14 November, 2018

Congratulations to Dr. Alex Mendibil

Congratulations to my friend, colleague, creator of the EL FRANCONOMICON Facebook group and blog, Alex Mendibil, who has been award a PhD by Madrid University for his Doctoral thesis on the cinema of Jess Franco.

This is the first thesis on this topic warded a doctorate in Spain. Alex is a true world class expert on the alternate reality which is the world of Jess Franco. 

Robert Monell, 11/12/18

11 October, 2018

SNAKEWOMAN - Jess Franco, 2005, États Unis/Espagne; REVIEW

SNAKEWOMAN - Jess Franco, 2005, États Unis/Espagne
When I first viewed SNAKEWOMAN I immediately  thought to myself  "Jess Franco doesn't make films anymore, he makes video, but the results are still, even in glossy HI-DEF, 100% Jess Franco."  I spoke to Jess during the conception of this film and he was quite excited about attempting an updating of VAMPYROS LESBOS (1970), which this in essence is, but it's also more than that.  It's his digital era Image result for snakewoman 2005

compilation of images, characters, themes which are infused with his fascination for serpentine women, especially those females involved in the performance arts, including erotic performances, stripping, S&M shows, exotic dancing of all kinds. This goes all the way back to such erotic stage performances in LABIOS ROJOS, GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, EL SECRETO DEL DR. ORLOF, MISS MUERTE, NECRONOMICON, VAMPYROS LESBOS, VENUS IN FURS and many more.  In at least one related film, Eurocine's THE GOLDEN CAGE (1975), Franco was hired to direct erotic shows seen in a nightclub in which the action, a lurid crime scenario involving white slavery and drug trafficking, unfolds. It's hardly a "Jess Franco film" but the various strip tease numbers bear his mark. It's difficult not to recall Estella Blain and Soledad Miranda slithering across the stages in MISS MUERTE/THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z (1965) and VAMPYROS LESBOS when watching the moves of Carmen Montes nearly 40 years later. 
Then, of course, there are the literal, venom-infused snake women of Fu Manchu in Franco's Harry Alan Towers produced BLOOD OF FU MANCHU (1968). One could go all the back to the serpent and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament to find similar characters, images and themes of sex, guilt and sin. And, in some regards, Jess Franco, although once condemned by the Vatican as a "dangerous" filmmaker for Catholics (along with the sublime Spanish rebel, Luis Bunuel!), can be considered a poet of rogue-Catholicism. An artist from a largely Catholic culture who was more at home in staging black masses than in the kind held on Sunday mornings.

Carmen Montes is the title character in SNAKEWOMAN, a female vampire who wears nothing but a long red lined black cape and a tatoo of a double headed python which curls around her torso. She dominates a netherworld {Malaga, Spain} where "walk-ins" appear and disappear as suddenly as her attacks. Her most recent victim is a female reporter (FATA MORGANA), the Jonathan Harker character, and Christie Levin is the demented female Renfield who is kept in a private asylum by the mad Dr. Nostradamus (Antonio Mayans). The reporter has come to invesitage the estate of the legendary actress-composer Oriana Balasz. The Snake woman may be her descendant or her continuation. It begins and ends and is often interrupted by telezooms onto flocks of tropical birds which recall the kites in VAMPYROS LESBOS. The music is spectral but will not enter the imagination in the same way as the ground breaking score for that 1970 cult classic. Count Dracula is still the structuring absence here, though, as he was in VAMPYROS LESBOS. 

Carmen Montes does evoke the late, great Soledad Miranda and the film is filled with captivating images. Franco's director credit appears over an old black and white photo of Marlene Dietrich. This may be another subterranean hommage to the cinema of Von Sternberg, a certain influence on the wildly hermetic eroticism which is at the core of Franco's best and most personal films.  There are a lot of lesbian interludes (Franco told me he wanted to call it VAMPIRE INTERLUDE) but not as many as in some of his digital era work and they don't smother the film. The acting is above average and it's worth seeing on the SRS DVD where it is coupled with DR. WONG'S VIRTUAL HELL and some still galleries. Look, or hope, for a future HD release. 

 (c) Robert Monell 2018 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

02 October, 2018


This outrageous project exists in so many variants, at so many different running times it would be impossible to view them all (since some are not even available on home video) much less detail the differences. Of the versions now available on tape, the softest is undoubtedly the cut Wizard Video version, DEMONIAC, released in the late 1980s. A running time of 87 minutes is listed on the Wizard video box (it's actually about 79 minutes), which also sports stills of scenes not included in this particular cut. They released a recut version of LA SADIQUE DE NOTRE-DAME a 1979 Spanish-French co-production that mixes footage from Franco's 1974 EXORCISME ET MESSES NOIRES and scenes shot five years later on Parisian locations.

