16 November, 2016

LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO (Joaquin Romero Marchent, 1962)

Image result for la venganza del zorro 1962 images

LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO; ZORRO LE VENGEUR (French release); ZORRO, THE AVENGER (US DVD title); ZORRO, DER SCWARZE RACHER (West Germany)/LA MARQUE DE ZORRO (French re-release version, credited to "James Gardner")*: L'OMBRA DI ZORRO (Italian title): LA SOMBRA DEL ZORRO (Spanish alternate title).
Copercines [Madrid]
Eurocine [Paris],

Frank Latimore (Don Jose de la Torre/Zorro)


Directed by J.R. Marchent [Joaquin Luis Romero Marchent]
Sc: Jess Franco, JR Hernandez, Jose Mallorqui Figueroa
[US Version 76m]
With Maria Luz [Galicia], Ralph March [Rafael Romero Marchent], Mary Silvers [Maria Silva], Paul Piaget, Maria Anderson and Howard Vernon (Colonel Clarence), [Marco Tulli, Antonio Molino Rojo, Fernando Sancho (Sargento), Jose Marco Davo, Diana Lorys.
DP: Rafael Pacheco
[Music: Manuel Parada]
Asst. D: Daniel Lesoeur
[Scr: Joaquin Romero Hernandez, Jesus Franco, Jose Mallorqui Figueroa]
Copy: C.T.M.-Paris
English Version: Record Film
Production Supervisor: Gerard Cohen
Film Editor: C.H. Nobel
Screenplay: G. Rhuis
Associated Producers: E. Manzanos, M. Lesoeur

Spanish version/VHS
1hr 23m 2s
Frank Latimore and María Luz Galicia in
With José Marco Davó, Howard Vernon, Jesús Tordesillas
Paul Piaget; Fernando Sancho; Antonio Molino Rojo, Emilio RodrÍguez
Rafael Romero Marchent with a whole screen to himself
Music by Manuel Parada
DP: Rafael Pacheco
Director: Joaquín L. Romero Marchent

[This version has a completely different opening than the Eurocine French/English language release version. This one opens in a modern day [1962] setting, on the front porch of a home. An old man wearing a white, broad brimmed "peon" hat, but otherwise in modern dress, relates a story to a group of children, also in modern dress. Since the film's music and credits are the only things heard and seen we can assume he is telling the children the legend of Zorro. The film then cuts to a scene in 1800s California, Don Jose walks through an open market in the village square, greeting merchants while being watched by Union soldiers. This goes on for several minutes. None of this footage appears in the approx. 76m English langauge ZORRO, THE AVENGER, or at least not on the old PLATINUM DVD. The copy on the back of the DVD mistakenly references it as an "Italian-produced opus" when actually it was a French [Eurocine] Spanish [Copercines] co-production. The next Marchent directed Zorro title, CABALGANDO HACIA LA MUERTE (1962), is sometimes confused with LA VENGANZA... or incorrectly given as an alternate version/title of LA VENGANZA.... . Jess Franco was not involved in that follow-up, which was filmed in the soon to be famous FISTFUL OF DOLLARS western town at Hoyo de Manzanares, near Madrid.]

The mysterious masked rider, Zorro, protects the natives of California from corrupt Union officials, especially the arrogant Colonel Clarence (Howard Vernon), a swaggering sword fighting enthusiast who oppresses the local Hispanic population and sets up a dissenting  innkeeper (Rafael Marchent, the brother of the director) on charges of murdering the beloved Father Francisco, who was actually killed during a robbery by Union soldiers. Zorro will set the record straight and right the injustice, but not before many innocent people will die. Ironically the obsession the Colonel has with sword duels will prove to be his ultimate undoing.....

"Be careful of that man...he is not what he appears to be," Colonel Clarence is warned by his fencing partner. Just as Don Jose survives and triumphs through subterfuge, Jess Franco at this time was forging a career of a Spanish film director who is a kind of Trickster. A director in Spain during the earlyu 1950s had to be a con man/trickster to survive, avoid the strict censorship and not be politically too radical.  Here he gives us a Zorro film which is really a Coyote film and possibly an allegory of his own methodology of giving the powers that be (producers) what they want while remaining "Jess Franco." When Don Jose is described as an "idiot" who is used by Colonel Clarence one thinks of the slug like characters Jess Franco the actor played in VAMPYROS LESBOS and VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD, a mentally defective henchman of the powerful. Franco often has said his films are only entertainments and has a reputation as a careless hack from the point of view of most casual observers of European exploitation. The man who finished off the FU MANCHU and DR. MABUSE cinematic franchises in less than stylish fashion. The man who made hardcore porn and attempted to assemble his own version of Orson Welles' legendary DON QUIJOTE.

Who is the real Jess Franco? Like ZORRO here he wears an [existential] mask and seems an isolated silhouette on the horizon of the Spanish mainstream. But Zorro was a Hollywood icon who fought Spanish officials while here the character kills U.S. soldiers and kidnaps the Governor's daughter. In today's world he would be a terrorist. He is closer to the nihilistic El Coyote than the dashing Zorro played by Tyrone Power. El Coyote is a subversive while Zorro is a Hero. It's notable that he wears a kerchief which covers his lower face rather than mask over  his eyes, as in the more traditional Zorro films and serial, making his somewhat less elegant and sinister. 

