31 August, 2006



The female FU-MANCHU created by Sax Rohmer was featured in a RADIO SERIAL, NOVELSand several feature FILMS . There is a rather confusing array of versions of Jess Franco's SUMURU project, best known as THE GIRL FROM RIO, which finally appeared in DVD from Blue Undergound. It's certainly the longest we know of and the video quality sparkles. But the path to the truth about the various versions is a long and twisting one...


THANKS TO: www.violetbooks.com

27 August, 2006


A favorite example of the 1960's Eurospy genre, this 1967 item casts Janine Reynaud, the star of Jess Franco's SUCCUBUS, as a sexy blonde secret operative out to put the make on Super Agent 077 Luis Davila, credited as "Luis Devil" on the English language print. This is a high octane, tongue in cheek medley of amusing gadgets, bikini clad sirens, exotic tropical locations and prominent Jess Franco character actors such as Alfredo Mayo (ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS), Jesus Puente (EL CONDE DRACULA), Alberto Dalbes (EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN; it's a kind of Pop Art action painting powered by Nico Fidenco's delightful Ventures-style surf score. Remember The Ventures?...

23 August, 2006

Michel Lemoine

Actor-Director Michel Lemoine appeared in the four Franco-related Aquila Film Enterprises coproductions of 1967: NECRONOMICON, ROTE LIPPEN, BESAME MONSTRUO and IM SCHLOSS DER BLUTEN BEGIERDE. He was married to featured actress Janine Reynaud at the time and they reportedly are still friends after all these years. Lemoine later become a compelling filmmaker in his own right, directing smooth and stylish erotica such as SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN and DESIRE UNDER THE SUN, among many others. He has never really gotten the recognition he deserves as a director. One of his most memorable performances is as the deadly alien Branco, whose touch turns humans into skeletons, in the Italian sci-fi thriller PLANETS AGAINST US. Thanks to Adam Williams for the image.

20 August, 2006




19 August, 2006


REVIEWED BY ROBERT MONELL [Thanks to Alex for finding this poster and to Mirek for technical assistance]:

Directed by Tulio Demichelli It/Sp/Fr
CAST: Brett Halsey (Agent 077), Marilu Tolo, Fernando Rey, Jeanne Valerie, Daniel Ceccaldi, Alfredo Mayo, Francesca Rosano.
P: Frederic Aycardy Hesperia Films-Madrid; Terra Film-Rome; Speva Films-Paris
Sc: David Khunne (Jess Franco)*, Jose Byones, Juan Cobos, Monica Felt, Tulio Demicheli
DP: Angelo Lotti-Techniscope-Eastmancolor
M: Daniel J. White
83 mn
More than a simple rewrite of LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES as "Obsession-The Films of Jess Franco" notes,** this is more of an elaboration, an indication of things to come
which offers a sharp contrast in directorial styles between Franco and Demicheli and an example on how a scriptwriter can dominate a film and become its true auteur.

First and foremost, and as always with Jess Franco, there is the element of music. The Jazz melody "Terrado Blues" first heard played by a musician (a future murder victim who appears with saxophonist Jess Franco in the Whisky Jazz Club Band) on his trumpet during a gig in LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES, is also employed as a motif here, but where it had a certain emotional resonance in LA MUERTE... here it's just a signal, part of a secret musical code which the villains use to communicate and the protagonists follows as a lead to a further musical code, an Italian folk song, the notation of which contains the directions to the location of a formula which is being smuggled out of the country by foreign agents. Using an elaborate musical code as a sort of musical compass would be a key plot element in such later Franco Eurospy flavored items as KISS ME, MONSTER (1967) and LA NOCHE DE LOS SEXOS ABIERTOS (1981), LA NOCHE... would also reuse some of Daniel White's cues which make up some of the background score for INTRIGO... . A more surprising musical cross reference comes during the scene where 077 ignites a smoke device during a fashion show, the runway peformance is accompanied by a musical theme heard in one of the cabaret shows attended by Doctor Orlof in the Franco directed classic, GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (1961). Was this a nod to Franco added by White without Demicheli's knowledge, a kind of musical in-joke which would become so prevalent in so many later Franco-White collaborations?

There are also some visual resonances. Some of the Lisbon locations would appear in the later Franco directed NECRONOMICON (1967), note that the rocky point on the Lisbon shoreline in one of INTRIGO's scenes is where Lorna Green would have a fateful rendezvous with a doomed blonde. Other exterior locations would appear in Amando de Ossorio's first "Blind Dead" title, LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO (1971).

