27 April, 2007


An external view of the Ricardo Bofill designed "El Xanadu" (1968) seen in Jess Franco's 1980 version of Sade's infamous story which he previously filmed in 1969 as EUGENIE HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION.* I much prefer this more dialogue free and visually surreal (Dali is directly referenced) version. JE Films was the company of Spanish producer-writer Julian Estaban, who also coproduced ZOMBIE LAKE and Franco's DEVIL HUNTER (both 1980) with Eurocine, Paris. El Xanadu is also a key set in Franco's SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY (1970), THE PERVERSE COUNTESS (1973). My fantasy release would be a Blu-ray disc (could it happen?) which would deluge one with the uncanny atmosphere, vivid colors and Bofill's architecture (more screenshots due later). HD pushes you into a slightly 3D world but I would rather drown in the Blu-ray rendered hallucinations of our delirious visionary. I spent the day being treated to a demonstration of Blu-ray vs HD. Blu-ray is the unquestionably superior technology in my view. The quality of the detail is just breathtaking. It's like being submerged in a tsunami of exquisite tinctures and glittering wonderments. It comes and gets you. But I'm not planning to acquire the Blu-ray system I want. Even if I could afford it virtually everything which is available is material I don't want to see once much less revisit often. That may change. We'll see. Or both HD and Blu-ray will cancel each other out and a new technology will emerge and become the standard. Or they will coexist as niche preferences. But I would go with Blu-ray without hesitation. I bet you thought it was going to happen for a minute... You never know. Now, can you name all the Jess Franco versions of this Marquis de Sade story? Thanks Alex Lindsay for first posting a link to this image on the Latarnia Forum's Franco Lounge. *Exterior: EL XANADU; this building is located in Calpe and houses a number of apartments. Did Bofill have CITIZEN KANE in mind when he named this structure? I'll be rotating more screengrabs and images of Bofill's architectural designs to provide those who haven't seen this or are fans of this film with an ongoing slideshow. (C) Robert Monell, 2007

22 April, 2007


A Golden Films Internacional Production
Cast: Vicky Adams [Muriel Montosse'], Robert Foster [Antonio Mayans], Ida Balin [Asuncion Calero], Carmen Carrion, Tony Skios [Antonio Rebello], Juan Soler, Angel Ordiales.
Music: Pablo Villa [Daniel J. White, Rebecca White, Alain Petit]
Directed by Clifford Brown [Jess Franco]

"Puta...golfa..." The Marquis de Altuna

During his daily constitutional with his dog Sultan, Antonio Jamie Morales Marquis de Altuna, "Tony" to his friends, reflects on his recent encounters with several sexual partners, including the vivacious, troubled Emmanuelle...

In my encounters with Jess Franco, over transatlantic cable when he was kind enough to take time out of his busy production schedule to share his enthusiasm for cinema with me, I found him to be bascially a very humble, gentle artist who looks at the dubious aspects of life with brutal honesty and a curious type of humor. And that pretty much sums up this bound to be misunderstood attempt to merge a near plotless softcore sex romp with a very thoughtful and serious contemplation of the cultural and sexual attitudes of a modern Spanish aristocrat (Catholic in the broadest sense of the term) who still harbors 19th Century mores and manners.

The structure of the film is nonlinear in that the runtime of the film is exactly the length of the Marquis' daily dog walk while vignettes from the recent past flash through his consciouness. It's a softcore sex film which is also a sly contemplation of its own genre and narrator.

In the view of such an anachronism, women are troublesome property, pets.

The women in the Marquis' life, his stripper girlfriend (Calero) and the always restless tourist Emmanuelle (Montosse') are "whores", "sluts", inferior even to his faithful dog and he states this belief as if it were Holy Writ in the film's final moments.

