30 August, 2008

Marisa Mell-Jess Franco-Giulio Petroni Collaboration

Giulio Petroni, director of DEATH RIDES A HORSE, TEPEPA and L'OSCENO DESIDERIO...

I'm looking a for a video/DVD-R copy of Giulio Petroni's 1978 L'OSCENO DESIDERIO/POSEIDA, which is an "EXORCIST rip-off" [according to OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO] featuring the late Marisa Mell (DIABOLIK), Chris Avram (BAY OF BLOOD), Victor Israel (THE WITCHES MOUNTAIN), Lou Castel (A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL) and Jack Taylor (FEMALE VAMPIRE). I'm mainly interested in it because the music score was composed by Jess Franco. I'm wondering if it's a reprise of the cues he created for some of his own films or an original composition. Also, I can't resist being curious about a film which brings together such an interesting collection of European Trash Cinema luminaries!

If anyone has seen this and can report on the score or the film itself please post your comments below or contact me at monell579@hotmail.com. I would be willing to offer something in trade on video or DVD from my extensive collection.

29 August, 2008

Jess Franco Quiz: Who is the actress...

Lina Romay is chatting with in this scene? The fact that our mystery blonde is facing away from the camera makes it all the more challenging for Jess Franco scholars. Extra points if you can identify the film from which this screen grab is taken.

23 August, 2008


The daughter of Fu Manchu (Lina Romay) places one of her slaves into a deep trance state.

1986-PAL (approx. 87m) Spanish Video


This is an updating of my 1999 review:

I sometimes think that Jess Franco is first and foremost a conductor of light and color. His use of filters which diffuse colors, natural and ambient light into intoxicating, exotic patterns along with the comic-book style visual treatment of the environment are what really stand out in ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN. Style isn't just a way to dress a film, it's EVERYTHING in the world of Jess Franco.

This 1986 obscurity is a deliriously filmed erotic adventure that supposedly updates Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu tales (Rohmer receives onscreen story credit, although I doubt if it's based on an actual story/novel. ). Lina Romay appears as the daughter of Fu Manchu, made up with heavy eye mascara (to appear Oriental) and an outlandish hair style.

A title card places the tall tale "in an exotic corner of the distant east, [a] paradise of the drug and the corruption." Members of the famous Rocky Walters rock & roll group are abducted by the seductive slaves of the female spawn of Dr. Fu Manchu (who is not seen but is heard on the soundtrack conversing with his daughter from beyond the pale) and transported to a hotel in the jungle, which doubles as an armed camp. There they are drugged, tortured and forced to sign over bank accounts and other financial holdings before being murdered and left in situations which make the deaths look accidental.

This criminal enterprise is investigated by a spaced out rocker (Mel Rodrigo) who is trying to find his band companions. A karate fighting investigator and an Interpol agent are also on the case. After the rocker is also abducted and drugged the karate and Interpol guys move in. It all climaxes with an air strike delivered by a vertical lift-off jump-jet (via stock footage), dropping a napalm payload into the encampment. The inferno is represented with what looks like [more stock footage] burning tires in some garbage dump and the camera being shaken to simulate the experience of big explosions!

This amusing if sometimes slow-paced trifle is most notable for its arresting lens-flare/filter effects, which bathe scenes with intense luminescence, candy colored effulgence which teases (and delights) the eye, once again demonstrating that the director is always more interested in visual atmosphere than plot or action. The Far Eastern locations are represented by various the facades of local Chinese restaurants, stock footage of bustling street scenes in some Asian city, interiors decorated in B-movie Oriental style and the exterior of the Hotel Tropicana along the sun-drenched Spanish coastline. Franco will sometimes frame his scenes through the leaves of palm trees and other tropical flora to establish that this is supposed to happening in the heart of the jungle. There are a number of shots framed through the legs of the statuesque guards [who stand at their posts just about nude clutching rubber looking automatic weapons].

