexuales de una mujer casada, let alone the high-powered likes of Mari Pe Castro (of El sádico de Notre-Dame) or María Luisa Rubio. It could well be that a guide track was recorded during the shooting of Ópalo de fuego or perhaps it is sheer coincidence but the vocal performance occasionally introduces some high-pitched mannerisms of the sort one would associate more with Romay than Escola. 

For many, of course, the most distinctive voice will be that of Víctor Agramunt, who essays the part of Milton, played onscreen by the presumably Portuguese actor Mel Rodrigo. Milton starts out as a screeching caricature gay man until he is later revealed to have been a “straight” undercover agent all the way through, using his effeminate manner as a disguise, whereupon Agramunt’s natural voice can finally be heard – indeed, I was unable to recognize him until this point. Prior to this revelation, audiences had no reason to doubt that Milton was indeed what he appeared to be, particularly in one scene so idiotic as to border on the sublime, wherein Nadine Pascal’s Brigitte attempts to “rape” the poor man on a couch (“Ooooh, how indecent! I’m a virgin and this wicked woman is perverting me!”). I have no record of what comments were made between the voice artists (Agramunt and María Dolores Díaz, who doubles up as one of the kidnapped women) and the other staff present during the dubbing of this scene. It does look, incidentally, as if there was a change of mind during post-production about which of the two personae Milton should be enacting in at least one particular moment: in the epilogue, with Milton at the wheel, Agramunt is heard in his usual voice but Rodrigo is clearly performing the gestures of the character’s fey alter ego. Agramunt, in any case, was later to be heard in more typical form, directing himself as the voice of José Llamas in Viaje a Bangkok, atáud incluido (1985). 

Other voices of note include those of the esteemed Claudio Rodríguez, Juan Miguel Cuesta, Luis Porcar and Francisco Arenzana, whose delivery is attached to the character of the police inspector. Arenzana, who was later to dub Franco himself in the video release of Female Vampire, had performed in a film Franco had worked on long before, namely León Klimovsky’s Miedo (1956), starring the Portuguese actor Antonio Vilar with Arenzana’s voice. 

As opposed to all of these players, mainly free-lancers, the rest of the vocal cast consists mainly in the in-house talent of Sincronía at the time, starting with its star dubber Luis Carrillo (Olivier Mathot and a very minor waiter role), plus Federico Guillén, Juan Antonio Gálvez (sometimes unrecognizable in the different roles he voices), and Celia Honrubia, who, back in the early sixties, had done narration work in one of Franco’s documentary shorts, acted as the voice of Diana Lorys in The Awful Dr. Orloff). The very deep-voiced Miriam De Maeztu (in real life, incidentally, a former political prisoner) dubs three roles - among them, the Forbes' two female bodyguards (a rare case of doubling up within the same scene, which forces her to slightly distort her natural voice when dubbing the blond henchwoman). María del Puy, no longer a Sincronía exclusive artist but still a regular, is heard briefly as the largely unseen woman held captive in a mansion. The regular voice at the time of Jaclyn Smith and Laura Gemser, among many others, María del Puy also appeared onscreen as the lead in Jorge Darnell’s horror film Devil's Exorcist (1975). Her vocal work for Franco was infrequent: she had dubbed Dina Loy in Rifif in la ciudad and was later to do the same with Catherine Lafferière in Habitación prohibida, the 1980s Spanish release of Les nuits brûlantes de Linda (1975).

After Ópalo de fuego, Franco’s filmography was briefly linked to Fernando Mateo’s Magna studios, this time with more vocal participation from the original actors, not least Franco himself, whose El sádico de Notre-Dame  featured what may have been his first vocal performance in Spanish except for his turn in Fernando Fernán-Gómez’s El extraño viaje back in the sixties. After his term at Magna, Franco turned to Arcofón and there he was to remain for most of the remainder of the eighties. 

Anyway, here is the list of the actors, vocal players and characters of Ópalo de fuego. They are arranged in the following order from left to right: onscreen actor / voice dubber and character. Most of the film’s characters are listed here, except for a few. I haven’t been able to determine the voice of the guy reading the newspaper at the beginning, the hotel employee who exchanges a few words with Milton after the latter has been talking to the receptionist, the small role of a hippy wearing a beret and the background hippy voices. Acknowledgements to NGL for helping me with this listing. 

LINA ROMAY / PALOMA ESCOLA / Cecile Lepaine 
NADINE PASCAL/ MARÍA DOLORES DÍAZ/ Brigitte Lemoine 
OLIVIER MATHOT/ LUIS CARRILLO / Senator Connolly 
MEL RODRIGO/ VICTOR AGRAMUNT/ Milton 
JOËLLE LE QUÉMENT/ CELIA HONRUBIA / Irina Forbes 
CLAUDE BOISSON/ LUIS PORCAR/ Ralph Forbes 
ALBINO GRAZIANI/ JOAQUÍN ESCOLA / Carlos Morales
DORIS REGINA / MIRIAM DE MAEZTU/ Dark Forbes henchwoman
(VOCAL ROLE)/ JUAN MIGUEL CUESTA/ Cecile’s boss 
(VOCAL ROLE)/ FEDERICO GUILLÉN / Voice-over presenting Irina’s act 
(VOCAL ROLE)/ JUAN ANTONIO GÁLVEZ/ Morales’s mad son
(ACTOR UNKNOWN) / MARÍA DOLORES DÍAZ / Estrella Shelby
(ACTOR UNKNOWN) / MIRIAM DE MAEZTU/ Blonde Forbes henchwoman
(ACTOR UNKNOWN)/ FRANCISCO ARENZANA / Inspector 
(ACTOR UNKNOWN)/ CLAUDIO RODRÍGUEZ/ Consul Baxter 
(ACTOR UNKNOWN)/ JUAN RAMÓN TORREMOCHA/ Juan, Milton’s hippie friend 
(ACTOR UNKNOWN)/ JUAN ANTONIO GÁLVEZ/ Elder hippy 
(ACTOR UNKNOWN)/ MARÍA DEL PUY/ Joan Simon 
(ACTOR UNKNOWN)/ FEDERICO GUILLÉN / Agent Hernández 
(ACTOR UNKNOWN)/ MARI LUZ OLIER/ Hippy girl who brings dress
(ACTOR UNKNOWN)/ FEDERICO GUILLÉN / Morales bodyguard 1
(ACTOR UNKNOWN)/ JUAN ANTONIO GÁLVEZ/ Morales bodyguard 2
(ACTOR UNKNOWN)/ ÁNGEL EGIDO/ Recepcionist
(ACTOR UNKNOWN)/ MIRIAM DE MAEZTU/ Lesbian audience member 
(ACTOR UNKNOWN)/ JUAN ANTONIO GÁLVEZ/ Porter
(ACTOR UNKNOWN)/ LUIS CARRILLO / Waiter

- Text by Nzoog Wahrlfhehen