This is a thinking man's (and woman's) sex film. Jess Franco takes sex seriously and examines it without hypocrisy or judgement. As Jess notes in the David Gregory documentary interview he wanted to make a film about the choices women face in the real world where unrealistic expectations are placed upon them. He didn't want to make an "Emmanuelle" film, that title and the character's name was forced upon him in post production by the distributor. Don't even bother comparing it to the French or Italian series about that character, it's a different kind of animal (no, the Marquis' dog does NOT become a player here!). But in the final Spanish dubbing Emmanuelle is the character's name so we are engaged despite Franco's protests. A lot of lesbian action and a rape don't seem to have any effect on Emmanuelle but one has to note her choices seem limited to the "freedom" Franco speaks of and sexual servitude (or at least fidelity) in marriage. CECILIA (1981), with Montosse' and Mayans, also contrasts "straight" versus "open" marriage.

My favorite scene is a very hot striptease performed by the feral Balin/Calero at the Marquis' club. Emmanuelle ends up performing oral sex on the dancer while Alain Petit's outrageous song "Life is Shit" (first performed by the film historian/actor in Franco's 1975 THE MIDNIGHT PARTY) is covered by an offscreen jazz combo. The rest is very stylishy lensed melodrama set in Almeria (where Sergio Leone once directed Clint Eastwood in his first Spaghetti Westerns) and the windswept Belearic Islands. Juan Cozar's relentlessly tracking camera drinks in these locations and seems to acknowledge no vanishing point.

The entire film can be experienced as one grand 360 degree arc from the artfully sculpted sand hills in the palm desert to the Marquis' adobe hometown which seems built into the local rock strata and back again to those hills in the final image. If I dote on the visual style of the film, Severin's 2.35:1 transfer finally allows the multilayered texture to emerge from decades of pan and scan videos, from the 1980s era Spanish language MDV Caliente label to the cable version EMMANUELLE EXPOSED. This latter incarnation is the possible source for the perfectly dreadful English language track which not only wipes much of Daniel J. White's delightful flamenco guitar score but also Alain Petit's signature "La Vie Est Une Merde"! This is replaced with unlistenable muzak style cues, the kind you might have heard if you were trapped in an elevator throughout the 1980s. Horrendous voice casting and an omnipresent hissing adds to the irritation. But I'm grateful that Severin included this track, along with the original Spanish language one (optional English subtitles are available). One really can appreicate Franco's use of music as an ironic counterpoint and his use of dialogue to advance his theme of the sexist illusions of the Marquis. "I'm a Spanish gentlemen," he tells two of his women whom he catches in bed together. On the English track he is awkwardly dubbed as saying, "I'm a discreet gentleman." What the English soundtrack does is to destroy the film's uniquely SPANISH character. And we must remember, given his worldliness, Jess Franco is first and foremost a Spaniard.

Antonio Robello has a subtle charm as the self deluded Marquis. Robello became a familiar face in Franco's 80's films.Future French TV actress Montosse, praised by Franco in the interview, pretty much leaves me cold here and in several other Franco films she appeared in during this time period. But Robello and Asucion Calero more than make up.

There's some visible grain here and there but the sunsplashed colors of Southern Spain are well rendered and the image is generally razor sharp. You have to take this film as a kind of imitation of life (Douglas Sirk would have understood it very well). Franco himself signals this during the scene near the beginning set in the local wax museum where Bogart, Liz Taylor, Liza Minelli, John Wayne and King Kong seem to watch our passionate couple as they make love on the floor while Don Quijote (10 years before Franco would attempt to complete Welles' Quijote project) seems to lord it over his fellow wax figures. I find it a fascinating film which rewards multiple viewings and it's clear Franco put a lot of personal touches into what could have been a by-the-numbers operation. With telling subterfuge Franco signed the film with his "Clifford Brown" cover.

Franco fiddles with a pack of his favorite cigarettes while discussing such matters as the defects of Just Jaeckin, Sylvia Kristel and American sexual mores in the inteview THE INCONFESSABLE ORGIES OF JESS.

Another worthy Golden Films Internacional obscurity finds safe refuge on another high quality Severin Films DVD.

(C) Robert Monell, 2007

20 April, 2007



DP: Joan Almirall [Juan Soler] -Techniscope
NOTE: Plenty of SPOILERS ahead. You may want to wait and see the film first.
"I don't understand..." Odile in THE SEXUAL STORY OF O

First and foremost, this is Jess Franco's STORY OF O, NOT Pauline Reage's. A point that the director himself forcefully makes in the David Gregory directed interview segment, "Franco's O."

