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....