31 July, 2006


In August we'll be taking a look at three very different versions of Jess Franco's 1968 "Sumuru" film: Blue Underground's THE GIRL FROM RIO, the rarely seen German version and US TV version. We'll also be continuing our detailed coverage of SUCCUBUS and much, much more...

30 July, 2006


COMMENTARY BY ROBERT MONELL: SUCCUBUS was shot under the title LES YEUX VERTS DE SATAN, as noted in Alain Petit's essential "Manacoa Files" and recalled by Jess Franco himself in David Gregory's excellent 22m interview segment "From NECRONOMICON to SUCCUBUS" on the new BU DVD. The German version NECRONOMICON is also known as GETRAUMTE SUNDEN (Dreamed Sins) and there's an Italian version, DELIRIUM. I must say that THE GREEN EYES OF SATAN is a bewitching handle but NECRONOMICON perhaps best sums up the conceptual genesis from a 15th Century text by an Arabic Jew (Alazred) who, according to the director, was burned by the Inquisition for his efforts. Franco took a few pages of it and improvised the film around it, there was never a complete script according to actor Jack Taylor (the 7m segment with him on the BU disc, Ewe Huber's BACK TO BERLIN, taking us back to some of the film's locations, along with the JF interview, are alone worth the price of admission). Taylor, who plays "Bill" in the film, explains how just a few pages written daily by Franco were given to Taylor who then translated them on the spot.

My first awareness of the film and of the name Jess Franco came in early 1969 when I happened across a still from the opening S&M performance in the FILM section of some long forgotten continential cinema review in one of those men's magazines one just reads "for the articles." I was immediately struck by the name, JESUS FRANCO, compositing the founder of Christianity with the name of Spain's feared dictator at the time. Blasphemy and outrage! The Catholic church would later place the film on its CONDEMNED list and it was totally banned in Franco's country of birth.

A few months later I had just turned 18 and was able to view it in a local "Art" cinema, The Riviera, where X-rated films like THE DAMNED and CAMILLE 2000 would play.

SUCCUBUS, "THE sensual experience of '69" as the poster in the lobby stated, was rated X, "...adults only, naturally." On some of the admats, next to the image of the sultry Janine Reynaud, was the kicker: "Because of the unusual nature of the the title, we suggest you call #_________ for the full meaning so that you will not be surprised by the sophisticated subject matter of this film." I wondered, did anyone ever get connected? I tried a few times but it was always busy! Those were the days.... (to be continued)

26 July, 2006


COMMENTARY BY ROBERT MONELL: Thanks to Mirek for the screengrabs. As illustrated by the shot above, this is the "American Version": post-produced by a US company after the film had been edited and prepared by producer Adrian Hoven. Jess Franco didn't have the final say on what this version would contain and would not contain in terms of music, dialogue and footage. It's terrific to finally have a widesreen DVD of SUCCUBUS, my favorite Jess Franco film, but this is not exactly the same version I saw theatrically back in 1969 or that I have from a 16mm element, and it's not exactly the version I was hoping for. More about the various endings and versions of Jess Franco's NECRONOMICON in the future.

23 July, 2006


The BLUE UNDERGROUND SE of TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS and KISS ME MONSTER is certainly recommendable for the new interviews with Jess Franco which are included as supplements to the features, not to mention remastered anamorphic transfers of these two "Red Lips" adventures. While these are very entertaining films, there also exist the rarely seen and even more rarely reviewed Spanish language variants, filmed back to back on Spanish locations-Studio Roma in Madrid, Murcia, Alicante, Marbella, Malaga and Munich, W.Germany during 1967 on the same sets, featuring the same casts, following the production of NECRONOMICON aka SUCCUBUS, which was lensed in Lisbon and Berlin. Here's a report on what you won't be seeing and hearing on the BU "Red Lips" discs.

