29 April, 2014

THE DEMONS: Redemption Blu-ray

118 m 30s
In French, German language 
with optional English subtitles
Interview with Jess Franco by David Gregory (16m)
Deleted footage (6m)
2 theatrical trailers

THE DEMONS Blu-ray: Witch burning...
Margaret (Britt Nichols), accused of witchcraft, is burned by Lord Jeffreys...

In 17th Century England Grand Inquisitor Lord Jeffreys (John Foster) tortures, questions and burns women accused of witchcraft. One of the condemned women, an elderly crone, curses the Judge, Lady De Winter (Karin Field), along with Renfield (Alberto Dalbes), from the pyre, vowing that her vengeance will be executed by her daughters, Margaret (Britt Nichols) and Kathleen (Anne Libert), who are both novices in a convent under the authority of a frustrated Mother Superior (Doris Thomas). Lady De Winter and her secret lover Renfield quickly locate the daughters and haul off Kathleen to the Inquisition where she is tortured and seduced with promises of clemency by the corrupt Jeffreys. She eventually escapes with the help of Lord De Winter (Howard Vernon), who is revealed to actually be her father and is secretly plotting against the present government to restore the crown to its rightful owner. But Kathleen's journey has only just begun and numerous revelations spell out an ironic fate for herself, Margaret, and eventually Lord Jeffreys.

LES DEMONS (onscreen title) is one of the better made and more coherent of the films Jess Franco made for French producer Robert De Nesle from the 1971 to 1978 (the year of the prolific producer's demise). While still relatively poverty stricken it appears to have been better resourced than his ealier monster rallies (DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN, LA MADICION DE FRANKENSTEIN) also co produced by De Nesle.  Based on a script by Franco, from a "novel" credited to "David Khunne", this is actually a remake of Franco's earlier THE BLOODY JUDGE (EL PROCESO DE LA BRUJAS), a 1970 release with Christopher Lee playing Jeffreys in a totally different interpretation. That film, produced by Harry Alan Towers, may have had a higher budget and somewhat competent battle scenes included, but the cinematography in LES DEMONS, by Raul Artigot (who directed Foster [rn Cihangir Gaffari) in LA NOCHE DE LA BRUJAS the same year) is superior in terms of lighting, atmosphere and framing, although Franco's obsessively telezoom is very much in evidence, especially during the many bump and grind sex sequences. In this complete version the self pleasuring writhing of Mother Superior (Doris Thomas) goes on for over 3 minutes as the telezoom moves in and out of her copious folds of flesh, very much like the probings of the verdant Portuguese exteriors. I somehow seems appropriate within the establishment of a totally voyeuristic aesthetic illustrated by the repeated framing's of sadistic tortures (performances) from the point of view of enthused audiences (the Inquisition in the opening scene, the villagers in the closing burning of Nichols). Point of view is everything in cinema, especially the cinema of Jess Franco, and he often places his camera amidst the onscreen viewers of the sado erotic spectacle as a way of subversively implicating/deconstructing the off screen viewer's appetite for such tortures. That may seem a stretch but even the critical Phil Hardy Horror Encyclopedia compares Franco's approach here favorably to Ken Russell's in his equally sadistic 1971 nunsploitation epic, THE DEVILS, which, as admitted by the director in the interview with David Gregory, was  thedirect inspiration for this project. Both films exclusively deal with sexually inflamed clerics in the midst of a historical context of witch hunting and official corruption and both have their merits and demerits. THE DEMONS is certainly one of Franco's best cast and acted films for De Nesle, with the cynical, shifty eyed Jeffreys convincingly portrayed by Foster (as Franco notes in the interview), solidly backed up by Anne Libert, Karin Field, Doris Thomas, the always welcome Howard Vernon and especially the stunningly sensual Britt Nichols. In some ways the film is stolen by Franco and Spaghetti Western regular Luis Barboo as the dedicated torture supervisor. It's not great Jess Franco but it's surprisingly compelling and complex, given the genre and available budget. It's definitely a "Jess Franco" film, overflowing with his personal obsessions and touches.

THE DEMONS beats THE DEVILS to North American Blu-ray release with this highly recommended release. THE DEMONS actually played theatrically in the US* in the the mid 1970s and was advertised as a kind of lurid companion to the wildly successful THE EXORCIST (1973). There is no record of a Canadian or French Canadian theater/home video release but it may have been banned./deleted from databases there. It's many release titles include THE SEX DEMONS, OS DEMONIOS, LES DEMONS and Les Enfants de Demon (alternate French video title).