This would be the final collaboration between Mallorqui, the creator of the El Coyote character, Franco and director Marchent, who would go on to be the most prolific maker of Spanish westerns (notably the violent, nihilistic CONDENADOS A VIVIR (1971). The next Zorro outing would exclude Franco as co-writer but include most of the original cast, DP Pacheco, Manuel Parada as composer, while adding Alberto Grimadli's PEA as an Italian partner, influsing the production with a healthier budget than LA VENGANZA....

"At the time when Old California became part of the Union..."

The Platinum DVD cover adds: "Mexican Zorro is given another go-round in this Italian-produced opus. American actor Frank Latimore, a 1940s leading man who bears a dim resemblance to Tyrone Power, stars in the dual role of foppish Don Jose and his dashing, Z carving alter-ego Zorro [Latimore's  kerchief around his lower face in the film, rather than the famous mask with the eye-holes worn on the DVD cover image, may disappoint those expecting the classic Zorro mask on the character]. In this feature-length episode of the popular comic-strip saga, the dashing Spanish avenger and his father are tossed into jail after they discover a political conspiracy."  The writers of this promo must not have consulted the actual film in which Zorro does not get thrown into jail and does not have a father who appears anywhere in the action.

The run-time of the DVD is incorrectly listed as 84m, which is actually the approximate run-time of the Spanish version. A 95 minute run-time is listed for the Spanish version in JOAQUIN ROMERO MARCHENT: la firemza del profesional, 1999, Carlos Aguilar. Other sources list a 90 minute runtime.

It must be noted that an ancestor of this Spanish Zorro film was the 1954 western EL COYOTE, and its follow-up LA JUSTICIA DEL COYOTE. Both were shot back-to-back on Spanish locations by director Marchent, and co-scripted by Jess Franco, based on the Jose Mallorqui Figueroa character. Franco was also the assistant director on these films, which were shot in short-order on a very low budget. Abel Salazar, the actor-producer of numerous Mexican horror films (THE BRAINIAC), starred in both films as the heroic masked avenger, El Coyote. These films, shot in black and white, have a distnctly noirish quality about them. I plan to review them in a future blog. During the 1940s Frank Latimore was sometimes a leading man in such Hollywood films as 13 RUE MADELINE (1945). He began his acting career at 20th Century-Fox. From 1949 to 1974 he lived and worked in Rome, appearing in Eurowesterns and swashbucklers, among other genre items. He eventually appeared in such high profile American films as PATTON (1970) and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (1976). He's perfectly cast in LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO, being able to lithely move from light comedy moments to physical action such as sword fighting to more dramatic scenes. Alain Petit's review of GRITOS EN LA NOCHE in THE MANACOA FILES also notes that F. Latimore is listed on a poster as conductor of the spurious Meyerbeer FAUST opera/ballet in which Wanda Bronsky performs in Franco's first horror film..

Although he is listed as a performer playing a Sergeant in most published credits of this film, I have not been able to spot frequent Spaghetti Western bandit Fernando Sancho after numerous close viewings.

Jess Franco would return to a Zorro style adventure with the 1974 comedy THE CRAZY NUNS, which featured a female Zorro (a forthcoming Blu-ray release of this rarely seen title would be most welcome).

LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO was retitled and rereleased by Eurocine in 1975 with a Marius Leseour directed pre-credit sequence featuring Monica Swinn (as another female Zorro) and film critic-actor (FEMALE VAMPIRE)-director Jean-Pierre Bouyxou.**  This version used to be distributed in the US by some gray marketeers under various titles. The IMDB also lists Jess Franco as a co-director of this alternate version, but he didn't do any directing on the added pre-credit sequence or on the original LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO.


Thanks to Nzoog for research assistance. (C) Robert Monell, 2020 updated version.

contact the author of this post @ monell579@hotmail.com

03 November, 2016

Jess Franco aspect ratios

Here are two aspect ratios, on two Jess Franco related films ,which I've never encountered. The Kinoscope ratio is, I assume, a 2.35:1 format. The top film LLEGARON LOS FRANCESES, was directed by Leon Klimovsky. I'm not sure what Panorvision indicates on the VAMPIRESAS 1930 credit card on the bottom. Being a Eurocine co-production, I doubt that it was shot in a scope format, but would like confirmation on that. It should also be noted that I have seen numerous Jess Franco films on Spanish VHS and DVD, which are presented at the wrong aspect ratio. This usually happens when films shot in 2.35:1 scope (Techniscope, etc) are presented in non scope formats such as 1.85:1 or thereabouts. This is the case with the 2003 DIVISA DVD of DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN, which crops the Techniscope format to 1.85:1, ruining the director's carefully calibrated 2.35:1 framing. I spoke with Jess about his use of the scope ratio and he insisted this kind of cropping was unacceptable.

Llegaron los Franceses is a 1959 historical film set in 1808, during the Napoleon war. It was written by Jess Franco and stars Elisa Montes (DER TODESRACHER VON SOHO-1972) and Isana Medel (LABIOS ROJOS-1960)

Below: the incorrectly framed Divisa DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN DVD. Unacceptable, according to Jess Franco. This film really needs a restored HD release. It's one of Franco's most stylish and deliberate uses of Scope and the telezoom as aesthetic tools. It's also a highly amusing monster rally, Universal by way of Jess Franco.

Image result for dracula contra frankenstein Divisa DVD 

More images and information related to Spanish aspect ratios on the Hispanoscope site, link below;

hispanoscope.blogspot.com site