What INTRIGO shares with LA MUERTE... is the main plot situation of agent 077 (Brett Halsey here, looking in very fit form) teaming up with a female singer (the voluptuous Marilu Tolo is quite a contrast to the more delicate Dannick Pattison of LA MUERTE...) to track down a master criminal. The sting in the tail of LA MUERTE... was that Ms Pattison would be the one to destroy the all powerful Radek (a name which would resonate throughout Franco's subequent career), and Ms Tolo is just as resourceful, but it comes as no surprise that she also has a hidden agenda and can take care of business. In his first appearance in a Franco related project, the chief villain here is played by Spanish acting heavyweight Fernando Rey (VIRIDIANA;TRISTANA;THE FRENCH CONNECTION), who is just as adept at projecting a dapper sense of evil as Georges Rollin was in LA MUERTE... . Rey would also play a villain in the Franco directed Eurospy CARTES BOCA ARRIBA (1966) and pop up in roles in the Franco scripted ANGEL OF DEATH (1986) and the Franco directed ESMERALDA BAY (1989).

Most of INTRIGO is played for laughs and fast paced action, with Demicheli (ASSIGNMENT:TERROR; THE MEAN MACHINE; JUEGO SUCIO EN PANAMA***)proving quite up to the job at hand, but there is nothing personal or particularly interesting about his style except that he keeps things moving quickly and colorfully, whereas Franco in LA MUERTE... is doing a distinct riff on Robert Siodmak's THE KILLERS and Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL, complete with backlit figures scurrying down sinsiter alleyways viewed from titled camera angles. It's what Franco called during one of our conversations on noir the "Jazz style", citing the midnight Jam session in Siodmak's PHANTOM LADY (1943). Demicheli's film is closer to the many Pop Art Eurospy Bond imitations of the mid 1960s. A lot of fun but instantly forgettable.****

*Some prints, the Spanish one consulted for this review, only credit "David Khunne" with the story.
** p. 52
***The Santiago Moncada script for JUEGO SUCIO EN PANAMA (1972) would later became the template for Franco's 1984 thriller JUEGO SUCIO EN CASABLANCA, with an updated script also credited to Moncada.
****Franco really has fun placing a lot of Bond style gadgetry in the action, but with his own edge: see the mannequin which comes equiped with a secret communication device. Mannequins and radio controlled robots will play an important role in numerous future Franco titles, including CARTES BOCA ARRIBA, NECRONOMICON, VAMPYROS LESBOS and LA VENGANZA DEL DR MABUSE.

Copyright by Robert Monell (C) 2006: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

contact the author of this post @ monell579@hotmail.com


(Thanks to Adam Williams for the poster)

Jess Franco's CARTES BOCA ARRIBA/CARTES SUR TABLE/ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS will be reviewed in a future blog. Above is a sample of some vintage poster art!

17 August, 2006


NECRONOMICON was shot in the Fall of 1966 {many thanks to Ewe Huber for that information}, that's coming up on 40 years ago, and the new BU DVD proves that it still lives and breathes. It's an utterly charming time capsule of a bygone era, the likes of which we will never see again. It was a film which changed the map. The first X rated horror film to earn good notices in the mainstream press, even Vincent Canby had some good things to say about it in his review in THE NEW YORK TIMES, it was a product which could be sold as a horror film, an adult fim or an art film. The success of the film, released in the US as SUCCUBUS, would propel Jess Franco into an association with the high profile producer Harry Alan Towers and American International Pictures, which would partially finance and distribute the films he would make starting with THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU.

15 August, 2006


                                         Transformed Man         
Since we didn't have a poster of the ultra-bizarre 1968 Spanish western COMANCHE BLANCO (WHITE COMANCHE) we thought this "classic" album cover would do. Shatner plays both the titular White Comanche, Notah, a peyote-soaked renegade, and his twin brother, a milder mannered gunfighter. Shatner has a ball in this turkey shoot while former Mercury Theater player Joseph Cotton is there to witness his career on the downslide. Franco scream queen Perla Cristal (GRITOS EN LA NOCHE; EL SECRETO DEL DR ORLOFF) has a supporting role, along with future legend Soledad Miranda. The problem is I can't find Soledad in the film! Can anyone enlighten us to her presence here? This deservedly obscure Eurowestern is bad fun but the Plantinum DVD version on their THE GREAT AMERICAN WESTERN compilation Vol. 20, from what looks like the equally dire old video, is  a remarkably ugly, watermarked, washed-out, fullscreen abomination! And we REALLY want the above Shatner album, along with the Bruno Nicolai soundtrack for LUCKY THE INSCRUCTABLE.