The female bunch are a well coiffured, scantily clad army of Amazons that recall Shirley Eaton and her followers in LA CIUDAD SIN HOMBRES/THE GIRL FROM RIO/FUTURE WOMEN (1968). There's also a back-story to Lina's character which suggests that she was once an abused innocent, but that's obscured by my lack of understanding of the Spanish dialogue in these scenes. This time around the costumes are less elaborate than the brightly colored leather and plastic confections seen in Franco's 1968 Feminia, probably due to the fact that this is a Hermino Garcia Calvo production rather than a Harry Alan Towers (with Hollywood back-up) production. The Pablo Villa [Daniel J. White]cues are familiar from other Franco 1980s adventures and previous Fu Manchu titles.

One will have to decide if Lina Romay's arch-villain is as compelling as Shirley Eaton's Sumuru or Tsai Chin's Lin Tang. It's all worth it in the end, though, for
that final close-up of Lina Romay repeating the old Fu Manchu standard: "The world will hear from me again!"

Franco would return to the Fu Manchu aesthetic, if not character, in the visually outrageous DR. WONG'S VIRTUAL HELL, financed by One Shot Productions.

This review is based on a 1.33:1 presentation on Spanish video. Obviously the original widescreen compositions are unfortunately cropped.

(c) Robert Monell 1999-2008

21 August, 2008

Jess Franco Quiz

Can anyone identify the Jess Franco film in which this image appears? I'll be adding a review of the film in question soon.

16 August, 2008


They don't make them like this anymore...

Directed by Paul Fleming [Domenico Paolella]

"Atlantis isn't Altantis."

Secret Agent George Steele (John Ericson) is sent by the RIU to North Africa to investigate rumors of a uranium deposit which supposedly rests beneath caverns where the survivors of the legendary lost continent of Atlantis still still exist. When he arrives he finds a female companion agent who leads him to fort inhabited by a criminal group hoping to blackmail world powers with a nuclear advantage.

A further journey to the lost city reveals that the Atlanteans are actually Chinese agents who have access to the powerful element Rhobidium, which originated on an extinct planet between Mars and Jupiter. Whoever controls the element will dominate the world....

There's a lot of wildly imaginative and indigestible plot here but this amusing blend of science fiction and Eurospy manages to draw one into its outre universe through deadpan aesthetics and the Ken-doll charm of John Ericson, who seems to be enjoying his paid European vacation. There are also numerous villains portrayed by an interesting cast of Euro genre supporting players including Franco Ressel [BLOOD AND BLACK LACE], Beni Deus [SEXY CAT], Jose Manuel Martin (THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU) and Erica Blanc in what may have been her first film role. She's killed off before she gets to establish an interesting character, but it's always a plus to have her present in any capacity.

A sometimes brassy, sometimes bubbly, always incongruous musical score by Teo Usuelli (AMUCK) adds to the overall bizarre tone.

Favorite scenes include our secret agent hero donning a jet black hazard suit complete with deep sea diving helmet for a walk through an irradiated desert which looks like something out of PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (1965). There's also a cat fight between female Russian and Chinese agents, Atlantean rituals, comic relief and a busty flight attendant available for quick sex. John Ericson never had it so good.

The Atlantis sets present a Green environment where solar energy powers and feeds the city along with the alternate Rhobidium fuel. The sets looks elaborate but a color faded AIP TV print, cropping the 2.35:1 Techniscope compositions of Francisco Sanchez and Marcello Masciocchi to 1.33:1, makes visual detail virtually invisible and proper evaluation difficult. I would like to see it in a good OAR print.

Director Paolella (1918-2002) was a film critic/theorist turned filmmaker who made briskly staged, rather stylish adventures (AVENGER OF THE SEVEN SEAS), sword and sandal (MACISTE CONTRO I MONGOLI), spaghetti westerns (ODIO PER ODIO), and the historical/nunsploitation/horror LE MONACHE DI SANT'ARCANGELO. He registers as a director worthy of further investigation.

(c) Robert Monell 2008

11 August, 2008


A special screening of Jess Franco's THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU...

