27 January, 2017

Goodbye to Mike Connors/Ciudad Baja (Downtown Heat) (1994)

Television and film actor Mike "Touch" Connors died at the age of 91 in California on Thursday, January 26. He appeared in many B movies (VOODOO WOMAN), some big budget ones, and became a star with his hit television series MANNIX (1967-1975), in which he played a detective. Known for being cast as tough guys, villains, policemen, may have led to his being cast as the rogue American federal agent Steve in Jess Franco's Ciudad Baja (Downtown Heat) (1994). Connors fits comfortably into this minor Spanish thriller which does not register as a typical "Jess Franco" film. 

A rather glossy production, DOWNTOWN HEAT is a gritty and pretty interesting crime flick. Mike "Touch" Connors is featured as a special agent out to bust Eurocrime Lord Radeck (Craig Hill). Connors, who started his career in such Roger Corman B film entries as the WIP SWAMP WOMEN, is his usual hard edged self and gives everybody hell. Many familiar television "Cop Show" tropes appear here. Radeck is, of course, a familiar name for villains in Franco's filmography. The film features a group of local police in a Central American country who form a vigilante group who work outside the law, including kidnapping and murder, to destroy Radeck and his international narcotics empire. Charles Chaplin's daughter, Josephine, appears as a vengeance seeking police woman. Her previous role  in a Jess Franco film was as a police decoy in Franco's JACK, THE RIPPER (1976).

Philippe Lemaire (AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO) is notable as a corrupt police official. Everyone spirals into personal/professional corruption here. The film sometimes recalls such Al Pereira titles as LES EBRANLEES (1972), but Oscar Ladoire plays another detective in the lead role, while Antonio Mayans has a brief role as an undercover officer. Lina Romay sports a short, punk hairstyle and wardrobe here. A jazz score, including themes by Franco and Daniel White comprise the score. Spanish horror regular Victor Israel (GRAVEYARD OF HORROR, HORROR EXPRESS) has a small role. This film marked the end of a certain era in Jess Franco's filmography. He would return after the failure of his DON QUIXOTE (1993) to embark on his final digital period. 

21 January, 2017



2004 JF interview

Interview with Jess Franco
By Robert Monell

Conducted 9.11.04: Thanks to Lina Romay with help in translation and fact authentication and to Kris Gavin for helping to arrange the interview.

RM: Jess, as we are talking you're in the middle of editing SNAKEWOMAN. Is this a remake of an older film of yours or the literary adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne you spoke with me about?

JF: No, it's based on the classic story CARMILLA, by Sheridan Le Fanu.

RM: Yes, it's been filmed by Vadim and Hammer. I see you're working with Antonio Mayans again. He hasn't been in one of your films in over a decade. 

JF: It's good to be working with him again. He's fantastic as always. A very nice and cooperative actor. Very good as Al Periera in those films.

RM: I hope to see another Al Periera film from you and him in the future.

JF: It's possible, I like to go back to him. 

RM: Let's go back to the beginning of your career, particularly your association with the Mexican cinema. You have said you worked with Chano Uruerta in other interviews. What did you work with him on in Mexico?

JF: I visited Mexico in the mid 1950s as a producer's rep overseeing the Spanish side of Spanish-Mexican coproductions. I worked with Chano on a comedy. I can't remember the title. I also remember working with Tito Junco [the jpopular actor] while there and a horror film. I can't remember the titles.

RM: Understandable, since that was 50 years ago!

JF: [Laughs] Yes!

RM: How did you meet Chano Uruerta and Abel Salazar, whom you worked with on the EL COYOTE films.

JF: I met them together. They came to Spain together for the COYOTE films. I met them at the house of the famous composer, Augustin Lara. 

RM: Salazar was a very popular actor and an astute producer in Mexico. He produced and starred in some key horror films later. Was he a good actor in the COYOTE films?

JF: No, he was not. Not a very good actor, but a very nice person. We became good friends.

RM: I liked him as the arrogant baron in THE BRAINIAC.

JF: No, he couldn't play that kind of role. He couldn't play the bandit either. He was an average man, he could play an average man. That's all. 

RM: He played that average type in the Fernando Mendez VAMPIRO films with German Robles. The hero who defeats the monster.