Odile (Alicia Principe), a beautiful but naive young woman vacationing in Spain, attracts the attentions of a voyeuristic couple who live across from her hotel. The couple spy on her as she lounges around naked, and when they invite her over for a session of group sex, Odile gives in immediately.

After spending days enjoying this menage a trois, the couple take Odile to the villa of the wealthy Princess Wanda Von Baky, where the sex continues. Wanda's perverted husband drugs Odile's drink and rapes her. When she awakens, Odile finds herself chained to a bed and that her captors have sado-erotic torture and murder in mind. One of her abductors has a sudden attack of remorse after finding her mutilated body, murders the Von Bakys, and is finally seen walking into the ocean carrying Odile's dead body. The appearance of Odile's tormentors in their formal S&M gear is a direct "quote" from EUGENIE...HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION (1970), but this film is even more extreme and doesn't cop out at the end with a DEAD OF NIGHT caveat. Franco seems to become more nihilistic as he ages.

HISTORIA SEXUAL DE O is superior to most of Franco's tedious sex-a-thons of the 1980s. The flowery, tropical locations and sensuous cinematography offers an aesthetic counterpoint to the downbeat melodrama. A melancholy female vocal sets a sombre tone throughout, which Franco maintains until the very last shot of the blazing sun beating down on the aftermath of violence and death. There are many effective visual and aural touches throughout, which amplify the theme of corrupted innocence. For instance, the victim is first seen wandering in an idyllic garden reading excepts from Norman Mailer's "The Naked and the Dead," foreshadowing her own fate as well as establishing the Costa del Sol locale as a kind of ironic Eden. It is also significant that her abductors use Beethoven's famous "Ode to Joy" from his Ninth Symphony to seduce her attention, underscoring the theme of Old World decadence preying on Odile's American gullibility. It's a theme which Henry James built his classic DAISY MILLER around.

As Odile, Alicia Principe  [Alicia Pedreira] offers sensuality and modernity with a tragic ignorance of the brutal ways of the world. The darkly torrid Carmen Carrion and the gaunt, sinister Daniel Katz (MIL SEXOS TIEND LA NOCHE) are well-cast as the wealthy tormentors, the employees refer to them as the "pervert couple."  Katz's impotent freak-out while raping Odile is especially blood-curdling. The degenerate Von Baky's are identified as German and reflect upon the racial impurity of the victims while asserting some kind of amoral superiority. As Franco notes in the interview, they are characters which could have been written by Sade and would be perfectly at home in Nazi Germany.

There is also a subtle sociological subtext similar to the situation in Franco's 1973 THE PERVERSE COUNTESS, wherein upper caste villains use a financially struggling middle-class couple to provide victims for their bloodlust. This inequity creates a scene in which a henchman turns on his vicious employers.

The scene in which the only survivor of the massacre carries Odile's body into the ocean is also lifted from the end of THE PERVERSE COUNTESS (which is turn is a lift from the 1940's Val Lewton classic I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE). The long, excruciating sequence detailing Odile's torture and death is painful to watch, as chains, whips, and studded medieval-style weapons are used to strip away her flesh. Franco encourages us to become emotionally engaged with Odile, which ratchets the level of intensity even higher. The camera angles here are an almost shot-by-shot replay of a similar scene (revealed to be a put-on) in EUGENIE...HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION. Franco and his expert DP, Juan Cozar film this appalling sequence through filters which create ironically gorgeous emerald, blue and orange light refractions. It almost as if the Mario Bava of THE WHIP AND THE BODY is being referenced.

A visually entrancing erotic nightmare, HISTORIA SEXUAL DE O is a very beautiful film about very ugly events. Odile's repeated "I don't understand" also is a tragic evocation of impossible to break cultural barriers.

Daniel White's lyrical score, highlighted by a melancholy female vocal line, was first deployed in the Paul Naschy crime-horror epic, CRIMSON (1973), a Franco-Spanish coproduction helmed by Juan Fortuny and featuring a number of Franco/Eurocine regulars (Olivier Mathot, Claude Boisson). It's much more appropriate and effecitive here. There are also familiar cues from LA COMTESSE NOIRE (1973). The score is credited to Pablo Villa.