This film has a soft-core sex and violence, English-language variant, titled EXORCISM, which was the film which started it all. The 1975 hardcore version of this film, retitled SEXORCISME, can be had in two slightly different cuts available from U.S. mail order companies. These include an 71-minute English-subtitled version, taken from a French-language video; and a longer 82-minute variation which also has a slightly different scene arrangement. The latter is available in French language only. Both of these version drop much narrative material and several major characters to include several lengthy and over-the-top XXX sequences, some of which show Franco himself participating in hardcore action! The gory, English-language EXORCISM was unavailable for many years and in some ways it is the most disturbing of all the versions. The protagonist, Mathis Vogel/Laforgue (Franco), is a sexually twisted, religion-obsessed psychopath who murders Paris women.

The uncut film represents Franco's most severe vision of madness and evil. It's also one of his most personal, given that the director himself plays the main character. The thematic questions are, what constitutes madness and evil? Though these are familiar themes in Franco's works, the director never posed them so powerfully as here. The XXX versions were desperate attempts to make an unpleasant film more commercial, at least on the adult movie market, and the hardcore situations only enhance the film's sense of sexual delirium and blasphemy. The fact that all these version have scenes which later found their way into the 1979 remake SADIST OF NOTRE DAME indicates that Franco was attempting to more bucks out of burnt-out material. The hardcore versions look so cheap and shoddy, though, that one guesses they had difficulty even on the "money-back guaranteed" sex circuit of the mid 70s, which probably explains why he recycled the scenes.

 The English language EXORCISM anticipates in tone and style such slasher fare as HENRY PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and Franco's character is in some ways even more sinister than Hannibal Lector. However, EXORCISM and the later SADIST OF NOTRE DAME are very somber. The gore scenes are repugnant, and include the torturing of both Carole Riviere and Lina Romay with a knife. As they are being cut up, the killer chants sections of the Roman Catholic mass in Latin. The most grotesque addition is a scene which shows him murdering The Countess (France Nicholas) on a hotel bed. This is accomplished by shots of him slashing her open and ripping out some of her internal organs. Also, this version also makes clear the Black Masses Vogel witnesses are staged events, the human "sacrifices" are not harmed but are willing participants, the knives they are "stabbed" with have retractable blades, and the blood is fake. As these explanatory scenes are missing from all other versions, Vogel's mania and the Satanist's agenda are a lot clearer -- Vogel is a deluded fanatic and the Satanists are just harmless hedonists, even though their dedication to evil is total.

 Another aspect this version restores is a conversation between the various police inspectors and an Interpol investigator, in which Vogel's murders are linked to rituals from the Inquisition. Connect this with Vogel's description of himself in SADIST OF NOTRE DAME as an agent of the Inquisition. EXORCISM has the same story line as all the other versions, minus the 1979 footage of Vogel repeated visiting the Notre-Dame cathedral, and confessing his murders to a priest who was a friend in the seminary that Vogel left. Without these scenes, EXORCISM and the hardcore SEXORCIMES are much more nihilistic. Vogel seems much more monstrous and, ironically, slightly more sympathetic. Some of Vogel's background and motives are not explained, which colors him as a mysterious, almost abstract, icon of insanity. He is insane, but perhaps not evil in the same sense as the Satanists, who are upper-middle class dilettantes and choose evil as a way of life. Vogel's self-proclaimed holy war upon them and the loose women of Paris is his philosophical statement on the amorality of the modern world, but he sees his sick actions as totally moral. EXORCISM and its many variants are not conventionally well-made films. The minimalist visual style, under-lit cinematography, ragged editing (exacerbated by the XXX inserts of some versions), and painfully slow pacing contribute to a viewing experience which is hard on the viewer's eyes and patience. Perhaps this reaction is precisely what Franco was looking for, as the theme of the film is the nature of "viewing." Vogel sees the sadomasochistic rituals, which he misinterprets, and we are the viewers of Franco's sado-thriller.

