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 Jesus Franco, Nicole Guettard [Nicole Franco: onscreen credit to Nicole Franco] and Robert De Nesle
With: Pamela Stanford [Monique Delaunay], Lina Romay, Jacqueline Laurent and Guy Delorme
Director of Photography: Etienne Rosenfeld
Music: Andrea Benichou [onscreen credits add Robert De Nesle]
Editing: Gerard Kikoine

1H38-1974-France-Integral Version
Encode AVC/DVD-16/9 Compatible 4/3
French and English in DTS-HD MA Mono ET AC3 with English subtitles

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

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Here is a list of major differences in the LE CHAT QUI FUME Blu-ray and the 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).
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 don't know why MM did that and I hope Pete Tombs won't be embarrassed because I really like and admire his work! 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 and get well soon!
Thanks so much.
Seen Wed 14:22
Chat conversation end

Jess Franco's 1974 delirious exercise in erotic supernatural horror finally arrives in an impressive HD package from France's LE CHAT QUI FUME, with gorgeous packaging, significant special features and in noticeably upgraded image and sound quality. But first, let's take a fresh look at the film itself. 

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 

15 August, 2018

SNAKEWOMAN (2006, Directed by Jess Franco)

A "Walk-in” is a description of a mysterious/supernatural event where the soul of one person
replaces the exiting soul of another is a generating factor in several important Jess Franco films,
 most notably his 1974 LORNA, THE EXORICST (Les Possedees Du Diable) in which the
soul a modern female demon/witch invades a young girl (Lina Romay)
after she is murdered by the girl’s father (Guy Delmore).

There’s a lot more to this 20th Century version of Faust, retold in a downmarke
t environment as a near hardcore porn item. Soul transference/metempychosis
may also be a factor in Franco’s 1967 occult sexploitioner NECROMONICON/Succubus
 in which Lorna Green (Janine Reynaud) is a disturbed nightclub performer who
 is dominated by a menacing male demon (Michele Lemoine) who forces her to
 seduce and murder a number of hipsters of the milieu. Soul invasion/mind control
also plays a role in SHINING SEX (1975) and is at the center of
MACUMBA SEXUAL (1981), a remake of VAMPYROS LESBOS (1970),
in the latter two a powerful female dies and her soul invades the body
of an innocent female victim. Another film which could be linked thematically, stylistically
structurally to VAMPYROS LESBOS is the shot on HD video SNAKEWOMAN.

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. Carmen Montes is the title character,
 a female vampire who wears nothing but a long red lined black cape and a tattoo 
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 Snakewoman 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. 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 b&w photo of Marlene Dietrich and 
this may be another subterranean hommage to the cinema of Von Sternberg. 
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 recent 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

. (c) Robert Monell 2006 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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. Carmen Montes is the title character, 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 Snakewoman 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. 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 b&w photo of Marlene Dietrich and this may be another subterranean hommage to the cinema of Von Sternberg. 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 recent work and they don’t smother the film. The acting is above average and it’s worth seeing on theD where it is coupled with DR. WONG’S V
Written by Robert Monell Editar
15 agosto 2018 a 7:19 PM

24 July, 2018

THE JESS FRANCO FILES, Vol. 1: Four Screenplays and a synopsis by Jesus Franco

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As I was reading this essential (for the Jess Franco collector and scholar), massive 581 page volume containing four previously unpublished original screenplays and a synopsis for a proposed 21st Century version of THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF/GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (1961), ORLOFF 2001, I was also watching Franco's comic-book style LA VENGANZA DEL DOCTOR MABUSE (1971). That film has always struck me as pure Jess Franco in terms of aesthetics, style and theme. I was surprised to learn that it is a scaled down relative of a much more ambitious, unfilmed screenplay, EL CASTILLO DEL FRANKENSTEIN, a macabre Gothic set in 1920s Europe about a mad scientist who is experimenting with human fetuses in order to create a race of supermen. The project was also to be a return to the style of Franco's first horror film, GRITOS EN LA NOCHE. But LA VENGANZA DEL DOCTOR MABUSE, the finished film, is quite different in style from the screenplay. It has an Op Art, late 1960s style somewhat reminiscent of Kubrick's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971), albeit hurriedly filmed and with an extremely low budget.

Backtracking, the book also presents four other screen texts, LABERINTO, which would become the presently lost SEX CHARADE (1972), LA NOCHE TIENE OCHOS (THE NIGHT HAS EYES), UN TIRO EN LA SIENE (A SHOT IN THE TEMPLE), which was planned as the neo-noir RELAX BABY, and the aforementioned ORLOFF 2001.

THE NIGHT HAS EYES seems to have evolved into the later NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT (1970). Planned as a German-Spanish coproduction, it eventually was filmed as LES CAUCHEMARS NAISSENT LA NUIT, a French production shot in October 1969, just before Franco's last film for producer Harry Alan Towers, EL CONDE DRACULA (1970). Some pickup scenes featuring Soledad Miranda were shot on the set of EUGENIE DE SADE, in early 1970. Franco's script opens with a striking, poetic "Photomontage" which was realized as the dreamlike opening of NIGHTMARES..., embellished by the sensual French dubbing of Josiane Gibert, voicing the doomed heroine, Ana (Diana Lorys). Thought control through hypnotism, though, plays a lead role in the script, as in Franco's 1982 MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE.