JF: Yes, he could play that. But he wasn't an acting genius.

RM: When we talked before you mentioned Chano Uruerta's THE HEADLESS RIDER. That film reminds me a lot of your own EL LLANERO with it's mixture of horror, action, western motifs and musical elements.

JF: Si! I had seen THE HEADLESS RIDER earlier and was very influenced by it. Chano was mad. He would tear up the script and just shoot whatever he wanted. It was crazy working with him. I worked with some very important Mexican directors at that time, Fernado Soler and Emilio Fernandez.

RM: Fernandez directed some classic Mexican films and was also in some popular Sam Peckinpah westerns like THE WILD BUNCH.

JF: Si, he was always drinking tequila. A wild man. Totally crazy! But a good actor and director. 

RM: Let's move ahead to your earliest features. THE AWFUL DR ORLOF has often been discussed by you in interviews along with your first film, TENEMOS 18 ANOS. But I would like to hear about a personal favorite, VAMPIRESAS 1930 (1960). 

JF: That was one of my favorites to work on because I had the means to do it right and wonderful music by Charles Trenet.

RM: Yes, "EL MAR"...

JF: Those songs were one of the main reasons I wanted to do it. VAMPS 1930 was everything it should have been and those songs by Trenet were wonderful.

RM: In your early career who were your favorite producers?

JF: Well, Sergio Newman and Marius Lesoeur, who I did VAMPS and DR ORLOF with. In fact, they are still my all time favorite producers in my career.

RM: Why?

JF: Because they gave me the means to do them right and they cared about the films. Sergio Newman was a lovely man and Marius was very clever, a good producer when he was younger. They saw to it that I had enough money. After them, I like Silberman and Safra, who I did MISS MUERTE and CARTES BOCA ARRIBA with. Do you know those films.

RM: Yes, two of my favorites of your earlier films. 

JF: Si, MISS MUERTE is one of my best films and when I made it with them they gave me very good productions elements. 

RM: I want to ask you about the look of your films, which is always so distinctive and changes as your career progresses. For instance, I like the look of MISS MUERTE, very dark and brooding and the earlier LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES (1962).

JF: LA MUERTE... was shot by one of the best cameramen I worked with, Juan Marine. I liked his style of lighting, like "black" cinema. 

RM: It's often compared to Orson Welles' film noir look in TOUCH OF EVIL.

JF: Si, it's all in the way it's lit. The lighting is everything in these type films. Also in Robert Siodmak's PHANTOM LADY and THE KILLERS, both masterworks. 

RM: You often mention Siodmak. I especially like the midnight jam session in PHANTOM LADY, with Elisha Cook playing the drums as he's getting sexually frustrated over the heroine.

JF: Si! That's my favorite scene also. I call it the "Jazz style", very black, film noir. 

RM: Was Siodmak your favorite Hollywood director?

JF: Orson Welles...

RM: John Ford?

JF: A master... but Siodmak was one of my favorites. You know I worked with him a few years after LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES on one of his last films. I spent 5 months working as assistant director and his personal assistant on CUSTER OF THE WEST (196 .

RM: I didn't know that. Robert Shaw starred in that.

JF: Yes, but I didn't like him. Not a good casting choice to play General Custer. Did you know Siodmak wanted Sterling Hayden first.

RM: An excellent actor. I can see how he could have been more compelling in that role,
JF: Si! A very interesting actor who would have made a great Custer. But the producers made Siodmak use Shaw, he was very unhappy about that. I didn't like Robert Shaw at all and Siodmak didn't either. 

RM: So, you worked as assistant director on this big budgeted Eurowestern shot in Spain. Weren't you also working on your own films as a director? How did you find the time?

JF: Yes, it was shot in Spain in 1967. I became very close friends with Siodmak and we discussed many things. I made time in my schedule to work with Siodmak and asked him to hire me because I admired his work. Siodmak had complete knowledge about film and film history, he was a very cultured person. 

RM: It's a good looking film.

JF: Yes, it's very well crafted.

RM: I wanted to get back to the look of your films. You had made a number of films by the late 1960s and, of course, have now made over 200 films. Who was your all time favorite cinematographer?

