26 February, 2012


[Thanks to Monika de l'Epinay (aka Monica Swinn) for writing these memories of the late Lina Romay for this blog. Monika is a Belgian actress (born Monika Swuine) who appeared in a number of Jess Franco directed films featuring Lina Romay. Her most well known role is probably as the strict wardress in FRAUENGEFANGNIS aka BARBED WIRE DOLLS (1975). Other Franco titles in which she appeared along with Romay were LA COMTESSE NOIRE (1973), SHINING SEX-LA FILLE AU SEXE BRILLANT and MIDNIGHT PARTY (both 1975),  DAS BILDNIS DER DORIANA GRAY (1976),  LES NONNES EN FOLIE and CELESTINE (both 1974) among others. She has since worked as an editor, writer and sculptress.]

The news of Lina’s death has struck me down. I was not prepared : it could not be true... For me, Lina has always been associated with an image of life. She was full of life, she was life itself...

I met her in 1973, during the making of “La Comtesse Noire”, Alain Petit was already on the set (I met him on that occasion), and I can testify that she was exactly as he describes in the beautiful homage I just have finished reading on your blog : obviously, we both saw the same girl, and some forty years after, we have the same feeling of enormous loss in the wake of her death.

It means something... Among the people who happened to meet Lina I never heard a single bad word about her. Everybody was conquered by her simplicity, her kindness, her sense of humour... She could be very funny, and the word “problem” was apparently not in her current vocabulary. I suppose she had her dark side, her shadows, everybody has, but she kept that inside. She had an extreme discretion about herself. In fact, she was bright and strong minded but did not feel the need to show in every day life the weight of her personality. She had a healthy brain. No ego disease. She had the gift of make people feel comfortable with her; she was easy to be with, to work with. 

Writing that, I suddenly realize that I can’t find the words, the words I should need to describe her. Perhaps, because what I am trying, to share, is somewhere beyond words. Beyond words, like her relationship with Jess, like the way they were together, their amazing complicity. In fact, in my heart and my memory, I am unable to dissociate Lina and Jess. That is the story, the big thing: Lina and Jess. They were an entity. You could feel it at every moment you spent in their company. And it was a sweet, delightful feeling. There was a kind of magic in it. And that magic culminated when they were working together. It was a kind of dance, with Lina under the lights and Jess behind the camera... She was transfigured, illuminated, as she was suddenly totally awake. It was more than acting: at that moment she gave the best of herself and it was pure pleasure. For both of them. So, if you ask me what she was like in "real life," I can say that real life for her began when Jess used the magic word, “Action” (or, kidding, when the scene had to be hot, “And now, message! ”)
Monika with Lina Romay in a striking image from SHINING SEX : LA FILLE AU SEXE BRILLANT(1975).

It was the key to that otro lado de espejo, that other dimension where everything became possible, where the only rules were freedom and pleasure. In that world, Lina and Jess had so much fun and they were so happy. That is why I am so sad to-day. Even if I know that Lina is still living that “real life” on the screen. In the movies they made together.
And forever in my heart.

Monika de l'Epinay - Feb 26, 2012

24 February, 2012


[I would like to thank Alain Petit for being kind enough to write this memoir of the late Lina Romay. Alain is a noted film historian who wrote the essential Jess Franco study, THE MANACOA FILES. He also was a close friend and collaborator with Jess and Lina since the early 1970s. Alain contributed to the scripts of several Jess Franco films featuring Lina, including PLAISIR A TROIS (1973) and LES NONNES EN FOLIE (1974). He also appeared as an actor (billed as Charlie Christian) opposite Lina in MIDNIGHT PARTY, DE SADE'S JULIETTE (both 1975) and TENDER FLESH (1997)]

Yesterday I heard about Lina's death. For a moment, I just couldn't believe it . When I read the official newspaper report I can't explain how sad I felt and still do...

I met Lina during the winter of  1973 when Marius and Daniel Lesoeur invited me to the shooting of LA COMTESSE NOIRE. I immediately fell under her charm, as did everyone else on the set. She was so beautiful, so simple, she illuminated every place she went. I remember one scene, she was naked in a crypt and it was freezing. When the shot was over, I  put my coat on her shoulders. More than 20 years later, she still remembered that moment, telling me "No one else except you had the idea I was dying from the cold." I was very moved by the fact she did not forget. She was like that, an example of fidelity in friendship. We became friends, and later I had the chance to be take part in several films in which she was the undisputed Star: DE SADE'S JULIETTE, MIDNIGHT PARTY.. I also witnessed the shooting of SHINING SEX, one of her best dramatic roles, and later in 1997 : TENDER FLESH.

The last time we met was in Paris when Jess and her came for a special screening of MIDNIGHT PARTY at the Cinémathèque. She was the same, always joking, mocking me (but so gently), full of life and so much in love with Jess. Once, in a Torremolinos restaurant, in front of Jess, she told me she felt in love immediately with him. They were riding in the same elevator. "I knew the minute I saw him he was about to become the one and only man in my life". The love they had one for each other was evident in all of their acts and words. Jess and Lina were the irrefutable proof that True Love exists and defies the terrible march of time.