14 August, 2006


 AND DON'T DISAPPOINT HIM: In what two JF films did a wolfman appear?
ADDITIONAL POINTS: What is the original title of the movie this poster is promoting?
HINT: It's not a JF film.

13 August, 2006



"Robert Siodmak is a director we have to rediscover" Jess Franco said in one of his DVD interviews a few years ago and he does take his Siodmak seriously. He took a break in his own career in 1966 to become Siodmak's personal assistant on the Spanish set of CUSTER OF THE WEST, which also had in its cast future SUCCUBUS male lead, Jack Taylor. When I mentioned to Jess during one of our marathon phone conversations a few years ago that Siodmak's PHANTOM LADY (1944) was a favorite film noir of mine he immediately lit up and launched into what seemed like a centuries-long appreciation of the "Jazz Style" of this classic of what he calls "Black Cinema". And when I mentioned the Jazz improv session which Elisha Cook Jr. and our vamped-up heroine visit (pictured above) he recalled the scene
shot by atmospheric shot and I realized this was probably one of the templates for his own BLACK ANGEL aka VENUS IN FURS, in which another jazz musician is seduced to death by a sexually entrancing avenger. Film noir, along with pulp fiction, movie serials, comics, jazz and eroticism are the fonts with which JF draws his special vision. PHANTOM LADY was based on a 1942 novel by "William Irish" one of the pen-names of Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968), one of the major figures in the hard-boiled crime fiction school which included Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and Jim Thomspon, whose works would be adaptated into a number of classic 1940s and 50s Film Noirs. More on the topics of Cornell Woolrich, PHANTOM LADY and Robert Siodmak in the future...

12 August, 2006


Or did we meet on the set of Jess Franco's KISS ME MONSTER? An arresting image from Alfred Vohrer's Edgar Wallace adaptation, DER MONCH MIT DER PEITSCHE [THE COLLEGE GIRL MURDERS] (1967). The plot of this lurid krimi also qualifies it as a good double bill with JF's BLOODY MOON.

08 August, 2006

Edgar Wallace: Film Director, Playwright, Novelist, etc...

Main image of Wallace, Edgar (1875-1932)

From 1915 to 2005 there have been about as many films based on the writings of EW as there are in the Jess Franco filmography. Wallace actually directed two films and wanted to direct the first KING KONG. He died in Hollywood in 1932.
Trivia Question: What Jess Franco film included an appearance by KING KONG?


EW & JF have more in common than the handful of movies Jess Franco made based on his novels. Think about it until we return...

We've had some technical problems keeping some colorful EW-JF graphics up here but we'll keep trying. In the meantime be sure to check out the very interesting recent article in VIDEO WATCHDOG # 125 relating to the EW novel DER RACHER, the 1960 film based on it and their relationship to certain giant ape with the initials KK. We've seen the film, it's fascinating and Franco related if only for the presence of JUSTINE, EL CONDE DRACULA, VENUS IN FURS, JACK THE RIPPER featured player Klaus Kinski!

07 August, 2006


Curious that the Blue Underground DVD of KISS ME MONSTER is not promoted as being in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Instead, it is listed as a 1.66:1 presentation, which it clearly is not if we compare screen captures of it and its companion film, TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS, which IS presented at 1.66:1 or thereabouts. (My guess is 1.78:1, as it's an anamorphic presentation.)

KISS ME MONSTER (click on photo to see full version):

TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS (click on photo to see full version):

