31 May, 2009


Thanks to Eric Cotenas for the alert that this rare German VHS was on EBAY. I haven't seen this version of Jess Franco's 1967 "Red Lips" adventure TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS. The Spanish EL CASO DE LAS DOS BELLEZAS is longer, has a different scene arrangement than TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS, and features a different music score.

OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO lists DER WOLF HORROR PERVERS as the W. German video title. I'm not sure if this version conforms to TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS in terms of runtime, scene arrangement, music or the longer, rescored Spanish alternate.

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29 May, 2009


In search of Fu Manchu...

I'm looking for either the original prerecord or a dupe of this alternate version of Jess Franco's THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU (1968). This version was released on US video in the 1980s. It was about 10m shorter than BLOOD..., better paced and had a different scene arrangement. In fact the opening scene of an expedition cutting their way through a thick jungle may have been an inspiration for the opening scene in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

This may be the same as the German version which is listed in some sources as running 82m. I would also be interested in seeing this version, which is out on R2 DVD. The Blue Underground DVD of THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU runs 94m. The great advantage of that presentation is that it looks terrific, is in original aspect ratio and is loaded with bonus materials.

I actually rented KISS AND KILL from a local video store about 20 years ago but failed to copy it. When I returned to the store sometime later I discovered that it had been removed from their inventory.

If anyone can help me out with one or both of these it would be much appreciated. I can be contacted at monell579@hotmail.com.

If anyone has any further information on these please post it below. Thanks.

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27 May, 2009


[This is an expanded version of a review posted on my CINEMADROME site]
Here's a suggestion: read the review of Jess Franco's EL LLANERO/THE JAGUAR (1963) in the tome SPAGHETTI WESTERNS: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE VIOLENT.... and then decide for yourself if the reviewer even saw the film.
Here are some comments, you can decide if they are a more accurate description. I have seen the film, many times, and there are no zoom shots in it. In fact, it looks nothing like Franco's later work in the 1970s.
Directed by Jesus Franco
From a novel by "David Khunne"
Produced by Julian Estaban for S.A. Big 4/Madrid

VENEZUELA, 1863: The Mendoza ranch is raided by the forces of Col. Saltierra (Georges Rollin) who massacre the family of Col. Mendoza. But his young son escapes under the protection of a servant (Roberto Camardiel). Saltierra is on the side of the victors in the war, but decades later an avenger known as "the Jaguar" fights the government with a resistance group which hides in the mountains.

José Suárez in the Spaghetti-western Texas, addio (1966).

This is an almost totally forgotten film, even in Spain where the term El Llanero is the popular name for The Lone Ranger! Nonetheless, this is a beautifully composed (by Emilio Foriscot) period adventure/melodrama which looks and plays like a western. A classical US western with its Fordian images of silhouetted riders seen on distance ridges, while also providing a glimpse of the coming Sergio Leone Eurowestern style in the scene of Saltierra's entry into the seemingly deserted town at the beginning. The empty streets, a hanged man, the sun baked architecture anticipate the stark look of the game changing FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964). But Franco's western takes the melodramatic, rather than ironic, path with romantic entanglements provided by Marta Reves (THE GIRL FROM RIO) and the sensual Silvia Sorente (who went topless in CASTLE OF BLOOD the next year) as the humid Lolita. As in many Franco films the director takes every opportunity to take a musical detour with the onscreen performances of the then popular LOS MACHUCAMBOS. The sing-alongs and the virtuous rebels versus the heavy handed military get a tad corny but it's so breathtakingly lensed and staged that style wins out over content in the end. That can certainly be said about many Jess Franco films.

