22 December, 2018


Above: THE TASTE OF YOUR LIPS: a song written by Daniel White and Jess Franco, is used in Franco's LA NOCHE DE LOS SEXOS ABIERTOS, only the words are changed to "A taste of your sperm" repeated over and over during a nightclub striptease.

La Noche de los Sexos Abiertos

Moira (Lina Romay) is a sexy cabaret stripper by night and a secret agent by day. She is attempting to gain information on the Segunda Guerra Mundial, an international criminal group who are about to locate a hidden consignment of gold bars which was secreted beneath the desert during the last days of the Nazis.

Private detective Al Crosby is also on the trail of the gold and teams up with Moira. Eventually, Prof. Von Klaus provides a complex code which, when deciphered, will reveal the location. Moira is briefly captured by the opposition, tortured, and then freed by Al.

They make a concerted effort to break the word puzzle, and finally succeed in locating Von Klaus's desert villa, in which there is a secret room containing the gold. First though, the right notes have to be played on an organ which will electronically trigger the lock mechanism. It involves musical notation from a Liszt composition. When Moira performs the piece, the door opens and the treasure awaits them. The only problem is that the counteragents have pursued them by helicopter and plan to relieve Al and Moira of their newly found fortune.

Considering the fact that Jess Franco has returned to Euro-spy genre again and again throughout his career, it would seem the genre holds a special fascination for him, as well as providing the profilic director with narrative action that functions as a necessary backdrop to his trademark erotic scenes, personal touches, visual spirals, and private jokes.

It is impossible to separate the sex from any generic conventions at this point in Franco's career. His later Euro-spy feature DARK MISSION (1988), offers evidence that he could leave aside the obsessive focus on eroticism and make a relatively straight commercial product, but as this more personal early 80s period and his recent films show Franco is at his best, when he is allowed to be Franco.

LA NOCHE... opens with a deliriously filmed strip by Lina Romay, performed in the driver's seat of a classic fifties American car. This all takes place in an ultra-glitzy night spot, where the sexy action is bathed in gorgeous neon hues. Lina's gyrations and Franco's camera work and lighting design seem in perfect harmony this time around, and the sequence is hypnotic. There are many shootings, double crosses, torture sessions (one outrageously borders on a porno level of sado-erotic intensity), exotic locales, and Lina Romay has never looked sexier.

C Robert Monell 2018

11 December, 2018


botas negras, latigo de cuero 1982 89 MINUTES European Trash Cinema (U.S. import) DIRECTED BY JESS FRANCO WITH: CANDY COSTER, ROBERT FOSTER, IDA BALIN, ALFREDO KIER, MIGUEL INFANTE/ Produced by Emilio Larraga-Golden Films Inteenacional --------------------------------------------------------------------  BLACK BOOTS AND LEATHER WHIPS: A Film Noir Story.

One of Franco's favorite characters, private investigator Al Pereira (Robert Foster, a.k.a Antonio Mayans) has got an 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. Al is frantically packing, trying to get away from trouble with sex, women, money, and all the people who are after him. Then Candy walks in. She's bleach blonde, wide eyed, and those long legs under her trench-coat just can't wait to wrap themselves around their next victim, who happens to be Al. She wants him to pick up some dirty money stashed in a wrecked car in the local junkyard, 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 and Candy's male friend, who likes to wear make-up.

 Then there was the phony psychic and her friends, who like to strip and play S&M games with black boots and leather whips. When they make Al strip at the party and start beating him, he really loses it and begins shooting people. He doesn't bargain for that, either. So, running from the police and the mob he drives to end of a bayou, where he makes love to Candy one last time. As the seagulls reel overhead, stirred up by Candy's horny cries, she pulls the pistol out of her trenchcoat pocket (she was 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 he is the guest of honor. Like Robert Mitchum in OUT OF THE PAST he plays the sap right to the end. The burning, wet feeling in his side had 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?  It was all too much of a good thing. 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.