The significantly different, alternate Spanish language version of TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS, EL CASO DE LAS DOS BELLEZAS is 88m and much of the extra footage consists of extended dialogue and some transitional scenes. There's one scene, where Agent McClune intercepts Regina in the middle of EL CASO.., which actually appears at the opening of KISS ME MONSTER, the English language variant of BESAME MONSTRUO. Given the contexts the dialogue in the scene changes depending on which version of which film you watch. There's also a blooper in EL CASO...(but considering Franco's penchant for cinematic tricksterism, who knows?) showing the cleaning lady of Klaus Tiller's Gallery of Horrors frozen at her cue as she waits to spring into action at her window washing chores. She's already busy at work as the scene opens in...ANGELS. There are also some graphics printed over the image, pop-art style ["JAZZ 68"] in EL CASO...which were removed from ...ANGELS. Most significantly, perhaps, ...ANGELS opens with the first scene in the fashion house interrupted by the main credits after the model wishes aloud that she were married. In EL CASO... the scene unfolds uninterrupted through Michel Lemoine's wolfman attack on the model which is then followed by the opening credits. EL CASO..., because of Spanish censorship restrictions (which Franco mentions in the BU interview), is the "covered" version; for instance, the striptease watched by Tiller is obscured in shadows while the dancer appears topless in ...ANGELS. BESAME MONSTRUO is also the "covered" version of KISS ME MONSTER.

The language tracks of the English and Spanish versions are also structured and employed differently. For instance, the model's aforementioned line of dialogue was obviously created by the English scripters to add an additional moment of humor to the English language track as it isn't in EL CASO...at all. The result is that a moment of quiet suspense preceding a horrific werewolf attack is upset by a sitcom stinger. In fact, there are a number of instances in ...ANGLES where new dialogue was created and dubbed over moments which were dialogue-free in EL CASO... . Consider the exchange between two spectators observing the bridal display, the bickering couple were silent in EL CASO... . There's an interactive moment in EL CASO...where Regina (Rosanna Yanni) turns to the camera and asks the operator to zoom in on her so she can get out of bed without revealing that she's nude in longshot (the zoom-in on demand is both a stylistic in-joke and perhaps Franco's send-up of the Spanish censors of the era). The joke is extended in EL CASO when the DP answers that it wasn't in the plan but this additional line is not retained or translated on the English track of ...ANGELS. Was this dropped to save the time and costs of translating and dubbing ALL the Spanish dialogue? If so, then why was new English language dialogue written and dubbed over other scenes which were silent? It's not just that the Spanish language humor wouldn't translate and they had to find replacements and approximations, the English language scripters also altered the texture and tone of EL CASO... .

If the Spanish version can be described as deliriously prolix, the English language script adds even more dialogue while minimizing Franco's auteurist ribbing and is generally more Monty Pythonesque than the brusque, allusive Spanish back and forth, which is loaded with cinema references a la Jean Luc Godard. EL CASO... was pretty much turned into a sexy, mainstreamish comedy by these editing and dubbing choices, losing much of its darker, more Franco-specific references and humor and its identity as a cutting edge Pop Art satire of the then fashionable injection of sexual violence into Pop Art, mid 1960's cinema fads and Spanish popular culture of that time. EL CASO... is more of a horror film painted with jet black humor, an essay in (to invoke one of the film's alternate titles) Sadisterotica. EL CASO... had a different music score, by longtime Franco friend and collaborator, the late Fernando G. Morcillo, who went on to score one of Franco's most personal projects, the delightful, live action cartoon LOS BLUES DE LA CALLE POP (aventuras de Felipe Marlboro, volumen 8)(1983). As in that later film, Morcillo's dixieland-style jazz cues, played at full throttle with big band instrumentation, are used for ironic counterpoint and commentary, punctuating the action (listen how the 7 note sting is repeatedly played after the Red Lips are saved from one serial-style cliffhanger after another) rather than just adding atmosphere, which is the main funciton of the nonetheless perfectly acceptable, and sometimes quite catchy, Jerry Van Rooyen music heard on the TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS soundtrack. Van Rooyen also scored the English language version of BESAME MONSTRUO as well as SUCCUBUS. The English versions of these two Red Lips films were post-produced for Anglo-American tastes and took into accounts variances between them and Spanish cultural considerations. German producer and Aquila executive Adrian Hoven (MARK OF THE DEVIL) was a popular singer and actor in Germany and a cultured businessman who created German and other export versions back in Berlin. Acquired by Atlas International-Munich, then sold to distributors around the world who added/cut footage, dubbed/dropped music/voice tracks, retitling the films for various national markets.

