28 August, 2010


Maneater Of Hydra 1967 DVD Cameron Mitchell - Click Image to Close

One of my favorite European genre actresses of the 1960s was Elisa Montes, seen above in Mel Welles' delirious European Trash Cinema vampire tree opus, LA ISLA DE LA MUERTE (1967). The spectacular cast includes the great Cameron Mitchell (BLOOD AND BLACK LACE) as master gardener Baron Von Weser and such Jess Franco alumni as Ricardo Valle (Morpho in GRITOS EN LA NOCHE) and Mike [Miquel] Brendell (EL LLANERO, DEATH WHISTLES THE BLUES). Ms Montes also appeared in Franco's 99 MUJERES, THE GIRL FROM RIO (both 1969) and DER TODESRACHER VON SOHO (1972). She's always quite charming, sensual and seemingly full of barely repressed emotions. Ms. Montes was also in several sword and sandal films in the mid 60s as well as such Spaghetti Westerns as TEXAS ADIOS (1966).

I've only been able to see a hideous, blurry color faded cropped 1.33:1 version of this Techniscope production (shot by the great Cecilio Paniagua (LISA AND THE DEVIL). I get the feeling that it's much more impressive when seen in proper format via a decent print. The vampire tree, with its drolling sprouts and thirsty, searching vines unleashes a memorable torrent of blood in the last scene, a virtual crimson rain. I would like to know if anyone has seen or owns a decent, 2.35:1 print of this film. 

I got to briefly connect with the late Mel Welles (1924-2005) via email just before he died and thanked him for his highly amusing, indelible portrayal of the flower shop owner Gravis Mushnik in Roger Corman's THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS  (1960), which also revolved around a flesh eating plant! His performance in that B-classic was one of the delights of my youth.

18 August, 2010

AUGUST 18. 1970-The End or The Beginning?

Soledad Miranda died 40 years ago today, on August 18. 1970 in a Lisbon hospital, the result of injuries sustained as the result of an automobile accident on the highway between Lisbon and Estoril.*  Her last film appearance was in Jess Franco's THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA. She had made VAMPYROS LESBOS a few months earlier with Franco and German producer Artur Brauner was preparing to heavily promote her in future films as a result of that film's success. She was set to sign a contract with the high powered producer on the day of her fatal accident. 

In a way August 18. 1970 can be viewed as the beginning of the kind of immortality certain movie stars achieve after dying suddenly and young (she was 27), James Dean and Marilyn Monroe being the most obvious examples. Although she had been in films since 1960 and had appeared in several prominent international productions, the 8 films she made with director Franco (usually as Susann Korda) during the last year of her life are the ones which have attracted the most interest, even though two SEX CHARADE and JULIETTE are apparently incomplete/lost. 

I wanted to write more about her career and legacy today but working overtime intervened. One of the questions I'll be returning to is of her seemingly incomplete performance in THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA, despite the fact that many claim she had finished her work. I glimpsed some interesting CCC documentation about 16 years ago which I was not able to copy and have not been able to retrieve since. But I'll keep trying. Watch the film again, closely. Of course, any film featuring Soledad Miranda is worth watching closely. 

*She appeared with her husband in a 23m documentary film (Un día en Lisboa) about the travels of a young couple, which was shot on this same stretch of highway in 1964. This was short subject apparently made to promote tourism. It was directed by the prolific Spanish DP, Alfonso Nieva (THE BUTCHER OF BINBROOK/NECROMANIAC/GRAVEYARD OF HORROR among others).  I'm hoping to see it at some point and review it here. 

Thanks to Amy Brown.

07 August, 2010

Factory of the Living Dead

Second episode of the web miniseries inspired by OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES.
Enter the lair of Howard Vernon!
See the evil cult abduct an innocent girl!
Watch robot Andros clash with the green-eyed Monster!..

Episode 3 coming in September.

05 August, 2010


How to Read a Franco Film

Wizard Video gave me my first (censored) look at several key Jess Franco titles, including DEMONIAC [THE SADIST OF NOTRE DAME] and A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD.

Happy 20th Anniversary to VIDEO WATCHDOG magazine, published by Tim and Donna Lucas.

Tim Lucas, the magazine's editor, wrote the seminal Jess Franco essay "How to Read a Franco Film" for the first VW issue, published in June 1990. I remember seeing it on the newsstand of the now defunct TWILIGHT BOOKSTORE in Syracuse, NY. I picked it up and read the entire Franco article standing there. I was amazed that someone else was that much into the then-obscure filmography of Spain's most prolific and
notorious director. Back then I only had a few prerecords and poor dubs of such Jess Franco titles as EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (VSOM) and VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD (WIZARD VIDEO).

Since then there have been well over 100 Jess Franco DVD presentations of various titles released worldwide, a number of books, including OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO (1993), an autobiography (MEMORIAS DEL TIO JESS), along with hundreds of articles in magazines and on the Internet. Franco has been awarded the 2009 Goya for his career, Spain's equivalent of the Academy Award and had a two month retrospective of his key titles at the Cinematheque Francaise in 2008. His image and placement have undergone an extraordinary evolution in the past 20 years.

And he's still making films at the age of 80!

Thanks to Tim for citing this blog in issue #157 where he updates his Franco survey with a in-depth look at the director's early films, 1959-1967.

It should make for fascinating reading. I've still got Issue #1....