With Betsy Blair, in a German poster of Calle mayor
Born José Suárez Sánchez
19 September 1919
Trubia, Asturias, Spain
Died 6 August 1981
Moreda, Aller, Asturias, Spain
Years active 1944 - 1977
Jose Saurez had a long career as a well known leading man in romantic melodramas before appearing in Jess Franco's EL LLANERO; but having been a very popular actor in Spain his career may have peaked by this time and he evolved into numerous Spaghetti westerns as did Roberto Camardiel, the latter most notoriously as the leader of sadistic/fascist/homosexual outlaw gang in Questi's DJANGO, KILL... (1967). Fans of that genre will note the early appearances of such regulars as Tito Garcia, Manuel Zarzo, Jose Riesgo and many others. Saurez, wearing a white hat and seeming pretty much miscast, is upstaged by Georges Rollin, Sorente, Camardiel and Todd Martin. It looks like Franco worked really hard on this film as each and every set-up is impressive and rigorous.

A terrific looking film which captures the look and ambiance of the rugged landscape in painstaking detail with absolutely no zoom or rack focus shots. Franco seems to have mastered the 2.35:1 aspect ratio at this early point in this career. In fact, it may be too carefully composed and deliberate for those expecting down and dirty action.

I've only managed to see a very fuzzy dub of the Spanish language TVE print. I'm not certain of its availability on DVD but it has been released on French video.
Finally, I doubt we'll ever see a R1 US DVD of this, but you never can tell and it does illustrate another aspect of the director's talents.
(c) Robert Monell, 2009

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24 May, 2009


Maria Felix la doña en "Los Ambiciosos"

aka La fièvre monte à El Pao

The Luis Bunuel Film Festival opens today. It will unfold on this blog and my CINEMADROME Forums @ www.cinemadrome.yuku.com.  Images, videos, rare artwork from the 50 year film career of the great Spanish surrealist director Luis Bunuel will be featured along with commentary, essays, reviews and discussion.

This will be an irregular, but ongoing project, with feedback and reader's contributions being most welcome.

A special emphasis will be placed on some of the lesser known Bunuel titles which are, however, very much worth experiencing. Today's focus is on the rarely seen 1956 Mexican-French adventure film LA MORT EN CE JARDIN. Artwork, production stills and a brief review are offered over on my CINEMADROME site.

Coming up on this site soon will be a review of the equally rare 1959 political melodrama, "Los Ambiciosos", with the late, legendary Maria Felix. There is a definite Jess Franco connection in this one which will be examined. In the meantime check out the LOS AMBICIOSOS video over on Youtube.

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23 May, 2009


Jess Franco "does" Maciste....

"Wal Davis" also appeared in this excellent Jess Franco film... in a "serious" role.

Was Waldemar Wohlfahrt aka Wal Davis really the "world's sleaziest actor" as referenced in OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO?

I wouldn't know. But I sure enjoyed watching him "act" in the delightfully absurd EL VAMPIRO DE LA AUTOPSIA (1970), better known as Jose Luis Madrid's THE HORRIBLE SEXY VAMPIRE. I'll be reviewing that here in the future. In the meantime my most recent reflections on one of the several titles he acted in for Jess Franco in the mid 1970's:

YUKA [onscreen title]
Directed by Clifford Brown [Jess Franco]

Pygar (Robert Woods) meets with Maciste (Wal Davis) in a Medieval pub where he recounts his recent adventure in the land of the Amazons. He tells of his capture, rape by and escape from the ferocious females, led by the sadistic sex-crazed Queen (Alice Arno. He persuades Maciste to join him in a follow up expedition with hopes in robbing the Amazons of their well-guarded treasure. Everything goes wrong, though, upon arrival in the Amazon's village. Recaptured, tortured, made into sex slaves, the party plans escape... but not without the treasure.

1973 was a busy year for Jess Franco, a year in which he made some 12 feature films This one was made on Madeira (according to Robert Woods who just snickered when I asked about details and confirmed it was made in about a week, simultaneously with LES EXPLOITS EROTIQUES DE MACISTE DANS L'ATLANTIDE, a week of very long work days in the heat of that summer.

