29 June, 2009

THE EUROSPY FILES: Did you check out Agent O77 on Cine Polar?

Agent 077 operation Jamaique

Mardi 16 juin à 21h00

Film policier espagnol 1965
Réalisateur : Jesus Franco
Avec : Conrado San Martin, Danik Patisson
Durée : 1h30
Interdit en salles -16ans
Vogel, un trafiquant notoire, a dénoncé deux de ses complices, Castro et Smith. Le premier a été tué par la police, le second emprisonné ... Quinze ans plus tard, Vogel a pris une autre identité et vit retiré à la Jamaïque avec son épouse Linda. Mais Vogel est retrouvé, en plein carnaval, par son gang ...



I missed it myself. This was on www.cinepolar.com, a site readers may want to investigate further. This is, of course, the French Eurospy version of Jess Franco's LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES (1962), a Wellesian thriller/policier/noir in which Agent Jao (Conrado San Martin, billed on the French print as "Sean Martin") is actually 069! At least that's what he calls himself on the French track, but it may have been too risque even for Eurocine to go with that for the main title. I'd like to see the original 94m Spanish version. The French version I have runs under 80m. See Jess Franco play a hot sax solo with the Whisky Jazz Club Band.

This is one of Franco's more interesting early films. The story of corruption and mise en scene were clearly influenced by TOUCH OF EVIL. The moody b&w cinematography was by Juan Marine (PIECES), whom Franco told me was one of his favorite DPs. Excellent performances by Georges Rollin, Perla Cristal. This really needs to get released on a superior DVD.

There's also reportedly a version titled 077-OPERATION SEXY. The 1973 color remake, KISS ME KILLER, is not as impressive, being both unnecessary and overlong.

27 June, 2009


Avaleuses, Les

AKA's: Ataque De Las Vampiras, El / Bare Breasted Countess / Black Countess, The / Caldo Corpo Di Femmina, Un / Comtesse Aux Seins Nus, La / Comtesse Noire, La / Entfesselte Begierde / Erotic Kill / Erotikill - Lady Dracula 2 / Erotikill - Lüsterne Vampire Im Spermarausch / Erotikiller / Female Vampire / Insatiable Lust / Jacula / Last Thrill, The / Loves Of Irina, The / Mujer Vampiro, La / Sicarius - The Midnight Party / Verentahrima Morsian / Yacula

I copied the above from a Vampire Movies Database because I am inquiring if any reader has seen or collected the version of Jess Franco's 1973 vampire film LA COMTESSE NOIRE with the onscreen title LES AVALEUSES. A blog reader has emailed me that it may contain a scene not in any other version I have seen, and I have collected numerous versions from around the world. The scene involves Monica Swinn in an autoerotic mode and precedes the S&M scene with Ms. Swinn, Alice Arno and Lina Romay. There's a still from the scene in question which I copied into the LES AVALEUSES featured topic on my www.cinemadrome.yuku.com website [(courtesy of bxzzines' blog):
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_SSm_P2Lo8wg/R8HM5Z0AmtI/AAAAAAAAAmU/7vWXOLi_wXw/s1600-h/IMG100_0021.jpg.] I don't think this version ever was put on DVD, but I may be wrong. It could be on VHS, though. If you have a copy with that onscreen title please post here or email me @ monell579@hotmail.com

Thanks to Vivian, The Vampire Movie Database and Bxzzines

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22 June, 2009

The Return of Miles Deem

The Man...

Demofilo Fidani aka Miles Deem, the most prolific director of Italian Westerns, would probably be pleased to note that two of his Spaghetti epics from 1970 recently appeared on US DVD for the first time. The rarely seen ONE DAMNED DAY AT DAWN, DJANGO MEETS SARTANA and Arrivano Django e Sartana... è la fine [onscreen title on this slightly letterboxed Italian print which suffers from some occasional combing and has a TV station logo in the lower right corner. I enjoyed the hell out of it and appreciated finally being able to acquire this obscurity on DVD].Quel maledetto giorno d'inverno... Django e Sartana all'ultimo sangue aka ONE DAMNED DAY... is a rather nice, letterboxed French print DJANGO ET SARTANA with sharp focus and pleasing color.