JF: First I'd like to say that I admire Vilmos Zigmond a lot. I like the way he uses light.

RM: Yes, he shot the very beautiful Robert Altman film, MCCABE AND MRS MILLER (1971)...

JF: Yes, I like the look he created...

RM: Very interesting. I see a lot of similarities between you and Robert Altman, visually and in employing a lot of improvisation. But who was the best DP you worked with on YOUR films?

JF: Manuel Merino. He was the one I felt closest too. He shot EUGENIE, HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION just the way I wanted it to look. And then Juan Marine.

RM: How about Gerard Brissaud, who is listed as DP of some of your 70s films, like PLEASURE FOR THREE.

JF: He was Polish. A technician. A lot of people worked on these films. We had to use a lot of international technicians, and sometimes changed the names. Because of coproduction status. But he was a good technician.

RM: My favorite is Juan Soler, who shot many of your early 1980s films.

JF: Si, Juan Soler Cozar was very good. But those films were too low budget. We didn't have the money to do them right. They don't look like they should. The only one we had the money to do right was BLOODY MOON. Do you know that film?

RM: Yes, I don't like it as much as MACUMBA SEXUAL or MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE. I like those a lot better even if they are lower budgeted films.

JF: I'm glad you like those films. There hasn't been much talk about my Golden Film Productions. Which ones do you like the most?

RM: Well, MIL SEXOS... and LA NOCHE DE LOS SEXOS ABIERTOS (1981). Well talk about those later but I wanted to ask you about your use of Cinemascope, specifically the Techniscope system. Did you prefer and like to work in anamorphic 2.35:1 ratio?

JF: For some films I like Cinemascope or Techniscope, like in DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN. I like it because it gives you more "scope", you can show more. The castles, the landscapes. It can be beautiful and gives a mysterious look to everything. You can show more on the sides of the action. But shooting in scope in moe expensive because of the anamorphic lenses. It is more expensive to shoot and edit in scope. 

RM: I think you got especially good results with using scope in MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE, a very beautiful film with gorgeous colors.

JF: Thank you. I tried to make a film like Raymond Chandler with that one. 

RM: That and some of your mystery thrillers remind me of the American crime writer Jim Thompson.

JF: Si! I like him a lot. Did you know Orson Welles wanted to film one of his novels, THE KILLER INSIDE ME?

RM: No, I didn't know he wanted to film that. A great novel. Burt Kennedy ended up making a pretty good film out of it. But it wasn't Orson Welles, obviously.

JF: No, not as good as Orson would have done it. He was really enthusiastic about filming it during the early 1960s. 

RM: Another film of that period which I like the look of is LA NOCHE DE LOS SEXOS ABIERTOS.

JF: That showed the influence of "black cinema" on me. You know, film noir. It is a film I like a lot. A mixture of suspense, eroticism and mystery. 

RM: Back to the producers of your films. Let's talk about Robert De Nesle.

JF: It's pronounced DE NELLE...

RM: Yes, thanks. You sometimes filmed "covered" versions of films he co produced with Spain, like with LA MALDICION DE FRANKENSTEIN (1972)...

JF: Yes, which version of that do you prefer?

RM: I like the shorter French version. Do you consider that YOUR preferred version?

JF: Si. It has more nudity, eroticism and horror in it. I just made an extension of it for Arturo Marcos, for Spanish distribution [Fenix Films].

RM: Yes, but I like the way those scenes in the Spanish versions are shot. Particularly those shots of the figures in white walking through the forest and I like the scenes with Lina. By the way, the Cagliostro character [Howard Vernon] mentions the writings or the sect of PANTOS or PHANTOS throughout the film. This name is also mentioned by Dr Orlof in FEMALE VAMPIRE. Is this an ancient writer or cult or something you made up?

JF: Howard Vernon, who was a very clever actor, came up with it. It's supposed to be a secret sect from Medieval times, who wrote books with forbidden knowledge. But MALDICION... wasn't my film. I did it for Arturo Marcos. The French version is the one I wanted to make. 

RM: What was Robert De Nesle like as a person and a producer?