The frenetic quality of the film, speed-freak editing of wildly composed angles in the thick bush with thumping drum and lounge xylophone accompaniment endears it to this viewer at least. Thrusting into the sensual flesh and bursting fauna with breathless zip-zooms which find cubist spaces not unlike certain films of Jean-Marie Straub (the connection with Straub is also mentioned in a CAHIER DU CINEMA sidebar reproduced in Alain Petit's original MANACOA FILES). Having admired and met Straub in 1976, along with the late Danielle Huillet, and having had the opportunity to question Jess Franco at length I can state that both filmmakers are concerned with a raw, direct exploration of extra-realistic spatial possibilities, or other dimensions, to the point of totally abandoning any interest in attempting to reproduce what is generally agreed up as "ontological" reality, or recognizable space, in a cinema which wants us to enter into it without danger, imagination or the resulting rewards of hard fought adventure. In the casst of Straub-Huillet, or in this case, Huillet-Straub, the motivations are dialectical and political, illustrating the ideology of cinema space. In Franco's case it's a matter of aesthetic exploration, one thinks of Valequez's LAS MENINAS.

No, I refuse to condemn this film or throw it to the dogs of lazy film criticism. One only has to study and enjoy three sequences: the worship of the talking icon as Yuka kneels before it as a zoom back from its mouth to long shot and up into an dazzle of tree tops; the stimulation of Montie Prous's nude privates by Yuka once again as the zoom takes us back from the wise cracking icon to spiral over the massaging by tree branch and once again diving into the sky not unlike the final shot of Robert Altman's NASHVILLE (1975) {BTW, Franco was very much impressed and influenced by Altman's films of this period, which also use the telezoom as an aggressive investigatory/distancing/commenting tool}, finally the recapture of the party in which sudden telezooms into the female archers and then away from them, camera tilts of Maciste's struggle and Pygar's sprint which becomes a fall into a brush filled chasm. And there is absurd genre parody as Wohlfahrt drums his naked chest after a bare-assed wrestle with the wicked queen.

A deliriously entertaining 73 minutes full of belly laughs, fascinating Z-grade mise en scene, tragedy and the promise that Maciste will fight another day. He did in the even more experimental sister feature which I'll be reviewing here in the future under its alternate title, LES GLOUTONNES.

The very absurdity of this enterprise is its saving grace in Franco's hands.  He zooms right into the that absurdity, literally and figuratively. The zoom lens becomes a voyeuristic eye racing through the jungle foliage of the location toward the erotic configurations formed by the Amazons as they forage for men to make into slaves. Featuring a feminist subtext where women rule and men are there for pleasure toys. And the music sounds like something from a children's television show of the 1950s! Both of the 1973 Maciste adventures need a HD release.

[Source print: VSOM video dub from French VHS]

(C) Robert Monell, 2017[ New Version Updated 6/11/19]

18 May, 2009


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13 May, 2009

Those Spanish Kiosk DVDs

One of the few images we can publish from the notorious EL OJETE DE LULU (1985). My new review of this outrageous hardcore epic is now up on CINEMADROME along with a Spanish newsstand DVD discussion. Hit the link below to check out both.

Thanks to Francesco Cesari I've managed to collect one Jess Franco film on a so-called "Spanish newsstand DVD" GEMIDOS DE PLACER (1982), one of the director's most interesting Golden Films Internacional productions of the early 1980s. He was also kind enough to send several others copied onto DVD-R.
Here is a list compiled by Nzoog
[The hardcore titles are as follows:


The softcores from Edider-Mercury are the following:
Some of them, most surprisingly the hardcore EL MIRON Y LA EXHIBICIONISTA (1985) have excellent video quality.
There's been an interesting, informative ongoing discussion of these collector's items over at my www.cinemadrome.yuku.com site. It's now a featured topic.
Thanks to Nzoog and Francesco Cesari.

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10 May, 2009


Rare photo of Bunuel on the set of his 1959 political melodrama FEVER RISES IN EL PAO.

"Bunuel, Fritz Lang, Godard, they're not outmoded."
character in Jess Franco's SUCCUBUS/NECRONOMICON

I'll be presenting what I call a LUIS BUNUEL FILM FESTIVAL here soon: comments, images and reflections on some rarely seen films of the great Spanish Surrealist director who gave us UN CHIEN ANDALOU, LOS OLVIDADOS, Mexican comedies, VIRIDIANA and THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL, among other masterworks.