Let our friends at MST 3000 tell you! I haven't seen this episode but it looks like a scream, even if you are a rabid Jess Franco fan. Probably no film by Uncle Jess has a worse reputation, at least among Fu Manchu connoisseurs.

323 - The Castle of Fu Manchu

Air Date January 18, 1992

I'm also interested in the version entitled ASSIGNMENT ISTANBUL. I think I may have actually seen this via a b&w television broadcast (or I was watching it on an old black and white TV?) around 1972. I didn't make it all the way through, considering it an outrage compared to the Don Sharp directed Fu Manchu titles I had enjoyed theatrically in the mid 1960s. And it didn't encourage me to further investigate the career of Jess Franco, to put it mildly. Has anyone seen this version or have it on tape? If you do have it please contact me. I'm also looking for a copy of the Spanish version, which reportedly has an alternate opening credits sequence.

I was also curious about the IMDB Trivia notes for the film which state that the footage of the dam-bursting is from a 1950's Dirk Bogarde film. Does anyone know if this is correct?* With the IMDB you never know. And there's a lot more stock footage in TCOFM still to be investigated. It's not all scenes from A NIGHT TO REMEMBER in the ship sinking sequence either. Check it out. Any futher information on the sources of the miles of stock footage utilized by Towers/Franco would be much appreciated.

And does anyone actually like THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU? It's all right, this a safe place to confess....

*From the IMDB: The dam bursting scene is footage taken from the Dirk Bogarde film Campbell's Kingdom (1957). Bogarde is in the green checked shirt and Stanley Baker in the red shirt, both are recognizable in this footage.

08 August, 2008


A pathetic remote-controlled killer, the "Great Irina" prepares to attack in MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE.

The Castillo de Bil Bil, in Benalmadena featured in MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE was also used as one of the Spanish locations for the 1967 Boris Karloff horror film EL COLECCIONISTA DE CADAVERES aka Cauldron of Blood.

[Thanks to Nzoog for the screencaps from the Spanish newsstand DVD of MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE]

Reviewed by Robert Monell

A virtual remake of LES CAUCHEMARS NAISSENT LA NUIT aka NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT (1970), this gorgeously composed erotic thriller [before that term came into common usage; it's really a neo-noir with a lot of extended soft core interludes] also recycles visual, musical and thematic motifs from NECRONOMICON and FEMALE VAMPIRE among others. Most importantly, it must be seen in its original Techniscope aspect ratio to be fully appreciated.

Deliriously lensed in the same Southern Spain which would become an over-familiar environment for many of the director's Golden Films Internacional era products, it is nonetheless one of Franco's most impressive orthographic achievements. The patterned tropical hues on display(canary yellows, shimmering aquamarines, eye piercing emeralds, blood oranges) are entrancing enough to transcend the banal plot elements. Actually, the plot is pushed to the margins, it's more like a ballet of shadowy figures floating through dreamy lounge and luminous Mediterranean environments. Someone walking down a darkened hotel hallway toward a pinpoint of light emanating from a keyhole can be the most fascinating thing in the world to Jess Franco during this period.

This is a heady draught from what I term Franco's Early-Eighties-Exotica period which immediately draws one into its highly intoxicating atmosphere. Irina (Lina Romay), a night club entertainer (Lina Romay) who, under the hypnotic spell of a ruthless individual, becomes an agent of death. The villains are Fabian (Daniel Katz) and Lorna (the dusky Carmen Carrion); their victims are actually criminal cohorts who must be eliminated, apparent jet setters who use the tropical hotel setting as a place to hang out, do drugs and engage in spasms of casual sex (of the soft core variety this time around). The exact nature of the conspiracy isn't of consequence, but there is a crime-noir back story (and a visual reference of a famous American crime fiction writer whom I will let the first time viewers discover themselves).