A few weeks ago, the restored version of CELESTINE was shown on a French TV channel. Each time I watch this film, I fall immediately under Lina's spell. CELESTINE is a celebration! It's something magic. She has never been so beautiful, so bright. She is the right one at the right place: SHE IS CELESTINE!!! Last night we had a little email conversation with dear friend Francesco Cesari and he had such a nice feeling about CELESTINE. You know how I feel today and as words cannot explain it, I prefer leave the final words to Francesco:

"CELESTINE is her sunniest rôle, and maybe her best. The way she leaves the house at the end of the film is something incredible...the way she looks around, the kiss...I agree, it's absolutely touching, even being a comedy."

Lina has left the house, but I am sure that, like Celestine, she sent a kiss to all her fans and friends all around the world before she left. 

Alain Petit, Feb. 24, 2012

*IMAGE: Silvia (Lina Romay), a ditzy stripper, addresses the audience  in Jess Franco's 1975 interactive spy-erotic comedy-thriller MIDNIGHT PARTY/LA PARTOUZE DE MINUIT/LADY PORNO/LA COCCOLONA. 

23 February, 2012


The mysterious, sensual gaze of Lina Romay.

When I heard about the passing of Lina Romay earlier today (on Feb. 15, reportedly of complications from cancer) I immediately experienced a sensation of free falling into space. I felt lost and a sense of personal loss for an indeterminate period of time. That vague realm of emotional/temporal/spiritual/physical dislocation and melancholy is best illustrated by her signature performance and the overall mood of Jess Franco's minimalist vampire masterwork LA COMTESSE NOIRE (1973).

Lina Romay, in her signature role of the Countess Irina Von Karlstein in LA COMTESSE NOIRE (1973)

I am reflecting on the sense of loss which Jess Franco must be feeling right now. I send him  my sincerest condolences. Thank you Jess, for introducing us to Lina Romay,  we are all thinking about you at  this time. 

The world of cinema has lost a unique, irreplaceable presence. Lina Romay was an actress who didn't need words to express strong or subtle emotions. She was an often underrated performer who could evoke lonliness and melancholy as the mute vampyre in LA COMTESSE NOIRE (1973) but she could also be an effective comedienne or portray corrupted innocence as she with the character of Linda in LORNA, THE EXORCIST (1974). She could be a prison bull dyke as in GRETA, THE MAD BUTCHER (1977) or the  vulnerable inmate as in BARBED WIRE DOLLS (1975). 
An incarcerated innocent in BARBED WIRE DOLLS

Born  Rosa Maria Almirall Martinez in Barcelona, she reportedly studied Art before meeting Jess Franco. Eventually, as a central figure in the Franco alternate universe, there would be many Lina Romays, including the blond Candy Coster, usually cast as a ditzy character in Jess Franco's 1980s genre parodies (LA MANSION DE LOS MUERTOS VIVENTES) but also in serious roles like the femme fatale in BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO (1982). She was also Lulu Laverne, who was featured in many of Franco's hardcore films (EL MIRON Y LA EXHIBICIONISTA-1985, being one of the best examples), and was also the co-director of that film, with Jess Franco, along with such other films of that period as LAS CHUPONAS (1986) and Un Pito Para Tres (1984) as Candy Coster.
                         As the melancholy, compulsive, self destructive vampire in DORAINA GRAY (1976).  

She played any and every type of role and was the longtime companion, co-director, muse, editor, assistant director to Jess Franco. I will be publishing numerous images from her films and career here for the next few days, as well as links and videos, as a tribute to her and as a way of thanking her for sharing her talent with us. She will be missed.


BELOW: A painting of Lina by artist Mick Cantone.
Download LB_Middle.jpg (502.3 KB)

ABOVE: Lina in her "Candy Coster" persona as seen on the cover of EL SEXO ESTA LOCO (1980) DVD.

As Linda, the about-to-be-corrupted-innocent in LORNA, THE EXORCIST (1974).

 Lina as a topless female Zorro in Jess Franco's 16mm comedy western Les Chatouilleueses (1974).
This one is worth repeating! The actor playing the red coated Governor is the late Olivier Mathot (1924-2011)
Lina Romay's longest running role was as the best friend, lover and companion-for-life of Jess Franco

19 February, 2012

Olivier Mathot (1924-2011)

Real Name: Claude Albert Plaut 
 in Paris, France
Olivier Mathot as the member of a gang of criminals which includes Paul Naschy, in CRIMSON (1973).

