30 December, 2006

Favorite Jess Franco Moments:

During the last month of 2006 we've been blogging our Jess Franco Best lists, and now here are my favorite JF moments/scenes, as originally suggested by Tim Lucas...

PLAISIR A TROIS: Alice Arno's hot striptease amidst the mannequins in her basement chamber of horrors.

LA COMTESSE NOIRE: Lina bumping into the camera in the film's opening scene; the love scene on the mountaintop between Jack Taylor and Lina Romay.

LORNA THE EXORCIST: The opening encounter between Pamela Stanford and Lina which seems like it's taking place underwater.

SUCCUBUS: The opening S&M act performed by Janine Reynaud.

MISS MUERTE: The auto plastic surgery performed by Mabel Karr on herself.

DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER: Perla Cristal's show stopping performances of Fernando Garcia Morcillo's hot jazz songs.

DEATH WHISTLES THE BLUES: Jess Franco's brief but memorable sax solo with his Whisky Jazz Club band.

BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO: Lina Romay's cries of passion during sex with Antonio Mayans frightening the swamp birds into sudden, frantic flight.

LA NOCHE DE LOS SEXOS ABIERTOS: Lina's strip in a classic American car installed in a Canary Islands disco club.

MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE: the drug party; Jess Franco suddenly appearing at the last moment to save Lina Romay from the villains.

THE SINISTER DR. ORLOFF: Howard Vernon's final maniacal laughter after he sabotages Antonio Mayan's ultimate soul transfer experiment.

SADOMANIA: the first woman hunt; the gladiator style duel between the prison guard and inmate.

LA COMTESSE PERVERSE: the climactic woman hunt of Lina Romay by Alice Arno and Howard Vernon.

AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO: Emma Cohen's strange journeys on the other side of the mirror.

DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN: the shadows of the vampire bats seen on the carpet just before they attack their next victim's; Luis Barboo driving into a 19 Century town in a mid 20th Century hearse.

EL SEXO ESTA LOCO: Lina Romay's close encounter of the 3rd kind with the cult of Cucufat.

EUGENIE DE SADE: the murder of Alice Arno by Soledad Miranda in the Belgian brothel; the look on Jess Franco's face as he confronts the dying Eugenie in the last scene.

NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT: the opening credit sequence scored with Bruno Nicolai's outre cues.

BROKEN DOLLS: Don Martin's final walk into the ocean; the shots of the ships.

(c) Robert Monell 2006

28 December, 2006


Here are a few more DVDs I enjoyed in 2006:

GOJIRA [Classic Media]: Two disc set containing excellent transfers of the first, and still best, Toho giant monster epic, Ishiro Honda's GOJIRA (1954), uncut and with English subtitles, and GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS (1956), the radically altered US release, featuring Raymond Burr. Both discs are supported by informative commentary tracks, original theatrical trailers and related featurettes. Of course, we must mention here that Jess Franco paid tribute to Godzilla by including his Aurora monster model incarnation in NECORNOMICON/SUCCUBUS.

THE CONFORMIST [Paramount]: A gorgeous presentation of Bernardo Bertolucci's best film to date, this extended version restores several scenes which have been missing for decades. I saw this on the big screen in the early 1970s several times and it looks even better on this DVD. One of the great films of the 1970s finally available on DVD at an amazingly low price.

WARRIORS [Mill Creek]: Yes, the print quality on most of the 50[!] sword and sandal epics collected here ranges from fair to poor, but where else can you get this many vintage genre movies for a fistful of dollars? Spread across 13 discs, these are Italian produced
pepla from the 1950s and early 1960s which were hurriedly produced in the wake of the success of HERCULES and HERCULES UNCHAINED. A few of these are partially letterboxed and have fairly good color. We really need R1 2.35:1 transfers from original elements with Italian language options of such outstanding films as Riccardo Freda's GIANTS OF THESSALY (1960) and Giacomo Gentilomo's viking saga (partially directed by Mario Bava) THE LAST OF THE VIKINGS (1961), not to mention a correctly outfitted R1 DVD of Vittorio Cottafavi's original HERCULES CONQUERS ATLANTIS (1962), before the Woolners butchered it into HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN. LION OF THEBES, HERO OF ROME, THE TEN GLADIATORS, MOLE MEN VS THE SON OF HERCULES, starring such then popular musclemen as Mark Forest, Gordon Scott, Dan Vadis and Ed Fury, are among the titles included. I just enjoyed the hell out of this package and it's unlikely all of these will have deluxe R1 DVD presentations in near future.

CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS/WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS [Dark Sky Films]: A "DRIVE-IN DOUBLE FEATURE" cotaining beautiful new transfers of two early 1960's sci-fi oddities . Antonio Margheriti's 1964 WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS is presented in a dubbed, letterboxed print which restores its intended vintage space-comix aesthetic with the most delirious colors imaginable on display. This may be the least of his four GAMMA ONE fantascienzia features, but it's very nice to see it in a pristine print. Now, if we could only get a DVD boxset of the entire quartet...

HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE [Anolis]: This R2 DVD was my favorite import of 2006. It's not from a perfect source, but it looks like a FILM rather than a digitally enhanced experience. Read Squonkmatic's definitive appraisal on the Paul Naschy topic on the LATARNIA FORUMS. This is the closest you will get to how audiences probably experienced the film back in 1972. What really clinches the deal is a detailed, passionate commentary track from writer-star Paul Naschy, in German (he speaks it perfectly) with Eng subs. Naschy details his intentions, the film's production and reminisces about even the most minor actors in his heartfelt, droll fashion which made this the best DVD commentary I have ever heard. Among the impressive extras is a vintage Super 8mm cut of the film. "Those Germans...." Thank you, Paul Naschy!

(c) Robert Monell 2006

23 December, 2006

Holiday Greetings from the Jess Franco Blog!

Uncle Jess consults his Holiday prayer beads...

Here's wishing everyone a safe and peaceful Holiday season. Many thanks to the readers of this blog for their continued support and contributions.

Two viewing suggestions from our subject's filmography: DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER, for its nightmarish Christmas Eve sequence which illustrates that the Family Unit is a primary Jess Franco horror site; FACELESS, which uses the Christmas Holidays as an ironic backdrop to Franco's macabre update of LES YEUX SANS VISAGE.

22 December, 2006

Best DVDs 2006 (continued)

I'm not including BU's SUCCUBUS or their RED LIPS SE as among the year's best DVDs simply because they contain only the cut US English dubbed versions of these films. TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS and KISS ME MONSTER are toned down in terms of personal style and footage from the Spanish language versions. The latter even contains footage not shot by Franco! It was nice to have a good looking, letterboxed DVD of SUCCUBUS, but the very evocative end music is deleted. The restoration of the complete ending and a German language track would be essential for what I would term a definitive DVD. On the plus side these discs do contain very interesting related interviews with Jess Franco and a very welcome short documentary on Jack Taylor by Uwe Huber on the SUCCUBUS disc.

We'll conclude with a favorite non-Jess Franco DVD presentation:

HOLLYWOOD LEGENDS OF HORROR COLLECTION [Warner Video]. Spread over three "double feature" discs, six very worthy 1930s horrors from Warner Bros. and MGM offer compelling alternatives to the better known "Universal Classics" : THE MASK OF FU MANCHU, not the first {and Jess Franco would pretty much finish off Dr. Fu Manchu with his 1968 stock footage fest THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU] but the most perfectly appointed Fu Manchu with Boris Karloff as the definitive incarnation of the pulp icon. With elegant direction by Charles Brabin, Cedric Gibbons' lavishly macabre set design and Myrna Loy as his sadistic daughter, Fu Manchu is given a lush environment in which to conduct his exquisite tortures and plan world domination with the help of his death ray and Genghis Khan mask. Immortal fun with an excellent commentary by Greg Mank. On the same disc is Tod Browning's outre MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935), also restored from orignal camera negatives, which proves to be something of a revelation. An ultra-stylish (more consistently so than Browning's much more famous 1931 DRACULA) vampire movie that turns out not to be a vampire movie after all. MARK... is more of a deconstructive commentary on DRACULA (complete with Bela Lugosi and the armadillos!) and a droll satire of the cliches of the genre.

