28 December, 2014

Raul Artigot (1936-2014) R.I.P.

 (C) Robert Monell, 2014

The distinctive visual stylist who shot Jess Franco's THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN, LES DEMONS and directed one of my favorite Spanish horrors, THE WITCHES' MOUNTAIN (1972), died on Christmas day. He directed three films but was much more active as a cinematographer. He also was DP on such European genre favorites as THE CANNIBAL MAN (1972) and La ragazza dal pigiama giallo...

As both director and DP Artigot was skilled at creating striking exterior imagery, the eerie witch haunted Pyrenees in THE WITCHES' MOUNTAIN, and interiors, the Gothic cubism of the strange chambers of Cagliostro's castle in RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN. The low budget period piece LES DEMONS looks rather sumptuous through the lens of Artigot, whose painterly compositions catch the eye with stylized patterns and colorful juxtapostions of costumes and medieval settings.

16 December, 2014

Alpha Waves: La Grande Motte, Alternate Realities, the Mirror Stage in the Sexual Science Fiction of Shining Sex

As in many Jess Franco films, SHINING SEX-LA FILLE AU SEXE BRILLANT opens with an erotic performance...
In SHINING SEX (1975) Eros is an existential state in a cubist world. Cynthia and Alpha enter La Grande Motte...

Cubist architecture
at La Grande Motte

La Grande Motte, Southern France, today...
Cynthia and Madame Pecal (Monica Swinn) in the mirror...

Dr. Seward (Jess Franco) is the paranormal investigator...


Thanks to Marito Almada for helping me to see the longer version this film.

(C) Robert Monell  2014     

07 December, 2014

NEW POLL: What Was The Best Jess Franco Blu-ray/DVD release of 2014

There were a lot of European releases of Jess Franco films on Bllu-ray this in 2014, many more than in the US/N.America. I expect that trend to continue in 2015. Promised but still not released in 2014 titles such as CRYPT OF THE CONDEMNED and REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES have not been included. One can only hope that Redemption Films will resume their Blu-ray releases, including the key JF title THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (1972). Ascot Elite's THE GOYA COLLECTION probably released the most titles of any single company. I have still to catch up myself with many of those releases. My own favorites were Redemption's THE DEMONS and Severin's BLOODY MOON, the latter was a pleasantly surprising revelation. A number of titles could not be included for formatting reasons, but if a title is missing from the list of selections, just write it in the Comments below and I will include them in the final tabulation. Also, please excuse and ignore any mistaken 2013 releases listed.

  • Bloody Moon [Blu-ray]


30 November, 2014

According to a post on the El Franconomicon FACEBOOK page by Tim Lucas, Alain Petit's landmark, comprehensive study of the films and career of Jess Franco will be republished. It will reportedly include the original texts and illustrations, along with other new elements, in upgraded, updated, corrected editions. The Artus publication is slated for April, 2015. The post states that it will be published in two different editions, one of which will include a DVD of a rarely seen Jess Franco film. The publisher is Artus, the French DVD company who has released several digital restorations of Franco films (THE OBSCENE MIRROR).


THE MANACOA FILES was published as a series of zines starting in 1994 and is probably still the primary text on the films of the late, prolific Jess Franco, reviewing all of his films, with detailed credits, presenting related illustrations, interviews, sidebars, data and comments by Petit, who is a noted film historian and was also a collaborator with the director, both as a writer (PLAISIR A TROIS, THE CRAZY NUNS) and actor, (THE MIDNIGHT PARTY, JULIETTE DE SADE, TENDER FLESH).

This is very welcome news indeed. Petit's intimate working knowledge of the director and his career are invaluable, and though I have attempted to read the texts in French, it will be a revelation to have them in English also.

I will post more details as soon as possible. RM

THE MANACOA FILES to be republished in 2015

According to a post on the El Franconomicon FACEBOOK page by Tim Lucas, Alain Petit's legendary, comprehensive study of the films and career of Jess Franco will be republished in an upgraded, updated, corrected editions in April, 2015. It will be illustrated and published in two different editions, one of which will include a DVD of a rarely seen Jess Franco film. The publisher is Artus, the French DVD company who has released several restorations of Franco films (THE OBSCENE MIRROR).