 BLACKS BOOTS AND LEATHERS WHIPS is the blackest panel of Franco's series of films about eternal fall guy Al Pereira. It's a film noir rendered in the saturated oranges, lemons and aquas of the glittery, trashy Costa del Sol. As embodied by Mayans (in one of his most dead-on performances for Franco), Al is a frantic, at times charming and boyish, womanizer who has a deep seated problem with obsession and compulsion. Romay's femme fatale is lush, slutty sexuality with an icy edge, barely perceptible and totally invisible to Al. This time around, Al might be a character out of Jim Thompson, and the 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. One thinks of Renoir's 1930s noir LES CHIENNE, the bitch gets her man, all right.  Franco and Juan Cozar's citron color scheme has never seemed quite as ironic and becomes a post-modern Costa del Sol eqivalent of those liquid black nights and mean streets of Robert Siodmak and Jacques Tourneur.

(C) Robert Monell

07 December, 2018

KISS AND KILL (a.k.a THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU) Jess Franco, 1968

I actually prefer this version of Jess Franco's THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU (FU MANCHU Y EL BESO DE LA MUERTE), which moves with dispatch and doesn't seem to sag in the middle, as does the uncut, longer version. I also believe the new opening of this version (which appears later in some other versions) was borrowed, consciously or unconsciously, by RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK for the opening scene in that mega-hit.

This American Video 1988 VHS lists a 91 minute runtime on the back cover  (it's actually shorter than THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU version and plays much more efficiently with a new opening scene featuring Gotz George leading an expedition toward Fu Manchu's hidden jungle city, which actually looks more like a large cave. Credited to Peter Welbeck, producer Harry Alan Towers, this first Franco-Towers collaboration is somewhat more coherent, but less colorful than the Franco-Towers THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU (1969).

The back copy on the Kiss and Kill VHS (Rated PG) reads like a promo for a 1970s kung fu epic: " The great Christopher Lee explodes in this kung-fu classic! Playing a Japanese (?!) mercenary, he's intent on righting  the evils that roam the land [actually, he's playing the Chinese super villain Fu Manchu!] He's in top form, fighting off his enemies with lots of sizzling high energy, high-kickin' action! As one of the most exciting films of its genre, KISS AND KILL will keep you on the edge of your seat!" But even trimmed by 10 or so minutes it's somewhat of a slog and won't keep anyone on the edge of their seat. And there is no high kicking kung fu fighting in any version which I've seen.
There's also a US release of this film titled AGAINST ALL ODDS, which is a different edit of BLOOD OF FU MANCHU. Released in the US theatrically in September 1969.

(C) Robert Monell

23 November, 2018

LA TUMBA DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTES (1981) Jess Franco's lost Zombie epic...

If you are a serious fan of the films of Jess Franco, or a zombie movie completest, it's likely you have seen the director's 1981 Nazi zombie effort, OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES/L'ABIME DES MORTS-VIVANTS, which is out on Blu-ray from REDEMPTION FILMS. It is less likely you have seen the notably superior Spanish version of the same film, LA TUMBA DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTES.

Reviewed by Robert Monell (C) 2108

Robert Blabert (Manuel Gelinl) and his friends use their holidays to
find a treasure left by Rommel's soldiers in North Africa, and to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Robert's father. On their way, they run into a man who is also looking for the treasure, was digging around for the treasure and awakened its guards, a group of flesh-eating zombies.

This is a long-lost Spanish-language Franco movie, parts of which were used to create the Nazi-zombie quickie known as OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (a.k.a. BLOODUCKING NAZI ZOMBIES). OASIS was completed and released by Eurocine magnate Marius Lesoeur (under the name A. M. Frank). Franco's version recently resurfaced on Spanish television.

Though LA TUMBA DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTS is a completely different film from OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES, it uses the same basic story line. Adding to the confusion, Franco's original production company shot French and Spanish versions simultaneously. Pieces of the French version were subsequently used in other Eurocine movies, of which OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES is the most well-known. LA TUMBA incorporates World War II battle scenes from some Italian productions, of which only Alfredo Rizzo's I GIARDINI DEl DIAVOLO (1971) has been identified.

The checkered history of LA TUMBA is more interesting that the movie itself, although it is obviously an essential Franco collector's item. It looks and plays a lot better than OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES, mostly because Juan Soler Cozar's atmospheric cinematography has been retained. The actors are more interesting, too -- namely Eduardo Fajardo, an experienced character actor who appeared in many Italian westerns and thrillers (DJANGO, etc), and Lina Romay, looking as sensual as ever and eventually falling victim to the cannibal Nazis.