This Blu-ray release is an absolutely stunning presentation, the best Jess Franco BD so far from REDEMPTION, in terms of both video and audio quality. Newly mastered in HD from original 35mm elements, the source materials appear to have been almost pristine and the colors, sharpness, definition, luminosity are impressive throughout the nearly 2 hour run time. The film has always seemed a bit overlong but it has never looked or sounded better, especially Jean-Bernanr Raiteux's startlingly anachronistic, acid rock influenced soundtrack (released as TRAFFIC POP J.M. Logere) All in all, a far cry from any and all previous VHS/DVD presentations. My own introduction to this film was via the 1980s ear UNICORN VHS, THE DEMONS,  89 approx. a heavily cut, cropped monstrosity in comparison.

The special features include a revealing interview with the late director by David Gregory. Jess Franco, appearing frail and tired, totally dismisses his film, calling it "bad" and admitting it's not as good as its model, THE DEVILS. But he praises the skilled Portuguese costume designers, whose detailed period costumes are a highlight and are even more impressive in this 2.25:1 1920 x 1980 p transfer. He also, in an interesting aside, comes out against films which use sadomasochistic imagery as an exploitation element, and denies his films do so, although he does manage to fend off the interviews challenges of that dubious statement. In a way, this film and certain others (NECRONOMICON, EUGENIE...THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION) can be seen a cautionary tales of what happens to participants in such activities. At least Jess Franco, in what may be his very last interview, goes out fighting.

*[Mick Cantone (from EL FRANCONOMICON): "THE DEMONS played theatrically in the US sometime in 1973. It was released by Howard Mahler Films and the running time was 79 minutes. In fact, the Dutch VHS release from VML Video was sourced from that print (an MPAA R rating card appears at the end). It is the same print I saw with Mirek Lipinski at Anthology Film Archives last November.]" Thanks to Mick and John Charles for additional information on the North American theatrical history of this film]

(C) Robert Monell, 2014

THE DEMONS Blu-ray: Witch burning...


The American actor Craig Hill, known for his many Eurowestern roles from the 1960s and 70s and starring in the DESILU TV show WHIRLYBIRDS from 1957 to 1970, died on April 21, 2014 in Barcelona. Spain, reportedly from natural causes. A 21st Century Fox contract player, his working career spanned 50 years, from 1950, the year he appeared in the classic ALL ABOUT EVE, to the early 21st Century

Craig Hill Fowler was born in 1926 and became a reliable, prolific, versatile TV and film actor who could play both protagonists and villains, he appeared in three Jess Franco films in the latter category: LA BAHIA ESMERALDA aka ESMERALDA BAY (1989), as a CIA hitman, LA CHUTE DES AIGLES and LA PUNTA DE LAS VIBORAS aka DOWNTOWN HEAT (both 1990), as a Nazi officer in the former and as a drug lord in the latter. He moved to Spain in the 1960s and later married the Spanish actress-model Teresa Gimpera (LUCKY, THE INSCRUTABLE).

28 April, 2014

THE DEMONS on Blu-ray: Forthcoming Review!

LES DEMONS [onscreen title], Jess Franco's 1972 Nunsploitation epic, streets on Blu-ray tomorrow from REDEMPTION FILMS. I'm pleased to report that this may be their best yet Franco BD release. Made in response to Ken Russell's controversial THE DEVILS  (1971), this low budget historical horror show exemplifies Jess Franco at his most cynical and imaginative. An erotic, sadistic and supernatural reconsideration of the Judge Jeffries story previously told in Franco's 1970 THE BLOODY JUDGE.

A stunning, new 2.35:1 HD transfer from original 35mm elements, completely uncut, with English subtitles. Special features include a fascinating, moving last interview with the late director. This is a revealing, not-to-be missed presentation. A full review will be posted here asap.
THE DEMONS Blu-ray. This is the real deal!
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(C) Robert Monell, 2014

27 April, 2014

Jess Franco and Jean-Marie Straub---SCHAKALE UND ARABER (Jackals and Arabs) - Jean-Marie Straub, 2011

A series of blogs examining  the films of Jess Franco in relation to the experimental, highly stylized works of Jean-Marie Straub and his late wife, Danielle Huillet. I met them in 1975 in New York when I was working on an experimental film in the Soho district. Very unpretentious, committed artists who made experimental, uncompromising, unique, abstract films (MOSES UND AARON, HISTORY LESSONS) which share a sense of negative space, and are related to sculpture, music, painting as much as conventional cinema the limits of which are explored with extremely limited means. Music, both classical and modern, was central to the films of Straub-Huillet and their CHRONICLE OF ANNA MAGDALENA BACH (1968) is considered to be one of the most unique and moving films ever made about a composer and his work, combining an almost Bresson like minimalist aesthetic with performances staged in historical locations by Gutav Leonhardt. Music, of course, is also a central concern in Jess Franco's work.
  1. DER TOD DES EMPEDOKLES 1 (Straub-Huillet)

    Hoelderlin schreibt 1798 die erste Fassung seines Trauerspiels, geschult an klassischer Metrik und an Klopstock, mit jenen ...