Fidani's no-budget aesthetics are certainly welcome in my territory and he remains a favorite of this blog. These are fun, if minor, projects, featuring "Hunt Powers" [rn Jack Betts] as Django, but costumed in a prominent black hat and matching frock coat which one associates with Gianni Garko's more familiar Sartana. Future Italian superstar/hunk Fabio Testi plays Sheriff Ronson, secretly Sartana, but acts more like Franco Nero in the original Django. Ronson arrives in the lawless Black City and is immediately told to move on to Redtown. This crazy, color-coded west is brimming with the director's trademark absurdities. It all works just fine in the charmingly screwy universe of Maestro Fidani.

Both features utilize the same plots, supporting casts, exterior (Italian; Fidani never shot in Spain) locations, sets, costumes, musical scores and even camera angles. The villain in ARRIVANO, played by the late, great Gordon Mitchell, is a grizzled outlaw who plays cards with himself in a mirror, curses his reflection [take that, Jacques Lacan!] and acts like a hyperactive windup toy before Sartana turns him into a pile of dead meat. Gordon always does the job and this is one of his more entertaining turns. He really seems to be enjoying himself. The strangest element in this one is the outlaw hideout which from the outside looks like just a small shack built into the side of a quarry while the unmatched interior is a rather lavish warren of archways, surreal bric a brac and odd alcoves. Stuntmen Dean Stratford [Dino Strano] and Dennis Colt [Benito Pacifico] were Fidani regulars and go way over-the-top as the bloodthirsty killers in need of dispatch. ARRIVANO... is credited to Dick Spitfire, yet another amusing Fidani beard.

You can enjoy both films, along with 8 other Italian produced Sartana titles as part of Videoasia's SARTANA: THE COMPLETE SAGA, 3 DVD set. Hey, it's only 15 bucks! Many of the other titles are letterboxed and it's an overall good deal.

Below is the imdb Fidani Spaghetti Western filmo... Let's hope that more of his quirky homemade Spaghetti shows up on DVD.

  1. Per una bara piena di dollari (1971) (as Miles Deem)
    ... aka A Barrel Full of Dollars
    ... aka Coffin Full of Dollars (USA)
    ... aka Nevada Kid (USA)
    ... aka Showdown for a Badman (USA)
  2. Era Sam Wallach... lo chiamavano 'così sia' (1971) (as Miles Deem)
    ... aka His Name Was Sam Walbash, But They Call Him Amen (USA)
    ... aka Savage Guns (USA)
  3. Giù la testa... hombre (1971) (as Miles Deem)
    ... aka Ballad of Django
    ... aka Doppia taglia per Minnesota Stinky
    ... aka Fistful of Death
    ... aka Strange Tale of Minnesota Stinky
  4. Il suo nome era Pot (1971) (also as Slim Alone) (also as Dennis Ford)
    ... aka Django Always Draws Second (UK)
    ... aka Hero Called Allegria (USA)
    ... aka His Name Was Pot... But They Called Him Allegria (USA)
    ... aka Il suo nome era Pot, ma lo chiamavano allegria! (Italy)
    ... aka Lobo the Bastard (USA)
  5. Arrivano Django e Sartana... è la fine (1970) (as Dick Spitfire)
    ... aka Django and Sartana Are Coming... It's the End (USA)
    ... aka Django and Sartana's Showdown in the West (USA)
    ... aka Django and Sartana... Showdown in the West (USA)
    ... aka Final Conflict... Django Against Sartana (USA)
    ... aka Sartana If Your Left Arm Offends, Cut It Off (USA)
  6. Quel maledetto giorno d'inverno... Django e Sartana all'ultimo sangue (1970) (as Miles Deem)
    ... aka Django e Sartana
    ... aka One Damned Day at Dawn... Django Meets Sartana!
  7. Giù le mani... Carogna (1970) (as Lucky Dickinson)
    ... aka Down with Your Hands... You Scum! (USA)
    ... aka Reach You Bastard (USA)
    ... aka The Django Story (USA)
  8. Inginocchiati straniero... I cadaveri non fanno ombra! (1970) (as Miles Deem)
    ... aka Dead Men Don't Make Shadows (USA: TV title)
    ... aka Stranger That Kneels Beside the Shadow of a Corpse (USA)