Where does Franco's responsibility end and ours start? Sadism and pornography were not created by Jess Franco. They have been constant throughout the human and Art history. EXORCISM's opening credits are printed over an eerie, satanic S&M ritual (missing from SADIST OF NOTRE DAME and DEMONIAC), in which a nude Lina Romay, writhing and bound to a martyr's cross, is whipped, caressed, and then smeared with the fresh blood of a beheaded dove (we actually see this appalling animal torture as the credit "Directed by J.P. Johnson" appears onscreen). The camera obsessively follows the movement of a leather-clad torturer (Lynn Monteil), as the unholy and gothic atmosphere intensifies with Andre Benichou's funereal, haunting score (the SADIST OF NOTRE DAME version was re-scored by Franco regular Daniel J. White). Seen in its uncut form, this scene echoes the sado performance rituals which open one of Franco's best earlier works, NECRONOMICON (1967). It is also instructive to note that Vogel's occupation, a writer. His sadomasochistic tales are actually first-hand accounts of his own murders. They are published by "The Dagger and Garter," a sleazy magazine operated by one of the organizers of the satanic masses. Vogel may be a demented visionary, but the Satanists are shown as seemingly normal citizens who are able to hide their perverted activities from the authorities, something Vogel cannot do. The publishing offices and the rococo castle in which the orgies are held are facades to fool the outside world. Franco expresses this theme of deceptive appearances by the way he shoots these locations, panning and zooming into the architectural details whose aesthetic qualities ironically contrast with the blood orgies executed within. These visual tidbits may also underscore the ancient or Medieval nature of Vogel's obsessions. The casting of beady-eyed Pierre Taylou and Lina Romay, as the arrogant publisher and his airhead secretary, works in perfect contrast to Franco's performance as the seedy Vogel. Taylou in his tacky mid-70s leisure suit and Romay in her then-fashionable maxi-coat represent common complacency and hypocrisy. In contrast, Vogel appears at least honest about his crusade. "One must know evil in order to fight it" he tells them. This battle between Vogel's mania and the cult's more socially acceptable depravity is the film's main trumpet call.

 The endings of EXORCISM and SADIST OF NOTRE DAME are quite different. In EXORCISM, Taylou jumps into the pursuing police car after Vogel has murdered a cult member (an interesting touch reminding one of Fritz Lang's M, in which the police and the underworld both pursue a killer). In SADIST OF NOTRE DAME, the chase is abruptly cut off when Vogel is taken into custody at Notre-Dame. In EXORCISM, Vogel is tracked to his suburban house where the lead inspector takes him out with a DIRTY HARRY-style shot that just misses Lina Romay, who is being held hostage. As Vogel falls dead into the front seat of his car, a dog howls mournfully in the distance. This effective touch can only be heard in the French-language version. The film ends as the camera quickly pans up to the roof of Vogel's house as the police absurdly speed away, leaving the dead Vogel and his traumatized hostage unattended! Even with all these rough edges, EXORCISM and its many variants haunt the memory as an uncompromising version into the center of madness and depravity. Franco's own performance here is brave and affecting, the total opposite of his usual tongue-in-check cameo appearances in his own movies. The voyeuristic scenes where he spies on Romay and her lesbian lover are especially chilling, due to the subdued way Franco moves his eyes and body as he peers through the window. Although he doesn't utter a word, his emotions are clear. The fact that Franco's acting here is superior to the direction indicates that the role itself was more important to him the final resulting film. Completest collectors will probably want all these alternate versions and make up their own mind about which is the most effective as both a psycho-sexual thriller and self-reflexive display which would be further repurposed in the 1980 EL SADICO DE NOTRE DAME. (C) 1998-2018 Robert Monell

28 September, 2018

Tearful Surrender kickstarter

Cassandra's film project is a homage to the films of Jean Rollin and Jess Franco!

Only 3 days left to get in on the action & help support my project which features a strong/sexy/badass/talented (mainly female) cast, an original horror story with many conceptual layers to dig your teeth into, a strong visual aesthetic/art direction for the film, a beautiful atmospheric set/location, elaborate special fx/practical effects planned, and so much more! Please take a look at the project & donate today! Support underground film!
Tearful Surrender is a gothic horror tale about a Sea Siren & her muses from the underworld who must feast on human souls to survive!

16 September, 2018

An Evening with Linnea Quigley, Zombies, and Jess Franco's Killer Tarantula

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I must say that meeting the legendary "scream queen" Linnea Quigley was definitely more memorable than the two Jess Franco films in which she appeared. The place was the 2015 LIVING DEAD FILM FESTIVAL at The Palace Theater in Syracuse N.Y., where Ms Quigley was a guest in relation to the screening of her performance as a punked-out zombie queen in Dan O' Bannon's game follow-up of George A. Romero's classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968). 