THE MANACOA FILES was published as a series of zines starting in 1994 and is probably still the primary text on the late, prolific Jess Franco, reviewing all of his films, with detailed credits and presenting related illustrations, interviews, data and comments by Petit, who is a noted film historian and was also a collaborator with the director, both as a writer (PLAISIR A TROIS, THE CRAZY NUNS) and actor, (THE MIDNIGHT PARTY, JULIETTE DE SADE, TENDER FLESH).

This is very welcome news indeed. Petit's intimate working knowledge of the director and his career are invaluable, and though I have attempted to read the texts in French, it will be a revelation to have them in English also.

I will post more details as soon as possible. RM

26 November, 2014


Thanks to a post on the El Franconomicon FACEBOOK page, I have recently discovered that this 1968 Adrian Hoven Gothic sex-horror romp is actually being prepared for a Blu-ray + DVD Combo release by Subkultur Entertainment.. Apparently this will be the complete version, including scenes deleted before the original theatrical release. I've only been able to see the vintage INTERNATIONAL VIDEO PRESENTATIONS US VHS release and a version on the VEEHD.com website, both of which run approximately 77m. OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO lists a longer runtime of 85m.*

The IVP US VHS cover. The runtime is listed as 85m, but it actually runs at approx. 77m, including end music.**

The shorter English language version is badly dubbed, choppy and much in need in the kind of surreal dispatch and personal verve a Jess Franco could have infused it with. In fact, according to the note in OBSESSION..., frequent Jess Franco actor Howard Vernon, who plays a key role here, claimed that the film was based on an idea, possibly a treatment, by Franco. Made by Hoven, using the beard Percy G. Parker, with much of the same cast and crew of NECRONOMICON (1967), this appears to have been the last of the four films shot with this cast and crew, and doesn't appear to have been shot on ny of the Spanish locations of the other three. It seems to have been lensed mostly on German locations.

Hoven, of course, was a popular West German singer/actor/director/producer who formed Aquila Films-Berlin, and in collaboration with the Italian money man Pier A. Caminecci bankrolled NECRONOMICON aka SUCCUBUS, BESAME, MONSTRUO aka KISS ME, MONSTER and EL CASO DE LAS DOS BELLEZAS (all 1967), all of which feature Janine Reynaud as the lead actress and have major roles for her then husband, actor-director (SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN) Michel Lemoine. Hoven also appears in NECRONOMICON, TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS and KISS ME, MONSTER. Caminecci makes appearances in NECRONOMICON and in this rather pretentious, poorly paced outing.

CASTLE... opens during a wild party in a Black Forest castle. It is present day, but Reynaud, Lemoine and others repair to the nearby castle of the Earl of Saxon (Howard Vernon), who is working feverishly to surgically revive his raped and murdered daughter via blood transfusions. Cue graphic surgical stock footage of bloody open heart surgery which goes on and on, inserted every time the live action subsides. In the meantime the Baron Braque (Lemoine) has raped one of the party goers, who has fled to the Earl's castle. The Baron is finally revealed to also be the rapist of the Earl's daughter, and shows up for punishment after having been badly mauled by a huge, ferocious bear, a pet of the Earl , who released the creature into the woods to seek out the guilty party. Every gets exactly what they deserve as a black clad figure in a death mask rides a white horse out of the front gate of the castle and disappears into the night. An attempt at a stylish Gothic tale, it all sounds a lot more interesting on the page than onscreen, mainly due to Hoven's meager talents in film direction. He stages everything in the same bland fashion, it lacks the kind of style which would make it compelling and is at best incoherent Eurotrash. There are also flashbacks to a medieval tale which also includes the cast of characters in a rape and murder scenario involving the Earl's ancestor (also played by Vernon). This is all shot using heavily filtered lenses. A few angles shot through the rococo furniture or tilted views of stone demons aside, this is a rather boring looking film, although shot by the same DP as Jess Franco's ultra stylish NECROMICON, once again the director makes all the difference. Even the period costumes look like Halloween get ups straight out of a bargain basement wardrobe room. The flashes of nudity don't add any erotic flavor to the tasteless proceedings and one can only imagine what is cut from the extant abbreviated prints. Vernon and Lemoine really try to put some emphasis into their roles as the twisted nobles. Nonetheless, it's all still somewhat amusing in a Le Bad Cinema category and appropriate beverages/substances may improve the viewing experience.