  9. ...e vennero in quattro per uccidere Sartana! (1969) (as Miles Deem)
    ... aka Four Came to Kill Sartana (USA)
    ... aka Sartana, the Invincible Gunman (USA)
  10. Sedia elettrica (1969) (as Miles Deem)
    ... aka The Electric Chair (International: English title)
  11. Passa Sartana... è l'ombra della tua morte (1969) (as Sean O'Neal)
    ... aka Meet the Sign of the Cross
    ... aka Sartana and His Shadow of Death
    ... aka Shadow of Sartana... Shadow of Your Death
  12. Ed ora... raccomanda l'anima a Dio! (1968)
    ... aka And Now... Make Your Peace with God (International: English title)
  13. Straniero... fatti il segno della croce! (1967) (as Miles Deem)

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20 June, 2009

Sir Christopher: From Jess Franco to Knighthood

Christopher Lee as the Count in Jess Franco's EL CONDE DRACULA (1970).

Can you name all the Jess Franco films in which Sir Christopher Lee appeared?

I was just made aware by a thread on the Latarnia Forums, along with some other internet reports, that the prolific British actor Christopher Lee, a veteran of over 250 films and TV shows, has been knighted by the Queen of England. The 87 year old Lee is still a busy working actor who is currently working on a film being lensed in the US. His roles in Hammer's HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), subsequent Hammer horrors and, more recently, the "Lord of the Rings" and Star Wars films, have made him an internationally regconized performer and horror/fantasy icon. Regular readers of this board will also remember him for the series of late 1960's Jess Franco-Harry Alan Towers films in which he starred, including two Fu Manchu films, EL CONDE DRACULA and THE BLOODY JUDGE.

My favorite Jess Franco-Lee collaboration is EUGENIE...THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION (1970), where he gives an authoritative interpretation as Dolmance, the elegant De Sade cult leader, a role which the actor accepted at the last minute when the originally cast George Sanders dropped out. In any case, Lee almost always manages to deliver a solid performance, and many times a memorable one, in even the most difficult of circumstances.

Our congratulations to Sir Christopher Lee.

16 June, 2009


Agente 07 con el 2 delante (Agente Jaime Bonet) (1966), directed by Ignacio F. Iquino.

Reviewed by Nzoog

Readers here will probably be familiar with Franco and Ciccio comedies. Here's a rough Spanish equivalent: vehicles for the late Casto Sendra "Cassen" (1928-1991), a Catalan revue and TV comedian who had made his debut in the cinema in Berlanga's Plácido (1961) and later embarked on a film career either consisting of vehicles for himself or character roles. As a character actor, he was welcome and useful; as a star comedian, he's certainly an acquired taste, or at least very much of his time, and contrary to what happens with the likeable Alfredo Landa, an even more popular Spanish of lowbrow comedy, an element of self-centredness emerges in his tailor-made vehicles, a kind of life-of-the-party expansiveness.

After the painful experience of another Iquino film with Cassen, La liga no es cosa de hombres (1972), I wasn't exactly entertaining great expectations for this, the first in a series of comedy vehicles initiated by Iquino and then entrusted either to himself or to one of his house directors. Here, at least, Cassen didn't write the script, although the director allowed him to rewrite much of it to his own style, and Iquino himself, at least, still seemed to enjoy making them.

