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