JF: A very strange man. Robert De Nesle was a madman. He was obsessed with women, he was always trying to get at the actresses in the films we made together. He was very intelligent, but timid, he loved movies. Very elegant, very nice, a very handsome man. But he was always making plays for every woman he saw. He never understood the films I was making. He loved cinema, but didn't understand what I was trying to do. He didn't have a clue. He was out of it. He was too busy playing around with the girls...[laughs]

RM: Harry Alan Towers?

JF: Could have been a better producer. A very nice fellow, but always looking for more money. He was always supportive and trying to get me more money. 

RM: Did he allow you to edit and work on the post production of your flms together?

JF: They were physically cut by British editors but I was always in the editing room with them. So I supervised the final edit and post production with them.

RM: We were discussing your Golden Films Internacional productions earlier. How was Emilio Larraga as a producer? Was he good?

JF: No. I called him a soup salesman. He just wanted to use me to make a quick profit. He never gave me enough money or elements to make the films. These were made very, very quickly. Some in less than a week in very poor conditions. Then he got into trouble with the Spanish tax authorities. He tried to hide the rest of the films I made for him. Many of them were never released. He died some time ago.

RM: But did you have total freedom in preparing, shooting and editing these films.

JF: Yes, that I did have because they were so low budget. I had control of the final edit. They were completely mine: the concept, the production, the final editing. I got very little money. I got a very small salary. That's all. Just enough to live on. As I said, these films were made in terrible conditions. 

RM: I like the most some of these films which you say were made with little money and under bad conditions. How did you adjust to the bigger budgeted FACELESS (198 . Of course, you must appreciate having adequate resources.

JF: I liked Rene Chateau. He gave me a very good cast with Telly Savalas, Chris Mitchum, Brigitte Lahie and Helmut Berger. I liked the photography of Maurice Fellous who shot that film, he was the brother of the famous Roger Fellous.

RM: In your ONE SHOT films you have developed a different style: shot on video, more surreal, almost cartoonish, especially KILLER BARBYS and KILLER BARBYS VS DRACULA... T

FM: Yes, I shoot on high def video because it's more like 35mm. I try to give an impression of luminosity with colors like Disney. 

RM: KILLER BARBYS VS DRACULA and some of your other films have images of famous Disney characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

FM: Yes, I like Donald Duck very much. The way he's always screaming and yelling a lot [laughs] And I like Goofy. I like to show them in my films. I like those old Disney cartoons. I like the color in them and I tried to use it in this film. I tried to get that Disney color, that Disney look. I like Walt Disney very much, the man himself not the business empire, he was very imaginative and ahead of his times. I like FANTASIA and THE THREE CABELLEROS. I especially like Mickey Mouse...

(C) 2004 Robert Monell: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 


Sandra Olsen, Fata Morgana, Victor Seastrom, Paul Lapidus
With Lina Romay
Music by Exequiel Cohen
Additional Music by Jess Franco
Written and Directed by Jess Franco
Image result for vampire junction (2001)
An erotic horror-western of the Internet Age, VAMPIRE JUNCTION can be read as a metaphor for the rising Phoenix of Jess Franco's career which seemingly crashed and burned with the disastrous reception of his labor of love, DON QUIJOTE. Rejected and forgotten by his own generation, labeled a hack and a pornographer who dared to meddle with the testament of bonafide genius, Franco would find an unimagined acceptance and fame with a new generation in the synthetic universe of the worldwide web, where everyone and anyone who posts on whatever omnipresent message board becomes instantaneously validated in every corner of that world, Jess Franco would be crowned king of his own empire. In Godard's seminal A BOUT DE SOUFFLE, Jean Pierre Melville, the father of the Nouvelle Vague, appears as a writer who is asked by the nihilistic heroine [Jean Seberg] to state his ambition. He answers, "To become immortal and then to die." This is perhaps the main theme of Jess Franco's life and career as well as that of VAMPIRE JUNCTION.

www.vampireflanagan.com... That's how you reach Father Flanagan. An ambitious 21st Century vampire just wouldn't be a player without his own website on the worldwide web. But he might be proactive and reach out to make contact. You'll be sitting at your laptop suddenly typing out like journalist Alice Brown (Lina Romay): FATHER FLANAGAN IS CALLING YOU...FATHER FLANAGAN IS CALLING YOU...