The title may tip us off that this is a Eurospy spoof, with a Hispanised (or rather, Catalanised) version of the James Bond moniker. Prolific comic book writer Armando Matías Guiu was entrusted with the script and one presumes Iquino's credited role as co-writer was that of polishing it up for the film medium. A member of the British secret service is in pursuit of a football carrying a valuable microfilm, ending up in Barcelona in the process. When the agent dies accidentally, two Secret Service bosses (Gustavo Re and Luis Oar) decide that their available staff of spies is too littered with tall, handsome men that would immediately attract attention so they improvise a replacement in the podgy, slobbish, womanising Spanish waiter, Jaime Bonet (Cassen). Travelling back to his native Barcelona, Bonet has lots of fights and performs many pratfalls.

The initial establishing segment, set in the Secret Service venues and almost theatrical in its enclosed activity, is the most successful. Thereafter, once the plot moves outdoors, it becomes long drawn out. And this is a Cassen vehicle with a vengeance: he clowns, he gets to sing a song, has fight scenes and, despite his plain looks and paunchy physique, he is given lots of pretty girls as company. In addition, the plot, at one point, requires him to appear on stage for a while, offering Cassen an excuse to show off his stand up act for a while. All in all, 95 minutes of Cassen felt to me like a good 110. Although he was launched as a film actor in Plácido, Berlanga disliked his performance, feeling it was too revue-like, and Juan Bosch, one of Iquino's employee-directors, came to resent his conceitedness. The relationship between the egocentric Cassen and the businesslike Iquino was itself not unruffled and in Agente 07 con el 2 delante (Agente Jaime Bonet) the comedian was reportedly angry at the fact that the director seemed to be giving too much screen time to the film's female co-star, the singer Encarnita Polo, at the expense of his own. This was not a good film experience but at least, unlike the chaotic Los fabulosos de Trinidad, I was left in no doubt of Iquino's ability as a director. Indeed, I liked the opening credits tracking shots through the nighttime neon-lit Ramblas of Barcelona under the credits, suggesting a sleazy noir rather than a spy film and was amused by the opening barroom killing in which characters speak out the film's credits ("The guy who did this mess is Ignacio Farrés, better known as El Iquino"). "El Iquino" does, in fact, maintain his directorial high spirits throughout (It seems the photography was his own, with Julio Pérez de Rojas used as a front), for framing and cutting are consistently good, but then he obviously knew this was going to be one of his major commercial undertakings: Agente 07 con el 2 delante (Agente Jaime Bonet) brought in an impressive viewership of 1,917,207 viewers (about a fifteenth of Spain's population at the time), undoubtedly on the strength of Cassen's leadership in the cast.

[Thanks to our friend Nzoog, Spanish genre cinema historian par excellence, for the excellent, informative review of this incredibly obscure (and probably never to be seen in the US) spy comedy. I was so impressed  that I copied it from THE FILMS OF IGNACIO IQUINO thread at www.cinemadrome.yuku.com where Nzoog has posted numerous essays on the films of the prolific Spanish genre director. These reviews are lavishly illustrated with screencaps, rare artwork and more from Nzoog's collection. Please visit and enjoy this highly recommended featured topic. Iquino is a barely known director among US European Trash Cinema fans (other than a few Eurowestern and horror titles) and these reviews detail his unique filmography. RM]

11 June, 2009


Thanks to Jayson for blogging on this odd UK video of Jess Franco's VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD. He reports that it's actually an NTSC VHS running approximately 88m. I've never come across this video version before. Visit Jayson's excellent Basement of Ghoulish Decadence blog at www.ghoulbasement.blogspot.com/ for more information.

This vintage VHS was released by Careyvision Ltd. in 1985. The name Cinema Shares Ltd. Distribution also appears on the tape, according to Jayson. It seems to be a rarity and I was wondering if anyone else had seen it, collected it, or has any more information on its background or content.