The second double feature: DOCTOR X (1932), presented in a rarely seen two-strip Technicolor print (where the ghastly greens and oranges merge into a kind of involuntary expressionism) deals with cannibalism and a mad scientist (is there any other kind?) who has developed synthetic skin. THE RETURN OF DOCTOR X (1939)is worth seeing for the bizarre frission of seeing Humphrey Bogart as a bloodlusting zombie! The late director Vincent Sherman contributes to the commentary track.

A third disc contains another Tod Browning oddity, THE DEVIL-DOLL (1936), with the great Lionel Barrymore, and MAD LOVE(1935), meticulously directed by the legendary cinematographer (METROPOLIS, DRACULA) Karl Freund and featuring the delirious American film debut of Peter Lorre. I will NEVER listen to another audio track by the person who does the MAD LOVE commentary...enough said! The three discs are all packaged with their original color posters and include vintage theatrical trailers.
This boxset is essential for serious collectors of vintage horror.

21 December, 2006

Lorenzo Robledo: 1921-2006

He appears as an agent interrogating one of the ROBOTS in Jess Franco's CARTES SUR TABLE (1966); this busy Spanish actor (over 80 films) also had a role in the 1960 JF Musical THE QUEEN OF THE TABARIN CLUB. You will probably immediately recognize him as as the blond haired pistolero who got shot by Clint after he laughed at his mule in FISTFUL OF DOLLARS 1964). This scene appeared in many international trailers for the epoch making Sergio Leone film.

He went onto appear in bit roles in numerous other Spaghetti westerns. He also played the Doctor who treats Emma Cohen in Leon Klimovsky's NIGHT OF THE WALKING DEAD. He's not credited in many of his SW roles but he seems omnipresent in the genre. Thanks to Carlos for informing the world of his death. UPDATE: According to the Spaghetti Western board he died last September in Madrid, but it was not reported by the press there at the time because they generally do not provide obituaries on lower level actors.

Thanks to Carlos Aguilar, Dan Van Husen, Tom Betts and the Spaghetti Western Board.

19 December, 2006

Best DV Films of 2006

But what films are they from?!

Ideal for mavericks who proceed outside designated modes of production and distribution Digital Video has a different aesthetic quality than film and portable camcorders gave Jess Franco and David Lynch ways to record under-the-radar-of-Hollywood-Mainstream realities. If you can't find the DVD of SNAKEWOMAN (Franco's best Digital Film to date) at Best Buy or find a local theater is showing the visionary INLAND EMPIRE there's a reason why. But the order of things may be changing in the future. A shake-up is coming...

18 December, 2006

Best DVDs of 2006: Part 2

This is the BEST DVD of 2006, perhaps the grandest DVD presentation ever given to any single film. No one deserves it more than Orson Welles, one of the greatest stage and film artists of the 20th Century and Jess Franco's favorite director. As an actor, writer and director Welles first revolutionized the theatre, then radio, and, in one stroke called CITIZEN KANE, cinema. MR. ARKADIN is no CITIZEN KANE, and therein is the key to understanding what it represents.

My own favorite Welles film is CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT/FALSTAFF (1965), on which Jess Franco worked as Welles' assistant and helped direct the central battle scene which is held by many critics as one of the most impressive ever put on film. Even critics hostile to Welles like Pauline Kael wrote in her review that it was comparable to the best of Kurosawa, Eisenstein and Griffith. Franco would also direct DON QUIJOTE (1992) his own personal version of the incomplete Welles project, which was almost universally disdained by Welles scholars (more on this in a future blog). If you love cinema you probably love Orson Welles. If you love cinema and you love Orson Welles you need this DVD. Welles wrote, directed, produced, starred in and novelized this 1955 international thriller but that's only a small part of the story.

Filmed on the fly with tenuous resources, the mostly Spanish lensed project was not plagued by Hollywood interference, Welles did exactly as he pleased, but would later emerge in several versions which didn't exactly conform with Welles' ultimate vision. MR. ARKADIN is perhaps best described as Welles' personal commentary on the Film Noir rather than an actual noir or a spy film or a crime story. It's perhaps a deconstruction of the the kind of Film Noir best represented by his own earlier THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, which was butchered by his Hollywood bosses. A free-form essay on the possibilities of a new genre, the neo-noir which Godard and Truffaut of the Nouvelle Vague would make in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Just try to watch any of the three versions presented here back to back with BLADE RUNNER. It's also Welles looking in the mirror and seeing both his past and the future of cinema. It's CITIZEN KANE and ALPHAVILLE, F FOR FAKE and THE PASSENGER. It contains some of the best sequences Welles would ever manage. The masked ball scene is a masterwork in itself and anticipates similar Masques in Jess Franco's DEATH WHISTLES THE BLUES(1962)[which impressed Welles] and Stanley Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT. MR. ARKADIN may be a cut below KANE and TOUCH OF EVIL but it has moments of equal greatness.

"Let's drink to character."

The Criterion Collection's THE COMPLETE MR. ARKADIN is a boxed set containing 3 discs over which are spread 3 distinct versions of MR. ARKADIN: CONFIDENTIAL REPORT, the Louis Dolivet-Producer's Version, which is the most linear; the Peter Bogdanovich-discovered Corinth Version; The Comprehensive Version, which is the longest [105m!] and most daringly nonlinear, with new opening and closing scenes not in the other versions, painstakingly assembled by film historians Stefan Drossler and Claude Bertemes. I don't know if I have the time and energy to describe all the supplements in this set, but they are awesome, definitive and overwhelming.

All of the eight MR. ARKADIN's are here, including three radio plays ("This is Arkadin Speaking!") produced by future Jess Franco writer-producer Harry Alan Towers (COUNT DRACULA); a paperback of Welles' own novel, ghosted by Maurice Bessy; outtake, rushes and alternate scene reels which are rare, fascinating records of Welles at work and are alone worth the price of admission; amazingly extensive stills galleries; documentary interviews with Harry Alan Towers, Simon Callow, actor Robert Arden (audio), Drossler, Bertemes, and perhaps the ultimate Welles expert--his friend, literary and cinema collaborator, Peter Bogdanovich. Bogdanovich seems as impressed by the Comprehensive Version as I was and it certainly seems the closest to Welles' intentions, which were never fully articulated during his lifetime. And there's much, much more.

The obligatory commentary track features Welles scholars James Naremore and Jonathan Rosenbaum, both of whom I respect and have written books about Welles. They know their facts and keep up with some wit...but guys, DEAL WITH THE FILM! I'm getting rather tired of these let's rattle-off-the-facts commentary tracks which seem out to impress other scholars rather than illuminate the film at hand, place it in cinema history or are simply as entertaining as even a second level Welles film like MR. ARKADIN. Listen to Tom Weaver, who can be scene-specific, go off track, return, and never forgets the big picture while building a delightful construct of informed imagination. Facts are fine, but I want context and vision. I would have perferred the commentary had been done solo by Bogdanovich, who can deliver his first-hand Welles experiences, observations on film technique (he's an accomplished director himself) and informed insights with an elan few can match.

If even second level Welles is vastly preferable to %99 of other filmmakers best efforts and all contemporary mainstream Hollywood films, then MR. ARKADIN is a great film and has had great influence on many more highly regarded films.

It's also a perfect Christmas film, with Arkadin as the most sinister Santa Claus in cinema history.

(c) Robert Monell: 2006

[More of my Best DVDs of 2006 will appear in future blogs]

Best DVD's of 2006: Part 1

My favorite DVD's of 2006: Jess Franco DVDs; Franco-related DVD presentations; non-Franco DVD's (to illustrate that I do have other interests in life). As Criterion's THE COMPLETE MR. ARKADIN [you can't get more Franco-related than Orson Welles] is my favorite DVD presentation of the year, the following are not in order of preference.

MACUMBA SEXUAL (Severin Films): The best Franco DVD of the year, along with Severin's simultaneous release of MANSION OF THE LIVING DEAD. Severin Films is my favorite new DVD company. Focusing on erotic cinema, David Gregory and his associates go the distance to search out the very best available elements for obscure cult classics from the past. Then they give them state-of-the-art transfers with an emphasis on perserving the films correct OAR, look, feel and texture. They wrap it all up with pertinent supplements, including excellent documentary interviews with the filmmakers, a David Gregory speciality. The interviews with Franco and Lina Romay on these discs are brimming with fascinating insights into their characters and the making of the films and are garnished with some surprising revelations. Intelligently and helpfully Illustrated with well-chosen graphic material, these interviews are a welcome change in style from the usual talking-head syndrome of most DVD documentaries.