The superior performances of Fajardo and Romay (compared to the actors who play the same roles in the French version), along with Franco's sharper
editing, help this version play a lot smoother than the relentlessly schlocky OASIS. Also interesting are the effectively tilted camera angles used during the zombie attacks (which are not used in the OASIS version), as well as gorgeous long shots of the Canary Island desert locations. Best of all is the delirious, eerie score by Pablo Villa (Daniel White and Jess Franco), which is absent from the other versions and adds a sense of menace which is so obviously lacking in OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES.

Daniel White is credited with the score for OASIS, although with different, more conventional cues. An all region HD release of LA TUMBA.... would be welcome. It should be noted that Franco also worked on another Nazi zombie project for Eurocine, ZOMBIE LAKE (1980). The scenario of that film has some interesting parallels with Franco's 1964 EL SECRETO DEL DR. ORLOFF. But Franco dropped out of that project and Jean Rollin ended up handling the direction. Franco remains uncredited on the finished film.

14 November, 2018

Congratulations to Dr. Alex Mendibil

Congratulations to my friend, colleague, creator of the EL FRANCONOMICON Facebook group and blog, Alex Mendibil, who has been award a PhD by Madrid University for his Doctoral thesis on the cinema of Jess Franco.

This is the first thesis on this topic warded a doctorate in Spain. Alex is a true world class expert on the alternate reality which is the world of Jess Franco. 

Robert Monell, 11/12/18

11 October, 2018

SNAKEWOMAN - Jess Franco, 2005, États Unis/Espagne; REVIEW

SNAKEWOMAN - Jess Franco, 2005, États Unis/Espagne
When I first viewed SNAKEWOMAN I immediately  thought to myself  "Jess Franco doesn't make films anymore, he makes video, but the results are still, even in glossy HI-DEF, 100% Jess Franco."  I spoke to Jess during the conception of this film and he was quite excited about attempting an updating of VAMPYROS LESBOS (1970), which this in essence is, but it's also more than that.  It's his digital era Image result for snakewoman 2005

compilation of images, characters, themes which are infused with his fascination for serpentine women, especially those females involved in the performance arts, including erotic performances, stripping, S&M shows, exotic dancing of all kinds. This goes all the way back to such erotic stage performances in LABIOS ROJOS, GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, EL SECRETO DEL DR. ORLOF, MISS MUERTE, NECRONOMICON, VAMPYROS LESBOS, VENUS IN FURS and many more.  In at least one related film, Eurocine's THE GOLDEN CAGE (1975), Franco was hired to direct erotic shows seen in a nightclub in which the action, a lurid crime scenario involving white slavery and drug trafficking, unfolds. It's hardly a "Jess Franco film" but the various strip tease numbers bear his mark. It's difficult not to recall Estella Blain and Soledad Miranda slithering across the stages in MISS MUERTE/THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z (1965) and VAMPYROS LESBOS when watching the moves of Carmen Montes nearly 40 years later. 
Then, of course, there are the literal, venom-infused snake women of Fu Manchu in Franco's Harry Alan Towers produced BLOOD OF FU MANCHU (1968). One could go all the back to the serpent and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament to find similar characters, images and themes of sex, guilt and sin. And, in some regards, Jess Franco, although once condemned by the Vatican as a "dangerous" filmmaker for Catholics (along with the sublime Spanish rebel, Luis Bunuel!), can be considered a poet of rogue-Catholicism. An artist from a largely Catholic culture who was more at home in staging black masses than in the kind held on Sunday mornings.

Carmen Montes is the title character in SNAKEWOMAN, a female vampire who wears nothing but a long red lined black cape and a tatoo of a double headed python which curls around her torso. She dominates a netherworld {Malaga, Spain} where "walk-ins" appear and disappear as suddenly as her attacks. Her most recent victim is a female reporter (FATA MORGANA), the Jonathan Harker character, and Christie Levin is the demented female Renfield who is kept in a private asylum by the mad Dr. Nostradamus (Antonio Mayans). The reporter has come to invesitage the estate of the legendary actress-composer Oriana Balasz. The Snake woman may be her descendant or her continuation. It begins and ends and is often interrupted by telezooms onto flocks of tropical birds which recall the kites in VAMPYROS LESBOS. The music is spectral but will not enter the imagination in the same way as the ground breaking score for that 1970 cult classic. Count Dracula is still the structuring absence here, though, as he was in VAMPYROS LESBOS. 

