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 

30 August, 2014

La Môme vert-de-gris (1953): Jess Franco's first job in the film industry....

According to OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO* this 1952 French thriller, featuring Eddie Constantine (CARTES SUR TABLE, RESEDENCIA PARA ESPIAS) and Howard Vernon, may have been Jess Franco's first professional level job in the Spanish film industry. He was responsible for   dubbing the film into Spanish. I haven't seen this film but Vernon reportedly was typecast as a villain, a role he would play in numerous Jess Franco films starting with GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (1961), almost ten years later.

The film was adapted from a Peter Cheyney novel by Bernard Borderie, who also directed.

*P. 33-The Classical Years: 1952-1965

20 August, 2014



I burn all over 1979 Je brûle de partout

Review: I'M BURNING-UP ALL OVER (1978)

Posted by Robert Monell , May 01,2000,18:00 post reply  top message  newest index

aka JE BRULE DE PARTOUT. Directed by Jess Franco (credited as Jacques Aicrag). Jenny Goldstone (Susan Hemingway) is abducted after a night at a popular discotheque. She is the most recent victim to fall into the hands of an international white slavery cartel. The point person is the beautiful, blond Lorna (Brigitte Lahaie/Van Meerhaegue) who, along with her henchmen, bundles the girls aboard a ship fitted with an orgy room into which a sedating "love drug" is piped. They are transported to a brothel in Portugal where one of Jenny's customers will turn out to be her own father, ironically revealed to be the financier behind the ring. But there is someone else on the trail of the abductors, a certain investigator whose name will be familiar to those familiar with the filmography of Jess Franco, Al Pereira. 

One of Jess Franco's more obscure sexploitation efforts, this one is of note mainly for the alluring presence of Ms. Lahaie who would go on to be featured in several memorable Jean Rollin titles (FASCINATION, NIGHT OF THE HUNTED). Lahaie, like Rita Calderoni or Rosalba Neri, is one of those Euro-cult actresses whose stunning beauty is equaled by a formidable acting talent. She can play a mean bitch (as here, or in FACELESS) or a pathetic victim (cf NIGHT OF THE HUNTED), and sometimes a bit of both (cf FASCINATION). This was shot in less than a week and really looks it. The "love drug" sequences are represented by smoke being forced through crudely cut rubber tubes. The love drug concept also turns up in the JF filmography as early as THE GIRL FROM RIO asa SUMURU 2 (1968), and is also prominent in CAPTIVE WOMEN aka LINDA/NAKED SUPERWITCHES OF THE RIO AMORE (1980) {see the self-explanatory still on p 143 of OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO to get a taste of the latter title}. I term all the above mentioned titles as Women-In-Peril, a related offshoot of the Women in Prison genre, also a goldmine for JF. Some plot elements, especially the father-daughter erotic complications, are also present in Franco's COCKTAIL SPECIAL, another adaptation of Sade's PHILOSOPHY IN THE BEDROOM, also made in 1978, the reported year of Robert De Nesle's death. 

Ms. Lahaie apparently quarreled with Franco on set and she doesn't look like a happy camper, but she does look terrific and can act, as she verified forever in Jean Rollin's NIGHT OF THE HUNTED and Franco's FACELESS (1988)! My favorite part was the opening, set in a glittering disco. Franco pans up from Lahaie's black leather boots to the neon colored-light show and you immediately know you're in Jess Franco territory (despite the use of one of his rarer pseudonyms during the amusing spoken credits). The director even manages to work in his trademark Al Pereira P.I. character, but Jean Ferrere's thug-like visage is no match for the more ambiguous mug of Antonio Mayans, my own favorite interpreter of JF's favorite Private Eye. Daniel J. White's moody trumpet score adds a dash of much needed atmosphere. 

This rather obscure title was one of three hardcore quickies produced by the late Robert de Nesle and directed by Franco in 1978, the year of the producer's death and one of the director's less than favorite years.

NOTE: I have recently come across this quote from Brigitte Lahaie in a 2009 interview on the website PSYCHOVISION "Jess [Franco] who has a certain talent unfortunately ruined by some confusion [...]." This was about 20 years after Franco give her role of the female villain in his gore epic FACELESS (1988), in which she was absolutely terrific. I guess she was thinking of her more negative experiences on JE BRULE DE PARTOUT. by Robert Monell at Mon, May 01, 2000, 18:04:23
--modified by Robert Monell at Mon, May 01, 2000, 18:57:19; Finally modified July, 14, 2018

It has been 18 years since I first published this review and there is still no HD/OAR/English friendly DVD/BD (of which I'm aware) to be found anywhere.

Anyone have any VHS/DVD release history/information? It's a pretty interesting film, albeit not tier 1 Jess Franco, and anything with the exquisite Ms. Lahaie is worth a look/a revisit.

Recent news from an unnamed releasing company suggests an upcoming Blu-ray edition of this title could happen sooner or (more probably) later.

