22 July, 2016


1982--89 MINUTES Directed by Jess Franco; Written by Clifford Brown Jr.
European Trash Cinema (U.S. import); KING VIDEO VHS (Spanish VHS)


Jess Franco would return to film episodes in the life of the Spanish PI Al Pereira throughout his career. He first appeared as a spy played by Eddie Constantine in the 1966 spoof CARTES SUR TABLE, one of the director's most successful genre riffs. The character would be played by Howard Vernon and Franco himself in LES EBRANLEES (1972) and DOWNTOWN (1977), micro budgeted thrillers which unfolded in fallen tropical destinations. But Antonio Mayans is the definitive interpreter of the character and Franco's very last film would feature Mayans as Pereira in AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (2013), a kind of mixture of the director's 81/2 style auteur fantasies and a lot of softcore sex episodes.  A post mortem follow up is in the works, with Mayans as the completion director of the unfinished REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES, the film Franco was shooting at the time of his death in 2013.

Antonio Mayans, the definitive Al Pereira....

One of Franco's favorite characters, private investigator Al Pereira (Robert Foster, a.k.a Antonio Mayans), has the addiction and he's got it bad. The kind where he just can't keep it in his pants no matter what. It's gotten him in trouble before, but this time it will be the end of him.

It opens as Al is frantically packing, trying to get away from trouble with sex/women/money, and all the people who are after him. Then Candy  (Lina Romay) walks in. She's bleach blonde, wide eyed, and those long legs under her trench-coat seem like they just can't wait to wrap themselves around their next victim, who this time around happens to be Al.

She just wants him to pick up some dirty money stashed in a wrecked car at the local car cemetery, that's all. But Al doesn't bargain on having to kill two thugs, just so he could get back to his seedy apartment, where Candy waits with her legs spread wide. He doesn't bargain for the strip-club where she works and Candy's male friend, who likes to wear make-up and women's clothing.

Then there is the phony Dr. Rosenthal and her friends, who play S&M games with black boots and leather whips. When they make Al strip after trapping him in an office and start beating him, he really loses it and begins shooting. An act of sheer rage and another impulsive mistake. So, running from the police and the mob he drives to end of a misty bayou, where he meets and makes love to Candy one last time. As the seagulls scatter overhead, stirred up by Candy's cries of pleasure, she pulls a small pistol out of her trench coat pocket (she's nude underneath) and pumps a few slugs into Al's side. "Puta" is the only thing he can get out as he falls to his knees, pants still around his ankles. Death was coming to the party, and Al will be the guest of honor.

As with Robert Mitchum in the classic American noir OUT OF THE PAST (1947), he plays the sap right to the end. The burning, wet feeling in his side has finally made the lump of flesh between his legs go soft. He always called the nude playmate taped to his wall, "mi madre"... but where was she when he really needed her? Or was he just another pathetic Mama's Boy? The bitch of it all was that Candy, who was long gone, hadn't gotten him, the mob hadn't gotten him, the cops hadn't gotten him. He got himself. Bogart would have gotten out of this mess. But Al isn't that smart and lucky.
Image result for Out of the Past
BLACKS BOOTS AND LEATHERS WHIPS is the blackest panel of Franco's career spanning series of films about eternal fall guy, Al Pereira. It's a Spanish neo noir rendered in the saturated tropical  shades of orange, lemon and aquas of the glittery, trashy Costa del Sol. As embodied by Mayans (in one of his most dead-on performances in his extensive Jess Franco portfolio), Al is a frantic, at times charming and boyish, womanizer who has a deep seated problems with obsession, compulsion and self image. He even attempts to radically alter his appearance, but it doesn't solve his real problem.

Romay's femme fatale is lush, slutty sexuality with an icy edge, her devious agenda is barely perceptible to the average male voyeur and totally invisible to Al. This time around, Al resembles a doomed character out of Jim Thompson novel,* and his grim finale is inevitable for a man whose thinking capacity never rises above his waist.

Daniel White's urgent score is perfectly appropriate for this rush-toward-death cautionary tale. Franco and Juan Cozar's neon color scheme has never seemed quite as ironic and becomes a post-modern Costa del Sol equivalent of those liquid black nights and mean streets filmed by Robert Siodmak (THE KILLERS-1945, one of Franco's all time favorites), Edgar G. Ulmer (DETOUR) and Joseph H. Lewis (THE BIG COMBO).

*When I interviewed Jess in 2004 he told me he was a great admirer of the "black writing" (noir writing) style of Jim Thompson (THE KILLER INSIDE ME, THE GETAWAY) and wished he had filmed on of his stories. 

(C) Robert Monell