We'll be taking a detailed look at the differences between the Spanish and English language versions of KISS ME MONSTER in the future...

Jess Franco Double Bill Vol. 1 July 24, 2006

This Anamorphic PAL 2 disc set, available in the UK as of tomorrow, features two related JF coproductions, the Howard Vernon top-lined monster rallies DRACULA PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN (1971)and THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1972) [see previous post for a review of the unclothed version, EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN]. These are promised to be in their 2.35:1 OAR, but I'm skeptical about DPOF. If someone could please report here on how that disc turns out, it would be very much appreciated as it's one of our personal favorite Franco monsterfests, but must be seen in 2.35:1 to be fully appreciated. Features :Spanish language w Eng subs, DD. Colorful packaging with original artwork make this a tempting set from but, once again, I would like to read some consumer reviews. TARTAN

21 July, 2006


ROBERT MONELL: One of three films featuring Anne Libert (left), filmed in Portugal on the same locations in late 71, early 72: THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN - Jess Franco, 1972, Espagne/Italie

Grade Z French-Spanish coproduction in the style of Franco's beloved Italian sex and violence Fumetti.

"I foresee pleasure, death and blood," predicts Melissa (Anne Libert), the cannibal-birdwoman created by Cagliostro (Howard Vernon, in one of his most essential roles), the evil magician/scientist who is creating a race called "Phantos" with which he plans to dominate the world. Wall to wall nudity, gore, perversion, torture, flesh stripping and wildness scored by, according to onscreen credit "sound by Musique pour l'Image" - H. Tical Vincent Gemini Robert Hermel Vladimir Cosma-a bizarre composite of crashing organ chords and electronic whoops.

Franco's transgressive reimaginaing of the Universal classic, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, actually was adverterised by one French video company with a still from that 1935 James Whale film! But Franco's film is even more over the top in terms of "Pleasure, Death and Blood", in a way it comments on the late 1960s-early 1970s era of burgeoning sex and violence in the cinema. Franco's film is certainly NOT mainstream but an outre blend of grotesque Fantastique and sexual hijinx. The silver skinned monster (Fred Harrisson/Fernando Bilbao) has to be seen to be believed, you can notice that the cheap make up FX are peeling on close inspection! Lots of close ups of skulls and blinding crimson lights shining directly into the camera give the proceedings a Kenneth Anger feeling.

A favorite scene has the head and hands of the reanimated Dr Frankenstein (Dennis Price) cleanly severed by a vat of sulphuric acid suddenly thrown on him. Such surreal imagery, though, can't really be described in words, it has to be SEEN. The Spanish version is considerably longer and contains a scene with Lina Romay not seen in the French alternate, but the French version has all the nudity which is "covered" in the Spanish. Britt Nichols, as "the bride", is sexy and charming even when is getting her head ripped off by the savage looking Luis Barboo.

The vintage poster above, pictures Anne Libert as the victim-sex slave of Britt Nichols, also in EROTIC RITES... and DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN, where she also plays a female vampire. All three of these films were French-Spanish-Portuguese coproductions with the prolific exploitation producer Robert de Nesle providing the French financing from his Paris based company, C.F.F.P.

LA FILLE... has giallo elements, a lot of lesbian groping, a prominent role for frequent Franco composer Daniel J. White and gives the immortal Howard Vernon another shot at playing Dracula after his eccentric interpretation in DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN. Franco himself has a key role as a Van Helsing style vampire hunter. Britt's tortured, sensual portrayal of the predatory Luisa is perhaps the best role she had in her Franco resume. The opening scenes where a woman is stalked and killed in a coastal region seems to have been strongly influenced by such Mario Bava gialli as BLOOD AND BLACK LACE and HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON.