MACUMA and MANSION are both from Franco's underestimated and very rich Golden Films Internacional period of the 1980s, wherein he reimagined many of his stories, characters and themes from earlier periods in a completely different style, structure and context. The emphasis is on near hardcore eroticism (in MACUMBA) and sexual violence (in MANSION), but they're more than X rated zombie films (cf Joe D'Amato's EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD) shot on colorful Canary Island locations or mere retreads of VAMPYROS LESBOS or Amando de Ossorio's BLIND DEAD series. They're %100 pure Jess Franco hybrids and seen in near perfect 2.35:1 transfers from gorgeous elements w/English subtitles (although these atmospheric, near silent, movies hardly need dialgoue) we can finally understand Franco's continuing commercial and artistic evolution.

Severin has also released deluxe editions of such 1970s erotica as FELICITY, the outrageous animated erotic fairy tale compliation ONCE UPON A GIRL and promises future transgressive items from Walerian Borowczyk, Joe D'Amato, Andrea Bianchi along with more titles from Franco Golden Films era, including the essential GEMIDOS DE PLACER, one of JF's most stylistically daring experiments.

(c)Robert Monell: 2006.

[More Best DVD's of 2006 to follow]

17 December, 2006


The recently released Italian CD of Bruno Nicolai's memorably outre score for Jess Franco's A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD is now listed as SOLD OUT on all the Online ordering sites I have checked. Has anyone out there managed to get one and listen to it? If so, please write any comments below. Better yet, if you wish to write a review, please email me and I will post your comments as a separate blog with your name attached. I'm sure all our readers will want a report. I'm anxious to acquire my own copy in the near future and I'm interested in reading any advance commentary. I knew I shouldn't have delayed ordering it immediately when it was released on Oct. 31. If anyone knows how or where I can pick one up please contact me. Thanks.
Robert Monell

16 December, 2006

10 Best Lists: Masayuki Kino

My BEST list:

I like Jess Franco's approach of depaysement effect and inorganic taste.
It was particularly supposed for the beginning of 70's CFFP period.

Christina, princesse de l'érotisme
Al otro lado del espejo
Les Gloutonnes
Les Possédées du diable
Shining Sex
La Fille de Dracula
The Sinister Dr. Orloff
Mil sexos tiene la noche

My Franco's actress Best is the following titles.

Lina Romay Best is
Is Cobra a Spy?

Best of Anne Libert & Montserrat Prous is
Robinson und seine wilden Sklavinnen
Diary of a Nymphomaniac
Maison du vice

Best regards
from Masayuki Kino
in Japan

[What an interesting list, Masayuki! You and I are on the same page concerning the early 1970s CFFP period. Jess also told me that this is his favorite period of his career in terms of being busy with cinema experimentation. I'm also interested that you include SHINING SEX and MAISON DU VICE on your lists, I think they are both fascinating excursions to lower dimesions of genre.....or what we call reality. RM]

15 December, 2006

10 Best Lists: Douglas Waltz


My friend David Z. told me about your blog and that you're looking for other people to post their top ten Franco lists.
Here are mine:

A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD - Without a doubt one of my favorite flicks of all time. The lead actress who, when I talked to Jess, is not really named Christina VonBlanc. Beautiful and innocent. The whole film plays off of her.

SADIST OF NOTRE DAME - A realize a lot of people prefer EXORCISM, but I saw this first and it is such a bizarre film and Franco is magnificent as the madman. Plus, the ending of him walking out of the church into police custody is so much more real than the other ending.

VENUS IN FURS _ Such a twisted, great looking film. Kinski stares down the camera and wins everytime.

SNAKEWOMAN - Jess' newest feature and it treads some familiar ground, but he delivers a wild story with gorgeous settings and Carmen Montes as the titular character is simply hypnotic. Franco uses a lot of first person camerawork and her gaze demands that you look at her.

VAMPYROS LESBOS - The wild music score, Soledad Miranda and the cool imagery of the film makes this a must see and one that I can watch over and over again and never get tired of it.

LOVE LETTERS OF A PORTUGUESE NUN - The one Franco flick that my wife actually enjoys watching. Gad! Did I marry the right woman or what??

BLUE RITA - A beautifully shot, twisted mindfuck of a film. Nuff said.

AWFUL DR. ORLOF - The first of many and Howard Vernon is wonderful to watch in this film.

ILSA THE WICKED WARDEN - Not a true ILsa film, but the elder Dyanne Thorne looked like she was having a really great time torturing th crap out of these women. The template for all WIP flicks.

DR. WONG"S VIRTUAL HELL - Franco as Wong with an atrocious accent. The wild color schemes and Howard Vernon from beyond the grave in a part that will leave your head spinning. Probably the most fun Franco film that I have seen in quite some time.

12 December, 2006

Favorite Franco Scenes: FRANCESCO CESARI

Hi Robert,

here are my favorite scenes in chronological order.

Most of them are musical scenes, since I think Franco is both a filmmaker and a musician. He is really great when can make us listening his images.

LA MANO DE UN HOMBRE MUERTO (THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS): like Tim, the last sadistierotic murder.
99 WOMEN: Zoe's (Rosalba Neri) show at the lesbian club.
VENUS IN FURS, the scene between Maria Rohm and Dennis Price.
EUGENIE THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION: the final scene, from Eugenie's escape among the sand dunes.
EUGENIE DE SADE: the book-signig party.
A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD: the final dream/death scene at the lake.
LA FILLE DE DRACULA, both the lesbian scenes between Britt and Anne.
AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO: the final scene, the image of Ana falling on the flight of steps, shown again and again, the tragical rotation of her bust may be the highest moment in the whole Franco filmography.
LA COMTESSE NOIRE: Irina's death and reappearance among the woods.
LES POSSEDEES DU DIABLE/LORNA: Lorna and Patrick walking near the casino, in my view the best JF shots ever.
DES DIAMANTS POUR L'ENFER (WOMEN BEHIND BARS): the prisoners skoking and talking in the court-yard, a great example of Franco's typical cocktail of minimalistic reality and metaphisics.
BLUE RITA: the lesbian trio shot from behind the aquarium.
EUGENIE HISTORIA DE UNA PERVERSION: the long scene of Eugenie's sexual initiation, ending with the blind guitarist playing near the sea, in my view the best Franco scene ever.
MACUMBA SEXUAL: Jess Franco talking with his "little friends" (little embalmed monsters)
GEMIDOS DE PLACER: the beginning of the film: the moronic guitarist.... the long piano sequences....
MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE: the silent drug-party, another absolute highlight.
MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE: the love & death scene between Lina and José Llamas. This is very similar to the scene between Rohm and Price in Venus in Furs but I think it's even more powerful and fascinating.
LA MANSION DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTES: the two scenes with Eva Leon, the enchained wife.
EN BUSCA DEL DRAGON DORADO: JF cameo as "el viejo Chan", the blind seer.
TENDER FLESH: the sexy-show with the two paper-pulp giants.
TENDER FLESH: the sequence with digital scomposed image after the scene in which Amber Newman is whipped.
MARI-COOKIE AND THE KILLER TARANTULA: the final part of the film, in Mari-Cookie's hole/house.
VAMPIRE BLUES: the beginning of the film (about 10 minutes long opening credits sequence).
BROKEN DOLLS: Don Martin killing the lovers and committing suicide by submerging himself in the sea.
VAMPIRE JUNCTION: the opening credit sequence.
SNAKEWOMAN: the birds....

David Z's 10 BEST LIST

Ten...such a large number for some, but so small for Jess! My list would go like this... until the next time I see a variant I haven't caught up with or another as yet unwitnessed spectacle of full blast Franco.

1. Exorcism
2. Eugenie DeSade
3. Virgin Among The Living Dead
4. Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein
5. Female Vampire
6. Awful Dr. Orlof
7. The Perverse Countess
8. Blue Rita
9. Erotismo
10. Barbed Wire Dolls

Thanks for the great blog Robert, a frequent stop for my daily blogging fun.