Adrian Hoven, of course went on to produce the very lurid, internationally successful MARK OF THE DEVIL films, HEXEN BIS AUFS BLUT GEQUALT and  GESCHANDET UND ZU TODE GEQUALT, in the early 1970s.

The upcoming Blu ray + DVD presentation of the complete version may or may not improve my opinion, but it's always good to see Vernon, Lemoine and Janine Reynaud all in the same film, even one as bad as this.

*Peter Blumenstock notes on P.60, "According to Howard Vernon... [IM SCHLOSS...] was based on an original script or idea by Jesus Franco."  OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO, 1993.

** Thanks to Eric Cotenas and Christoph Draxta for additional information.

(C) 2014 Robert Monell

23 November, 2014


This 1968 W. German production was directed by Adrian Hoven, and co-produced by his Aquila Films company with his then partner, Pier A Caminecci, who also appears in the film. Aquila Films also produced a series of Jess Franco films in 1967, NECRONOMICON aka SUCCUBUS, KISS ME, MONSTER and EL CASO DE LAS DOS BELLEZAS aka TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS/SADISTEROTICA. All 4 films share the same main cast and crew members, although IM SCHLOSS DER BLUTIGEN BEGIERDE appears to have been shot exclusively in West Germany. Jess Franco had no input in the direction but, according to OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO, the film was based on an original script by him [P.60], although he receives no writing credit in the English language version, CASTLE OF THE CREEPING FLESH.

18 November, 2014

REPOST: Jess Franco's "Maciste" duo...

I would like to see both of Jess Franco's crazy 1973 no-budget MACISTE films, made back-to-back that year with the same main casts and locations, get HD releases. Has there been any other DVD releases since the 2013 Italian one of MACISTE VS. THE QUEEN OF THE AMAZONS? Blu-ray editions would be preferred or any High Quality DVD releases. The caps I've seen of this one look dodgy, as if mastered from an inferior, but watchable, VHS source.

Spaghetti Western icon Robert Woods played the evil knight Caronte in  LES EXPLOITS EROTIQUES DE MACISTE DANS L'ATLANTIDE aka Les Gloutonnes (1973) and Maciste's sidekick in MACISTE CONTRE LA REINE DES AMAZONES [seen in the caps below].

I find both of these fun, lightweight efforts with the amusing presences of Wal Davis [rn Waldemar Wohlfaart], Lina Romay, Alice Arno, and the always welcome participation of  Robert Woods, along with the entrancing Montserrat Prous, who also participates in Les Exploits Erotiques de Maciste dans L'Atlantide, a delirious composite and my favorite of the two. That one also has the equally essential presence of Pamela Stanford aka Monique Delaunay. Howard Vernon appears in other inserted scenes as "Cagliostro". Both were shot on locations in Portugal and Spain according to OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO.

Maciste contre la Reine des Amazones - trailer - YouTube

Sep 27, 2011 - Uploaded by Franconery01
Maciste contre la Reine des Amazones - trailer ... du chef d'oeuvre de Clifford Brown, alias Jess Frank, alias ...

Here are a few caps posted last year in THE FRANCO LOUNGE on THE LATARNIA FORUMS...

08 November, 2014

New Severin Release: The Cannibal Collection

  • Directors: Joe D'Amato, Allan W. Steeve, Jess Franco
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Studio: Severin Films
  • DVD Release Date: November 11, 2014
  • Run Time: 267 minute
This will include Jess Franco's 1980 DEVIL HUNTER aka EL CANIBAL, SEXO CANIBAL, THE MAN HUNTER, which was previously released on DVD by Severin. That release had some issues but is the longest version of the film to appear on digital so far and offers the rarely heard French soundtrack with English subtitles as well as the English language release track.

06 November, 2014

Jess Franco & Jazz

The second edition of this book, on the relationship between Jazz and Cinema, has  just been published. It includes an entry on the influence of Jazz on the films of Jess Franco, to whom the book is also dedicated.
Here's hoping for an English language edition.

It was written by the noted Spanish film historian Carlos Aguilar, who has published two books on the films of Jess Franco and worked as a production assistant on several of the director's films (BANGKOK, CITA CON LA MUERTE) in the mid 1980s.