The dreamlike atmosphere is everything here and the director gradually develops a layered nightmare. Humid tints, tilted set ups in cramped interiors, painterly compositions and the most beautiful seven note phrase ever written by Daniel White do the rest of the job. Juan Soler Cozar's hallucinatory set ups and use of horizontally articulated zones of color are the real reason for being here and these shots are held much longer than necessary for a conventional thriller. The film is hypnotic in the same way that Irina is hypnotized by Fabian, through a kind of seduction by overwhelming images and sounds.

Lina Romay takes a break from her "Candy Coster" persona where she wears a blond wig and little else. She's just as nude here but retains a touching vulnerability. Daniel Katz does the manipulative lounge lizard routine to perfection and keeps us guessing right up until the final shots. Franco's own appearances as Irina's psychiatrist are amusing (he dubs himself) and intriguing, but unfortunately cropped off screen in pan and scan Caliente video until he suddenly shows up at the end to "solve" the crime. The psychoanalyst as detective is a tradition in noir/horror and Franco uses that element to spring his surprise ending. It works because it's so deftly, briskly staged and the film ends immediately with this satisfying pirouette.

Note the use of clashing color patterns during the psychoanalytic sessions and especially the extended drug-party sequence which is virtually dialogue free and creates an oneiric atmosphere through outre camera angles and a use of a deliberately distorted soundtrack. The performer-as-assassin/remote-control killer scenario goes all the way back to GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, EL SECRETO DEL DR. ORLOFF through ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS [CARTES SUR TABLE], MISS MUERTE, VAMPYROS LESBOS and VENUS IN FURS, just to mention a few of the more famous examples in Jess Franco's filmography.

The presentational aspects are everything and the show must go on, style is content in the films of Jess Franco. It opens, after subtly disturbing glimpses of ocean breakers through a gently swaying curtains, with Irina being "presented" by Fabian. We see them, puppeteer and puppet, backstage, about to enter the nightclub as the audience are silhouetted against the high North African Gothic stained-glass windows. It's a breathtaking moment, if you have an "eye", that is. One gets a sense of the audience in the nightclub watching the viewer of the film as we rather uncomfortably watch the "show." The performer-spectator nexus is subverted again and again here as in most of Franco's essential work, replaced with hidden agendas, role playing within role playing, mirrors which become windows and vice-versa.

In her trance state, everything which can be termed ontological reality is reversed for Irina. Her unconscious is represented as a walled off area which begins to rupture here and there. Fabian's face will occasionally penetrate the wall, slowly coming into focus before becoming blurred again. One really gets a sense what it's like to be inside the consciousness of someone who is a sort of Manchurian Candidate, a zombie. The outside world only exists as a distant haze of colored forms echoing with muffled voices, heavy sighs and cries in the night.

Let's hope that a company like Severin Films gives this film the deluxe DVD presentation it deserves, in 2.35:1 aspect ratio from vault elements with English subtitles. It does exist on DVD as one of the "Spanish newsstand" discs and on vhs from the 1989 Caliente Video. I've only been able to see MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE via this MILLION DOLLAR VIDEO CORP cassette, which is cropped to 1:33.1, after its opening Techniscope credit sequence. It remains a stunning film even in that highly compromised format.

It should also be noted that MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE was just one of at least twelve films Jess Franco made in 1982.

[Thanks also to Francesco Cesari]

(c)Robert Monell, 2008

03 August, 2008


[Here is a review of Simon Birrell's 2005 short film by our Spanish based correspondent, Nzoog. Note that HIS LAST REQUEST features Spanish actress IRIS DIAZ. Yes, that's our alluring mystery actress pictured in two previous blogs! That's why I asked if some could "ID" her... I think you get it. In any case, all the best to her:RM]