I went there with the express purpose of  catching 35mm screenings of CEMETERY MAN and TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD when I was blind-sided by meeting the petite, energetic actress who has appeared in more than 150 films, including two by Jess Franco, MARI-COOKIE AND THE KILLER TARTANTULAS (1998) and BLIND TARGET (2000). Hardly two of the director's best films, they are shot on video product mainly of interest to Jess Franco collectors. She has a major role in BLIND TARGET and a supporting one in MARI-COOKIE... . Nonetheless, she is incredibly sexy and gives enthusiastic, entertaining performances in both. 

She was on her way out to dinner as I was on my way in but as soon as I mentioned the name Jess Franco her eyes lit up and she stopped in her tracks. I asked her what is was like working with the late, legendary director. "He was wonderful. I really enjoyed it because it was fun to watch him working."  I mentioned both titles and she seemed surprised that I remembered them. "I appreciate your asking, because I don't often get questions about them." I guessed that she was more used to getting asked about her roles in such American cult movies as THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS. "He put so much passion in making films," she observed of Franco, "Even if the films themselves were not that good."  She spoke of the director with admiration and nostalgia. "It was fascinating working with him. There was always something interesting in the films."  When I asked what her favorite was she said BLIND TARGET because she had the central role, which was more creatively fulfilling for her.

I wish I had the time to ask her more questions, but as I went in to catch the beginning of the next scheduled zombie feature she thanked me again for remembering the films and asking her about them. A very lovely, talented, classy lady. 

Below is my vintage review of MARI-COOKIE AND THE KILLER TARANATAULA, a gargantuan in-joke in the trickster style of Jess Franco, featuring very delirious set design and a alternate dimensional sense of humor. 

MARI-COOKIE AND THE KILLER TARANTULA (1998) ONE SHOT PRODUCTIONS Produced by ONE SHOT PRODUCTIONS and Kevin Collins. Written by Jess Franco and Kevin Collins. Directed by Jess Franco. Cast; Lina Romay, Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley, Amber Newman, Robert King, Peter Temboury. 

During the Spanish conquest of Europe a pregnant woman is raped by a conquistador. Shortly afterward, a tarantula enters the woman and deposits its eggs. The spawn is a mutant female who transforms into a lethal spider when sexually aroused. Centuries later, in present day Spain an erotic dancer performs in a bizarre persona,The Killer Tarantula. After her shows she picks up willing victims who will end up entangled in an awesome, tortuous web back at her lair. A local Sheriff (Michelle Bauer) becomes attracted to the performer while investigating the disappearances of several club patrons. Meanwhile, the distraught mother (Linnea Quigley) of a wayward stripper (Amber Newman) seeks out her daughter. All will eventually bear witness to the seductive powers of the mysterious creature.

A squiggly, green title announces "An Outrageous Film by Jess Franco," as if his long time fans needed to be primed for this soft-core horror fantasia. The focus is on kinky sex amidst comic book horror and elements of deliberate self-parody are constantly popping up. The spider-woman motif goes all the way back to the director's 1961 pastel-colored musical VAMPIRESAS 1930 and Estella Blain in the classic MISS MUERTE (1965). Femme fatales are often associated with insects in Franco's filmography, as they are in the films of fellow Spanish surrealist Luis Bunuel.

The naked,tormented, half alive bodies of victims hanging in the awesome web festooned across the tarantula's living room, the sado-erotic arachnid rubber-gear, the obsessed audience at the club, are all images which continue Franco's career long obsession with Performance. Cinema is a show and the show is usually an erotic tinged scenario of seduction and death. The show here is illustrated with candy colored lighting and basic digital effects credited to the University of Malaga. As with many final period Jess Franco Spanish-American productions the English language track is somewhat problematic.

The eye popping visual design of glittering colors and outre costumes hold sway during the extended sexual encounters between Romay and everyone else in the cast. Even such risible effects as the inflatable tarantula with a human face seems a reasonable synapse and bears comparison with the mutations in the 1950's version of THE FLY. But this is late 1990s Jess Franco at his most unhinged. No other filmmaker could have imagined, much less filmed, this demented scenario. It's a high spirited Adult cartoon which ensnares its viewers by sheer oddity value. 