25 October, 2014

UN PITO PARA TRES (Jess Franco 1984)


Directed by Jess Franco [as Candy Coster]
Photography by Juan Soler
Music by Fernando Garcia Morcillo
Produced by Fervi Films/Madrid
Eastmancolor, Techniscope
Cast: Lina Romay [as Lulu Laverne] (Lulu Laverne / Principe Ahmet = Juanita García), Daniel Katz [as Pito Lungo] (Ramiro), Mari Carmen Nieto [as Marina Lamete] (Marina), Carmen Carrion [as Fanny Clito] (Adela), Antonio Mayans [as Tomé Proculi] (Pedrito Carpini), Joan Parrus (Paula)

 “To this story full of morals and messages, we have given the title… UN PITO PARA TRES. Something rude in Eastmancolor and Techniscope, so that one may see it really big."
Between 1984 and 1986 Jess Franco directed a group of hardcore films, mainly with the aim of making easy money with few days of shooting, with ensured profit on the hardcore circuits. Un Pito Para Tres was the first of the series and, since it was never released on VHS or DVD, an almost unknown title. Franco always detested the hardcore genre, not for its immorality but for cinematographic reasons, and also this time he succeeds all too well in passing on to us his boredom while shooting close-ups of the copulation and fellatio performed by Lina Romay and a pair of doubles. Nevertheless, in its whole the film is a pleasant surprise: an entertaining, amusing and unpretentious comedy of the erotic absurdity which Lina Romay, alias Lulu Laverne, introduces lied on her bed; just as she did about 10 years earlier in Midnight Party (1975), but this time while having sex with a female friend. Lina/Lulu assures us that the story which we are going to view will take place in real beds (In El Sexo Esta Loco-1980- the opening credits mentioned the “real copulations”) and talks about the film as a kind of sociological essay, as a cross section of the change in both sexual and power relations between men and women.

In Un pito para tres, the reversal of gender roles is systematic and programmatic. The “pito” (penis) of the title, played by Daniel Katz (alias Pito Lungo), is the victim of the sexual enthusiasm of his three partners, all of them assuming the cowgirl position. At the beginning of the story, he tries to play the role of the seducer, but very soon he finds himself in trouble, being unable to follow the rhythm of his women. The mistress and the wife get to the point of allying themselves to correct his sexual performance – something that throughout the whole film seems to be pretty difficult – and they don’t leave him in peace until they haven’t reach their aim. We could define Un pito para tres a men-in-sexual-peril film.

The gender perspective travels at a vector from top to bottom, in a totally crazy key. The most original character is Ahmet, the prince of Bagdad, played once again by Lina Romay. Four elements should witness his masculinity: a tenor voice, his tough ways, a male tunic and the head gear that hides the hair. But when the prince takes off the tunic and appears naked, the anatomic details are revealed as definitely female. In short, everybody can easily see that the prince is actually a woman. Everybody, except for his lovers – gay men and straight girls – who realize that they have been cheated only when Juanita García (this is her real name) reveals her female mane.

 The Italian stylist Pedrito Cardini (obviously, a reference to Italian-French stylist Pierre Cardin) finds solace, and pleasure, in the gorgeous Arabian prince’s arms; at least until a piercing scream of despair tells us that he has discovered the dreadful truth. Franco assigns the role of the stylist to Antonio Mayans, the most important actor in his 1980’s films (here under the pseudonym of Tomé Proculi, a pun with the expression “tomar pro culo” which can be translated with “to take it up the ass”), who had already worn gay cloak in Una rajita para dos (1982). Mayans recently completed, both as director and actor, the unfinished last Jess Franco film, Revenge of the Alligator Ladies, and has recalled the repeated joke of his director-friend by playing a romantic scene of gay seduction.

According to the opening credits, the film was directed by Candy Coster, one of Lina Romay’s aka names. But every frame shows the hand of Jess Franco and one of the leit-motifs and trade-marks of his filmography, the image of one or more boats in the middle of the expanse of the sea, appears twice. This image frequently recurs in such films as VAMPYROS LESBOS, LA COMTESSE NOIRE, WOMEN BEHIND BARS, GEMIDOS DE PLACER, and many other Jess Franco films as a kind of signature or code..

*OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO -1993, quotes Franco as claiming Emilio Linder is in the cast of this film. He does not appear in the version screened for this review. 

[Thanks to Nzoog for help with the translation of this article. RM] (C) Francesco Cesari 2014

23 October, 2014

Emmanuelles Tochter (1984) - Blutjunge Biester... zu allem bereit: Directed by Percy Parker aka Adrian Hoven

This is not a "Jess Franco" film, nor is it a Joe D'Amato production, as is stated on Youtube. It was directed by "Percy Parker", one of the beards of German producer Adrian Hoven, who produced several Jess Franco films, most notably NECRONOMICON aka Succubus (1967).
(C) Robert Monell 2014

12 October, 2014

LABIOS ROJOS (Jess Franco, 1960) Reviewed by Francesco Cesari

[Many thanks to Francesco Cesari for submitting this review of one of Jess Franco's most rarely seen films RM]

REVIEW by Francesco Cesari:
Each Franco fan knows that Red Lips are a pair of sexy and smart female spies, but almost nobody has viewed the first film of the Saga (the second Jess Franco feature film) since it was never released for the home video market. Shot in 1960, Labios rojos is also Franco’s first hommage to classic American cinema. The comedy side isn’t so much developed as will be in the following Red Lips movies, starting with Bésame, monstruo and El caso de las dos bellezas (English titles: Kiss me Monster and Two Undercover Angels, buy pay attention: they are just clumsy reeditings and rewritings of the original Spanish versions), the couple of 1967 films with Rosanna Yanni and Jeanine Reynaud playing the lead roles. Basically, Labios rojos is a stylish b&w noir with additional elements of comedy. All the film highlights belong to the noir genre, such as the curt and powerful scene in which Carlo Moroni, the right-arm man of Kallman – the boss and the gangster – is killed in an ambush, in a lonely place close to a grove, while the headlights of the cars break the darkness of the night.

Moroni, Kallman, Radeck… all names recurring during the whole Jess Franco’s filmography, always as noir characters, and here used for the first time. Antonio Jiménez Escribano, a friend of the director’s, better known as the Dr. Zimmer in Miss Muerte/The Diabolical dr. Z., plays one of the best Kallman and, in general, one of the best gangsters in Franco’s cinema.

Even though it’s a very well made work, with an undoubted artistic value, Labios rojos isn’t as successful as neither the following Franco’s b&w film noirs La muerte silba un blues and Rififí en la ciudad, nor the already mentioned Red Lips films with Yanni and Reynaud. First of all, the script is overlong and overstuffed with gags and details for a director who was always, in his essence, a silent cinema filmmaker. Secondly – and it isn’t of little account – the actresses playing the couple of female spies simply don’t work. The main problem is Isana Medel, who plays the more cunning and cold of the pair girls (Jeanine Reynaud in the 1967 films), but looks just like the good and naive girl she played the previous year in Tenemos 18 años, Franco’s first feature film. No doubt that her casting was a mistake of the director, who at the time was engaged to her. On the contrary, Ana Castor, who plays the foolish of the pair (Rosanna Yanni in the 1967 films), looks terrific, as both actress and sexy doll, but her countenance of a strong woman (years later, Franco wanted her for the role of Irma Zimmer in The Diabolical dr. Z., eventually played by Mabel Karr) makes her character appearing what it shouldn’t: a clever and sometimes even evil femme-fatale.  

Anyway, thinking about the lack of money which Franco had to deal with during the second part of the shooting,  Labios rojos is almost a miracle. One of the main authors of this miracle, besides the director and some other actors (for example, Manolo Morán, playing Commissary Fernández), is Juan Mariné, the director of photography, at least until he left the set because he hadn’t been paid and had a call for another work… Talking with Robert Monell, Franco said that Mariné was the best among the directors of photography whom he worked with. One can understand why, especially looking at a masterpiece as La muerte silba un blues. But also Labios rojos, as well as the former Franco/Mariné documentary short film El destierro del Cid, looks a fascinating gallery of perfect pictures and shots which largely compensates the narrative defects.