HIS LAST REQUEST (2005), written and directed by Simon Birrell

The back cover text of the DVD of His Last Request informs us that the film combines the form of 1920s silent cinema with the subject matter of 1970s European exploitation. As regards the former, Simon Birrell, who wrote and directed this 30-minute half-feature, did indeed shoot his film in monochrome and dispense with a regular soundtrack, while at the same time eschewing any attempt to closely ape the look of the twenties, opting instead to refract its cinema through the intervening years, what with a contemporary setting and a style of acting more akin to that of our time than that of the decade represented by the sex photographs the protagonist keeps. As regards the performance aspect, however, the absence of both voices and (except for one moment of footsteps being sonically imitated) sound effects forces Birrell to impose on his players a slight element of compensatory gestural ism. In this respect, when Jack Taylor’s father character hurls away a document in disgust, this might have been done in a sound film but far less necessarily, and much the same goes for some of the directions given to actress Carmen Vadillo, pointing away with her finger as she orders someone to leave, or kneeling before her seated father when imploring him to take a drastic decision. A similarly compromised attitude informs Mike Sobieski’s music, clearly modern in taste, but paradoxically probably more similar in a way to what original 20s film audiences were exposed to than the music provided by the likes of Carl Davis for silent film revivals: conceived for a small group of instruments (which includes, significantly, an organ), the results sound closer in size to what could have been afforded by most theatre owners before the appearance of sound relieved them from such a need. More could be said, in fact, about the function of the music in the film itself, that of providing sound where absolute silence would have been distracting, but (the final “slash” effect notwithstanding) not seeking to closely imitate the action onscreen as much as provide a discreet generalised mood – capture the essence, as it were, of the film as a whole. The overall effect is that of a film that might have been ordinarily made nowadays if the talky had never been invented – and Birrell actually retains the old convention of introducing characters in inter titles along with the corresponding player’s name.

Now, an anachronistic adoption of technical limitations belonging to the past might be discouraging for some people who could well fear an exercise in precious mannerism, but the merit of Birrell’s film lies in the feeling created that His Last Request would be poorer, or difficult to imagine, in another form, particularly since the device is both functional and integral to its themes.

The functionality lies in the degree of economy the silent format brings to the film, keeping it just under half an hour long. Silences, omissions and simplifications can call undue attention to themselves in a sound film, but seem perfectly natural in the different expressive world of a silent. A case in point lies in the document that is basic to the film’s story, its contents never made explicit but still easy to imagine. More importantly, however, the use of the archaic notion of silent cinema occurs in a film that is largely about the past (“I have not done all that I wished to do” to quote the opening epigraph) and equally largely about images (“I have not seen all that I wish to see”) and about looking (“I will die with my eyes open”); accordingly, the film abounds with images-within-images: the pictures, the monitor, even the intercom view of the Nurse as she arrives). This is appropriate for the make-up of the main character, a man living from his memories and surrounded by representations thereof. Jack Taylor’s protagonist (nameless, like everyone else throughout) is an old man who is soon to leave behind him a huge legacy of a lifetime’s philandering – which practice has now been placed far beyond his reach by current illness and confinement to a wheelchair – in addition to a legacy (in the more traditional sense) of material belongings.

Now, Jack Taylor’s dominance in the cast brings us to the subject of 1970s European exploitation mentioned above. While it is perfectly possible to enjoy and understand His Last Request without any background knowledge of this type of cinema, the choice of Taylor, far from being merely sentimental, may tip off those in the know. No amount of time elapsed in the interim has significantly changed the distinctive general appearance of this U.S. expatriate, with his long face and heavy-lidded pale eyes, even if the slightly coarse character he is given here is a far cry from the self-possessed screen persona one tends to associate with the actor. In the context of “Eurocult” cinema, he certainly provides a link with the genre but, most importantly, he makes one all the more aware of the running theme of images: not only an actor (and an accomplished one at that), he is also an icon, an image, as much as the statuette/lamp stand that is casually shown falling to the ground at one point towards the end of the film (a film, by the way, whose sets are more noted for pictures and figures than for books). And just as Taylor is an image many people associate with the twenties, the film’s image, given the use of black-and-white, also refers to the past, in the manner of the silent soundtrack whose other purpose, of course, is that we concentrate on the image.