Jess Franco's best and most personal work tends to be cyclical, asymettrical, polyphonic and highly unstable. All of those terms apply to VAMPIRE JUNCTION, which can be described as a cyberpunk vampire video in Western drag. This is something more than just another Jess Franco erotic bloodsucking opus, with its fascinating subtext suggesting how the internet has affected both the way films are made and experienced. In a world of movie message boards and Jess Franco websites both his older films along with his ONE SHOT productions can be throroughly discussed at instant messaging speed complete with illustrative screen shots. Alice , the journalist who gets literally sucked into this erotic vampire vortex writes on the internet about the older civilizations which can be encountered in these southern climes. Father Flanagan (Victor Seastrom) and his vampire brides seem possessed by ancient evil spirits, they have become immortal, more incorporeal than solid. VAMPIRE JUNCTION signals that Franco has mastered an internet age, 21st century equivalent to the Gothic Expressionist Noir style of Murnau and Siodmak, both of whom made vampire films which Franco built his early cinema upon. In a world of high speed access and cellphones the distances between people are set into ironic relief. Alice is overwhelmed with anxiety from the outset while the residents overseen by the fat town Marshall (Paul Lapidus) seem frozen in pop-culture roles: Father Flanagan is always photographed as a gaunt, nearly motionless figure, looming in the distance in his long black leather coat and cowboy hat. He strongly resembles a drug pusher from a B crime movie. Vampire vixen Fata Morgana looks like a refugee from an MTV music video with her Day-Glo hair and black miniskirt. The drunken deputy (composer Ezequiel Cohen) calls himself Dean Martin, who played an alcoholic deputy to John Wayne's put-upon Sheriff in Howard Hawks RIO BRAVO (1959) and at times identifies himself as Andy Devine, who played the cowardly Sheriff in John Ford's seminal 1962 THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, a film which sought to debunk the conventional mythologies of both Western history and movie Westerns. Personality gives way to personality disorders while color and form continually evolve into startling patterns. 

You are arriving in Shit City. The burned out alcoholic Dr. Spencer (Steve Barrymore) describes the place as a "strange, parallel world" we're told, "an old Hollywood B-film set." If the name sounds familiar it's also the fictional name of the corrupt coastal town in Franco's LOS BLUES DE LA CALLE POP (aventuras de Felipe Malboro, volumen 8 ) a 1983 personal favorite of JF, where he turns his love for "Black Cinema" into a live acton comic-a kind of post MTV western-noir with punk aesthetics. This time Shit City is in the Southwest, of Spain or the US, it doesn't matter because this is really Francoland where all bets are off. It's a place, according to the town physcian who has summoned the investigative journalist, where B western icons Bob Steele and Tom Tyler would have felt at home, at the same time, the mood is altered to one of post modernist dread. A deliriously composed (in Hi-Def video) synthesis of neo-noir, Cyberpunk Eurowestern* and techno-metal vampire cinema. 

The opening credits sequence is alone worth the price of admission: Alice Brown drives toward this hellish wonderland through phosphorescent washes of chroma into an hallucinogenic ocean of generic icons. Marshall Joe Mendoza has posted a lowball reward for Billy the Kid and eyeballs the intruder warily. Visions of a female vampire with punk colored hair crawling down the wall. The imposing master vampire dressed in black leather duster and cowboy hat. The black countess (Samantha Olsen) emerging from a mirror, a black & white apparition with only a wash of crimson in her hair to remind us this is in color, and color, its endless permutations and possibilites is a major subject of this project. An extraordinary sonic experience with sparing, ellipitical dialogue, desultory narration, Goth organ music, electronic bleeps, distant, monotonous, malacophonous satanic litanies from a ancient vortex which coexists on the other side of the mirror. Any and all concepts of temporal normality, space and tincture are immediately shattered and replaced with an a temporal, multidimensional and iridian aesthetic. The sonic environment is oscillates between faint murmurings and jarring blasts of synthesizer generated notes and sounds. 