Lina Romay performs with enthusiasm and humor in a role few other actresses could handle. She easily manages to upstage American scream queens Bauer and Quigley, although Bauer's Sheriff-outfit of black leather jacket, fedora, g-string and boots is something to behold. Linnea Quigley's beachwear is ever skimpier.  Both US scream queens, though, camp it up in style adding to the dubious entertainment value.  It's all in the spirit of the old Warner's cartoons there's a final imprint of "That's All Folks!"

I wasn't sure if I liked this film or not when I first saw it  nearly 20 years ago but it does retain its unique oddball charm and Franco did have a way of mastering a tone, even if that tone strikes many normal horror consumers as way off the beam. Actually it's supposed to be a "comedy" a la Jess Franco. But his notion of comedy is what he finds personally amusing, which is not necessary convention, 21st century audience pleasing humor. He's a master at the art of ridicule, but not always a master of telegraphing that ridicule to each and every viewer. This is not his worst film, but it's not Tier One Jess Franco. I would recommend it for a single viewing. It has that hallucinatory look which Franco sometimes achieves without really trying. You may ever find yourself smiling at the weird goings on.

(C) Robert Monell, 2017

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07 September, 2018


A Film produced by Robert De Nesle
Directed by Jesus Franco [credited onscreen to Clifford Brown]
Scenario by Jesus Franco, Nicole Guettard [Nicole Franco; onscreen credit to Nicole Franco only] and Robert De Nesle
With: Pamela Stanford [Monique Delaunay], Lina Romay, Jacqueline Laurent and Guy Delorme
Director of Photography: Etienne Rosenfeld
Music: Andrea Benichou, Robert De Nesle]
Editing: Gerard Kikoine

1H38-1974-France-Integral Version
Encodage AVC/DVD-16/9 Compatible 4/3
French and English in DTS-HD MA Mono, AC3 with English subtitles
2018; a DVD of the film is also available in the package.
11 Chapters
Runtime: 1 hour 37m 56s

Bonus: FRANCO LE POSSEDE Interviews with Alain Petit (47 minutes)-Pamela Stanford, LA POSSEDEE DE FRANCO (14 minutes)-JESUS ET MOI with Jacqueline Laurent (25 minutes) -LA RESTAURATION DU FILM [before and after image comparisons]

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In the box below is a list of major differences between the LE CHAT QUI FUME Blu-ray and the 2010 MONDO MACABRO DVD (which, by the way, is excellent and recommended if only for the fact that it contains footage not in the LE CHAT QUI FUME and other additional Special Features). The changes, additions, subtractions which LE CHAT QUI FUME made was to elements also used by Mondo Macabro for their previous 2010 DVD-only  release.  Thanks to Christain Valor, who worked on the Blu-ray release. Use the scroll bar at right to read.
Hi Robert! Here are the main differences (there may be others but they are very slight): - The bathtub love scene is 2 seconds longer on the Le Chat BD - The 2nd casino scene is 3 seconds longer (MM cut a shot on Delorme's face and they also changed the order of some shots there) - The love scene between Guy Delorme and Jacqueline Laurent (70') is 11 seconds longer - Finally, as I told you, the last 62 seconds on the MM DVD are made of the previous shot played backwards! I watched it several times but I couldn't notice the trick until I put it in Adobe Premiere... I mostly used my VHS tapes for the French track so it now has 4 or 5 lines which were not on the MM DVD and the music is not exactly the same on 1 or 2 occasions. Cheers, Christain
Thanks so much.
Seen Wed 14:22
Chat conversation end

Jess Franco's delirious exercise in erotic, supernatural horror finally arrives on Blu-ray in an impressive HD package from France's LE CHAT QUI FUME, with gorgeous packaging, significant special features and in noticeably upgraded video-sound quality. But first, let's take a fresh look at the film itself..

LES POSSEDEES DU DIABLE/LORNA, THE EXORCIST ranks, in my estimation, in the top 5 of the director's extensive oeuvre. One of Franco's best acted films, Lina Romay, Guy Delorme, and Jacqueline Laurent (SINNER) are well cast in their roles, and Pamela Stanford is absolute perfection in the role of the female demon. There's a palpable, destructive, unearthly magnetism within the cursed ensemble. I'm not giving any of the plot away since this best works when one simply sits back and watches as it slowly, hypnotically, inexorably unfolds. The infamous emergence of the crustaceans from Laurent's private parts is certainly an image which burns its way into your unconscious. You might want to banish it from your mind, but you won't be able. This is 1000 proof Jess Franco, a bold, subversive vision in which, transgression is omnipresent.  Sexual anxiety has never been more thoroughly explored,  as Bunuel's L-AGE D'OR (1930) was in its era. Look out for a wild eyed Howard Vernon as a thuggish retainer. 