20 July, 2006


ROBERT MONELL: My favorite Jess Franco movie poster illustrating his most moving Sade adaptation. Soledad Miranda is both victimizer and victim, the seduced and the seducer, the object of every man's (and some women's) desires. Once again, it's a film about watching cinema as Jess lights a smoke and considers the forbidden in the very first scene. The look on Franco's face in the final scene as he contemplates the lost Eugenie speaks volumes as does the above image. Soledad Miranda's own life was both a triumph and another perfect tragedy...but she lives! Thanks for the image, Jonathan.

18 July, 2006


Here are some brief reviews of several films NOT directed by JF but sometimes attributed to him:

THE HOUSE OF THE LOST DOLLS (1974): Pierre Chevalier actually "directed" this Eurocine composite under the name Peter Knight. This used to be listed by VSOM as a "Jess Franco" film in their old 1990s era catalogues. I fell for it and purchased one to discover footage from a 1967 Italian spy film featuring Jack Taylor AGENTE SIGMA 3: MISSIONE GOLDWATHER mixed in with footage from a French film about white slavers operating in Paris and Marsielles, presumably a Chevalier directed effort, title as yet unknown. BOTH of these feature Sylvia Solar as a femme fatale! So, it all gets very confusing. Sandra Julien also appears as an undercover agent. There also appears to be footage from a third unknown film in here of agents raiding a cargo ship. It all adds up to a supersleazefest with music by Daniel J. White and uncredited cues from Bruno Nicolai's great score for EUGENIE DE SADE (1970). Footage from this composite was later mixed with scenes from an actual JF film, OPALO DE FUEGEO (1978) and was rereleased with newly shot footage by "John O'Hara" as OASE DER GEFANGENEN FRAUEN, at least that's the title of the German language version which was released on DVD a few years ago by KULT DVD. The French version is L'OASIS DES FILLES PERDUES. The new footage features Francoise Blanchard, probably best know as the title character in Rollin's LA MORTE VIVANTE (1982).

SABOTAGE (1979): Actually a film directed by Luigi Batzella/Paolo Solvay credited onscreen as Ivan Kathansky. Richard Harrison appears as a secret agent who parachutes in to destroy an oil installation in a rebellious Arab republic. It's all very cynical and, once again, populated with Eurocine sleaze regulars like Olivier Mathot and Claude Boisson/Yul Sanders. It's unmitaged junk all the way, but not unentertaining. For instance, much of the footage was "flipped", printed backwards! They hoped you wouldn't notice. Original title: STRATEGIA PER UNA MISSIONE DI MORTE aka BLACK GOLD/BLACK GOLD DOSSIER/POUR UN BARIL DE PERTOLE (thanks were due to Sergio Leone!)/LORNA, LA LIONNE DU DESERT (after the heroine, Florence Cayrol, who patrols the desert in the nude!)/SQUADRATA D'AZIONE ORA ZERO/LA GUERRE DU PETROLE, VSOM took this last title and presented it as Jess Franco's GASOLINE WARS in one of their catalogues! Let's just call these Franco-related here. We'll look at more films mistakenly attributed to JF in the future.

17 July, 2006

In Search of these Jess Franco films...

I'm in urgent need of any copies available on any tape/DVDR format of these ultra rare JF titles:
EL SECRETO DEL DR ORLOFF (1964) the 99m Spanish version
DE SADE'S JULIETTE (1975) the version Franco made before Joe D'Amato turned it into a composite entitled JUSTINE (1979)
LABIOS ROJOS (1960) the first, and rarest of the "Red Lips" adventures.
GIRLS IN THE GOLDEN CAGE (1975) Franco related sleaze which Jess made some scenes for. Really a Eurocine composite.
LA CASA DE LAS MUJERES PERDIDAS rare 80s drama remade by Franco as BROKEN DOLLS.

Please post on the comment option if you have any of these. Thanks.

Karine Gambier in trouble..