Given the recycling of elements from LA COMTESSE PERVERSE and EUGENIE...HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION, HISTORIA is hardly original but what matters is the developement of earlier themes and the aesthetic sophistication with which they are transformed into something new. But Franco's developement is always cyclical, rather than linear.
John Ford once said something to the effect that good cinema is something that is short on talk and long on action. That is a perfect description of this almost dialogue free film, and although the action is violent and sexual the vision transcends it.
SEVERIN has given one of Jess Franco's most visually breathtaking films a near perfect 2.35:1 transfer. The camera frequently dotes upon the lush flora and fauna of the Costa del Sol and the tropical hues here are intoxicating. If the film is not a masterwork then Cozar's compositions show the care and skill of painter who continually fills the widescreen with bountiful servings of bursting floral arrangements, exotic fabrics, early morning ocean sprays and midnight blues. And when the blood starts spattering on the walls it's as if Paradise itself has been defiled.
Restored from original vault elements SEVERIN's typically impeccable transfer finally gives this very worthy film its long delayed due. When seen in 16:9 this is going to blow the lid off the stagnant theory that Franco is some kind of technical incompetent.
David Gregory tops off the feast by giving us another one of his excellent and unobtrusive interviews with the nearly 77 year old director. Finding Jess in an unusually self critical state of mind we learn that the production was more than modest, "two cents" rather than two dollars and that Franco was less than pleased with Principe (whom he terms "stupid") and Mauro Rivera. He saves his praise for Carmen Carrion and Daniel Katz, whom he says simply disappeared after acting in a few of his films. Jess also manages to diss Just Jaeckin's STORY OF O, suggesting the director is more of a high fashion photographer than a real director. More to the point he notes that Sade, rather than Reage, was his real influence here and encourages critics to actually "read" the oft condemned author rather than moralize about him. Even more fascinating is his discussion of his use of water symbolism as a kind of portal to another reality.
This is one of my favorite 1980s era Jess Franco films and I thank SEVERIN for this important release and continuing to examine his underestimated and underseen GOLDEN FILMS INTERNACIONAL output. Now let's have GEMIDOS DE PLACER!
I'll be looking at SEVERIN's new disc of Franco's THE INCONFESSABLE ORGIES OF EMMANUELLE next. Stay tuned...

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18 April, 2007


Help me out here. I appreciate this upcoming presentation of a personal favorite Kaiju. But are they going to include the giant squid in at least one of the versions? Very surreal scene, my favorite in the movie. I remember reading about Nick Adams' death(suicide?) in the local paper in the late 1960s. He would have made a great David Lynch actor if he had stuck around.

16 April, 2007



Thanks to Eric "ECC"

The rare French (SECAM) prerecord. It's already getting kind of pricey!

This is the altered version of AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO (1973).

WHITE CANNIBAL QUEEN: "Substance" Abuse?

Thanks to John Charles for this telling screengrab from the Canadian DVD of Jess Franco's MONDO CANNIBALE/CANNIBALS/WHITE CANNIBAL QUEEN, his 1980 cannibal adventure featuring Sabrina Siani as the title character. As the main credit shows SUBSTANCE DVD Co. just slammed the old Video City VHS onto the disc without even an attempt to cover up the hijacking. According to John, SUBSTANCE is known as a "bootleg DVD" outfit. I still have the old prerecord which features a rather poor quality, English dubbed, fullframe presentation, which you can now see on this DVD. The US distributor is asking 25 dollars for that dubious pleasure.

It has been recently announced that BLUE UNDERGROUND is preparing a release of this film which is bound to be highly preferable. I do hope they release it with the French soundtrack as an option. I have a dub of the French language video. I find that it plays much better in that language.