Note also the Spanish poster for KISS ME MONSTER, pictured on top under the original Spanish title, BESAME MONSTRUO, indicates a "Cinemascope" presentation, though clearly the film was not a true CinemaScope film. The film database of the Spanish Ministry of Culture states that both of these "Red Lips" films were "panoramico," which usually indicates a 1.85:1 ratio. As both films were shot back-to-back, it is almost certain that aspect ratio of both films should be the same.
ROBERT MONELL: Very interesting! Note that the guest at the fashion show on the far right is partially cut off by the framing, indicating that there is some side image missing, as no professional DP would frame a shot bisecting a figure with the edge of the frame. That entire set-up looks slightly unbalanced to me. I actally think there is a strong possibity that these two features, which share the same casts and sets, were shot simulataneously, a practice Franco learned on the mid 1950's COYOTE films. Those JR Marchent features were also shot with the same casts and sets with Franco directing some scenes and Marchent directing others to save time and money. The footage was later split into two features. Adrian Hoven, the producer and a director was the star, and he could have actually directed some scenes to help out. Later, Hoven or someone added footage not directed by Franco to the English language version of BESAME MONSTRUO, which is the version on the BU disc. I have also read reports that KISS ME MONSTER was improvised on the set of TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS which was already in production, so that would make them overlapping shoots at least. If you look at the scenes in both films in the Red Lips' Pop Art style bedroom you will notice that the exact same camera set ups were used in both films also indicating that they were shot simultaneously. Franco, of course, became notorious during the 1970s for shooting two films for the price of one in order to save the costs of paying actors and technicians for two films when he could pay them once. He kept the secret by just slightly adjusting wardrobe and blocking for the second project takes which he told everyone were retakes or alternate takes for the film they were making. Paul Muller caught on and complained about it to me when I interviewed him and producer Erwin Dietrich also has said Franco secretly filmed a second feature at his expense during the production of BARBED WIRE DOLLS (1975). Franco continued this practice through the 1980s. Ethical concerns aside, it certainly saves much time and money. BTW, those two WIP films he shot simultaneously in 1975 were in two different ratios, I believe. In this case I wouldn't be surprised if these were both lensed in 1.85:1 or even 1.78:1, but TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS may have been RELEASED in 1.66:1 for one reason or another. The Spanish version I have on tape is letterboxed at approx. 1.55:1 to add to the mystery.

Sometimes a film is shot in one ratio and then printed/released in another. It's hard for me to tell from the screengrab if ...MONSTER is indeed a 1.85:1 or a 1.78:1 transfer as I'm not expert at measuring by eye. They may have been released in Spain at the wider ratio and in 1.66:1 elsewhere, but that would seem odd for such low budget productions. These were shot right after SUCCUBUS, which was 1.66:1 so I assumed they were all lensed that way. Thanks again for this fascinating comparison.


Our SUCCUBUS journey continues.... Released February 15, 2006, the PAL DVD is listed as non-anamorphic and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Running time is 76 minutes. Two mono audio options: Spanish and English. Initially banned, the film was never released theatrically in Spain, so the Spanish dubbing is probably newly-done. A trailer and a photo gallery are included, as well as production notes by Francesco Cesari.
ROBERT MONELL: Many thanks for the cover and the information, Mirek. I wonder if the English audio is the vintage track found on the AB and BU discs? This couldn't have been exhibited in Gen. Franco's Spain in 1967, but may have played there in the late 70s or after. But any Spanish track would have to have been made way after the fact and without JF's involvement. No "covered" footage has ever emerged which would indicate that it was even shot there, as Franco seems to indicate on the BU doc. It was largely shot in Lisbon and Berlin. If any nude footage was shot in Spain, "covered" alternatives would have had to be also shot for local venues and by censorship law. Even after Gen. Franco's death "covered" takes were being shot there. SUCCUBUS was never intended for Spanish exhibition or distribution, but the two Aquila RED LIPS productions, coproduced with Spanish financing and shot on Spanish locations (along with German location shooting) were exhibited there in "covered" versions quite different from the KISS ME MONSTER and TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS, which contained nudity filmed in Berlin studios. Also, if you watch the BU SUCCUBUS closely you will notice that there are flashes of bottomless nudity of Janine Reynaud, which aren't as apparent on the AB disc due to its lack of high definition. This would have definitely been a big no-no in Spain at that time. Censorship or nudity continued well into the seventies with Paul Naschy shooting "covered" scenes for his INQUISITION as late as 1976, at the tail end of the Gen. Franco era.

It's interesting to note the 76m runtime, that's 3 minutes shorter than the BU DVD and 4m shorter than the US theatrical version which ran 80, 10s, see previous blog. This may either reflect cuts or a PAL source. I would be interested in reading the liner notes by our friend Francesco Cesari.

05 August, 2006


COMMENTARY BY ROBERT MONELL: Pier A. Caminnecci (foreground) watches the transgressive performance of Lorna (Janine Reynaud) along with Jack Taylor in Jess Franco's SUCCUBUS (1967), one of the nine films he was involved with between 1965 and 1971 as an actor/director/producer. Thanks to Mirek for providing this screengrab from the new BU DVD of SUCCUBUS along with the rare German poster for Caminnecci's last production, Freddie Francis' dire vampire "comedy", THE VAMPIRE HAPPENING (1971).