To continue the illustrative theme for a moment, here's a typical scene from Franco's enjoyable WOMEN IN CELLBLOCK 9 (1977), one of his many W.I.P productions. Peter Blumenstock (who himself did the world a favour by releasing several great soundtracks via his Lucertola Media CD label) nicely summed up the appeal of the film in his brief review from the O.O.P Franco hardcover OBSESSION - THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO:

"A sadistic albeit uninspired script focuses on a single element: sexual torture. An audience in search for such delights will undoubtedly be well-served by this utterly tasteless film that makes no secret of its aim to deliver straight, cheap and sleazy sex for the raincoat brigade... Howard Vernon's portrayal of the sadistic Dr. Costa is among the most credible, fascinating and gloomy impersonations of a sadist one could hope for."

ROBERT MONELL: I would add that this image provides a compelling snapshot of the raw, rough aesthetics of the WIP in general modulated by Franco's specific sense of Art History--the tortured faces, the flesh, the shadows and the chains frozen in a moment which evokes both Goya and Helmut Newton, an artist unpretentiously and spontaneously injecting his sensibility into a (then) popular genre. As always in Franco's cinema we are reminded that we are watching a "performance" and get the sense that the performers are perhpas watching us. Thanks for the shot, Anthony, and Welcome...

16 July, 2006


No-budget DVD labels abound here in the US, offering such Franco related titles as OASIS OF THE ZOMIBES (1981)[MILL CREEK:CHILLING CLASSICS 50 MOVIE PACK] and the dire TERROR TALES: vol.4 ("From the Hood" you have to love the lurid covers on these), offering an "SE" double bill of THE DEVIL HUNTER (1980) and M. Cano's VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST. Those transfers are as awful as Dr. Orloff and you get what you pay for. A bit better are some of the Spanish DVD's, sometimes called the "Spanish Newstands DVDs" which have surfaced in the past few years and quickly either sell out or disappear into an unknowable vortex.

LILIAN (1983) is a nice, colorful, even luminous letterboxed transfer of what could have been a terrific little erotic crime-noir if Jess hadn't cut in a lot of ultra boring hardcore footage to insure boxoffice.
Once again familiar [from Franco and other productions] Daniel J. White cues {CRIMSON, SEXUAL STORY OF O}set the tone for a postmodern pre TWIN PEAKS scenario of a young woman trapped in a hell of dance clubs, white slavery, corrupt police officials, whips, leather and muscles. There are no extras on this disc except for 3 Scene options. The main menu, though, is fun and colorful. In Spanish language with no English subs.

GEMIDOS DE PLACER is probably the most important Franco title released by CINE EROTCO INTERNACIONAL so far. Other titles listed in their promo booklet include LA HISTOIRA EXUAL DE "O", another highly recommended early 1980s slice of sadisterotica, LAS ORGIAS INCOFESABLES DE EMMANUELLE and MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE (1982), a gorgeous remake of NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT (1970).
One title we would like to see released on one of these micro-labels is BLACK BOOTS, LEATHER WHIPS(1982), our very rough translation of BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUER0, a tropical noir set on the Sun Coast where the references to Robert Siodmak's THE KILLERS (a personal JF favorite) abound, with Antonio Mayans at his all time best as sleazy PI Al Pereira trying to be tougher than Robert Mitchum in the all time classic OUT OF THE PAST.
We also look forward to the future DVD releases of a number of Franco's late 70s Triton Films productions including his crucial EL SADICO DE NOTRE DAME (1979), which melds footage from EXORCISM (1974) with 1979 footage of Jess wandering around Paris murdering disco queens, hookers, etc while visiting the friendly priest at Notre Dame on his days off. Liner notes will be by the world class Franco authority, Francesco Cesari. More info on the label which will be releasing these at a later date.
Speaking about Uncle Jess' acting, he's pretty damn impressive in LILIAN as the burnt out cop and at the top of his game as the twisted titular SADIST. We think that's his real voice in the French version of EXORCISM and it sure sounds like him in LILIAN...
Getting back to GEMIDOS DE PLACER, 2005 saw the Cine Erotico Espanol disc of this extended experiment in mise en scene where the film unfolds in a series of extended plan-sequences representing a dusk to dawn time period where "Un liberal matrimonio quieren probar a realizar un trio sexual con una amiga de ambos. Pero en realidad la utilizan para matarse el uno al otro con argucias u todo tipo de artimanas. El desenlace es sorprendente." It's 4:3-Mono-Region 0, letterboxed at something close to the 2.35:1 Techniscope ratio listed on the print, which itself was liberally marked with scratches, flecks, and other minor annoyances, but it was nice to see it in a widescreen format since we had to deal with the fullscreen Caliente VHS for the past two decades! In Spanish with no English subs. Many Thanks, Francesco!