    Hoelderlin schreibt 1798 die erste Fassung seines Trauerspiels, geschult an klassischer Metrik und an Klopstock, mit jenen ...
A French article partially reproduced in Alain Petit's Jess Franco guide, THE MANACOA FILES mentions a relationship between Straub's aesthetic and Franco's bizarre Maciste films from 1973. Frequent Franco collaborator HowarVernon was in Straub's  Der Tod des Empedokles  as
Hermokrate. I'm seeking a complete version of that film. Please contact me in the comment section or by email if any information or that film is available somewhere. 

17 April, 2014

PAMELA STANFORD SERIES, a video by Robert Monell

VIDEOHUNTER : Pamela Stanford Series #1, a video by Robert Monell
Music by PARIS ONE TRANCE Internet radio.

Thanks to the bewitching, stunning Pamela Stanford [Monique Delaunay] for participating in these videos. She is a unique presence, an iconic actress and a person of admirable mystery....

16 April, 2014

Rare Jess Franco now available for online viewing!

Thanks to Alex Mendibil for alerting us at EL FRANCONOMICON that a number of Jess Franco films can now be viewed at the Spanish Filmoteca website for a subscription fee.Peliculas online, estrenos de cine, cartelera, noticias, contenidos gratuitos. Tu portal de cine en streaming en Filmotech.com

Hopefully some unseen/rare titles will be regularly available. 

07 April, 2014

EUROCINE 33 CHAMPS-ELYSEES; Un Documentaire De Christophe Bier

TWO FEMALE SPIES WITH FLOWERED PANTIES, ZOMBIE LAKE, ORLOFF AND THE INVISIBLE MAN, HELLTRAIN, FRAULIEN DEVIL, EXORCISM, THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF, CANNIBAL TERROR, CRIMSON, GOLDEN TEMPLE AMAZONS, MANIAC KILLER, PANTHER SQUAD, THE HOUSE OF THE LOST DOLLS, OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES, the list of lurid titles goes on and on. And they all were produced or co-produced by the same French company, Eurocine, located on 33 Champs-Elysees in Paris, France, and still operating as an archive for DVD and Blu-ray releases of European Trash Cinema cult items directed by such legendary European tyros as Jean Rollin, Jess Franco, Pierre Chevalier, to name to a few. Women in Prison films, Nazi sexploitation, no-budget westerns, cheap horror movies, tacky crime films, white slavery epics, mad doctor tales were the stock in trade from the 1960s onward.

For those of us who collect, watch, rewatch and treasure these films, Eurocine was an overflowing font of twisted joy. This lovingly put together, highly amusing and information packed documentary tells the story of this wayward company from the days following World War II when a carnival exhibition hustler named Marius Lesoeur began renting out rides and sets to small film companies in Spain and then in France. Eurocine was founded by Lesoeur in the early 1960s and is now run by his son, Daniel.

Presented and narrated by Cinema Bis enthusiast Christopher Bier, who has amassed a fascinating and entertaining array of rare film clips from such obscure Eurocine productions as BILLY THE KID, a 1963 French Spanish western featuring future Jess Franco actor Jack Taylor (SUCCUBUS, FEMAL:E VAMPIRE) as a black clad villain, the lurid Parisian sex thriller, PIGALLE CARREFOUR DES ILLUSIONS with Alice Arno (THE COUNTESS PERVERSE), the atrocious Le Bad Cinema cannibal classic, CANNIBAL TERROR, Jean Rollin's Z minus zombie epic, LE LAC DES MORTS VIVANTS [aka ZOMBIE LAKE], the terror rampage of an invisible ape in Peter Knight's ORLOFF AND THE INVISIBLE MAN and Jess Franco's first horror film, GRITOS EN LA NOCHE. Everyone from American TV western (THE RIFLEMAN) actor Chuck Connors to Sybil Danning (PANTHER SQUAD) to WALKING TALL's Bo Svenson (MANIAC KILLER) ended up working for Eurocine as the 70s and 1980s progressed. Name directors like Jess Franco and Jean Rollin found homes there when other work opportunities dried up.