14 April, 2007


The are many good things in GRINDHOUSE and just as many, maybe more, bad things. The worst thing of all are the appearances of Quentin Tarantino in both features. He's not an actor by any stretch, more of a highly distracting and annoying presence. His familiar visage threw me out of the High Concept, and to work GRINDHOUSE must fly high on that concept or crash and burn. He's there to wink at us and remind us that it's HIS show (I wonder how Rodriguez felt about his "acting"?). If he's not the world's worst actor, he's the same nuisance who shows up to mug and rant on those late night talk shows. You can only groan and want to bitch-slap him off the screen. He just seems like a lout who showed up on set and pushed his way on camera.

QT can be his own worst enemy. But he can also soar as a director, however briefly, before inevitably burning out. Case in point: The Accident. About halfway through DEATHPROOF motorpsycho Stuntman Mike snuffs four Texas hotties by crashing into their ride with his muscle car, taking off the top of the vehicle, their heads and other body parts. It's the bodies-in-pieces fantasy all over again, and, as the local sheriff explains, Stuntman Mike's way of getting off (the car crash as social/sexual metaphor was done first in Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 WEEKEND). The best car accident ever filmed may be the one at the climax of Argento's 1971 FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (Dario Argento is cited, along with Sam Peckinpah and Umberto Lenzi, in the end credits) where Mismy Farmer drives into the back of a truck, spectacularly decapitating herself (in slow motion) in the process. The Accident in DEATHPROOF is even more outrageously stylized, shown again and again from multiple viewpoints at varying speeds. It makes the remainder of the rather meandering feature worthwhile. As the hapless Stuntman Mike Kurt Russell has never been better and it seems as if he's been preparing for the role of Stuntman Mike his entire long, twisting career.

OK, so I've said some nice things about DEATHPROOF. The now infamous girltalk marathons didn't irritate me as much as other commenatators. It seems as if QT is staging a kind of tug of war between the aesthetics of the Parisian cafe talkfests of mid 1960s Godard (he named his production company after Godard's BAND OF OUTSIDERS) and the stunt epics of H.B. Halicki (Halicki's GONE IN 60 SECONDS (1974), along with VANISHING POINT (1971), are the oft stated templates here). The girls are sexy and charming as they talk about sex, sex and more sex. The give away is that a REEL MISSING card pops up interrupting Rose McGowan's hot sex scene in PLANET TERROR and Butterfly's much anticipated lap dance in DEATHPROOF. Denial hurts! Cut back to more violence. Our hotshot directors would probably say 'hey, it's post-post modernist feminist genre deconstruction!' I say... well, I don't want to say. Check it out for yourself.

If QT is just a big Tease, Robert shows way too much puss for my taste (I know, it's a bad pun, but look at what were dealing with here). It exhults in the self knowledge that it's a post Osama bin Laden zombie film and that's part of the problem. Romero's LAND OF THE DEAD, conceptually much more daring but more stylistically conservative didn't push its allegory. I know, it's supposed to be way-over-the-top. But both features are way too self conscious, self congratulatory, smug, self referential and over produced. They just ain't "Grindhouse." Andy Milligan is Grindhouse; Al Adamson is Grindhouse; you really don't want a 100 million dollar GRINDHOUSE. The production values ultimately undermine the High Concept. All the elaborate CGI scratches, film breaks and print damage can't make it live up to it's title.

For my money, the only element which truly captures the classic Grindhouse aesthetic, in terms of tone and texture, is the RR trailer for the Mexi-revenge-slasher-thriller, MACHETE. As a whole GRINDHOUSE is a fun game while it lasts but I would have still rather spent three hours watching David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE, which flew under conventional exhibition. Why? Because Lynch is a true American Original and I'll always take Originality over clever synthesis. At its best GRINDHOUSE is the highly amusing work of canny synthesizers. It doesn't want to be Art, and maybe it shouldn't be, it wants to be wink and nod Trash. It's a gift to fans of George A. Romero, Roger Corman and European Trash Cinema. But I got the uncomfortable feeling that they were laughing AT those films more than WITH them for too much of the runtime. And possibly laughing at fans like us for being gullible enough to be there.

There aren't many non-fans who are going to get the jokes, which probably explains the sparse attendance and walkouts. The theater I saw it in last night (Friday night, Movie Night) numbered no more than 40 to 50 and about a dozen walkouts happened during the second all-girl restaurant ramble in DEATHPROOF.