All the best,
Bloggin' the web at

10 December, 2006

Favorite Franco Scenes/Moments: TIM LUCAS

Video Watchdog Tim Lucas has not only sent his Jess Franco 10 Best list but included some of his favorite moments/scenes from Franco's 50 year (and still running)career.* I am taking him up on his suggestion that we transition into offering our lists of Favorite Jess Franco scenes/moments. We will also continue to publish all submitted 10 Best lists in the future. One of the great things about blogging is that you can run multiple tracks in Real Time. Please email me your favorite Jess Franco scenes/moments and I will post them as a separate blog with an appropriate image or just click on COMMENT to enter them directly on the blog underneath an existing post.

[From Tim Lucas - Subject : Top 10 and Favorite Scenes]




EUGENIE DE SADE: The shot of Soledad Miranda admiring her father (Paul Muller) at his book-signing party, ignoring Jess as he tries to speak to her (the closing shot of QUEEN CHRISTINA is NOTHING compared to this!); also the murder scenes -- the snuff photo session, the drinking game with the hitchhiker.

THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF: Howard Vernon placing the necklace around Maria Silva's neck, the light from the jewels illuminating his face for the first time.

BARBED WIRE DOLLS: Jess' "slow-motion" death -- his finest comic moment.

VENUS IN FURS: Dennis Price seduced to death by Maria Rohm.

THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z: Miss Death's dance performance.

LES POSEDEES DU DIABLE: I haven't seen the scene, but based on the still photo representation, the censored devil-dildo scene has got to be amazing.

THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS: Ludwig's big scene with the barmaid -- like seeing the floodgates topple as a new era in erotic horror arrives.

ANTENA CRIMINAL: MAKING A JESS FRANCO MOVIE: There's a wonderful scene in this Brian Horrorwitz documentary about the filming of BLIND TARGET that shows Franco losing his patience with an actor, calling a break and sitting down to rest and have a cigarette, his hand still trembling from the outburst. Lina walks over, puts her arm around him and consoles him. As the camera holds on them, one can see in Jess all the frustration he must feel at times while pursuing his dream of continuing to work at all costs, and how Lina anchors and reassures him. The whole story of the Franco/Romay relationship is somehow captured here, and it's a beautiful and privileged thing to see. [Tim Lucas]

Thanks for your lists and suggestions, Tim. That's quite a well-chosen Favorite Franco Moments selection and most of those would make my own list. To avoid redundancy I'll have to brainstorm before submitting my favorite moments.

*I date Jess Franco's directing career from 1954, when he effectively co-directed (and co-scripted) EL COYOTE and LA JUSTICIA DEL COYOTE with Joaquin Luis Romero Marchent at Union Films Studio, Madrid. Franco was hired to assist Marchent but the workload and tight schedule was such that Franco directed some scenes while Marchent handled others. Both features were shot simultaneously utilizing the same actors and sets, a strategy which Franco would standardize beginning with his frenetic early 1970s period.[RM]

09 December, 2006

Most cited Franco film on lists...

Of the ten lists I have posted so far the film that gets the most mentions is VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD, appearing on 7 out of the 10 lists. No votes yet for COUNT DRACULA. That's not really a surprise as it always has drawn very mixed reviews. Thanks to everyone who has sent in lists and I encourage readers to email me their lists which I will post with an image of your No 1 Franco film.

08 December, 2006

A 10 Best List from Brazil!

Thanks to Estevao, a Jess Franco fan from Brazil, for his list:

Estevão wrote...
i'm brazilian. can i send my top 10 too?

Venus in Furs
Eugenie (Soledad Miranda)
Vampyros lesbos
Eugenie... the Story of Her Journey Into Perversion
Female Vampire
She Killed in Ecstasy
Les Cauchemars naissent la nuit
Une vierge chez les morts-vivants
Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun
Doriana Grey

And here's Sergio Olivari's 10 Best:

Macumba Sexual
Eugenie,Journey into Perversion
Dracula contra Frankenstein
Erotic Rites of Frankenstein
Virgin Amongst Living Dead
Nightmares Come At Night
She Killed in Ecstasy
Greta Mad Butcher

Jess Franco 10 Best Lists Continue

From :
Alex Mendíbil

This is my top ten for today (no particular order)...

Alex list includes the 1977 BLUE RITA, a quasi remake of THE GIRL FROM RIO(1968) and a far superior film. I give this film points for its very unique visual quality, somewhere between Helmut Newton and Andy Warhol. See image at top of blog [RM].

06 December, 2006

Ten Best list: Jonathan Overholts

Trying to pick my ten best Franco list is not unlike trying to choose your favorite children- each has its own charm. For today, here is my ever changing list (in no particular order):

EUGENIE (Soledad Miranda)

05 December, 2006


I'm a huge fan of Franco's early black and white horrors, so my best list reflects this:

GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (The Spanish version)

04 December, 2006


Frederick Durand:
"Great idea. Here's my 10 best :

When Robert asked me to send my 10 best Franco films, I thought it
was a great idea. However, like Robert himself, I must say that my
list is ever-changing... I have not seen all of Franco's films. In
fact, since 2002, I'm trying an interesting experience : viewing
every [available] Franco film, in chronological order... That is
completley different matter, but it creates a stunning puzzle... It
also means that I have yet to see Franco's latest films, so my top
10 reflects this fact.
Anyway, here's my current top-10:"

-Une vierge chez les morts-vivants
-Eugenie (Soledad Miranda)
-Les Cauchemars naissent la nuit
-Lucky the Inscrutable
-Cartes sur table
-Venus in Furs
-Miss Muerte
-Plaisir a trois
-Journal intime d'une nymphomane
-Les Demons

03 December, 2006


In order of preference:

Thanks to Francesco Cesari for sending his list. Francesco is an internationally respected Jess Franco authority who lives in Venice, Italy; he has contributed liner notes and supplements to numerous international Jess Franco DVD presentations[RM].

More Jess Franco 10 Best Lists!

Thanks to everyone who has posted or sent in a Jess Franco 10 Best list.
Here's one from Greg Hillabrand, a cult video collector from Glendale, CA:

In order of preference:
THE LOVES OF IRINA [Greg is referring to the PRIVATE SCREENINGS VHS English language retitling of LA COMTESSE NOIRE. He still has the vintage 1980s boxed prerecord; a fullscreen presentation BUT with footage censored from the IMAGE FEMALE VAMPIRE DVD]
JUSTINE (1968 version)

02 December, 2006

Jess Franco 10 Best List:

Here are my 10 favorite Jess Franco films. I would like to know what readers of this blog consider their personal favorites. It's all subjective and in art/exploitation there are no right or wrong answers. You can post your list here (by clicking on COMMENT) or email it to me. I hope to compile a master list of reader's favorites in the future as a kind of informal poll.

In order of preference:

EUGENIE (Soledad Miranda)
LA COMTESSE PERVERSE (non hardcore version)

RIFIFI EN LA CIUDAD, BROKEN DOLLS, MISS MUERTE, MACUMBA SEXUAL and L'ESCLAVA BLANCA all are close runners-up. In fact I'll be publishing a 2nd 10 list, since a top 20 makes sense considering that Franco has made over 200 films including alternate versions.

My list is ever-changing [I've already went back and changed it twice since I first posted a few hours ago!] and his 1980s films are taking more prominence over his earlier work. Popular favorites like VAMPYROS LESBOS and VENUS IN FURS I appreciate mainly for the music along with VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD and NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT. Anything scored by Bruno Nicolai is worth watching just to hear his music.

I guess SUCCUBUS will always be my #1 for the purely nostalgic reason that I saw it theatrically in 1969 and it was my first experience with a Jess Franco film. The image at the top of this blog appeared as an advert in the local newspaper (I even tried calling the phone number provided, but it was always busy!) and reeled me into a lifetime obsession with the delirious world of Jess Franco.

(c) ROBERT MONELL, 2006.