Franco's blocking has never been more subterranean and a truly creepy musical score by Andre Benichou* featuring a hellish, tortuously repetitive, high pitched guitar theme and rumbling chords makes it as effective an audio experience. Curiously, CFFP Executive/Producer Robert De Nesle is also credited as co-composer. What he contributed, if anything, is a mystery.* The locations at Le Grande Motte, both geometric and recalling the ancient Mayan pyramids, place the supernatural action in an outre environment, which was also, in reality, a popular casino resort, We see a lot more of the location in the extended versions on DVD and Blu-ray. The shot of a giant lobster on a local seafood restaurant has unsettling reflections of the hideous crabs which crawl from the cursed woman's vagina. The director's presence as the head of a mental clinic in which one of Lorna's victims resides, allows his fans to see him as the personal ringmaster of this macabre tale in which evil triumphs. 

It opens with 9 plus minute erotic encounter between Lorna (Stanford) and young Linda, who has just come of age. Lorna preens in the mirror (Lacan's "mirror state" comes to mind) wearing see through lingerie.* Her wildly curled hair and deep green eye make-up signal her as a female demoniac, in this case a consciousness-invading succubus).  Linda is revealed when a curtain is drawn open, she seems to have been hiding and watching Lorna pleasure herself, and at the end of the scene it fades in on Linda with her mother at home, as if the interlude was something deep within the girl's unconscious, waiting to emerge. Scored with Benichou's high pitched guitar, a seven note melody becomes apparent, repeated again and again, to the point where is becomes unnerving. As Linda lies down on Lorna's bed the camera incrementally tilts to one side, as if to indicate that the interior point-of-view is Linda's. But, at the end, Linda will become the chalice in which the soul of Lorna will be reborn. Linda's final scream of horror, alternating with demented laughter  lingers long after the extended fade-out. As if we have entered the black hole at the center of Lorna's curse and there would be no return to normalcy. That is the enduring power of this perverse film. 

The French language version is presented with easy to read, highly literate English subtitles capturing the poetic flavor of the phrases. Then I watched the rare  English  language version, which is a pretty strange experience. The voice sync, casting and dialogue are jarring but it's fascinating to program it with the Eng subs on to see the variances in dialogue between French and English. It plays more like a strange, sexually obsessed, near-hardcore mid-70s melodrama. It's a potent modern version of FAUST in any version.   Both the Mondo Macabro DVD and the Blu-ray contain both language options with English subtitles.
FAUST, the opera, in Jess Franco's 1961 GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, his first horror film and the first Spanish horror film. Presented by M. Lesoeur (Eurocine founder!) and conducted by Frank Latimore (LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO), according to the poster. 

MONDO MACABRO DVD: A number of previously deleted and extended scenes are included. Most significantly two completely new scenes to me: a tense family dinner and post dinner discussion among the Mariel family about Patrick's possible motives for changing the location of the family holiday (he has to follow Lorna's commands) and Chapter 10, which is the first time the "initiation" of Linda by Lorna (who has emerged through the wall) into her supernatural web, has been seen totally uncensored on any video format. I'm not going to describe this scene. You probably already know what it entails but seeing it after hearing about it for a quarter of a century was a seminal experience for me. A still from this scene is included in the 1993 publication OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO. It's the stuff nightmares are made of, mythic, dreamlike, delirious and sinister. And indelible. With these additional scenes (I've collected about half a dozen video versions  from around the world all lasting no more than 82m) it now runs nearly 100m. Mondo Macabro did a heroic job, with the help of Lucas Balbo, who discovered a 35mm print with a lot of previously missing footage, of piecing together the most complete version yet. Some print damage, lines and color instability was still visible, as it still is in the LE CHAT QUI FUME Blu-ray, although, due to further cleaning/repair work, it's noticeably improved. My only complaint about the Blu-ray is that the abbreviated ending, compared to the Mondo Macabro DVD, cuts short the feeling of falling into a  bottomless pit, represented by a very long fade-to-black. Franco's ultimate long goodbye (the MM DVD runs 98m 59s as opposed to the BD runtime of 97m, 57s), overwhelming the viewer with the certitude that when one sells their soul to the Devil, there's a price to be paid.  The brief addition of some footage in the elaborate detailing of Lorna's and Patrick's fateful betting in the casino on the Blu-ray adds to the Faustian symbolism. No automatic alt text available.