15 July, 2006

The BBFC: Protecting the world from Jess Franco here....

The infamous BBFC provides rating "guidance" and basically decides which films will recieve one of their several ratings or will be passed with cuts. That's the best I can give in a way of explaining the-to me-mind bogglingly complex task of monitoring everything everyone will be seeing in theaters or at home. Of course, the days of the "video nasties" are long gone (or are they?) but type in Jess Franco's name in their search engine [www.bbfc.co.uk] and you'll get the history of over 40 Jess Franco titles as they were submitted and rates by the BBFC from the 60s up to the present day. An example is THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU which is "passed with cuts" for theatrical viewing in 1968 and resubmitted and gets rereleased with various cut times in subsequent time frames up to present era. Some, like SADOMANIA, get passed with "substitutions", whatever that exactly means. It all happens "...because we serve a socially useful function" according to their "vision statement". I'm still not sure if any Franco films are banned outright in the UK, but what's available right now on DVD is sometimes in cuts which are abbreviated due to the BBFC's specs. If anyone has any corrections, clarifications or additions please feel free to comment. I believe it's always good to keep an eye on those who are keeping an eye on everyone else.

Where to acquire rare Jess Franco titles on video and DVD...

One place is through ETC Video, Craig has countless hard to find titles which he can reproduce on both video and DVD-R format. His prices are very reasonable and his friendly, informed customer service is next to none. For instance, we recently covered the 1973 Robert de Nesle production PLAISIR A TROIS, but of course there doesn't look like any SE DVD will be in the offing in the near future, but it is one of the ones available from ETC's Franco collection, a small part of which is listed on their site http://www.eurotrashcinema.com/html/directors_franco.htm Check it out and email or phone Craig for much more info on his complete selection. Contact info is on the site.

13 July, 2006

Severin Films to release MACUMBA SEXUAL on DVD

David Gregory's recently launched Severin Films website www.severin-films.com has announced that MACUMBA SEXUAL and LA MANSION DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTES will be their first Jess Franco releases. These are early 1980's Golden Films Internacional productions and are wild blendings of extremes of zombie erotica, hallucinatory horror and hypnotic imagery. I had a chance to speak in detail with Jess about these films and hope to blend his comments in with reviews of the films themselves in the near future. And I applaud Severin Films for finally going the distance to give these rarely seen titles a quality DVD presentation. They'll also be doing some Joe D'Amato Walerian Borowczyk, Lucio Fulci titles, so it all holds terrific promise.

11 July, 2006


PLAISIR A TROIS is a wickedly droll and amoral "morality" play, a chamber piece after Sade's PHILOSOPHY IN THE BOUDOIR, but very different in tone and style from his other adaptations of that work: EUGENIE...HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION (1970), COCKTAIL SPECIAL (1978) and EUGENIE, HISTORIA UNA PERVERSION (1980), all of which deal with the supposed corruption of the innocent "Eugenie", here named Cecile. A sexually voracious woman and her male consort direct the proceedings only to have the tables turned on them at the last moment. PLAISIR was shot in Portugal and Spain at the same time as the production of LA COMTESSE PERVERSE, this was 1973 a year of white hot creativity for JF during which he made 12 feature films, not counting alternate versions! Shot under the title OUTRE-TOMBE this is another Franco study of the artist-as-killer or vice versa. Martine (Alice Arno, rn:Marie-France Broquet) produces human sculptures of her female victims after torturing them to death with whips, chains and the rack. Her male lover (Robert Woods), a mute sex slave (Lina Romay), the chauffeur (Howard Vernon) and the gardener (the delightfully diminutive Alfred Baillou) all know about the murder spree and more or less enable Martine's sick agenda. Cecile, who lives nearby with her wealthy parents, will be the next victim...