01 December, 2006


An old used VHS of Jess Franco's incredibly sleazy Italian-Spanish-German-French financed 1980 Cannibal epic SEXO CANIBAL (aka THE DEVIL HUNTER) is up for auction on EBAY now. Runtime is listed as 90m. The last time I looked there were 0 bids. This MANHATTAN VIDEO presentation has Dutch subtitles but may be preferable to the US DVD presentation which appeared earlier this year as one of the "Terror Tales From The 'Hood: Special Edition, Volume 8" from VIDEOASIA on a double bill with Manuel Cano's 1972 Spanish mummy howler, VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST.

VBE is a fun oddity but obviously ripped from the old fullscreen, heavily scratched late-1980's US video release. I still have my prerecord which I rescued when my local Mom and Pop video store, the one with a huge Eurohorror selection, was shuttered in the late 1990's . THE DEVIL HUNTER, on the other hand, is completely unwatchable. with the bottom of the image masked off (I believe to cover subtitles which would indicate a Japanese source), digital censoring of the frontal male and female nudity featured in the film (that really tags it as a Japanese product) and extremely blurry video quality. To top it off it's missing several gore sequences (since sex and gore are what this item is all about this presentation is totally useless) and the opening credits have been chopped.

I nominate this as the worst Jess Franco DVD ever! But you do get "2 GIANT features" for under $10.00 and an invitation to join a "Monster Fan Club" located on 1313 Mockingbird Lane, Westminister Abbey, NJ 66666... The cover art suggests 1970s era blaxploitation but it wouldn't surprise me if VIDEOASIA made a nifty profit. I've heard most of their previous TERROR TALES editions also feature poor prints from video sources. SEXO CANIBAL also had a 1980's video release as MANDINGO MANHUNTER [!] and could usually be found at your local Blockbuster Video.


30 November, 2006

VENUS IN FURS Music Questions

I recently watched the vintage trailer for Luigi Scattini's 1970 Mondo-Satanism documentary WITCHCRAFT '70 and noted that it was scored with some of the same music cues which were added to the soundtrack of VENUS IN FURS, which was originally scored by Manfred Mann and Mike Hugg. I know that Scattini's film (originally titled ANGELI BIANCHI ...ANGELI NERI, evoking Franco's working title for VIF, BLACK ANGEL) was rescored by Lee Frost, who dropped the original Piero Umiliani music track. I assume that Trans American Films/Commonwealth United Corporation, who released the films in the US in 1970, were the rights owners. Does anyone know the composer of this music heard in parts of VIF and the WITCHCRAFT '70 trailer? I'm sure it wasn't Manfred Mann or Mike Hugg. Also, are the cues heard in the WITCHCRAFT '70 trailer also included in the feature itself?

26 November, 2006

The Films of Alain Robbe-Grillet: 1

One of the most important literary figures of the 20th Century, Alain Robbe-Grillet created a new form of fictional discourse, the "nouveau roman", which was based on almost scientific descriptions of objects and actions in a set of symettries which don't offer a linear plot, realistic characters or any kind of psychological or emotional developement. He has also written "collage" novels which utilize the images of David Hamilton and Rene Magritte, among others. From LES GOMMES to LA REPRISE he has created a world where the pulp fiction of the serie noire, Sax Rohmer and Ian Fleming collide with the philosophical aesthetics of Sade, Andre Breton and ancient Greek tragedy.

Here we will be looking at his career as a writer and director of films which begins with his innovative and influential screenplay for the 1961 Alain Resnais film L'ANNEE DERNIERE A MARIENBAD, which has since gained the status of a classic of cinema. The structure of his own films which followed, beginning with L'IMMORTELLE in 1963, present an increasing focus on eroticism, specifically Sadomasochism, are of definite import to our subject here when considering Franco's cinema beginning with NECRONOMICON (1967), proceeding through VENUS IN FURS and continuing through the 1970s, 80s right up to the de Sade 2000 meditation, HELTER SKELTER.

The formal structures of, say, VAMPYROS LESBOS and VENUS IN FURS both owe something to L'IMMORTELLE, from the setting, Istanbul, to the main characters: an exotic woman, who is seemingly under the control of an oppressive male, leads a naive protagonist into a dangerously expanded form of consciousness. It's not clear that Jess Franco used Robbe-Grillet's or Resnais' films as models in a conscious way but they represent an approach which would lead Franco again and again away from any meanings to be found in dialogues, plots and character toward his own personal genre where the style of the film at hand was in itself the meaning. This would be further obscured by the fact that in the 1970s both Robbe-Grillet and Jess Franco began to include more nudity and explicit sex onscreen to the point where their films were condemned by Church (the Vatican named Franco, along with Bunuel, as one of the two most dangerous filmmakers for Catholics) and State (Robbe-Grillet's 1974 GLISSEMENTS PROGRESSIFS DU PLAISIR was the target of a criminal prosectution in Italy which resulted in a court order for it to be subjected to a pubicly burning!) . GLISSEMENTS... breaks numerous aesthetic and cultural boundries and is not an easy film to watch as I found out during a mid 1970's screening in Manhattan, with Robbe-Grillet in attendance, where I suddenly found myself so repulsed by the film's transgressive imagery and atmosphere that I had to suddenly bolt the theater for fresh air. In the lobby I found myself faced with Robbe-Grillet himself, who was awaiting the post-movie discussion. He smiled as our eyes met for a second. I wanted to apologize or explain, but I didn't say anything. He seemed to understand and proved to be a very modest and witty commentator on his own work.

Robbe-Grillet did not follow Franco into the realm of hardcore sex films and has gone on to much cultural and critical acclaim in France and internationally. His film work is in dire need of reevalution and needs to be more widely available in our digital age where the most marginal product seems to be available on HD DVD and beyond. In the past he has noted that he prefers his films to be experienced theatrically rather than on video media.

Franco has made over 200 films, including alternate versions, while Robbe-Grillet has made a mere 10, but they seem to continue along parallel paths. At 76, Franco's most recent digital film SNAKEWOMAN (2005) deals with the Eternal Feminine as does the 84 year old Robbe-Grillet's C'EST GRADIVA QUI VOUS APPELLE, which deals with an archaeological invesitgation of a female deity. And archaeology is what this blog is all about...

In the future we'll be taking a look at Robbe-Grillet's rarely seen L'EDEN ET APRES (1970), see image at top of blog. None of Alain Robbe-Grillet's films have appeared as legitimate DVD releases as far as I know.


25 November, 2006


Here's the cover for a Japanese DVD of DRACULA, PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN, which is included in the BEST OF JESS FRANCO boxset along with CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, KILLER BARBIES VS DRACULA, NIGHT OF THE ASSASSIN and LOVERS OF DEVIL'S ISLAND. These all appear to be basically the same as the previous R1 IMAGE presentations but with Japanese language/subtitle options. M. Kino should be confirming the exact content soon... There used to be a rumor that a uncovered/nude version of this film was available in Japan but this has never surfaced and the gray market VHS w/Japanese subtiltes is the same covered version. There is a still from an uncovered version in Tim Lucas' VIDEO WATCHDOG BOOK.

24 November, 2006


I finally caught up with the IMAGE DVD of Franco's minimalist monster-rally DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN (onscreen title). This no-budget 1972 French Spanish coprodcution is one of Franco's personal favorites and, depending on your critical perspective, a film you'll either love or be sorely disappointed with. Just compare it to his EL CONDE DRACULA and notice the difference in treatment. Of course this isn't Bram Stoker's "Dracula", it's Franco's termite version of Universal's HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945), only in color and scope. And that's where this DVD fails both the film and the viewer.

Franco told me that he shot this film in Techniscope for a multiplane perspective, he wanted the right, left and center fields to be of equal importance and to have a flow of action within and across each area. This strategy, along with an agressive use of the telezoom, ONLY works when the film is seen in 2.35:1. Seen fullscreen or partially letterboxed it looks clumsy and compositionally confusing. And it's not. It's one of his most carefully composed and visually experimental works. Once again, comic books panels were a major inspiration while Bruno Nicolai's score (recycled from EL CONDE DRACULA-1970) and the along with use of animal noises (cf Luis Bunuel's THE MILKY WAY-1969) are used as much as possible to replace exposity dialogue with a completely stylized sound environment.

