17 May, 2018

The Janine Reynaud Story (1930-2018). In words and images...

Image result for el caso de las dos bellezas
"El caso de las dos bellezas" 1968: In this Jess Franco "Red Lips" psychedelic horror-comedy Janine Reynaud plays an art thief who, in this scene, becomes an element in the POP ART mise-en-scene....

Home Video Trailer from Anchor Bay Entertainment

Monica Swinn
Monica Swinn RIP...😪😪😪

Robert Monell Didn't know she had passed away. Thanks 

First of all, this is how I found out about the passing of Jess Franco actress Janine Reynaud. It was on Alex Mendibil's Jess Franco Facebook Group EL FRANCONOMICON, in a post by another Franco colleague, Belgian actress Monica Swinn. It now appears that she did not die, as previously reported, on Jan. 30, 2018, but much more recently, possibly on May 13, in Sugarland, Texas, where she lived in retirement after retiring from her film career.. The cause of death was reportedly pancreatic cancer. She had a long and very interesting life, first as a model for French designer Jean Partou and as an actress in Euorspy films, a Spaghetti Western, several giallos, more than a dozen sex comedies directed by her then husband, actor-director Michel Lemoine. 

Some notable roles were in French erotica made by Max Pecas (JE SUIS UNE NYMPONMANE, 1971) and Jose Benazeraf (FRUSTRATION, 1971). Her three films made with the prolific Jess Franco were NECRONOMICON (SUCCUBUS, 1967), SADISTEROTICA (ROTE LIPPEN, 1968) and BESAME MONSTRUO, 1968.  She was also in the Jess Franco-related CASTLE OF THE CREEPING FLESH, a 1968 German lensed horror-melodrama in which she appeared with most of the cast of NECRONOMICON. Jess Franco reportedly wrote the original story, which was directed by German actor-singer-producer-director Adrian Hoven (MARK OF THE DEVIL 2).

Above: The Bitches, directed by Michel Lemoine, starring Janine Reynaud, a 1973 erotic drama.

Whenever or wherever she left planet Earth, she left it a more interesting, mysterious place due to her exotic, ambiguous presence in all the European genre films in which she appeared. My own two favorites are definitely Jess Franco's NECRONOMICON and Benazeraf's FRUSTRATION. Both directors were prolific, major league popular artists working in commercial erotica and genre riffs. It just so happens that she was at the center of their very best films. One cannot imagine either film without her.

Above: Eyes wide shut. Like a surrealist's muse, she is the polymorphous perverse magnet which holds Franco's NECRONOMICON together....

In NECRONOMICON she plays the predatory, exhibitionist Lorna Green, an S&M performance artist based in Lisbon. The film opens with an extended sadomasochistic performance in which she taunts and tortures a male and female tied to crosses in a dungeon. Then, when it appears she is going to kill the victims, Franco cuts to the audience in a nightclub and it's all revealed to be a show. That is a key Jess Franco scene in which he establishes the illusion vs. reality conceit which would be the central theme for the remainder of his 50 year career. Janine Reynaud, dressed completely in black, commands attention as an icon of Fantastique. With her 1960's "big hair" and drowning pool eyes, she is the immortal woman, as in Alain Robbe-Grillet's first film L'IMMORTELLE. A dangerous, prowling red head, a man and woman killer.

She proved adept at physical comedy, in the two Op/Pop Art follow ups directed by Franco, EL CASO DE LAS DOS BELLAZAS and BESAME MONSTRUO
Both of those are worth making the effort to see in their Spanish language versions, which are very different from the US release versions, KISS ME, MONSTER and TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS.

Her very best performance may be in Benazeraf's erotic melodrama, FRUSTRATION, in which she plays a quiet, repressed maid of a well-to-do French couple. The entire film is shot from the point of view of her character. Benazeraf puts the viewer in that point of view in the very first shots of the film and it remains there until the grim ending. The character is the polar opposite of Lorna Green in NECRONOMICON. She's a smoldering, withdrawn, mute witness to the comings and goings of her employers, while she fantasizes about wild orgies involving them, some in historical settings. It's very much in the style of Luis Bunuel's BELLE DE JOUR and DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID, both of which illustrate how a powerless woman becomes liberated through her sexual fantasy life.  It's a film desperately in need of a new HD presentation. I saw it on an English dubbed vhs in the 1990s* and was struck by its stark, simple Ingmar Bergman style examination of the unconscious mind of an unassuming woman.Image may contain: one or more people and text

Before getting into continental erotica she played supporting roles, often as a seductive villain, in such Eurospy thrillers as OPERATION WHITE SHARK, Antonio Margheriti's KILLER ARE CHALLENGED and YPOTRON (all 1966). It's not exaggerating to say that she is the most memorable element in all three of those modest adventure films."

After hearing of her passing I contacted her former co-star of OPERATION WHITE SHARK, the retired American actor, Rodd Dana, who was a close friend of hers. What he wrote back says a lot about her: " Ciao Roberto, Heard from Tom and you about Janine's passing. Sad. She was a wonderful, magical talent" Magical indeed. We won't be seeing the likes of her again anytime soon.  

(C) Robert Monell, 2018

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