The French soundtrack is the option of choice for me, with more resonance and detail, but the English language track is an appreciated bonus. 

Fascinating interviews, in French with English subtitles, with Pamela Stanford and Jacqueline Laurent, are welcome special features in which the actresses recount their long, sometimes difficult careers in French commercial cinema. Unfortunately, for non-French speaks, a 47 minutes interview with Jess Franco actor-writer, film historian Alain Petit, is in French with no available English subtitles. LA RESTAURATION DU FILM is also included, which features before-and-after examples of the color correction, cleaning and frame restoration.

The LE CHAT QUI FUME Blu-ray presentation of this key Jess Franco title, is the Blu-ray debut of the director's transgressive masterwork and highly recommended. 

*I was somewhat curious about the music credit for De Nelse on Lorna.... but film journalist and Jess Franco expert Lucas Balbo has informed me that the producer graduated from a music school or has a degree in music but that the guitar solos were indeed by Andre Benichou. So, he may very well have had a hand in the score. 

**Pamela Stanford told me during an unpublished interview I conducted with her that her outre wardrobe was quickly chosen by herself during a pre-shoot stop to a nearby thrift shop. She also told me she considered the pyramidal structures in Le Grande Motte, influenced by ancient Mayan architecture gave her the feeling of being in a "celestial city" during the filming.  Thanks to Pamela Stanford for her comments and additional information.

NB: The Blu-ray is actually a little over a minute shorter than the Mondo Macabro DVD, due to the excision of some of the end footage.

(C) Robert Monell, 2018

01 September, 2018

LORNA, THE EXORCIST/LE JOURNAL INTIME D'UNE NYMPHOMANE (Clifford Brown [Jess Franco]), 1974;1972: Le Chat qui Fume Blu-ray release

I'll be adding a longer review of the Blu-ray of LES POSSEDEES DU DIABLE, along with a review of the Le Chat qui Fume LE JOURNAL INTIME D'UNE NYMPHOMANE Blu-ray, which I haven't seen yet, asap. They both include a Blu-ray and DVD disc.
Robert Monell shared a post to the group: EL FRANCONOMICON (Jess Franco).

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LORNA, THE EXORCIST (1974): A very nice Blu-ray presentation of LES POSSEDE DU DIABLE/LORNA, THE EXCORCIST, excellent new interviews with Jess Franco screenwriter/actor/friend Alain Petit, Jacqueline Laurent, [ Pamela Stanford w English subs] and a 60 page booklet with numerous fascinating images, from LE CHAT QUI FUME. This HD release has some slight variances with the previous Mondo Macabro DVD, which will also be discussed. The French and English vintage soundtracks are also included, with English subtitles. Also included is LA RESTAURATION DU FILM, a documentary on the restoration.
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SINNER/LE JOURNAL INTIME D'UNE NYMPHOMANE (1972). There are also new interviews on the LE JOURNAL disc, with Jacqueline Laurent, critic/film historian Alain Petit and the sound editor for both releases, Gerard Kikoine. In French with English subtitles. These are very welcome HD presentations of two of Jess Franco's key works.
The HD debut of both films.  Recommended!

(C) Robert Monell, 2018

24 August, 2018

LA ESCLAVA BLANCA (1985) Reviewed by Robert Monell

This low budget jungle adventure doesn't so much subvert its genre as inhabit it. A commercial entertainment and a nostalgic trip back to the 1930 and 40s Hollywood jungle fare (WHITE PONGO).

Of the eight other films Franco made in 1985 (half of them hardcore porno features), this very low budget adventure stands out because of an absorbing, multi-layered script by ace Spanish screenwriter Santiago Moncada. Besides writing Bava's HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON, THE BELL FROM HELL, and THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER, Moncada has written and produced screenplays for a variety of European genre directors (Manuel Cano's SWAMP OF THE RAVENS, TARZAN'S GREATEST CHALLENGE, and VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST were all based on Moncada scripts).

     In LA ESCLAVA BLANCA, Moncada gives us three separate stories that gradually interweave and come together in the final scene. The first story seems to based on Macbeth. A weak-willed jungle guide is manipulated by his domineering wife into committing a series of crimes. During a safari, he leads a honeymoon couple (José Llamas and Conchi Montés) into a trap laid by the Tabongas, a Stone Age tribe that worships a giant lizard god. The bride is tied to a sacrificial altar for later sacrifice.