There have been a number of video and disc releases: the old fullscreen WIZARD VIDEO which looks wretched; a close to 2.35:1 transfer from a Japanese source which unfortuately contains non Franco footage of Dr. Seward's diary and an annoying, largely spurious English language track By Richard McNamara and David Mills which interferes with his original silent-movie aesthetic; 2 more recent R2 PAL discs from Spain and the UK, which are both in the incorrect 1.85:1 ratio, among others. The one from the Japanese source offers the richest colors and since ratio along with color are crucial to Franco's neo-expressionist strategem this remains possibly the best alternative to seeing, if not hearing, it the way it was intended by its maker. This used to be available on VHS from Bill Knight's MIDNIGHT VIDEO and I'm holding onto mine for the time being.

This IMAGE disc has been out for several months so I decided to pick it up at a reduced rate. The credits are presented in something closer to 2.35:1, perhaps 2.0, but the remainder of the feature is in 1.85:1. It's the Spanish language DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN with new English subtitles, which are a welcome addition. It looks like a slightly improved transfer from the same source as the 2003 DIVISA DVD from Spain. I can't comprehend why IMAGE went to the trouble to create three different menu graphics, 3-D style images of Fernando Bilbao's Frankenstein monster with bats flying around him (shouldn't they be flying around Dracula?!), a head shot of Howard Vernon's unique Dracula, and a long shot of the film's castle on a mountaintop setting, but didn't bother to provide chapter stops and scene selections. These menus are fun and in the spirit of the film itself, but chapter stops are a crucial extra for someone like myself who want to be able to flexible nagivation options.

The color here is at times washed out and weak but prone to suddenly bursting into the attractive, bold patterns which Franco intended only to become murky again moments later. There are also a number of vertical scratches visible through most the image and a tendency for the right side of the image to evidence some deterioration. The bottom matte is obviously thicker than the top one and is not really flush with it, making the already cropped framing looked further unbalanced. More about this presentation and the film itsef soon...


20 November, 2006


February 27 is the official release date for Jess Franco's EL CONDE DRACULA, but this will be the English language COUNT DRACULA. DARK SKY FILMS will present the film in 1.33 full frame aspect ratio. It will be in English language 2.0. Extras include two featurettes: a 27 minute one with Franco and an 84 minute one with Christopher Lee, reportedly reading from Bram Stoker's DRACULA. I'm most interested in getting more details on this Lee featurette. Could this be Portabella's EL UMBRACLE (1970), which Phil Hardy's THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE HORROR FILM calls "....a fantasy poem about the actor with Lee...wandering about in a Barcelona transformed into a dream city."? I'm not referring to Portabella's VAMPIR (1971), which would also have been a terrific supplement. I've wanted to see both of these for some time. There's also a Soledad Miranda essay by Amy Brown.

It's about time a definitive DVD was available of this important Jess Franco title. But we'll have to see how it turns out.

My ideal presentation would contain both of the Portabella films and a Spanish language with English subtitles option for comparison sake.

I don't like the cover art. Those fangs...!


19 November, 2006

CASINO ROYALE: The Jess Franco Version!

They should have hired Uncle Jess to play the role of Le Chiffre in the new CASINO ROYALE, that would have taken REAL imagination and guts. I'm not going to comment on the actor who actually does play him or the film itself. In fact, given its hook-em-until-the-next-installment ending, I'll call it a clever business decision rather than a movie. And I'm better at discussing movies than the movie business. Nothing I can say will stop you from seeing the film. But there are some interesting connections to our subject beginning with the presence of Tsai Chin whom not only was a previous Bond girl but was directed by Jess Franco in his two Harry Alan Towers produced Fu Manchu features, where she played Lin Tang. She would also be in my fantasy version. And Lina Romay would play M.

According to my fantasy, they let Franco direct a digital movie version which saves them about $100,000,000, the approximate cost of the version now garnering big bucks and seemingly universal critical praise. I'd love to see my Jess directs Jess as Le Chiffre version with all his usual suspects in key roles, like the estimable Antonio Mayans as the master torturer (he's played that role for Jess before). Jess would have saved them money but they knew that you have to spend money to make more money than Jess Franco could ever imagine, and they will. It's ALL about money and the fact that they change the big game of Baccarat to Texas Hold-em kind of ticks me off. I have a theory about that which I won't state here. Fans of the novel and the classic Bonds will understand. And, by the way, don't listen to anyone who tells you that the 1953 novel, the first in a series of 12 Bonds written by Ian Fleming, is bad. I'll give Daniel Craig points for literary criticism, he's on the spot when he says that it's lean and mean. It's that... and more.

BTW, I just watched the 1954 US telefilm of CASINO ROYALE, with Barry Nelson as "Jimmy" Bond. Although Nelson looks like JFK with an Ozzie Nelson haircut it's efficient, sleazy and gritty, featuring an excellent supporting cast including the always creepy Michael Pate (who should have been cast as Bond) and the immortal Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre. Lorre sweats, squirms and suggests a catalogue of censorable aberrations. This is on the MGM disc of the All Star 1967 spoof version, which wins points from me for having Daliah Lavi, Barbara Bouchet in the cast along with former Jess Franco creative partner Orson Welles (CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, TREASURE ISLAND) as Le Chiffre. The telefilm has the enforced minimalist aesthetic of a live television broadcast which gives it an automatic electrical charge. The 1967 spoof has those marvelous Op-Art sets as wallpaper. They are products of their respectives eras.

I conclude by wondering if James Bond, at least Fleming's Bond, can ever exist outside of the post cold war late 50s to late 1960s context. For my money, the last good one was ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE in 1969, which even the notorious Pauline Kael liked and where seemingly cursed George Lazenby was a splendidly ambiguous 007. As for Fleming's Bond we must remember he was the ultimate in what would become to be considered Politically Incorrect, he did smoke at least three packs a day (I'll be doing a blog and Jess Franco and Cigarettes soon) and he played Baccarat, dammit! If I want to watch Poker, I'll turn on the TV or go online...

Doesn't the framing and lighting of the above-right poster suggest one of Franco's "Black Cinema" images from LOS BLUES DE LA CALLE POP or LA NOCHE DE LOS SEXOS ABIERTOS? If you've seen those 1980's neo-noirs you'll know where I'm coming from. If not, they're both highly recommended.


18 November, 2006

Franco's CHARADE

Thanks to Uwe Huber for this image of another poster for the 1970 Jess Franco rarity, SEX CHARADE. Uwe confirms that Eurocine does indeed have a print of this.. albeit sans sound! Too bad. Maria Rohm is credited as "Maria Khon" on this advert and Uwe directs our attention to the figure on the left as possibly being MR.

I'm not certain if anything can be done to locate the original [French?] soundtrack, but I am now researching the possibility of a Bruno Nicolai score, if there was indeed one written for this and it was not just recyclings of his cues from other soundtracks. Any and all information on the status of this film, the possibility of a DVD release, or the existence of a soundtrack would be much apprieciated.

17 November, 2006


Here's an ultrarare title from 1970, made on leftover time during the shoot of EUGENIE, with Soledad Miranda and Paul Muller. The estimable M. Muller told me that Franco didn't inform the cast that this was a separate movie project and they all thought they were shooting more scenes for EUGENIE. It was shot with the actors speaking English onset from pages written by Jess Franco right before each take. He said the filming took place in late January 1970. Muller was furious, and remains furious more than 35 years later that Jess got him to appear in two films while he was only paid for one. That's how you make a Jess Franco film!

I'm not sure if the rights holder has all the proper elements to actually do a DVD release at this point. I've heard that Eurocine may or may not have all the materials. If they do, I wish they would make it available for release. It sounds fascinating and you can't go wrong with Soledad Miranda, Jack Taylor, Diana Lorys, Howard Vernon, Paul Muller for a cast. A Liechtenstein production (Vaduz) featuring a Bruno Nicolai score [which I'd love to hear]. Maria Rohm is also listed by OBSESSION among the cast, but I wonder if that's correct. I also wonder if some of this was shot during the NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT shoot in mid 1969. With Jess Franco it's hard to be exactly sure, even if your onset. Reportedly there is a double plot: a crime story involving a criminal holding a woman captive and another interior narrative.

Muller seemed to think it was not completed which might explain why there has never been a theatrical or an vido release of any version. I hope he's mistaken and it does indeed someday appear as did EUGENIE, HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION and NIGHTMARES... after decades of unavailability.