(C) Franceso Cesari, 2014

07 October, 2014


Bangkok, Cita con la Muerte
Written and Directed by Clifford Brown (Jess Franco)
Produced by Emilio Larraga Golden Films Internacional S.A. Barcelona
87m Fujicolor, Widescreen.
{No known  DVD release}
{No known English language VHS or DVD available.}

A good natured experiment, BANGKOK CITY OF THE DEAD mixes comic book-style imagery with a crime thriller plot. Franco has tried this before, notably in the delightful LOS BLUES CALLE POP (1983). Unlike that project, BANGKOK lacks that film's poised, very Franco-esque humor. The overly formulaic plot combines drug running, Thai pirates (led by Lina Romay?), karate fighting, kidnapping, and parody on a C minus budget, enlivened by glittering, cubist style compositions executed on colorful Canary Island locations. This isn't Hollywood, it's not even Hong Kong. It's 100 per cent pure Jess Franco

While on a yachting interlude the beautiful young daughter (Helena Garrett) of a millionaire is kidnapped by pirates. Her father (Eduardo Fajardo) hires a bumbling private eye named Panama Joe (Bork Gordon) to locate her. The daughter's boyfriend is also on the kidnappers' trail. Panama Joe discovers the crooks are led by  drug smuggler Malko (Antonio Mayans), who is in turn being double crossed by Queen Amania (Lina Romay). The detective tries to play both sides against the other, while uncovering deeper layers of corruption and double dealing.
Lina Romay as Amania, the pirate...

BANGKOK is dialogue and plot heavy to no good end, and Gordon's imitation Inspector Columbo ramblings just do not spark the same kind of mystique. But at least he attempts to lighten up the proceedings. He has his moments but not enough of them. The villains pretty much do the heavy lifting here. The characters are shown talking in cartoon dialog balloons during the opening credits, but Franco unaccountably drops this unusual device immediately and never picks it up again. What's left is a C-minus adventure with some ill-timed comic relief and ineptly staged karate stand-offs, in which the participants miss each other by miles. No contact of any kind to be found here.

Favorite scene: Helena Garret getting "tortured" by being forced to sit under one of those old fashioned helmut style hair dryers.

Lina Romay has a few touching moments as the pirate leader, and she looks the part in her headband and leather jacket.. In one rather silly scene, shes dances around in a tight, skimpy leopard skin outfit accompanied by a mechanical band. The result might been cute in 1973, but at this late date it is not at all erotic and unflattering to the talented Ms. Romay. But one wonders if it was meant to be sexy at all. Is it just another Jess Franco in-joke?  It's amusing, for sure, with the absurb music and shots of the animated band instrument, but its the kind of amusement which maybe only Jess Franco enthusiasts might appreciate. Veteran character actor Fajardo at first glance turns in a rather disappointing performance as the millionaire. Looked at more closely it's another of the prolific veteran's expert, reserved depictions of ice cold ruthlessness. These kind of villainous roles had become Fajardo's trademark since his signature villain in DJANGO (1966).

The movie benefits from the aforementioned photography of the exotic Carany Islands locations, buttressed by the stock footage of Thailand and Macao. Familiar Jess Franco sites on the Costa Del Sol stand in for some of the Oriental settings. Pieces of Daniel White's brassy score can also be heard in Franco's earlier FU MANCHU AND THE KISS OF DEATH/KISS AND KILL (1967). OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO also credits some of the Oriental music to Moira Litell.

Noted Spanish film historian Carlos Aguilar was an assistant director and appears in a small role.

(C) 2014 Robert Monell

25 September, 2014

This Weekend in Spain!

Jess Franco's final film has its theatrical premiere...
Finalmente el pase en Artistic Metropol es el sábado 27!! Resumiendo:
Viernes 26 - Zumzeig Cinema
Sábado 27 - Artistic Metropol, en programa doble con REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES
Sábado 27 - Maldà Cine, en programa doble con REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES
'Llámale Jess Redux'
26 setembre Zumzeig Cinema
27 setembre Maldà Cine i Artistic Metropol
' call him Jess Redux '
26 setembre zumzeig cinema
27 setembre maldà film I artistic metropol

16 September, 2014

Jess Franco's final film to open in Spain next week!

THE RETURN OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES will have its theatrical premiere in Spain on September 26 at the Malda' in Barcelona, and on the September 27 at the Artistic Metropol in Madrid. 