     The second story starts out in the city, where a karate student and two of her instructors accidentally discover the secret of the Tobonga. In the third story, two expeditions make their way back to the Tabonga camp.

One of these groups includes the original guide, who has been abducted by the karate instructors (they have also killed his wife). The other consists of the husband of the abducted woman and the female karate student (Lina Romay) who has split off from the school. During the long trip back, the guide has a change of heart and decides to repent, turning against his captors and helping the people he originally betrayed.

   The climax of the film, expertly shot and edited despite the budgetary restrictions, may remind some viewers of a miniature version of the final scene in THE WILD BUNCH. The very last scene, in which the Tabonga gold is thrown away, echoes THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE. Franco's film, of course, is a lot less ambitious than those two classics, but maybe that's why it works so well. The massacre at the Tobonga camp, the abduction scene, and the opening safari are as well-staged as anything Franco has ever done. There's also an amusing dose of voodoo dancing thrown in for good measure.

Daniel White's pulsating drum and vocal score* is familiar from some of Franco's other jungle adventures, but this is by far the best of the lot. Miguel Ros (Jose Miguel Garcia Marfa) and Mabel Escaño are both very effective as the safari guides from hell.

With its karate scenes, voodoo rituals, adventure story, literary and film references, LA ESCLAVA BLANCA seems like a kind of compendium of Franco's 1980's output (minus the XXX sex material). And if one can get past his other sub-standard jungle/cannibal fare, this one is most definitely worth seeking out. 

*Score credited onscreen to: Mus : J. Franco, Pablo Villa (= D. J. White) performed by Carloto Perla & The Hassigos [Carloto Perla has since been identified as a nephew of Jess Franco who actually performed the voodoo chanting vocals, previously heard in DEVIL HUNTER and other Jess Franco "jungle adventures."]

Robert Monell

17 August, 2018


LES GLOUTONNES (1973, Clifford Brown)

 (AMERICAN VIDEO) Maciste et les Gloutonnes. 
France 1973
Portugal (When I interviewed actor Robert Woods he remembered that this film was shot
 partially on the island ofMadiera, around the same time as AL OTRO LADO DE ESPEJO,
 during the Summer of 1973.)

Directed under his French nom de plume Clifford Brown, this is a fascinating melange due to the
 fact thatde Nesle, or somebody, took a supposedly "serious" film and made it into a delirouscollage of 
peplum, adventure, comedy, erotic and fantasy motifs. It's Waldemar Wohlfaartd as Maciste
 vs. Robert Woods as the evil Caronte, who attempts to overthrow and kill the Queen of Atlantis,
 played by Alice Arno. Arno alsoappears in what appear to be added footage of her from another (?) film
 lying in bed and pleasuring herself. 

Maciste prevails with the help of " Gobblers", the women of 
Atlantis. Howard Vernon makes an appearance as Cagliostro
(cf. LA MALDICION DES FRANKENSTEIN), the antics through a homemade portal with 
his horny attendant, played by the puckishRick Deconninck/Bigitoni. Kali Hansa gives perhaps the most 
memorable  performance as the vicious Parka, the consort of Caronte.

A very interesting, electic score by Robert Viger [?] is a bonus. There's even a hardcore sex scene
 thrown in the mix.This scene features a naked, longhaired man walking slowly down a spiral staircase
 in what appears to be a theater as Alice Arno lies on the floor below. The man then hovers over her
 as she excites him into ejaculating on her. Another actress, who looks something like Montserrat Prous
 (LOS OJOS DEL DOCTOR ORLOFF) is also involved, but it's hard to tell who it is due to
 the poor quality VHS dupe I've had to consult.Prous does appear in other non-sexual scenes.
 Scenes of cult members covered in white sheets as they wander through a misty forest
 seem to be outtakes from similar scenes in LA MALDICION DE FRANKENSTEIN, 
the Spanish version of EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (1972). 

 Mark Forest (THE LION OF THEBES) was supposed to play Maciste, according to Franco..
The opening shot of Caronte wandering down a misty valley and the first view of the stormy coast
 of "Atlantis" are outstanding images, but unless you are a Franco completist you may hate this film. 
Franco also made YUKA (also 1973) with Davis/Waldemar Wohlfaart and Robert Woods again 
 playing the leads in another erotic "peplum" set in the Middle Ages.. 

(C) Robert Monell