14 November, 2006


If you have a serious interest in the films of Jess Franco then check out this massive Japanese site which is maintained by M. Kino, who has written a book on our topic.


12 November, 2006


"I like gods... I know exactly how they feel," Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance) exults in Jean-Luc Godard's LE MEPRIS (1963) as he watches rushes from THE ODYESSY, a project being filmed at Cinecitta studios by the legendary Fritz Lang. To show his contempt for Lang's artistic approach the supercilious producer throws cans of exposed film like a discus thrower in Ancient Greece, an appropriate image in a film stuffed with ironic parallels between the ancient and modern worlds. His impatience with the world and everyone in it will lead to his death as he drives himself and Brigitte Bardot under the crushing wheels of a double tanker truck. Palance is perfectly cast in the role while Godard comments on his own artistic subservience to exploitation moguls Carlo Ponti and Joseph E. Levine, who demanded he add a prologue with Bardot in the nude. Godard aestheticized the sell-out by stylizing the image with colored gels.

Godard's self critique also implicates Jess Franco as one of the countless Euro-schlock directors who were practicing their craft at the time. Franco cited Godard, Bunuel and Fritz Lang in his own pantheon in NECRONOMICON, several years later. The fact that Lang is playing himself here adds another allusive layer of meanings. He's a beleagured artist here, having to absorb the humiliations of his overbearing producer. He compares Prokosch to the Nazis whom Lang in real life evaded after they attempted to interfere with his TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE. In a further irony Franco would just about finish off the MABUSE mythology with his grade Z LA VENGANZA DEL DR MABUSE (1971), which Soldedad Miranda may have appeared in had she lived. Franco has some interesting comments on Godard's influence in his interview on the recent BU SUCCUBUS DVD.

LE MEPRIS concerns the artistic and ethical compromises an artist working in commercial, mainstream cinema must make in order to survive. For instance, the film centers on the destruction of the marriage of a successful screenwriter (the excellent Michel Piccoli) whose last project was TOTO VS HERCULES. Fritz Lang looks at him with a degree of pity, noting that "One must suffer."

The careers of Franco and Godard would have numerous parallels: they both were strongly influenced by classic Hollywood genre cinema during their 1960s period and as Godard worked with Lang, Franco would work with another giant of world cinema, Orson Welles. Godard's cinema experiments, though, would become increasing centered around the world of Realpolitik, whereas Franco created his own alternate universe of Erotica, sometimes of the hardcore variety. It's probably no coincidence that both filmmakers were condemned by the Vatican: in 1971 Franco was named, along with Bunuel, as one of the directors most dangeous for Catholics, while Godard's scandalous HAIL MARY! was trashed by Pope John Paul II. They both began their feature filmmaking career in the late 50s and are both now working in digital media. Godard's massive investigation into the nature of the image culminates in his HISTORIES DU CINEMA (1988-1998) [above-right] while Franco's BROKEN DOLLS, HELTER SKELTER and SNAKEWOMAN also attempt to reconfigure cinema history in a display of the limitations and possiblities of representation.

The must-have Critereon Edition of LE MEPRIS contains a very amusing interview with regular Franco collaborator Howard Vernon, one of the numerous compelling reasons for acquiring this two disc set.


11 November, 2006

Jack Palance Goes To War: HELL'S BRIGADE

In the wake of the passing of Jack Palance, I thought I would take a look at some of his European films. A good place to start is the Italian-Spanish coproduction L'URLO DE GIGANTI (HELL' S BRIGADE: THE FINAL ASSAULT, the onscreen title of the old MPI video). This 1969 film was directed by Leon Klimovsky, whom Jess Franco worked with in the 1950s as a screenwriter and assistant director (MIEDO; AMA ROSA). My friend Carlos Aguilar, the noted Spanish critic and film historian, recently wrote to me that Klimovsky was, along with Joaquin Romero Marchent, one of the prime movers in Franco's early film career, one of his spiritual father figures in the history of Spanish genre cinema.

Klimovsky was a dependable journeyman and not a director noted for unhinged experimentation. HELL'S BRIGADE is not as dull as some of his Spanish westerns (A FEW DOLLARS FOR DJANGO), in fact it adequately holds attention with a series of well-staged, large scale action sequences. Although not as big-budgeted as US produced war fims of that era (THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE, PATTON: both of which the screenwriters here borrow heavily from), this seems like one of Klimovsky's most well resourced projects, with lots of extras and military hardware on display. I

Palance stars as Major Heston, the no-nonsense leader of a commando raid into Germany. He isn't saddled with a Scottish accent like his other Eurowar film of the same year, Umberto Lenzi's BATTLE OF THE COMMANDOS and he clearly enunciates every curse which he shouts at his men and the Nazis. He dominates the excellent supporting cast (which includes Alberto De Mendoza, Andrea Bosic and Giuseppe Addobbati) through sheer intensity and volume.

The cast also includes a number of players familiar from Jess Franco films such as Antonio Pica (ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS), Jesus Puente (EL CONDE DRACULA), Gerard Tichy (LA MUERTE SILBA DE BLUES) and Palance had just acted in Franco's MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE, although his performance here is nowhere near as far out as he is there. But even playing a dedicated antihero he's as explosive and ominous as one of his classic villains.

The MPI video crops off up to half of the compositions at times, leaving characters speaking dialogue offscreen and giving each and every image a totally unbalanced look. I think this was originally lensed in a 2.35:1 scope ratio. It should be noted that Klimovsky's career would be totally transformed in the next year, 1970, when he embarked on an entirely new career, directing a series of important and successful Spanish horror films in a delirious, atmospheric style quite unlike anything he had done before.


10 November, 2006

Jack Palance: RIP

Jack Palance (Vladimir Palanuik/Walter Jack Palance), one of my favorite actors, died today at the age of 87. All Jess Franco watchers will immediately recall his off the wall meanderings as Brother Antonin in JUSTINE (1968), a role Franco said Palance played while under the influence. Given his lack of respect for his own European career, he fiercely denied his numerous Spaghetti Western appearances when confronted about them in his later years, he was a steadfast professional. The Oscar and Emmy award winning actor was one of the great screen "heavies" in George Stevens' SHANE, among others. He recently auctioned off his movie memorabilia. Offscreen he was a landscape painter, who inscribed his canvases with poetry. Palance claimed he never watched the films he appeared in.

A former boxer, Palance's iconic visage was sculpted from his injuries suffered during a B-24 crash in WW II. He was also able to play sympathetic characters and comedy as well as characters like Jack the Ripper in MAN IN THE ATTIC. As the sinister hired gun Jack Wilson in SHANE, his menacing presence in the scene where he slowly puts on his black glove and hisses "Prove it!" to Elisha Cook is chilling and indelible.

His European career afforded him the opportunity to play more villains, such as Fritz Lang's insensitive producer in Jean Luc Godard's LE MEPRIS (1963) and in Sergio Corbucci's Italain-Spanish Westerns THE MERCENARY and COMPANEROS. He also played in the Eurowar epics BATTLE OF THE COMMANDOS and Leon Klimovsky's HELL'S BRIGADE. Master of the slow burn and quiet menace, Palance was an actor's actor who reportedly did push-ups before each take and in front of an international television audience when he won his Academy Award.

Thank you, Jack Palance....



Many thanks to Uwe Huber for contributing this image [which hopefully will stay up here] of the poster prepared for the US theatrical release of Jess Franco's THE GIRL FROM RIO. This "Daring Motion Picture" was Never exhibited theatrically in the US as far as I know. Does anyone have any further information on a possible US theatrical playoff of this film under this or any other title?

For me, this delightfully tacky advert beats the stylish Jano poster for the Spanish version, LA CIUDAD SIN HOMBRES, which was my favorite up to this point. Note that Georges Sanders billing font is twice the size of Shirley Eaton's and Richard Wyler's. BTW, look for a future blog on the career slide of Sanders following his encounter with Jess Franco, including some behind the scenes glimpses of the actor from my interview with Richard Wyler.