A SHOT IN THE TEMPLE presents an even more fascinating conundrum. Jess Franco was forever immersed in what he always termed "black cinema"/film noir. His favorite films were such titles as Robert Siodmak's THE KILLERS, the high point of mid 1940s black and white noir lighting and tonality. The script is a sordid crime thriller built around the director's favorite private detective, Al Pereira. The PI floated through the 50 year Franco filmography, from the 1962 LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES until his very last feature, REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (co-directed by longtime associate-friend-colleague, actor Antonio Mayans, in 2013. The book cites 13 titles which feature the character and doubtless Franco would have made even more Al Pereira adventures had he lived. The project was never completed, but the screenplay has some strong similarities to the 1972  LES EBRANLEES, with Howard Vernon as the detective, entangled in a sleazy nightworld of clubs, hookers and crime.

LES EBRANLESS (LA MAISON DU VICE) a.k.a. VIBRATING GIRLS ends the same way as the script, with the suddenly angered Pereira murdering the "woman" he loves when she informs him that she is a man, a transsexual. The book correctly observes "Actually, Les Ebranlees isn't anything else than the erotic version of Un tiro en la sien...." while pointing out that Franco actually started filming the script after the completion of Les Ebranlees. What would have resulted might have been an immediate remake, albeit with Lina Romay in the role of the transsexual. Or it might have been like the even more hardboilded 1982 Al Pereira noir, BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO, which presents the bitter end of Al Pereira, shot down by the woman he loves after a heated sex scene staged in a swamp.

The most fascinating texts are the shortest. The 28 page script for SEX CHARADE is a cyclical, circular construct which opens, as do so many Jess Franco films, as a stage performance of a jungle girl sacrifice to a cannibal tribe. When the lights come on the lead actresses become later involved in adventures in the crime/noir, horror and spy movie categories. It all ends with a redux of the staged jungle rites, just where it all began. Franco would make a science fiction generated version of this in his delightful 1980 EL SEXO ESTA LOCO, one of his very best, most experimental and personal films. There's even a film-within-the-film and numerous generic ruses. The resulting film, made reportedly in 1969-70, became somehow lost, but a severely altered version was reviewed by future Franco actor Jean-Piere Bouyxou, the French critic who played Dr. Orloff in Franco's FEMALE VAMPIRE/La Comtesse Noire (1973). Bouyxou reported a 30 minute variant composited with footage from other, non Franco films, which made little sense on any level. Only the opening jungle girl scene of the original Franco film remained somewhat intact. Will SEX CHARADE ever be recovered. Not likely, but the brief scenario is a revelation. The annotations, as with all the scripts, are detailed and excellent. There's an 18 page file of rare adverts, photos, promos and black and white stills, many from SEX CHARADE.

The final text, ORLOFF 2001, is a real curiosity. Franco planned this at the time he was moving into his "digital period" during which he produced a series of Shot On Video productions on the cheap, often financed by American fans. Some of the better ones are worthy of future evaluation somewhere. Franco wanted either Paul Naschy or Malcolm McDowell as Orloff, Udo Kier was also under consideration for a role. Franco wanted to have a score by Iron Maiden. None of these plans worked out and the story, titled CRIES IN THE NIGHT, was never filmed. The very brief treatment, barely five pages, is just a number of delirious paragraphs describing the time travelling adventures of Emil Orloff, a scientist who, grieving the fate of his injured daughter Melissa, manages to travel back in time to Victorian London to obtain flesh and blood for his hideous attempts to rejuvenate her. A dimensional portal beyond the mist, a strange mirror device used to observe the daughter and a police investigation all play roles in the short, dense scenario.  From Dr. Orloff to Dr. Mabuse to his farthest out flights of fantasies, these scripts and notes allow us delve ever further into the multi-verse which was the world of Jess Franco.

LA VENGANZA DEL DOCTOR MABUSE (1971) The eyes of Jack Taylor in the Spanish version of Jess Franco's Doctor Mabuse thriller. I believe a cut version is on Divisa DVD. I have the good quality German DVD of the bastardized Dr. M Schagt Zu from Artur Brauner's CCC. A pity, since its hard to see the uncut Venganza. Just one of the Jess Franco films discussed at length in this book by Francesco Cesari, Roberto Curti, published by Vial of Delicatessens press. They do a painstaking, thorough job of presenting, deconstructing, annotating and illuminating these rare texts.

It's a bilingual Spanish-English text, translated and introduced by publisher Ferran Herranz. Described as a "philological volume" intended to further research the prolific, exponentially expanding filmography-career of the late Spanish cult movie titan, Jesus Franco Manera/Jesus Franco, best known as "Jess Franco" (1930-2013).