Jess Franco's last film, which was completed after his 2013 death by his longtime leading actor and friend, Antonio Mayans, is finally opening theatrically in Spain next week. Mayans, who did the post production and shot some additional footage, was the logical person to complete this very last "Jess Franco" movie. 
As is seen in the trailer, this is another Al Pereira neo-noir, with the favorite Jess Franco PI still encountering sinister men, sexy femme fatales, while on the cellphone with the his late director friend. This looks to be an amusing, colorful, adventure-comedy, full of in-jokes, which closes off the director's long series of films about the sleazy detective. Antonio Mayans certainly looks the part and can hold the villains and audience at gunpoint with assurance and class.
It should be noted that the name Al Pereira surfaces in Franco's universe in his 1962 Eurospy-noir thriller, LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES and the character was also embodied by Eddie Constantine in the 1966 CARTES SUR TABLE and then Howard Vernon in the 1972, LES EBRANLEES. More information on the showings, and hopefully a review of the film itself will follow.

12 September, 2014

Jess Franco's USHER in HD? A dream... #2

"I wanted to make an Expressionist film." Jess Franco

Jess Franco's EL HUNDIMIENTO DE LA CASA USHER is a dream, a gorgeous nightmare. It registers more like a mannered Gothic fantasy than period horror film and very far from Roger Corman's 1960 version. Even in its Eurocine version, far from the original director's cut, its bleary eyed imagery spins the Gothic tradition into his territory.

Above: Image from NEUROSIS: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. But who shot it? Marius Lesoeur? Olivier Mathot (as Morpho) also worked as a director for Eurocine and may have directed this. Morpho and Francoise Blanchard (reclining) are not seen in the previous cuts of this project.

Both the existing Spanish language version, the second version, and NEUROSIS/REVENGE are "slow" to the point of largo tempo while the imagery could be termed stilted in terms of compositional considerations, the shots are often held much longer than they need to be, as if there were another point to be made beyond the exposition of the plot. And there is. A number of points, in fact. First and foremost being that isolation is a kind of living death which distorts conventional notions of Time and forces the person who has isolated him or herself into a kind of alternate spatial-temporal reality. That alternate space is immediately apparent in the opening scenes. The heavy stone aesthetic of the construction seems psychologically as well as physically oppressive. Motion seems to be discouraged, impeded by the structure and its surrounding area It's almost as if a powerful magnetic field were keeping everything and everyone in place, unable to easily move or maneuver easily. See the below images of Harker exploring and approaching Usher's "castle." 

Photo: Tonight's Film..
Exploring an alternate reality...

The world of USHER, as Jess Franco represents it, is an unreal, irrational, absurd, nightmarish melange of cinema tropes from previous Usher and Jess Franco films. Franco cites Jean Epstien's silent version* as a conscious influence while the insertions from GRITOS EN LA NOCHE are re-contextualized into a different Gothic modality.

  1. Jean Epstein: La Chute de la maison Usher (1928) - YouTube

    Sep 26, 2013 - Uploaded by iconauta2
    *Epstein, a Surrealist, was as much of an iconoclast as Jess Franco, in a less commercial realm.
Franco has said of the film (but which version was he talking about?). "I find the result very interesting." [P. 242, OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO. Interview with Jess Franco.] For an auteur who often dismisses his own work and seems to want to forget many of his films and move on, USHER seems to have been a labor of love, a project he cared about enough to closely overlook all three of its versions.

To really examine what Jess Franco has done with this project we have to go back to the second version, before it was again reshot and recut with Eurocine financial, artistic and logistical input, including actor-sometime director Olivier Mathot (EXORCISM; MANIAC KILLER) who appears as Morpho. We'll look at it closely in Part 3 of this survey. In the meantime, don't get your hopes up for a HD edition of either NEUROSIS..., although it could happen, since Eurocine controls it, and certainly not for the Spanish language version, which was only available on poor quality bootleg video to consult before writing this blog.
As with many of Jess Franco's mid 1980s personal projects, a good quality print seems to linger out of reach at this point. One wonders if the original cut still exists anywhere and if elements for the second version are extant.

"In twenty years perhaps people will discover it's a gorgeous film..." Jess Franco on EL HUNDIMIENTO DE LA CASA USHER**

** Jess Franco quotes from OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO, INTERVIEW-Jess Franco.

 Approaching the twilight zone which is the Castle Usher. Note the spatial distortion via wide angle lens.