Carmen Montes does evoke the late, great Soledad Miranda and the film is filled with captivating images. Franco's director credit appears over an old black and white photo of Marlene Dietrich. This may be another subterranean hommage to the cinema of Von Sternberg, a certain influence on the wildly hermetic eroticism which is at the core of Franco's best and most personal films.  There are a lot of lesbian interludes (Franco told me he wanted to call it VAMPIRE INTERLUDE) but not as many as in some of his digital era work and they don't smother the film. The acting is above average and it's worth seeing on the SRS DVD where it is coupled with DR. WONG'S VIRTUAL HELL and some still galleries. Look, or hope, for a future HD release. 

 (c) Robert Monell 2018 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

02 October, 2018


This outrageous project exists in so many variants, at so many different running times it would be impossible to view them all (since some are not even available on home video) much less detail the differences. Of the versions now available on tape, the softest is undoubtedly the cut Wizard Video version, DEMONIAC, released in the late 1980s. A running time of 87 minutes is listed on the Wizard video box (it's actually about 79 minutes), which also sports stills of scenes not included in this particular cut. They released a recut version of LA SADIQUE DE NOTRE-DAME a 1979 Spanish-French co-production that mixes footage from Franco's 1974 EXORCISME ET MESSES NOIRES and scenes shot five years later on Parisian locations.

This film has a soft-core sex and violence, English-language variant, titled EXORCISM, which was the film which started it all. The 1975 hardcore version of this film, retitled SEXORCISME, can be had in two slightly different cuts available from U.S. mail order companies. These include an 71-minute English-subtitled version, taken from a French-language video; and a longer 82-minute variation which also has a slightly different scene arrangement. The latter is available in French language only. Both of these version drop much narrative material and several major characters to include several lengthy and over-the-top XXX sequences, some of which show Franco himself participating in hardcore action! The gory, English-language EXORCISM was unavailable for many years and in some ways it is the most disturbing of all the versions. The protagonist, Mathis Vogel/Laforgue (Franco), is a sexually twisted, religion-obsessed psychopath who murders Paris women.

The uncut film represents Franco's most severe vision of madness and evil. It's also one of his most personal, given that the director himself plays the main character. The thematic questions are, what constitutes madness and evil? Though these are familiar themes in Franco's works, the director never posed them so powerfully as here. The XXX versions were desperate attempts to make an unpleasant film more commercial, at least on the adult movie market, and the hardcore situations only enhance the film's sense of sexual delirium and blasphemy. The fact that all these version have scenes which later found their way into the 1979 remake SADIST OF NOTRE DAME indicates that Franco was attempting to more bucks out of burnt-out material. The hardcore versions look so cheap and shoddy, though, that one guesses they had difficulty even on the "money-back guaranteed" sex circuit of the mid 70s, which probably explains why he recycled the scenes.

 The English language EXORCISM anticipates in tone and style such slasher fare as HENRY PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and Franco's character is in some ways even more sinister than Hannibal Lector. However, EXORCISM and the later SADIST OF NOTRE DAME are very somber. The gore scenes are repugnant, and include the torturing of both Carole Riviere and Lina Romay with a knife. As they are being cut up, the killer chants sections of the Roman Catholic mass in Latin. The most grotesque addition is a scene which shows him murdering The Countess (France Nicholas) on a hotel bed. This is accomplished by shots of him slashing her open and ripping out some of her internal organs. Also, this version also makes clear the Black Masses Vogel witnesses are staged events, the human "sacrifices" are not harmed but are willing participants, the knives they are "stabbed" with have retractable blades, and the blood is fake. As these explanatory scenes are missing from all other versions, Vogel's mania and the Satanist's agenda are a lot clearer -- Vogel is a deluded fanatic and the Satanists are just harmless hedonists, even though their dedication to evil is total.