Did any of our blog readers appreciate the extended hommage to Jess Franco screenwriter Santiago Moncada (JUEGO SUCIO EN CASABLANCA, L'ESCLAVA BLANCA)? Tarantino may be more of a gourmand than a gourmet of Le Bad Cinema, but sometimes he does score. Will they have the nerve to release stand alone features of PLANET TERROR and DEATHPROOF? I wouldn't doubt it. Will I be there? That's another question. Will I buy the DVD[s]? That's where I think they'll show a profit, along with International venues.

I'll do what I'm sometimes criticized for doing and say what I wished it would have been. I wish they would have set the films in the 1970s rather than our present era of instant messaging, cellphones and IPODs. Then I wish they would have shot the whole thing down and dirty with next to nothing budgets. But I'm not Quentin or Robert or Bob or Harvey. I'm just a guy with a blog...

(c) Robert Monell, 2007

12 April, 2007


Should I see this? I do feel like I should after blasting it on the Latarnia Forums sight unseen. Hey, this is my blog and I can admit fault now and then. Perhaps I was unfair. But WTF, I didn't feel like a 3+ hour gorefest after Easter Mass and dinner and if I knew it was a stupid weekend to release it why didn't they?

In the meantime, Bob and Harvey are shitting bricks so I think I'll try to catch it before it disappears forever in its current form (I don't really think they'll lose their 100mil investment due to international venues and DVD sales, they might even turn a nifty profit). Apparently, there's even a different version playing up in Canada. Has anyone seen this? There's so much rumor, hysteria and hype around what is quickly building as a disaster of epic proportions or at least an event in the history of theatrical exhibition. It's already disappeared from two screens around here (Syracuse, NY) and there's a local newspaper article about numerous confused and angry patrons.

On QT: JACKIE BROWN is my favorite of his films. Loved the music, Pam, Robert Forster (a Jess Franco alumnus, btw) and everything about it. Parts of PULP FICTION, the KILL BILL films and the first scene of RESERVOIR DOGS are interesting. That's about it. I'm not a real big fan. And I've never seen a film by Rob Zombie, much less Robert Rodriguez or any of the rest of the directorial participants. But Tarantino worships Godard, goes out of his way to cite Jess Franco, so that right there makes him unique among contemporary mainstream US directors...

So, have any of our readers seen this and have the courage to venture some opinion or comment? Time is running out, though, for Bob and Harvey, not to mention Quentin...

If I do see it I'll return with a review. If not, I'll wait for the DVD with all the inevitable special features, cut scenes, et al and be able to relax while watching it. But don't get me going on the horrors of mainstream movie exhibition!

Reports from the teletype have Harvey already speaking of stand alone releases of PLANET TERROR and DEATHPROOF, with added footage and possibly cleansed of their CGI "Grindhouse" appearance, appearing sooner than later...

(C) Robert Monell, 2007

09 April, 2007

Jess Franco Starlet in THE ROGUE

This is the US theatrical poster for THE ROGUE (NOKAUT), the 1971 Italian-Serbo-Croatian production filmed in Yugoslavia decades before the return of concentration camps, ethnic cleansing and US military intervention in the late 1990s.

Margaret Lee (VENUS IN FURS, THE BLOODY JUDGE) was featured in the YouTube clip. Mirek correctly answered all our quiz questions. Thanks to all those who offered guesses. I'll add some more comments on the film itself later...


Can you identify what JF film the image which forms this collage is from and who the actors are?

05 April, 2007

Jess Franco Film at the Library of Congress!

