26 February, 2017

DEVIL HUNTER (1980)

Since I originally wrote this review I have ascertained that the Carloto Perla credited as a singer on the music credit is actually Jess Franco in full voodoo mode.

I should also be noted that this film is now available on Blu-ray, along with the Eurocine cannibal epic CANNIBAL TERROR, with the English and Spanish language tracks available. Onscreen title EL CANIBAL.

Credited to "Clifford Brown" this German, Spanish, French and Italian coproduction features Al Cliver [Pier luigi Conti], most familiar from Fulci's ZOMBIE, as a mercenary hired to bring back a starlet [Ursula Buchfellner] who has is being held for ransom on a tropical island. The only interesting performances are given by the intense, late Werner Pochath and Antonio de Cabo as nasty and increasingly frantic criminals. Conti/Cliver looks as bored as usual while German starlet Buchfellner looks almost anorexic and spends most of her screentime tied up nude to a tree getting abused by the criminals and a giant black cannibal. Watching Europeans like Claude Boisson as the cannibal chief is a real hoot and the film in unconvincing in just about every department. Note the equipment and details in the film producer's office; everything in this film looks cheap/bogus. But it's Franco all the way in terms of out-of-focus shots both from the marauding cannibls POV and other images, mismatched filmstock (the film was reportedly begun by BLIND DEAD auteur Amando De Ossorio), and editing between events which looks like it was meant to mean something (the paparazzi and the fashion show are intercut with the jungle pursuit of another nude female victim who is later tied to a tree, gutted and disgustingly cannibalized). Totally incomptent on the FX level, the cannibal is shown chewing on bloody meat scraps in extreme closeup, this will give no competition to the other Euro cannibal films of that era (cf CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST). It's pure exploitation for very desperate audiences. There is an interesting primitivist score by Franco himself (and Daniel J. White) with a delirious male vocal by Carloto Perla, heard in other 1980s Franco films. The stalking bug-eye giant nude cannibl has to be one of the most blatantly racist images in the history of horror cinema or a tip to the zombie in I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE or both.
The Video Asia DVD of this, coupled with Manuel Cano's VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST (1972), is possibly the worst digital presentation of a Franco film yet. The opening credits are removed and the film starts in the middle of the first scene. There is digital censoring of the copious male and female nudity of the original, some extreme gore is cut and the bottom third of the image is masked presumbly to hide the presence of Japanese subtitles, video quality is significantly inferior to the more complete old TRANSAMERICA VHS: THE MAN HUNTER. I believe that this was indeed sourced from a Japanese video or disc and booted over here. The somewhat racist cover artwork reads TERROR TALES FROM THE HOOD: SPECIAL EDITION VOLUME 4. BLACK VOODOO EXORCIST (sic) plus THE GRUESOME SHOCK OF: THE DEVIL HUNTER A 170s style Afro coiffured feamle poses in a collage with a black glowing eyed gravedigger, green hands emerging from graves holding cigarettes [!], etc. The back features more dated jungle nonsense wigh some stills and amusing promo notes {"the long banned masterpiece...[!]"}. But for under 10 dollars it may be an outre collector's item for some. (C) Robert Monell 2006 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

04 February, 2017

DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER (Jess Franco, 1964) Redemption Films Blu-ray

Onscreen title: LES MAITRESSES DU DR. JEKYLL/1964/B&W/84m/1920X1080p (1.66.1)

I noticed some details in this HD upgrade I hadn't noticed over the course of many viewings, in particular the rough textured, cracked, dry skin of Andros mentioned by Tim Lucas in the very informative commentary. The exotic-erotic dance performances in the special features folder are full strength Euro-trashy, more Eurocine than Jess Franco. It fails the Howard Hawks test of a good film--three good scenes, no bad scenes (there are a number of very bad scenes)--but it's very much worth seeing as a progress report. The main problem I have with the film itself is the beefy Spanish actor who plays Dr. Fisherman/Jekyll, he's just a very bland performer and adds an unwelcome note of unintentional absurdity which breaks the somber mood. A horror film is as good as its villain and this has one of Franco's most uninteresting villains. It's a pretty rough hewn print, with noticeable scratches and marks throughout butt the enhanced detail, commentary, corrected framing and additional footage make it a worthwhile purchase. Transfer/video &  audio: B minus, Bonus material: C+; Film: B minus. The fact that it is missing an insert seen in some previous releases is the big minus and collectors may want to hold onto the IMAGE DVD release of this title which does contain that footage.*
Directed by Jess Franco (Jess Franck)
Produced by Marius Lesoeru (Eurocine, Paris; Spain)
Cast: Agnes Spaak, Marcelo Arriota-Jauregui, Hugo Blanco, Pastor Serrador, Perla Cristal, Pepe Rubio, Magda Moldonado, Miguel Madrid
France/Sp[ain 1964 B&W 84 Min.
1920x1080p (1.66:1)
A
French soundtrack with optional English subtitles
English language soundtrack
Audio Commentary by Tim Lucas
Eleven minutes of alternate, erotic footage. 
French, Italian theatrical trailers

Below: alternate scene included in the French version featuring a different actress as the first victim of Andros, who is also portrayed by a body double. This scene is not in  EL SECRETO DEL DOCTOR ORLOFF, the Spanish version, where the  fully clothed victim is strangled as she sits at a bar in a jazz club and it is not present in the English language export version, DR. ORLOFFS MONSTER, which was distributed as a television version and released on VHS by Something Weird Video. Obviously, this was inserted at the behest of French co-producer Eurocine and likely filmed by Jess Franco himself.  An example of spicing up a film for a specific market. Image may contain: one or more people and indoor

* It should be noted that there are at least four separate versions of this title, including the Spanish language EL SECRETO DEL DR. ORLOFF which contains footage exclusive to this edit, including an alternate opening credits sequence, with Spanish titles, under which Dr. Fisherman is shown entering and walking through the house of Dr. Orloff as he prepares for their meeting. This footage is not in any other released version.  DOCTOR ORLOFF'S MONSTER, the US television cut, opens with a still shot of a footbridge outside of the Orloff mansion over which the credits role (Directed by "John Frank"). It also does not include two "nudie-roughie" style murder sequences added for the French release. 
 The French version just presents the opening credits in French over a graphic background. There are two inserted scenes, shot later by Franco at the request of Eurocine, which feature alternate murder footage not seen in the Spanish or US versions. One of these additional sequences is not included on the Blu-ray, either as part of the film or in the eleven minutes of alternate, more sexually explicit, footage. 

Some versions, including the one broadcast in Australia by SBS and the IMAGE DVD,  have another complete murder sequence where Jess Franco appears playing a piano just before Andros (an obvious double) conducts another home-invasion murder of a woman taking a bath. Why this isn't included on the Blu-ray is anyone's guess, but it may not have been provided by the right's holder. It may be a technical issue. This insert was obviously filmed by Franco since he appears in the scene, he also appears as a different nightclub piano player in another unrelated scene. 

This HD release is also more accurately framed at 1.66:1 than the IMAGE DVD, which appears to be window-boxed, losing image on all four sides. 

(C) Robert Monell, 2017.