08 May, 2009

Follow My Micro-Mini Reviews on TWITTER/William Shatner Quiz

In search of...

Hot Rods To Hell!

Yes, along with what seems like everyone else in the world, I'm on Twitter. I've challenged myself to write micro-mini film reviews within the 140 character restriction. Enforced brevity is always good discipline for any writer.

How do I get the movie's title, date, some information and a comment in without going over the limit? That is the question.

Today's movie is Roger Corman's 1963 THE YOUNG RACERS, with Mark Damon (whom DVD SAVANT claims in his DVD review was dubbed by William Shatner [!]) and William Campbell as jousting race car drivers on the Euro-Grand Prix circuit. What I couldn't fit in on Twitter is that this also co-stars the great Patrick Magee (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE) as a "critic of life." It showed on TCM today at 3pm EST and I caught it totally by accident. A more than interesting cast and movie with a literate script by R. Wright Campbell (who also wrote Corman's 1958 Z budgeted prehistoric epic TEENAGE CAVEMAN and appears in this film along with his real brother William).

Speaking of William Shatner: I wonder why they didn't write him (like Leonard Nimoy) into the new STAR TREK? I wonder how he REALLY feels about that? Also, considering the topic of this blog I thought of a quiz: In what movie does Shatner appear with a bunch of actors who also appeared in Jess Franco films? Name the actors and the JF films in which they appeared?

How's that for a pop-quiz on top of some self promotion?

To follow my Twitter reviews just look over at the left sidebar or FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER....

And be aware that WILLIAM SHATNER is also on Twitter!

02 May, 2009


Face to face with Jack the Ripper...

Kinski's first Arthouse triumph...

The soft-spoken, deadly Tigrero (Klaus Kinski) meets Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant) in Sergio Corbucci's Spaghetti Western masterwork.

Dr. Sturges (Klaus Kinski, far right) makes a disturbing discovery...

Dr. Orloff in Jess Franco's JACK THE RIPPER (1976): "I was able to sense that he was almost as terrified as his victim."
Don Lope de Aguirre in AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD (1972): Kinski won international acclaim as the mad imperialist leading a search into the heart of darkness of a South American rain forest.
Dr. Sturges in LA MORTE HA SORRISO ALL' ASSASSINO (1973): Kinski's baffled examination of Ewa Aulin is an example of how he was a master of mute simplicity. An almost wordless performance in a supporting role, he nonetheless steals the show in Joe D'Amato's non linear Gothic masterwork.
Dr. Francis Clay in SLAUGHTER HOTEL (1971): KK is quite amusing (and seems crazier than the actual killer) as the chain smoking psychiatrist who falls in love with target-for-murder Margaret Lee in the midst of a bloody massacre by a maniac with an array of medieval weapons.
Lorenz Voss in DER RACHER (1960): Kinski's first appearance in an Edgar Wallace inspired "Krimi" is another example of a fascinatingly minimalist performance which is nonetheless hypnotic. As the "frustrated genius" Lorenz Voss, Kinski's incremental gestures and fear frozen gaze would become the template for numerous future prime suspects in subsequent Krimi roles.
Tigrero in THE GREAT SILENCE (1968): "All according to the law..."
The Marquis De Sade in JUSTINE (1969): Kinski's "Divine Marquis" is a wordless, theater-of-cruelty-style tour de force, squirming in frustration, furiously writing out his fantasies, in a cell crowded with his taunting "victims" in Jess Franco's big budget [for him], star-studded adaptation of Sade's infamous novel.
Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald in FITZCARRALDO (1982): Another Werner Herzog imperialist attempts to bring Opera to the Amazon.

Keeping this list down to 10 was very difficult considering the richness of the acting career of Klaus Kinski (1926-1991).

(C) Robert Monell, 2009

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