31 August, 2014

Cartes Sur Table, Jess Franco (1966)

I recently got a chance to see the GAUMONT DVD of Jess Franco's Eurospy special, CARTES SUR TABLE, a 1966 spy adventure with science fiction and comic overtones, with Eddie Constantine as wise cracking Interpol operative Al Pereira.

The plot is prime comic book material done on a cut-rate sub Bond scale. An army of electronically controlled men and women "robots' (this was titled ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS in the US. I had a VIDEO YESTERYEAR VHS dub of a fuzzy, cut English language version, with Frank Wolff voicing Constantine), created by a sinister group led by a couple (Fernando Rey and Francoise Brion) in the employ of a shadowy political cartel, are carrying out a series of high profile political assassinations. The Chinese are also involved, but are after the formula which is capable of turning humans into mental slaves. Al Pereira, Jess Franco's favorite Eurospy/P.I., surfaces in Franco's universe as early as 1962, in his Eurospy-noir thriller, LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES. Played with casual flair by Eddie Constantine here in this knockoff of Godard's ALPHAVILLE (1965), he's not a character upon which a franchise would be built. This would be the Franco's last black and white feature. The character would later played by Howard Vernon (LES EBRANLEES, 1972) and, most frequently, Antonio Mayans (BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO-1982), among others.

Seeing it in OAR, with added English subtitles, and in very good video quality, is a revelation. It looks much slicker and sometimes even elegant in terms of atmospheric interiors. There are also several shots and an entire nightclub exotic dance scene, performed by Sophie Hardy, which have been restored to this presentation. Jess Franco's familiar high-pitched voice can be amusingly heard promoting Jean-Luc Godard's Eddie Constantine starring as Lemmy Caution in sci-fi/spy/noir masterwork, ALPHAVILLE. Franco's voice is heard in the background during scene between Constantine and Ricardo Palacios at a bus stop. CARTES SUR TABLE is not in the same class as ALPHAVILLE, but this edition makes a double bill possible and just maybe revelatory.

The high points are the glimpses of the high tech-low tech robot factory where kidnapped Rhesus 0 candidates are lowered into a giant electrified test tube, to emerge as mind controlled zombies and the climax where the robots turn on their masters. Francoise Brion, who appears as Lady Cecilia, the alluring leather clad female counterpart of Fernando Rey's renegade scientist,  would go on to appear in an important role in the director's 1973 erotic masterwork, AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO.

CARTES SUR TABLE (Cards on the Table) doesn't spill over into horror territory, but the adaptation by frequent Luis Bunuel scenarist Jean-Claude Carriere (THE MILKY WAY, THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY) is quite witty and sophisticated in the way it both parodies and represents a stylish riff on the Eurospy genre. Many of the attempts at silly slapstick fall flat and seem unnecessary and ill timed, even in this spy-spoof context. But the film is a breezy, fun way to visit the world of Jess Franco before he became a brand name and international icon of Le Bad Cinema. Franco would embark on a higher budgeted, widescreen, color Eurospy, LUCKY, THE INSCRUTABLE, featuring Ray Danton, the next year. CARTES SUR TABLE was remade in 1985 as VIAJE A BANGKOK, ATUAD INCLUIDO, with Howard Vernon, although the agent he played was not named Al Pereira in that one.  And, of course, Jess Franco's two final films, AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES and THE REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES were the final installments in the director's long running series featuring Al Pereira.

One can only rejoice that a HD release of this film is planned by Kino-Redemption in 2019.   (C) Robert Monell 2018


Plusieurs meurtres de personnalités internationales sont perpétrés. Interpol découvre que des terroristes ont trouvé un procédé scientifique permettant de transformer en assassins, agissant comme de véritables robots, les personnes qui appartiennent à un groupe sanguin très rare, le «rhésus O». Al Pereira, un agent secret possédant le «rhésus O» est envoyé comme appât dans la région d'Alicante, où semble siéger cette organisation criminelle.

Année de sortie : 1966
Durée : 91 mn
De : Jess Franco
Avec : Eddie Constantine, Françoise Brion, Sophie Hardy