This film is an arc, a luminous discharge of electronic current, which seems to magnetically drain the atomic structure of all visible matter into an invisible, haunted realm, a place only Jess Franco knows. His precognitive cinema, encored with crimson sex and endlessly repeating mythologies which once generated can never be let alone. Like a traditional Hollywood western, they overwhelm the trivialities of the calmer, modern world with arid vistas which lead to sudden death. In a scene as aesthetically arresting as any in a Mario Bava gothic (cf. THE WHIP AND THE BODY, OPERAZIONE PAURA) we have Lina Romay walking down hallway flooded with pools of green light toward an vampiric ambush while outside the Old West style structures bake under the implacable Spanish sun.

But Franco is intensively interested in the curvature of Hollywood genre cinema toward an unknown space which he can provide a Cubist, Abstract-Expressionist, Surrealist, Minimalist or Pop Art portal. The structure of his filmography, and the individuals film contained within, tends toward curvilinearity. The are no straight lines in Franco's universe, but there are numerous spirals which cycle backward, forward and back again. Franco's approach to the vampire film, the noir, the western is hieractic. He wants to perserve the icons, the myths in miniature while shining a bright colored light behind them transforming them into something new and unique. 

Alice drives through the aquamarine rain into some kind of cognitive dissonance and, at the end, dissolves along with her molesters, leaving behind those trademark solar flares which are a kind of representation of Jess Franco's smile. She has experienced an erotic interview with a vampire conducted in the sealed off area of the Unconscious. Along the way there's time stopping, sensuous, blood-spattered encounters with the swallowers whose images seem to flicker on the surfaces these southwest desert lands. Franco has arrived, after nearly 50 years of cinema, at a totally Synthetic, personal and interactive cinema where intricate schemes of cross references become a kind of self satire designed to delight himself and those who choose to enter the grid. You have arrived at Shit City... .

Finally, the Internet gave Jess Franco his ultimate inspiration and validity, a space which welcomed and nourished him. Just as the cellphone became the tool of choice for recording the visions of Jean-Luc Godard in his equally challenging 21st Century films.

*There's also an ambitious villain in the Demofilo Fidani Spaghetti Western ERA SAM WALLASH...LO CHIAMAVANO COSI SIA (1972) named Flanagan, played by Dean Stratford [Dino Strano]. The film's protagonist is played by Robert Woods, a frequent player in early 1970's Franco-Robert de Nesle productions (AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPIJO, YUKA, PLAISIR A TROIS). Fidani was one of the one or two most prolific creator of Spaghetti Westerns. At their best they are Eurobis delights in the best JF tradition: lightning fast shooting schedules, frequently recycled sets, plots, actors and an obsession to keep churning out product despite lack of proper funding and planning. 

*Music and Jess Franco scholar Francesco Cesari points out that a cue from Franco's 1960 musical VAMPS 1930 is reused here, but reworked on a synthesizer.

Edited by: bobmonel at: 2/27/05 10:02 am

11 January, 2017

REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (Jess Franco & Antonio Mayans, 2013): Review of Jess Franco's final film

Image may contain: 1 person, phoneJess Franco plays himself in this sly comedy in which he is engaged in directing another erotic film while the subject of his previous film, private detective Al Pereira, attempts to relate to the eccentric film making process of Jess Franco. Pereira also has difficult relationships with his son and women in general, illustrated in various amusing vignettes. He travels to Germany where he becomes accidentally involved in a sort of international espionage affair due to his presence at a Communist gathering. Lead actor-co-director Antonio Mayans introduces the film as an "Audio-visualization... based on a surreal story", which is an appropriate enough synopsis. 

Back in Spain director Franco continues to film the alligator ladies, Carmen Montes, Irene Verdu and Paula Davis, in extended erotic interludes. Much of the Franco-directed footage is shot through mirrors showing both the erotic action and Franco directing it. These self reflexive images are a carry-over from Franco's previous Al Pereira adventure, AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES and his 1980 surrealist science fiction parody, EL SEXO ESTA LOCO. The scenes involving Pereria and his family, friends and associates, along with the scenes filmed in Germany were directed by longtime Franco actor-associate Antonio Mayans after Franco's death in April, 2013. Pereira is gamely played by Mayans as a long-suffering victim of everyone's ridicule, especially the director and the alligator ladies, who have the last word. The irreverent tone and sharp edged dialogue sometimes evoke the droll repartee of the W.S. Van Dyke's 1934 mystery-comedy THE THIN MAN. It should be noted that classic film was made on a B budget, on a rushed schedule by Woody "One Shot" Van Dyke. 