Held at the Library of Congress:

Title: War song / director, Jess Franco.
Published: 1989.
Description: 10 reels of 10 on 5 : sd., col. ; 35 mm. ref
LC Call No.: CGB 5113-5117 (ref print)
Notes: Copyright: Intercontinental Releasing
Corporation. DCR 1989; PUB 23Oct89; REG 28Feb90; PA451-743.
Copyright application title: Lilly, a song for
Copyright application author: Eurocine.
Cataloged from copyright data base.
Received: 1/19/92; ref print; copyright
deposit--MPA; Copyright Collection.
Other authors: Franco, Jess, direction.
Other authors: Copyright Collection (Library of Congress) DLC
Other titles: Lilly, a song for Berlin.
Control No.: 11593246

Yes, it's true. The above listing was discovered by the ever vigilant Mirek Lipinski, who called my attention to it. I could hardly believe my eyes. A Jess Franco film held by the Library of Congress?! And why this particular film? His 1989 Eurowar epic which can be most accurately described as dull, without his characteristic obsession with eroticism, featuring more stock footage from that old Italian WWII film they already used in OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES and starring Mark Hamill and Christopher Lee! The mind boggles at the thought of a 35mm print of a Jess Franco film just sitting down there waiting to be screened by the Secretary of Defense or the next president of the United States.

So now you know where you can see a 35mm print of a JF film.

Thanks again to Mirek...

(c) Robert Monell, 2007

03 April, 2007

The Jess Franco DVD Boom Continues!

www.zonadvd.com has announced plans for the release of five Jess Franco films on June 27 in Spain from Filmax Home Video. At this point I don't have any further information on the specs, bonus materials or if English subtitles will be available.

Here are the films with some comments:
BESAME MONSTRUO (1967): One of the two "Red Lips" films coproduced by Adrain Hoven's Aquila Company in the same year as NECRONOMICON/SUCCUBUS. In this entry the labios rojos, Janine Reynaud and Rossana Yanni, are up against a plot to create an army of synthetic humans. Amusing and colorful, this should be the Spanish language "covered" version, which is quite different, in terms of footage, montage and musical score, from the more familiar English language variant, KISS ME MONSTER. I personally prefer the Spanish version.

Juego Sucio en Casablanca (1984): Produced by Franco's own Manacoa Films, this Santiago Moncada scripted crime thriller may owe its premise to the 1944 William Castle film noir, THE WHISTLER. An alcoholic writer (William Berger) arranges for his own execution but attempts to stop the hit at the last minute. A highly atmospheric neo-noir set in the mythical North African city. It was actually shot in southern Spain with some stock footage added. The tropical setting is well defined. William Berger gives what is perhaps his finest performance as the man who can't quite choose if he wants to live or die. The excellent supporting cast includes Ricardo Palacios, Luis Barboo, Antonio Mayans and the film's cinematographer Juan Soler Cozar, all playing heavies! It also features a terrific music score which perfectly compliments the locale. Moncada's script was also the basis for the 1974 film ACE OF HEARTS, featuring Mickey Rooney. Highly recommended.

La Bahía Esmeralda (1989): This is an example of Jess Franco attempting to do an almost mainstream film. Coproduced by Eurocine, it had a much higher budget than usual for Franco and features well known US actors George Kennedy and Robert Forster (JACKIE BROWN), along with such frequent US Europlayers as Brett Halsey and Craig Hill. This somewhat confused story of American intervention in a Central American dictatorship had many parallels with the situation in Panama which was playing out at the time of the film's production. The film is stolen by the hot-blooded charms of Sylvia Tortosa Davis. This kind of feels like a rejected 1980s US TV miniseries translated into an international coproduction deal. But it's still of some interest for Franco completists.

Viaje a Bangkok, Ataúd Incluido(1985): Another production from Franco's own Manacoa Films. I haven't seen this one yet. It's supposedly based on the Edgar Wallace "Sanders" character. Howard Vernon is featured.

¿Cuánto Cobra un Espía? (1984): Yet another Manacoa Films item. This is a very minor but somewhat successful screwball comedy set in Spain's coastal resort area. A goofy but good natured composer (Juan Cozar, the film's DP) gets involved with a group of spies who want his most recent composition, which they actually think is a secret formula. Antonio Mayans has an amusing bit but the extremely laid back style of direction (for Franco) deosn't quite capture one's full attention for the runtime. It's kind of like a live action cartoon at times or one of those harmless Walt Disney or Jimmy Stewart comedies of the early 1960s. A true oddity.

Thanks to Francesco Cesari for reporting this on the Franco Lounge at www.latarnia.com.

(c) Robert Monell, 2007