 Another aspect this version restores is a conversation between the various police inspectors and an Interpol investigator, in which Vogel's murders are linked to rituals from the Inquisition. Connect this with Vogel's description of himself in SADIST OF NOTRE DAME as an agent of the Inquisition. EXORCISM has the same story line as all the other versions, minus the 1979 footage of Vogel repeated visiting the Notre-Dame cathedral, and confessing his murders to a priest who was a friend in the seminary that Vogel left. Without these scenes, EXORCISM and the hardcore SEXORCIMES are much more nihilistic. Vogel seems much more monstrous and, ironically, slightly more sympathetic. Some of Vogel's background and motives are not explained, which colors him as a mysterious, almost abstract, icon of insanity. He is insane, but perhaps not evil in the same sense as the Satanists, who are upper-middle class dilettantes and choose evil as a way of life. Vogel's self-proclaimed holy war upon them and the loose women of Paris is his philosophical statement on the amorality of the modern world, but he sees his sick actions as totally moral. EXORCISM and its many variants are not conventionally well-made films. The minimalist visual style, under-lit cinematography, ragged editing (exacerbated by the XXX inserts of some versions), and painfully slow pacing contribute to a viewing experience which is hard on the viewer's eyes and patience. Perhaps this reaction is precisely what Franco was looking for, as the theme of the film is the nature of "viewing." Vogel sees the sadomasochistic rituals, which he misinterprets, and we are the viewers of Franco's sado-thriller.

Where does Franco's responsibility end and ours start? Sadism and pornography were not created by Jess Franco. They have been constant throughout the human and Art history. EXORCISM's opening credits are printed over an eerie, satanic S&M ritual (missing from SADIST OF NOTRE DAME and DEMONIAC), in which a nude Lina Romay, writhing and bound to a martyr's cross, is whipped, caressed, and then smeared with the fresh blood of a beheaded dove (we actually see this appalling animal torture as the credit "Directed by J.P. Johnson" appears onscreen). The camera obsessively follows the movement of a leather-clad torturer (Lynn Monteil), as the unholy and gothic atmosphere intensifies with Andre Benichou's funereal, haunting score (the SADIST OF NOTRE DAME version was re-scored by Franco regular Daniel J. White). Seen in its uncut form, this scene echoes the sado performance rituals which open one of Franco's best earlier works, NECRONOMICON (1967). It is also instructive to note that Vogel's occupation, a writer. His sadomasochistic tales are actually first-hand accounts of his own murders. They are published by "The Dagger and Garter," a sleazy magazine operated by one of the organizers of the satanic masses. Vogel may be a demented visionary, but the Satanists are shown as seemingly normal citizens who are able to hide their perverted activities from the authorities, something Vogel cannot do. The publishing offices and the rococo castle in which the orgies are held are facades to fool the outside world. Franco expresses this theme of deceptive appearances by the way he shoots these locations, panning and zooming into the architectural details whose aesthetic qualities ironically contrast with the blood orgies executed within. These visual tidbits may also underscore the ancient or Medieval nature of Vogel's obsessions. The casting of beady-eyed Pierre Taylou and Lina Romay, as the arrogant publisher and his airhead secretary, works in perfect contrast to Franco's performance as the seedy Vogel. Taylou in his tacky mid-70s leisure suit and Romay in her then-fashionable maxi-coat represent common complacency and hypocrisy. In contrast, Vogel appears at least honest about his crusade. "One must know evil in order to fight it" he tells them. This battle between Vogel's mania and the cult's more socially acceptable depravity is the film's main trumpet call.