I've just been informed by the actress Monika Swinn that the prolific French actor/director Olivier Mathot (Claude Plaut) died in December, 2011. She had no further details on the cause, place or exact time/date of his demise.
A familiar face in numerous Eurocine coproductions from CRIMSON,  (1973), in which he played alongside Paul Naschy, to DEVIL KISS (1975), a Spanish French Eurocine coproduction in which he appeared with the late Silvia Solar, MANIAC KILLER (1988) with Chuck Connors, to numerous Jess Franco directed-Eurocine produced thrillers such as EXORCISM (1974) and its reedited 1979 version (EL SADICO DE NOTRE DAME), KISS ME KILLER and SHINING SEX (1975) (in which he appeared with Ms. Swinn). He also appeared in Michel Lemoine's DESIRE UNDER THE SUN, Franco's THE MIDNIGHT PARTY and CONVOY OF WOMEN, among many other titles. His acting career began in 1945 and his last listed role, according to the IMDb, was in the rarely seen Jess Franco/Jean Rollin crime/kidnapping adventure CHASING BARBARA (1991), also featuring the late Peter Martell. [BTW, if anyone reading this has a VHS/DVD copy of CHASING BARBARA please contact me here of by PM. 

Mathot also directed a number of films as well as scenes in alternate [French] Eurocine versions of Jess Franco films, such as CECILIA (1980) and THE DIAMONDS OF KILIMANDJARO (1983). A reliable actor with a distinguished appearance he could effectively play criminals, mad scientists, police offiers and comedy.

Also known as Oliver Mathews, Oliver Matthau, Claude Plaud, 

17 February, 2012

Franco's occasional actors: CRISTINA HIGUERAS

1988 was an unusual year for the actress Cristina de la Asunción Higueras: this striking brunette, most of whose acting has been on TV and the stage, appeared in two full-length theatrical films. One of them was Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón’s Malaventura, in which the actress (born on May 14, 1961) was strangely cast as the mother of the character played by Miguel Molina (born, like Higueras, in Madrid, and on November 27, 1963). Higueras’s other film that year was Jess Franco’s Dark Mission; Flowers of Evil, featuring her as Christopher Lee’s swearing daughter, also the love interest for Chris Mitchum.

Higueras’s other work in the cinema has been sporadic. Her acting career, starting in 1981 and still ongoing as of writing, comprises a mere nine feature films, the first being Francisco Lara Polop’s Dallas spoof J.R. contraataca (1983) and the rest including occasional films in English, which language Higueras is conversant in: the two 1992 productions Hostage, starring Sam Neill, and Shooting Elizabeth, with Jeff Goldblum, Mimi Rogers and a host of distinguished Spanish players (Juan Echanove, Simón Andreu, Fernando Guillén Cuervo, Ernesto Alterio, etc.).

These films appear to have been interludes in a career whose preoccupations have clearly lain elsewhere. In 1981, she was part of the cast of a TV production of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People, and soon after this, she spent a period as one of the hosts of the Spanish edition of Sesame Street. In 1992, tired of depending on others for her career, she created her own theatre company, Nueva Comedia, for which she subsequently found a co-manager in the actress Fiorella Faltoyano. Higueras, often with Faltoyano, has since starred in her own stage productions of Wait Until Dark, Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour and Agnes of God.

Images of Higueras’s role in Franco’s Dark Mission: Flowers of Evil:

Higueras’s imdb entry:

Higueras’s Videobook:

Text by Nzoog Wahrlfhehen

13 February, 2012

Frank Brana RIP

Frank Brana, as a pipe-smoking member of Henry Fonda's outlaw bunch, interrupts a land auction in Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western masterpiece ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1969).

Francisco "Frank" Brana, whose baleful presence and bushy eyebrows graced many [55!] a Spaghetti Western, and Jess Franco's RIFIFI EN LA CIUDAD (1963) died in Madrid today. He was 77. He also appeared in numerous Spanish horror and genre films. Some favorite Brana roles were as Dr. Lexter in Miguel Madrid's GRAVEYARD OF HORROR (1971), the cop in PIECES (1981) and as Fernando Sancho's thug in RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD (1973).Thanks to Tom Betts for the additional info below which he posted on FACEBOOK. I still haven't been able to place him in the Jess Franco film, but I'll keep trying...
RIP Frank Brana. Legendary Spanish character actor and stuntman Frank Brana died in Madrid, Spain today Monday February 13, 2011. He was 77. Frank appeared in over 55 Euro-westerns and over 150 films and TV appearances. He had been suffering from lung problems the last few years and still made an appearance at the 2011 Almeria Western Film Festival. Another of the great Spanish character actors has left us. RIP Frank and thanks for the memories.

04 February, 2012



Raul Artigot, the Spanish cinematographer, lensed such early 1970s Jess Franco films as LES DEMONS, EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN, among others. The same year (1972) he directed his first film, the highly atmospheric erotic witchcraft thriller THE WITCHES' MOUNTAIN. Here are some images from three scenes cut by censors of the time. This is an obscure but worthwhile film which  features a unique, eerie score by Fernando Garcia Morcillo, who also composed music for Jess Franco's LOS BLUES CALLE POP. This really deserves a good DVD release if a good print can be found.