This is the last in a long running series of Jess Franco directed films about troubled investigator Al Pereira, the first being ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS/CARTAS BOCA ARRIBA (1966), in which Pereira was played by American singer-actor Eddie Constantine. A shorter, incomplete version of REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES, directed by Franco himself, is more focused on the director shooting erotic scenes with Montes and co. Franco's presence is again central, the film opens with him facing the camera, delivering a comic-esoteric monologue. His image moves even further into the mirror, and now he's on the other side of the mirror.

Other recommended Franco Al Pereira titles include LES EBRANLEES (1972), with Howard Vernon in the role, DOWNTOWN (1975), which features Franco himself as the detective, BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO (1982) and CAMINO SOLITARIO (1983), in which Mayans finally took over the role. 

REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES will be of interest to Jess Franco enthusiasts, cult film historians and collectors as the ultimate illustration of Jess Franco's obsession with the process of personal creation while continuing to throw himself into his work right up until his passing.

Robert Monell, 2017

07 January, 2017


Updated from the Robert Monell Archives
(C) Robert Monell 2015
Roland, the World's Sexiest Man



I once called this one of JF's "finest" De Nesle efforts but I've changed my mind as it doesn't hold up very well despite an admirable premise....

A wealthy ex-playboy, Roland (Fred Williams) tires of married life and decides to return to his old ways. He poses as a butler and becomes a servant to rich and beautiful women, but many complications ensue. His "wife" is the imposing Barbara Bolt (Brigitte Monnin) is a frisky career woman, the President of an International Organization of porno stores, whose demands cannot be met by the intimidated Count Roland. An interesting class-gender conflict ensues, allowing Roland to have numerous erotic encounters to satisfy his bruised ego, the paying porn cinema customer but not necessarily the average fan of Jess Franco's outre vision.

The title of this sly comedy of manners indicates Franco wanted to infuse this amusing trifle with a sense of irony. Roland may be handsome but as played by Williams behaves like a run-of-the-mill male model, albeit with a little more humor and liveliness than this usually dull actor musters in his other Franco roles from this period. He's especially inadequate as the hobbled super spy in THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA. Franco aims for the tone of a Howard Hawks screwball comedy, but verbal and visual puns, not physical comedy, are more his forte. And as the only available videos on the U.S. mail-order circuit are in French, those unfamiliar with that language will miss the satiric barbs at male chauvinism and upper-class arrogance. Then there's Roland's liberated wife, whose technical theory of sex suggests that Franco is also ridiculing a certain branch of 1970s feminism. Normal sexual roles are under fire the film just as they were in Western societies at the time it was made.

As Roland's pudgy, mischievous manservant Malou, Richard de Conninck aka Bigotini, a familiar Franco actor who often worked as the director's assistant, just about steals the show from Williams. Most of the footage follows Roland as he is seduced by various women, and in an especially amusing scene, tries to avoid the advances of one husband who also happens to like men. It's a series of droll episodes staged in the manner of Balzac.

The cinematography is, at times, colorful, with occasionally interesting camera angles, but the lack of any action other than sexual may bore those who are not Franco enthusiasts. This 1974 sex farce is one of Franco's least screened Robert De Nesle features, although released on French VHS [Videobox] it is not available in anything near HD in any format. A sometimes subtle, somewhat tender look at social roles and the presence of invisible class barriers which cut people off from erotic expression. It almost makes one wonder what the result would have been played straight.... Actually, this is the kind of French bedroom farce at which Blake Edwards excelled.

Andre Benichou's swinging Jazz score is wonderful and the sun dappled, color intensive, cubist frames remind one of Cezanne with a touch of Impressionist color patterns. And no film with Pamela Stanford, Monica Swinn and Lina Romay (as Loulou Laverne) in the cast can be all bad. It remains, alas, rather tiresome at its full length. The version under review is reportedly cut from 120 m!  It's a very long 104 minutes.

Don't hold your breath for a Blu ray restoration.... but you never know.

(C) Robert Monell, 2019 New Version