Partnered with German actor-singer-producer Adrian Hoven, Caminnecci produced four Franco-related films within a year under their Aquila Films banner, including SUCCUBUS. Caminnecci appears in SUCCUBUS as Hermann, who tries to seduce Lorna away from Bill (Jack Taylor) much as he did in real life, having an affair with Janine Reynaud as her actor-husband Michel Lemoine stood by. Lemoine is quite effective in the role of "Pierce", Lorna's supervising Demon. There were apparently no hard feelings, as Caminnecci and Lemoine would go on to codirect Reynaud in a future project. Caminnecci also appears in the porno film being watched by the passengers aboard the jet in the opening scene of THE VAMPIRE HAPPENING. This painfully unfunny vampire comedy brought Caminnecci's short career to a crashing halt.

Franco has said that it was Caminnecci who gave him the medieval text upon which SUCCUBUS was based and suggested the idea but that doesn't mean his screenplay credit on the film is to be taken at face value. It's a Jess Franco film all the way and still one of the few where he had complete creative control preparing and shooting, it was nothing like he had done before and would prove quite successful in international markets, including the US. Hoven and Caminnecci prepared export versions as we've pointed out before from their Berlin base. But the "American Version" [see the screengrab in our earlier blog] was "directed" by Terry Vantell of TITAN FILMS INC, the same company who dubbed the Gamera films for AIP to distribute over here. It was cut by "EDIT RITE" and finally released by Trans American Films. In fact, there are two different "American" versions. The one which played theatrically and which I have a copy of runs 80m 10s, while the BU runs 79m 11s. The longer version ends with two minutes of evocative end music over black. This extended coda allows for a soft landing from Franco's jagged edged nightmare and offers the jaded viewer a much needed decompression interlude. To use a cliche, it's the frosting on the cake, and SUCCUBUS is a very rich dessert indeed.
This coda is dropped entirely from both the AB and BU presentations. Did Hoven and Caminneci prepare this musical finale for export or was it an addition by Titan and Edit Rite? Or was it part of Franco's original plan? Were the Atlas International Worldsales elements which AB and BU encountered incomplete in this regard as a result of positive/negative damage? Was anyone even aware that this ending existed as part of the 1969 theatrical package? Note that the original X rating is not part of the AB or BU opening, but it is there at the top of the print I have. The fact that these two elements, which have considerable nostalgia value for me, are not there does not make the BU presentation a bad one. In fact, it's an essential purchase for fans of Jess Franco given the widescreen aspect ratio, the much improved sound-image quality and the pertinent interviews included. It's a good looking transfer with vibrant colors, in fact it looks nothing like it did on the screen nearly 40 years ago. The colors are really pumped up, whereas theatrical 35mm prints had a much more subdued palette, especially the Berlin lensed scenes. There's also an unwanted greenish/yellowish tint to some scenes, the "sunglasses effect" present on certain other BU transfers. A German language version, which some have reported contains no extra footage, played theatrically in NYC in 1969. It would be interesting to have this version along with the complete American version on a SE someday. The BU version also contains about a minute of footage trimmed from the US theatrical version, including two shots which detail the sexual torture of the couple in the first scene. Ironcially, when THE VAMPIRE HAPPENING was released on DVD it was also missing its end music sequence.




04 August, 2006

What's missing from BU's SUCCUBUS?

SUCCUBUS-COMMENTARY BY ROBERT MONELL: What I didn't realize at the time is that I wouldn't be seeing SUCCUBUS again for nearly 20 years (via a grey market dealer). And it would take more than another decade for it to come out on legit US video/dvd, via Anchor Bay's flawed, fullscreen transfer, which would be the only game in town until now. One element both the AB transfer and the superior BU transfer lack is the original ending which I viewed theatrically in 1969 at the aforementioned Riviera theater and later on a very dodgy 16mm element. And what's missing may or may not be the work of Jess Franco, as there were a number of export versions prepared for international distribution, as noted previously, by co-producers Adrian Hoven and Pier A. Caminecci. More on the dubious Caminecci later...
The cover posted above is, of course, from my 1998 AB VHS (the AB DVD is reportedly quite rare), which reprints a fascinating, and rather positive review from THE NEW YORK POST on the flip side, dated Saturday, April 26, 1969. Yes, that's right, a mainstream US newspaper gave a Jess Franco film a good notice in its original theatrical run! The review mentions "lovely scenes" and "artistic interiors" years before another generation of mainstream reviewers (Leonard Maltin onwards) would step in to remind the world that it's NOT OK to like Jess Franco films... The review ends by noting that Janine Reynaud "might give Count Dracula serious competition" on a certain street. In terms of my own personal history, it would be Franco's 1969 Count Dracula film, EL CONDE DRACULA with Christopher Lee, which would turn me off to Franco as much as SUCCUBUS turned me on...