We are shown through the closets of Daniel Lesoeur which still contain the zombie masks from OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES, among other rubber treasures. A tour is also given by Lesoeur of the family country estate which hosted the shoots of ZOMBIE LAKE, Jess Franco's BRUTAL NIGHTS OF LINDA and many other enterprises. We see the staircases and rooms where many familiar scenes were lensed at double time at reduced rates of payment for crews and actors. Monica Swinn (the wardress in BARBED WIRE DOLLS), Roger Darton (the investigator in WOMEN BEHIND BARS), Jean-Pierre Bouyxou (Dr. Orloff in FEMALE VAMPIRE and the writer of a Eurocine Nazi exploitationer) talk about the ins and outs, ups and downs of working for such a company. Patrice Rhomm (FRAULEIN ELSA SS), Alain Deruelle (CANNIBAL TERROR) and Gilbert Rousel explain how they managed to direct feature films with little or no time and resources. It's all very entertaing and instructive to those who may want to do likewise. As Bouyxou points out, any company which could have produced a no-budget masterpiece like Jess Franco's FEMALE VAMPIRE can't be all bad.

DVD Eurociné 33 Champs-Elysées, Le Film DVD Eurociné 33 Champs-Elysées en vente sur RDM-EDITION, achat et vente du DVD Film Eurociné 33 Champs-Elysées de Christophe Bier.

The RDM EDITION DVD is 16/9 color, stereo. French with optional English subtitles.15 minutes of Bonus materials including a stills gallery.

02 April, 2014

Zombie 2024: Complete Film/Goodbye and Hello to Jess Franco...


Today marks the first anniversary of the passing of Jess Franco, whose inspiration, tenacity and personal commitment, was a great inspiration to us while working on our new film, ZOMBIE 2024, which we've chosen to release to the public on this symbolic day.

Jess Franco cameo in X-312 FLIGHT TO HELL

A courageous, visionary artist who never gave up, Jess Franco's career didn't move in a linear fashion, and neither did his films. It was a career which unfolded in cycles, while his films were often cyclical (EL SEXOS ESTA LOCO, SEX CHARADE, NECRONOMICON) or even circular (VENUS IN FURS, EUGENIE... THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION) in structure. He was an adventurer, but he was also an entertainer who often said he just wanted audiences to enjoy his films. He worked within the restrictive Spanish film industry of the 1960s, the French film industry of the 1970s, returned with more freedom to Spain in the 1980s, during which he produced his very personal, often experimental series of films for Emilio Larraga's GOLDEN FILMS INTERNACIONAL company. Most of the time he worked with little money, within rushed shooting schedules, in terrible conditions with inadequate production resources. He ended up as an independent, DIY maker of digital films, some produced by his dedicated fans.


He often remade his films, using the same stories and characters, but in totally different styles. GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (1961) became EL SINIESTRO DR. ORLOF (1982), the latter being a deliriously colored, sexually explicit, sci-fi tinged re imagining of the earlier black and white classic.


LABIOS ROJOS, his rarely seen 1960 color feature which was shown today in 35mm at the Espanola filmoteca, introduced his female PI team the "Red Lips", and would engender a series of  Red Lips adventures in styles ranging from the Pop Art-psychedelia of mid 1960s (TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS-1967) to the Classificada S films of Spain in the 1980s (La Chica de los Labios Rojos-1986). He was something like Picasso, revisiting similar shapes, subjects and themes in ever evolving visual styles. His final film, AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES couldn't be more different in look and tone than his earlier films about his favorite Private Eye. The more you look at his films, and study the different periods, the more riches they reveal. 2013 saw numerous DVD/Blu-ray releases of such titles as GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD, and many others. 2014 will feature more home video releases of his work. He is still very much with us...


C 2014 Robert Monell

01 April, 2014

The Testament of Jess Franco

One year ago tomorrow, April 2, 2013, Jess Franco died in his Spanish homeland and became immortal. In fact, he was already an immortal. "To become immortal, and then to die..." as Jean Pierre Melville told Jean Seberg in Jean-Luc Godard's BREATHLESS. Tomorrow will also see the Espanola filmoteca's screening of LABIOS ROJOS, Franco's ultra obscure, virtually impossible to see out side of this venue, 1960 comedy thriller introducing the "Red Lips", the female duo of PIs who would figure in a number of future films (TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS, KISS ME, MONSTER). We'll have a few more thoughts on the year since his passing tomorrow. Tomorrow will also mark the public release of the science-fiction-horror short subject, ZOMBIE 2024, written by myself and directed by "Mathis Vogel", largely as a tribute to the inspirational career of Jess Franco.A link to will be added here [Robert Monell]
Click to enlarge