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11 July, 2018

More Jess Franco Blu-rays coming this September!

Two 1980s jungle adventure films, both co-produced by Eurocine, Paris, are due for their HD debuts, from MVD classics, on September, 11, 2018. Both are highly entertaining genre films, the kind which only Jess Franco could make. Not top-tier Franco, but still enjoyable and fascinating testaments to the his interest in pulp genre fictions. 

DIAMONDS OF KILIMANDJARO (1983) is the French version of EL TESORO DE LA DIOSA BLANCA. The latter is the markedly different Spanish version, which could be considered the director's cut. It has different opening and closing scenes which completely change the mood and meaning of the story. It also features some alternate locations, including a fantastic treasure cave with a spiral staircase where a hermit, played by frequent Franco composer Daniel J. White, hides from rescue by "civilization." 

GOLDEN TEMPLE AMAZONS (1985), started, with Jess Franco directing, as TUNDRA Y EL TEMPIO DEL SOL. It ended up being completed by Alain Payet, a Eurocine contract director. I have doubts if this could actually be considered a "Jess Franco" film. Franco has said he doesn't make "silly" films, so you have to be in the mood.  It has some signature Jess Franco scenes, including a torture scene which is a self-homage to THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (1973), but is watered down and rather forgettable in the final cut by Eurocine.  Featuring William Berger as Uruck, the ruler of the Amazons, Analia Ivars as a jungle girl, and Antonio Mayans as an adventurer. My favorite Jess Franco jungle films, MACISTE CONTRE LA REINE DES AMAZONES (1973), X-312 FLIGHT TO HELL (1970) and LA ESCLAVA BLANCA (1985) are not scheduled for Blu-ray release anytime soon. And how about ROBINSON AND HIS SEVEN WILD SLAVES (1971)?!  They're fun-in-the-sun Franco outings.

(C) Robert Monell, 2018

09 June, 2018

THE DAY OF THE PURPLE SUN (Carsten Frank, 2017)

'The Day of the Purple Sun': Part I (2017)

| Drama | 2017 (Germany)
'The Day of the Purple Sun': Part I Poster
''THE DAY OF THE PURPLE SUN'': The cosmos of the incurable Margarethe. Her journey through the mysteries of the Egypt underworld. Will she be coming forth by day?



Stars Margarethe von Stern

Margarethe (Margarethe von Stern) is a desperate woman dying of some kind of consumptive disease. She frenetically wanders through a bleak, bizarre wilderness toward an underworld inhabited by the ancient Egyptian deity, Anubis.

This two part experimental epic was produced, co-written and directed by German producer-director Carsten Frank. It was co-written and stars the actress Margarethe von Stern, who also appeared in Frank's previous SECRETS OF A SOUL (2012) and BESTIE (2013). Frank was also involved in several Jess Franco films,  and appeared in the late director's final film, along with Ms. von Stern, REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (2013). He also appeared as an actor in Franco's INCUBUS (2002), an interesting remake of LORNA, THE EXORCIST (1974). and was an actor in Franco's KILLER BARBYS VS. DRACULA, which he also co-produced.

The Day of the Purple Sun can only be described as an experimental horror film, with visionary and occult elements obvious throughout the unsettling, but hypnotic proceedings. If one watches both parts in one sitting, it's 2 and one half hours of being immersed in a mysterious, grotesque, fantastic underworld. The film is disturbing, sometimes gut wrenching, and not for those with a sensitive stomach. It illustrates, with tilted, obsessively probing photography and an outre soundscape, a decaying, fallen world not unlike the death-trip transgressions of Jorg Buttgereit (NEKRONAMTIK). But this film goes even further into that hellish domain. 

Actress Margarethe von Stern is absolutely magnetic as the pathetic lost soul whom the film is built around. Dying, starving and desperate, she wanders through muddy exteriors in which naked tree branches poke out her eyes at one point. She is observed by a frog-demon and encounters rotting carcasses of other animals, maggots and other creatures of the death cycle. With her large, expressive eyes and seemingly elastic limbs she acts out the role with brilliantly expressed body language instead of dialogue. In fact, there is very little in the film. The first 20 plus minutes is dialogue free and consists of her in the wilderness as the sinister, edgy, industrial soundscape of Maggy Moon drones under the action. 

There is a ritualistic quality to each scene, especially in Part 2, in which she is taken to the ancient Egyptian underworld by the masked deity, Anubis, played by director Frank. One can almost smell the odor of decay and death at certain times and the atmosphere is rich in occult electricity, mystery and a sense of entering alternate realities. I can only compare it to certain works by Kenneth Anger (LUCIFER RISING), the final scenes of Lucio Fulci's THE BEYOND, and the New York Underground films of filmmaker, actor, performance artist Jack Smith (FLAMING CREATURES). 

This is very much worth seeing for the down to earth, emotionally intense, existential presence of Margarethe von Stern, a performance artist who knows no boundaries. She projects all the emotions of the human rainbow and an other-worldly quality as well.

(C) Robert Monell, 2018