Taylor’s character – merely identified as the Father – lives in a practically self-contained space, contemptuous or fearful of the external world, and surrounded by various images: his old-fashioned erotica pictures; photographs of the many women he has seduced, then ditched; and the video monitor with which he can control every room in the house, seemingly in a desperate attempt to hold on to as much of his power as he was once effortlessly able to yield. Here we are reminded of the film’s treatment of space, entirely circumscribed to the old man’s apartment, except for a brief pre-credits shot of a woman (as yet unseen) removing a job advertisement from a cork board, obviously located in some other, public venue. This self-enclosed world is further underlined by a situation revolving around closing a window and the presence of only one supporting character –the Father’s executor (Ramón Rados), seen briefly at the beginning – in what is otherwise a three-character piece (is that why there are only four instruments in the music score?). If the executor is a person from the outside, as far as his life as a character is concerned, he is both born and dead within the confines of the apartment, whereas the interloping character of the Nurse (Iris Díaz)– the person who will upset the order in the place – is at least afforded two brief, fragmentary glimpses outside the dwelling (cork board, intercom monitor), marking her out as more of an outsider.

The story begins with the Father who, on realising that his days are numbered, takes the decision to ignore his past female company (now existing as mere pictures and memories for him) and bequeath the entirety of his estate to his Daughter (intense Carmen Vadillo), who, presently living with him, constitutes the sole person to speak of who means anything to him in these, his declining years. The same opening scene also introduces us to the Nurse, who has just arrived in response to a job advertisement, and will take up residence to take care of the father. This female stranger’s face strikes a mysterious chord in the father’s mind, awakening him to his past to the extent that now he wants, inasmuch as this is feasible, to bring it back to the present. When he is alone with the Nurse in his bedroom, he asks her to wear the period lingerie he keeps in a trunk under his bed and makes the last request of the title to her. This being a silent, we do not hear it: we may initially assume he wants to have sex with her, even if he hardly seems up to it. She refuses, somewhat ambiguously, and what follows is a power play between the three characters, the Nurse imposing herself more and more as the mistress of the house, much to the Daughter’s dismay. When the Nurse, sensibly enough, gives the Father an injection on his backside, this is perceived by the man as a humiliating loss of control on his part, but he is later proven right as the newcomer starts to impose her authority in the household, symbolically undermining the man’s power as she contemptuously destroys the money bills with which he tries to wheedle her into carrying out his desires.

Following some complications, the “last request” is fulfilled, if with a fatal quid pro quo: the Nurse successfully seduces the initially reluctant Daughter for the benefit of the Father, who is watching the scene through his video monitor. This is as close as he can get now to bringing his past to the present and, more specifically, to fulfil his “last desire”. The Nurse was thus not so much the object of his own desires as somebody he somehow (for a reason as yet undisclosed) associated with his former, healthier self and whom he wanted to act as his surrogate – as the next best thing to himself, as it were – but a side effect of the “last request” being fulfilled is that the Nurse has come to assume a power akin to what was once available to him. The fact that this role should have to be played by a woman is a reminder of the dominance of lesbian couplings in erotic films aimed at men (and heterosexual ones), such scenes allowing viewers to watch women engaged in sexual activity…but without the disturbing hindrance of having to see another man.

The erotic scene that constitutes the film’s climax (at least before the final twist) brings in at least two reversals of expectations for, respectively, the audience and the Taylor character acting as the diegetic “audience” and, at the same time, diegetic “director”. As regards the real-life audience, their attention is initially drawn towards the Nurse – with her carefully applied make-up, generous physique and the lingerie she is made to wear – as the main erotic element in the film but when the sex scene arrives – and a strong, carefully constructed one it is, too – far more mileage is obtained in this respect from the slender, conservatively dressed, demure-looking Daughter – of whose body, for one thing, more is shown. But this very same scene also takes an unexpected turn for its onscreen “director” – or that is how I read it, anyway.

At one point, the Father adopts a bewildered expression at what he sees on the monitor and rushes in his wheelchair to the room where the two women are still together. This could be interpreted two ways: it could be his desire to cross the fourth wall, to be closer to what is happening, to bring himself a few removes closer to the real experience rather than its image. In other words, he may want to bring what he has wished to see just a but closer to what he wished to do.