(C) Renewed 2019 by Robert Monell

13 August, 2014

NEW BLOG POLL! Jess Franco Blu-ray Preferences?

Which Jess Franco films do you most want to see on DVD? You can vote for more than one title. Poll will end 9/1/14.

08 August, 2014

Jess Franco in Canada: Posters from John Charles

The international releasing history of Jess Franco films is a complicated, sometimes confusing narrative. John Charles recently sent me some vintage posters and provided a glimpse into how some of his films were released in Canada, pointing out that the adverts were designed by CINEPIX, who also released the films there. Sometimes retitled, often cut by local censors depending on which province they were shown, the exact content and running times of these versions is an unknown. There was no MPAA there and the criteria for what would be cut or banned remains vague, according to John. He also reports that one of the strictest was the Ontario Censor Board and one must file a Freedom of Information request, cost $200 [!], for information on what scenes/films were problematic to them and the basis for their final decisions. Even mainstream Hollywood films were vulnerable to cuts and could be banned outright. 
Given these sometimes cut, retitled releases created for certain localities, there may be a whole other potential Jess Franco filmography yet to be explored. LINDA was one reported retitling of LORNA, THE EXORCIST (1974). SACISTEROTICA is better known as TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS. And other versions may have been distributed/cut/retitled in French Canada. Thanks to John Charles for the information and posters. More will be added in the future.

07 August, 2014


It appears that at least 4 alternate versions of Jess Franco's 1974 EXORCISME are going to be released on this German boxset later this month, including an extended "Director's Cut" (100m) with the original French language track, the French theatrical version, which may or may not be the same as the Redemption/Kino Blu-ray presentation, but without the Franch langauge track, and two versions of the clothed/censored version, DEMONIAC, the US cut and the Canadian cut.

A variety of special features are included, including commentaries, interviews with Franco regular Antonio Mayans and others, alternate scenes from THE SADIST OF NOTRE DAME, and much more. The exact content of each version is unclear at this point.

It will be available through DiabolikDVD.com

02 August, 2014

USHER in HD? A dream...


Zombie 5 Revenge in the house of Usher

I, for one, would love to see an HD restoration of Jess Franco's EL HUNDIMIENTO DE LA CASA USHER, the 1983 Spanish language production which has appeared in an alternate form on US VIDEO and DVD under the title REVENGE IN THE HOUSE OF USHER (Wizard Video) and NEUROSIS/REVENGE IN THE HOUSE OF USHER (IMAGE DVD, 2001).

It's not an easy film in any version, deliberately paced, heavily mannered in the Expressionist style, and almost esoteric in tone.

Franco did not originally intend this as another Dr. Orloff entry, which it somehow became when footage from the director's 1961 GRITOS EN LA NOCHE was added as flashbacks to Usher's criminal past in the Eurocine prepared version. But Jess Franco has said that he was involved in this revision also, "Once the film was finished, the idea of including scenes from GRITOS EN LA NOCHE turned me on. Vernon and I decided that the film was almost like a sequel. So I added in some scenes in flashback. I find the result very interesting." [P242, OBESSION THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO; INTERVIEW- JESS FRANCO, Tim Lucas, Lucas Balbo, Peter Blumenstock, Christian Kessler, 1992, Garf Haufen & Frank Trebben]

Nonetheless, it is also very likely these inserts were Eurocine requests.
  Click for full-sized image
1982 VHS. With power drill scene?!
According to my colleague and blog associate, Nzoog,  EL HUNDIMINETO....Jess Franco's original cut, has never played theatrically anywhere after it was recut in the wake of a Festival showing.
Apparently, Franco's original version had a very poor reception when screened in Spain at the Imagfic Fest and was later recut into THE CRIMES OF USHER, which had a brief Spanish release, but again according to Nzoog, no Spanish video release


Below: The Orlofff Collection boxset [IMAGE]

Several gory, perverse murder scenes were added where Howard Vernon's USHER attacks a woman, a prostitute and a young girl, beating them to with his cane or slicing them up and licking their blood off the murder weapon's  blade. A serial killer-vampire Usher. These added inserts do not appear in REVENGE, which adds new, different footage, including the GRITOS EN LA NOCHE material.

This fetish shot, included in the reshot Spanish version, precedes a brutal murder and blood drinking interlude.

Shot in Jaen, Andalusia, with some scenes lensed in Madrid, the film has a very odd neo-Gothic look, but with saturated colors and very dense mise-en-scene, it's rather like a wake during which everyone is frozen in place for around 80 minutes, perhaps appropriate to Poe.

Franco has also said that in retrospect he considered this a kind of semi-sequel to GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, even if he didn't initially intend it to be. That might make it appropriate that it was eventually included in The Orloff Collection DVD boxset 

Thanks to Nzoog for additional information.

More images and text to come!
(C)  Robert Monell