08 November, 2006


In serious search of any adverts, posters, etc. with the MOTHERS OF AMERICA titling of Jess Franco's Harry Alan Towers 1968 production best known as THE GIRL FROM RIO [aka FUTURE WOMEN, SUMURU 2, RIO 70].
I don't believe it was ever issued under this title, but that adwork was prepared for the US theatrical release, which never happened. The imbd lists MOTHERS OF AMERICA as its USA Poster title.

There's still at least one more version of this film to discuss, the rarely seen German language DIE SIEBEN MANNER DER SUMURU, a completely different edit, which is, in my opinion, the most interesting alternate version. I'm preparing a special look at this with some comments by leading man Richard Wyler, whom I interviewed some years ago on the making of this film. He wasn't very happy with Jess Franco or the resulting film, to put it mildly...

It's certainly a more compelling title than THE GIRL FROM RIO!

05 November, 2006


Last night I visited with two of my favorite vampire hunters: Dr. Nietzche (Luigi Batzella/Paolo Solvay) in Roberto Mauri's THE SLAUGHTER OF THE VAMPIRES and Dr. Roberts (Jess Franco) in FEMALE VAMPIRE. Baztella/Solvay was by no means the Italian Jess Franco, having only directed 15 (admittedly sleazy) genre items, ending as IVAN KATHANSKY for BLACK GOLD DOSSIER (credited to sometime-JF cover "A.M. FRANK" in its French version) and went uncredited as the director of Bruce Le's GYMKATA KILLER (1980)), a title I'm still trying to track down on any home video medium. One Gray Market dealer used to promote BLACK GOLD DOSSIER as "Jess Franco's GASOLENE WARS"! This Z grade spy adventure does feature 1970s Franco regulars such as Olivier Mathot and Claude Boisson, and star Richard Harrison would go on to portray the director of the CIA in Franco's own DARK MISSION (1988) . There is even some doubt if Batzella is Solvay's real name or vice versa, and he has numerous other covers, as does JF. The fact that they both ended up as A.M. Frank on some credits probably has more to do with Eurocine's financial imperatives than anything else.

Dr. Nietzche is played by LB (as we will label him) as an avuncular scourge who wants to rid the earth of the vampire plague, vowing "The moment has come at last when vampires shall disappear from the earth." LB acted in 18 films, according to the IMBD, and he seemed to have a knack for playing authority figures, his last role being a cop in THE BLOODSUCKER LEADS THE DANCE (1975), directed by Alfredo Rizzo, the actor who helps him hunt overdressed vampire Dieter Eppler in SLAUGHTER and later involuntarily contributed war movie footage to Jess Franco's OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (1981) when Eurocine cannibalized his 1971 I GIARDINI DEL DIAVOLO! In 1973, when LB was directing (as "Paul Solvay", the credits were so thoroughly anglicized that I had no idea back then that it was an Italian film) Rosalba Neri (as Sara Bay) in the female vampire film I saw at the drive-in as THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT, Franco wrote, directed, edited, shot and appeared (as Jess Franck) as "Dr. Roberts" in LA COMTESSE NOIRE, most famously known as FEMALE VAMPIRE. Dr. Roberts is the local ME on the island of Madiera where the Countess Irina Von Karlstein (Lina Romay) is draining the male and female population of their sexual fluids (in XXX detail in some versions). Dr. Roberts tells the loutish local inspector that, "Lines in parallel never meet." Obviously, they don't see eye to eye. Unlike the florid Dr. Nietzche, Roberts dresses like a refugee, and sports a very 1973 goatee and hippie hair style. His conversations with the Timothy Leary-like "Dr. Orloff" (film historian Jean-Pierre Bouyxou) focus on metaphysics. Note that Orloff has a model of a Galleon and at least two telephones on his desk. Jess Franco can be a marevlous actor and his expression as he watches the Countess drown recalls his witnessing of Eugenie's (Soledad Miranda) demise in 1970's EUGENIE, in which he also cast himself as a hunter of the unknown.

In 1974 (the year the female narrator in FV dates the action) Batzella/Solvay directed the Ed Woodish spectacle NUDA PER SATANA, with "James Harris" (top picture) as Satan. "Harris" also appears in Franco's 1973 BRUTAL NIGHTS OF LINDA and KISS ME KILLER. LB continued his career in Eurosleaze with the notorious THE BEAST IN HEAT. His memorable Dr. Nietzche suggests he may have been a better actor than director. But who can forget Rosalba Neri arising from her blood bath in THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT?


How Many Franco DVD's Did You Say?!


This "Jess Franco Collection Boxset" now up for auction on EBAY promises 22 Jess Franco DVDs! I've never heard of this collection and am not familiar with the packaging. The discs are listed as R0, PAL, in NEW condition.

03 November, 2006


Three images from Jess Franco DVD presentations which I never thought would have possible when I started ordering VHS dupes from Mail Order companies around 1986. Oh, Yeah, Twenty Years Ago! The first was THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN which arrived in a blurry incarnation and seemed unwatchable to a few friends I dared show it to. We got a laugh out of the silver skinned "monster" {where was Jack Pierce when you really needed him?}the fumetti aesthetic didn't register. The oversized Wizard A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD and OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES video boxes and PRIVATE SCREENINGS X-rated video THE LOVES OF IRINA were just starting to show up in the adult sections of long gone video stores. It was the pre-VW era and Jess Franco didn't have many advocates among US critics.

About a month later I decided to try another company. The title I wanted was MACUMBA SEXUAL, which is now available in a brand new transfer from SEVERIN FILMS in OAR and with English subtitles. I waited for weeks and finally had to call the honcho who said he simply forgot to send out the tape. When I finally viewed it the fullscreen print was in even worse shape than the previously acquired TEROF, which at least was partially letterboxed. The films themselves were even more outlandish than SUCCUBUS, which I had appreciately theatrically in 1969. And Jess Franco himself played mutant-like flunkies of Evil in both, which was a plus as far as I was concerned.

By the time I finally got around to ordering EL SEXO ESTA LOCO I was somewhat addicted to what I called "Jess Franco videos." Now, as I await my Manga DVD of that experimental sci fi effort, I realize that era is long gone and we are now in some kind of Jess Franco DVD Golden Age when even his most minor hardcore efforts are turning up on Spanish newstand discs.

I'm watching an old Roger Corman pre-AIP sci-fi epic DAY THE WORLD ENDED (1956) as I type this and I sometimes have the feeling we'll be seeing various JF DVD presentations until then! Or will it all end as upredictably as it began? An aesthetically appropriate query since Corman begins his film with THE END and ends with THE BEGINNING, not unlike EL SEXO ESTA LOCO. Corman once presented an award to Jess Franco, I would have liked to have been privy to what the two Kings of the B's said to each other.

All I can say is enjoy it while it lasts. I won't even hazard to number the JF DVD's I now have in my collection! The thing is, I want SOOOO many more, especially the mid 1970s Robert de Nesle productions like LORNA THE EXORCIST (1974), to come out on DVD. With the filmography of JF, the possiblities are endless, and, like his most adventurous work, non-linear.

BTW, if you are the first to name the future Jess Franco performer who is in DAY THE WORLD ENDED, I'll be sending you a Jess Franco DVD at my expense....


30 October, 2006


The Sundance Channel will present the US Televison premiere of three Jess Franco films featuring the late Soledad Miranda (1943-1970) on Tuesday October 31, starting at 10PM with SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY, followed by VAMPYROS LESBOS at 1130PM and THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA at 1PM. These were the last three films which Franco completed with the legendary cult actress before her tragic death in a car accident on August 18, 1970.
This Halloween triple bill comes as a welcome surprise considering that all three films have been released on US DVD, most recently by IMAGE. Beside the smoldering presence of Miranda, always billed as "Susann Korda", all three films were scored by the avant-garde composers Sigi Schwab and Manfred Hubler. Their intoxicating rhythms for VAMPYROS LESBOS are particularly memorable and some of those cues are repeated in the SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY soundtrack.
Much has been written about VAMPYROS LESBOS, but the erotic melodrama SHE KILLED... is equally stylish and the plot in some ways predicts the recent heated debate about stem cell research. I'm also very fond of the completely wacky overuse of the telezoom in the Bryan Edgar Wallace adaptation, THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA. All three films were coproduced by Artur "Atze" Brauner's CCC company, headquartered in Berlin, Germany.
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