Also, either alternatively or complementarily, one might view this reaction as one of surprise at an unexpected occurrence. The Daughter, far from a submissive gamine, starts to take the initiative in her sex play with the Nurse, but that was probably not in the Father’s script: this is not the movie he wanted to make before dying!
The gory ending (augmented by shadowy lighting and reflections of windows on the wall, reminiscent of German silent fantasy films of the twenties) might pronounce His Last Request a horror film, and if we use this as a starting point, the aged Don Juan could be viewed as a vampire of sorts, “existing” (or having existed) at the expense of others, safeguarded in the confines of his “castle”, wanting to protract his life (giving another connotation to “die with my eyes open”) and having the bad luck of encountering another “vampire” who has become one as a result of his past deeds. Essentially, though, I regard it as erotic or horror-erotic (in the Franco/Larraz sense), at least in that sexuality seems to actuate a great many of the proceedings. If we place His Last Request in the context of the genre of erotica pure and simple, without explicit horror elements, we still find many of its recurring themes: power games, wheelchair confinement, onscreen voyeurism and indirect self-references (viewers, director, etc). The voyeurism and the self-reference (for which the wheelchair, in this and other films, may act as a useful plot device/metaphor) need not strictly appear in erotic cinema, but it is logical that such themes should eventually find their ways into such films in a manner that would make far less sense in their literary equivalent. And in this particular case, one is reminded of the sex film’s potential for acting as a substitute for the real thing – as is, ineluctably, the plight of Taylor’s character.

In any case, the director’s background (in addition to his status as a video and computer technician and the manager of his own Silicon Artists outfit, which among other things produced this film) is more than casually steeped in the tradition of “Eurocult”: friendship with Carlos Aguilar (who is given acknowledgement in the credits of His Last Request and may have helped Birrell to contact Taylor), occasional translating work for Jess Franco, and an interview with José Ramón Larraz (published in Javier G. Romero’s irregularly published Quatermass magazine). In fact, Larraz, like Aguilar, is given acknowledgement in the final credits of Birrell’s film – actually listed last and given pride of place, with the whole screen to his name. What Larraz may have contributed to the film I don’t know, and I must confess to some limitations on my part for my knowledge and understanding of the man’s work is – for the time being, that is - superficial and desultory. In any case, Larraz, in addition to lesbianism and vampires, has made looking (with or without a periscope) the central theme of at least two of the films he made for Cunillés and Mulá in the late seventies, in one of which he actually included an image-within-an-image (an Iquino film being screened within the story of Malizia erotica). Having mentioned the producing team of Cunillés and Mulá, I couldn’t help thinking of a film of theirs that Birrell may not have seen, I vizi della signora, directed by Ricard Reguant (who by coincidence once co-participated with Carmen Vadillo in a short-lived Spanish TV programme) and starring José Castillo Escalona in a role not unlike Jack Taylor’s here, in terms of both disability and narrative/thematic function. But the Castillo Escalona character in that film was a sympathetic and (to a limited extent, anyway) successful “onscreen director”; and, to mention another Jack Taylor film, much the same applies, in another sense, to Dr. Roberts in Jess Franco’s Les avaleuses (played by Franco himself, in one of his few self-dignifying roles). In contrast, Taylor’s Father/Director in His Last Request (not representing Birrell himself but the more generalised role of “director”) emerges as a pathetic and unattractive figure – and as it later turns out, a failure in his desire to assume control.

This failure (carried out, in fact, by a “creation” of the Father) might, in fact, reveal the film’s ultimate condition as a metaphor for what is necessarily any loss of control on the artist’s part once their work has been released to the public and thus acquired an independent existence of its own – simply by virtue of being perceived by others, interpreted by others, imitated by others, acquiring an identity the artist had never considered. This has recently happened, in fact to His Last Request, which was (“oddly enough” as he says in his blog) selected for showing at a Gay and Lesbian film festival in Asturias.