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07 June, 2009


Gun collector Luis Bunuel examines the Mexican gun culture in EL RIO Y LA MUERTE

"Al que mata frente e frente se le permite huir y vivir en el monte hasta que se le considere saldada su deuda."

Santa Viviana: A christening. Two male guests share drinks at the happy event until one makes an indiscreet remark. Weapons are drawn, a man is stabbed to death, the killer becomes a fugitive on the other side of the river.

Gerardo (Joaquin Cordero), a successful MD living in a large city is summoned back to his hometown by his mother to defend the family "honor" concerning a generation old "blood feud" which still consumes his name.

Surveying the critical literature on THE RIVER AND DEATH the terms "anti-western", "blood feud" and "easy death" recur. If this does evoke the Mexican tradition of "easy death" it is in the close study of the way the men of Santa Viviana are quick to anger and quicker to draw weapons. Bunuel's vision (this time based on a novel adapted by Luis Alcoriza and himself for Clasa Films Mundiales, S.A.) is, as always, an essentially biological one: the way men turn and draw at the same time seems an inbred physical trait as much as it derived from the Western-movie mythos. Characters living a centuries-old code in what appears to be the 19th Century but is actually the 20th, without any noticeable conveniences that are taken for granted in the big cities.

RIVER... anticipates the "Spaghetti Western" cycle of the 1960s with the images of shootouts suddenly erupting on dusty streets over absurdly complicated matters of "honor" and, as the epigraph above suggests, "debt."

A man rushes into a hospital to slap another who is confined to an iron lung! That could be an image from Bunuel's scandal mongering L'AGE D'OR (1930). Later the aggressor is splashed with his victim's blood which shames him into a final reconciliation.

Bunuel reportedly hated the moral-educative aspects of the material, the faux-happy ending lacks his usual ironic undercurrent. I haven't read Miguel Alvarez Acosta's novel "Muro blanco en roca negra" so I can't report on the film's originality. If one wasn't aware of Bunuel's involvement it might be taken for another mid-50s Mexican melodrama, but for the Bunuel scholar there is much in which to be interested. That doesn't mean it's a masterwork, far from it; but as an illustration of "machismo" in a society where the gun shop is the busiest place in town, it's dead-on. Bunuel, himself an obsessive gun-collector, should know.

Most amusingly, the local priest (the same actor who was the Padre in Bunuel's Sadean EL (1952), packs a gun under his robe and is exempt from a pat-down when the Federal Police are called in to subdue the town. Bunuel's laughter can almost be heard under these scenes. One wonders what Bunuel thought of the final scene with the long suffering mother (Columba Dominguez) watching the two men suddenly reconciling with a bear hug!

Opening and closing with images of the dark, palm lined river banks behind which lie miles of thick jungle into which local killers escape to pay their "debt" after a quick shootout. Essentially a series of duels, wakes, funerals and stand-offs, it's more "Leone" than John Ford in style. A typical gunfight will involve the aggressor pulling a gun, charging his target, who shoots him again and again as the loser lies dying. If the loser gets a shot into the opponent before death, all the better. There are some impressive, subtle plan-sequences scanning the adobe structures with black clad women about as men advance on each other in the middle of the street. One key duel takes place at night in a plaza featuring a crucifix installed at its center. An island cemetery to which coffins decorated with floral arrangements are ferried via rotting boats. Surreal images, no doubt ethnologically authentic, Bunuel mise-en-scene.

El Rio y la muerte de Luis Bunuel Alter's VIVE MEXICO! Cine en 35mm Collection: Multi Region 1-4; 1.33.1; Spanish language; 93m.

Thanks to Robert Guest

06 June, 2009


Good news. The controversial final film of the late Alain Robbe-Grillet, GRADIVA... will be released on DVD by MONDO MACABRO in August. Since I'm very anxious to see this and MM is one of my favorite DVD companies, I can't wait.

For more images and information on this release go to the MONDO MACABRO blog:
There's also some more news about one of Robbe-Grillet's rarest films which I'll be posting here soon.

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