Working with the same cast as LA COMTESSE PERVERSE Franco delivers a similarly disturbing comedie noire from a familiar text. We first see Martine in action as she castrates a brutal lover, filmed in a Wellesian canted camera setup. Her museum of the tortured dead is one of the highpoints, discovered in a series of wide-angle compositions and fluid shots which seem to make the grotesque sculptures spontaneously revive the moment they are touched by Martine's perverse caresses. The Bressac villa is deconstructed via the use of cubist set-ups which Franco defiles by surging telezooms which discover further cubist constructs within the already claustrobic mise en scene. The striptease marathon set in the clammy basement lit by a red gel is also a coup de cinema as well as the more subtle rummagings of Franco's restless camera, ever anxious to find new perspectives and relationships between human and artifical forms. The bizarre score features what sounds like kazoos overcome by hard rock guitar interludes. The lush greenery of the locale is a constant counterpoint to the sordid human actions which seem conditioned by the semi-tropical environment. The performances are good, if not outstanding, especially Romay's mute, as in LA COMTESSE NOIRE she seems to completely lose herself when she doesn't have to deal with dialogue. Arno's and Woods' voyuerism involving optical aids are further distanced by the fact that they are also always being watched by the prying eyes of their servants. As always, Franco's films are first and foremost about the art of "watching" some kind of transgressive performance. Sade would have understood Franco's cinema very well as Franco understands that there are no temporal/spatial/philosophical boundries in the fantasy matrix of the Divine Marquis. GEMIDOS DE PLACER (1981)is a loose remake of this film featuring extended plan sequences in an even more radical sytlistic experiment. This must see film was released in Spain in what have become knows as "Spanish newstand DVD." We will take a close look at that presentation and the film itself in the future...

The DVD: I would imagine a vault element transfer which would unleash the lush hues and layered soundscape of the environment backgrounded by the over-the-top score. In original French with new English subtitles supervised by the film's adaptor, Alain Petit. Petit, a noted film historian, author of the seminal Franco study THE MANACOA files, writer-actor-director on Franco related projects, is a living treasure trove of insight and arcane information on the career of Jess Franco in general and on the making of this film in particular. He would be featured in a Making of...documentary, interviewed along with Franco himself, Lina Romay and, if they can be located, Alice Arno and Robert Woods. And if the extremely truncated English language version HOW TO SEDUCE A VIRGIN could be found, then we would have a 2 Disc SE!


A regular feature here will be Franco related films we would most like to see on SE DVDs. This 1973 Sade adapt would be one of our first choices.
More about this later...

10 July, 2006

Jess Franco trivia question:

What Boris Karloff movie was filmed on one of the same locations featured in Jess Franco's 1982 MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE?

A "Hidden Gem" from Jess Franco now on German DVD...

Can you take 644 minutes of Jess Franco?! Well, if you can you may want to check out Galileo Medien's 8 disc THE JESS FRANCO COLLECTION (Digipack). A R2 PAL boxset which includes BLUE RITA, BARBED WIRE DOLLS, WOMEN IN CELLBLOCK 9, JACK THE RIPPER, VOODOO PASSION, ILSA: THE WICKED WARDEN, LOVE LETTERS OF A PORTUGUESE NUN and, my personal favorite of these, WOMEN WITHOUT INNOCENCE aka FRAUEN OHNE UNSCHULD, promoted on this set as WICKED WOMEN. Confusing enough for you? Actually, this is one of the prime examples of a genre related to the WIP, the Women- -In-Peril subgenre. FRAUEN... was one of a series of film produced between 1975 and 1977 by Erwin C. Dietrich's Elite Films, a Swiss-German company known for a wide variety of exploitation matter at that time. Dietrich was a prolific producer(and sometimes director under his Manfred Gregor/Michael Thomas signatures) of this product and became a wildly successful distributor as well. His sometimes partner, the cinematographer Peter Baumgartner, also appears in FRAUEN as a wily, humorous police inspector. According to Dietrich, Baumgartner also worked on the post production of many of these Franco films, including editing and dubbing. Dietrich's own DVD line of Franco films VIP's THE OFFICIAL JESS FRANCO COLLECTION come from Elite's vaults, are rigorously cleaned then impeccably transferred under Baumgartner's close supervision. Having the DP of a film actually do a hands-on supervision of a DVD is of course the ideal way to go and these transfers are among the very best looking Franco DVD's to be had. If this 8 disc set contains the same transfers or are taken from the same Elite/Dietrich elements, they may be worth the price of admission for those who don't already own these titles already out on THE OFFICIAL JESS FRANCO COLLECTION while those, like me, who may not be able to afford it just for FRAUEN, may hope that a single of it will appear soon or later from either company. And can someone explain what exactly is the difference between THE JESS FRANCO COLLECTION and THE OFFICIAL JESS FRANCO COLLECTION in terms of Dietrich's involvement? Now, onto the film under examination...

FRAUEN OHNE UNSCHULD/WICKED WOMEN (1977) is a kind of erotic (some might say sleazy) crime melodrama in which the heroine (Lina Romay) is always on the edge of complete hysteria. Franco has said he made this film specifically to showcase Lina Romay's acting talents and she really lets it rip. Hair cropped short, in constant psychiatric restraints, put upon by murdering home invaders, lesbian inmates, a mad doctor and a killer who would be at home in Mario Bava's BLOOD AND BLACK LACE, she screams her way into madness and takes the long way back to sanity. Our lost heroine is studied in hyperrealistic closeup and is saved by the film's cinematographer; her smile toward the end is one of the most liberating moments in Franco's long, twisted filmography. Brimming with eccentric camera angles, dangerous curves and a jet black humor, FRAUEN/WICKED WOMEN delightfully evokes the 1950's melodramas of Douglas Sirk with a large dose of Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND. A highly recommended title off the beaten Jess Franco path...

The promotion for this on the sazuma site notes that the Digipack titles are 16X9 Anamorphic, DD 2.0, include interviews, Making Of...documentaries and are presented with both German and English language options. Here's hoping that also means German w/ English subtitles, but none are noted on the site.

Robert Monell

Return of the RED LIPS

BLUE UNDERGROUND will also be releasing a two disc SE of Franco's 1967 "Red Lips" films, TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS and KISS ME MONSTER later this month. These will be, like SUCCUBUS, anamorphically enhanced remastered versions in 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Trailers and new interviews with Jess Franco are included on this set. These are the shorter, English language export versions. More on the very different Spanish versions of the films later...

09 July, 2006


SUCCUBUS, the English language version of Jess Franco's 1967 German produced NECRONOMICON, will be hitting the streets later this month. This is perhaps the most important Franco film, along with his first horror film GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF-1961), of the 1960s and it merits our serious attention.


This blog is intended to be a place for up to date, accurate information as well as discussion of the films and career of Jess Franco. We'll be discussing both the newest Jess Franco related DVD releases from around the world as well as reconsidering past DVD's as well as Franco-related films on other formats. And, perhaps most importantly, we'll be looking at Franco films which have not yet made it onto DVD as well as unreleased titles and obscurities in need of discovery. Jess Franco won't be the only director discussed simply because he has been linked with so many other filmmakers from around the world, most significantly, Orson Welles. So we'll also be looking at the films, careers and DVD presentation of such Franco related figures as Welles, Joaquin Romero Marchent, Chano Urueta, Robert Siodmak and many others he has worked with, been influenced by or has influenced.
Feedback, additonal information and any comments/corrections are welcome and encouraged as I would like to keep this as interactive as possible.
Robert Monell