 The endings of EXORCISM and SADIST OF NOTRE DAME are quite different. In EXORCISM, Taylou jumps into the pursuing police car after Vogel has murdered a cult member (an interesting touch reminding one of Fritz Lang's M, in which the police and the underworld both pursue a killer). In SADIST OF NOTRE DAME, the chase is abruptly cut off when Vogel is taken into custody at Notre-Dame. In EXORCISM, Vogel is tracked to his suburban house where the lead inspector takes him out with a DIRTY HARRY-style shot that just misses Lina Romay, who is being held hostage. As Vogel falls dead into the front seat of his car, a dog howls mournfully in the distance. This effective touch can only be heard in the French-language version. The film ends as the camera quickly pans up to the roof of Vogel's house as the police absurdly speed away, leaving the dead Vogel and his traumatized hostage unattended! Even with all these rough edges, EXORCISM and its many variants haunt the memory as an uncompromising version into the center of madness and depravity. Franco's own performance here is brave and affecting, the total opposite of his usual tongue-in-check cameo appearances in his own movies. The voyeuristic scenes where he spies on Romay and her lesbian lover are especially chilling, due to the subdued way Franco moves his eyes and body as he peers through the window. Although he doesn't utter a word, his emotions are clear. The fact that Franco's acting here is superior to the direction indicates that the role itself was more important to him the final resulting film. Completest collectors will probably want all these alternate versions and make up their own mind about which is the most effective as both a psycho-sexual thriller and self-reflexive display which would be further repurposed in the 1980 EL SADICO DE NOTRE DAME. (C) 1998-2018 Robert Monell

28 September, 2018

Tearful Surrender kickstarter

Cassandra's film project is a homage to the films of Jean Rollin and Jess Franco!

Only 3 days left to get in on the action & help support my project which features a strong/sexy/badass/talented (mainly female) cast, an original horror story with many conceptual layers to dig your teeth into, a strong visual aesthetic/art direction for the film, a beautiful atmospheric set/location, elaborate special fx/practical effects planned, and so much more! Please take a look at the project & donate today! Support underground film!
Tearful Surrender is a gothic horror tale about a Sea Siren & her muses from the underworld who must feast on human souls to survive!

16 September, 2018

An Evening with Linnea Quigley, Zombies, and Jess Franco's Killer Tarantula

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor

I must say that meeting the legendary "scream queen" Linnea Quigley was definitely more memorable than the two Jess Franco films in which she appeared. The place was the 2015 LIVING DEAD FILM FESTIVAL at The Palace Theater in Syracuse N.Y., where Ms Quigley was a guest in relation to the screening of her performance as a punked-out zombie queen in Dan O' Bannon's game follow-up of George A. Romero's classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968). 

I went there with the express purpose of  catching 35mm screenings of CEMETERY MAN and TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD when I was blind-sided by meeting the petite, energetic actress who has appeared in more than 150 films, including two by Jess Franco, MARI-COOKIE AND THE KILLER TARTANTULAS (1998) and BLIND TARGET (2000). Hardly two of the director's best films, they are shot on video product mainly of interest to Jess Franco collectors. She has a major role in BLIND TARGET and a supporting one in MARI-COOKIE... . Nonetheless, she is incredibly sexy and gives enthusiastic, entertaining performances in both. 

She was on her way out to dinner as I was on my way in but as soon as I mentioned the name Jess Franco her eyes lit up and she stopped in her tracks. I asked her what is was like working with the late, legendary director. "He was wonderful. I really enjoyed it because it was fun to watch him working."  I mentioned both titles and she seemed surprised that I remembered them. "I appreciate your asking, because I don't often get questions about them." I guessed that she was more used to getting asked about her roles in such American cult movies as THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS. "He put so much passion in making films," she observed of Franco, "Even if the films themselves were not that good."  She spoke of the director with admiration and nostalgia. "It was fascinating working with him. There was always something interesting in the films."  When I asked what her favorite was she said BLIND TARGET because she had the central role, which was more creatively fulfilling for her.

I wish I had the time to ask her more questions, but as I went in to catch the beginning of the next scheduled zombie feature she thanked me again for remembering the films and asking her about them. A very lovely, talented, classy lady. 

Below is my vintage review of MARI-COOKIE AND THE KILLER TARANATAULA, a gargantuan in-joke in the trickster style of Jess Franco, featuring very delirious set design and a alternate dimensional sense of humor. 

MARI-COOKIE AND THE KILLER TARANTULA (1998) ONE SHOT PRODUCTIONS Produced by ONE SHOT PRODUCTIONS and Kevin Collins. Written by Jess Franco and Kevin Collins. Directed by Jess Franco. Cast; Lina Romay, Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley, Amber Newman, Robert King, Peter Temboury. 

During the Spanish conquest of Europe a pregnant woman is raped by a conquistador. Shortly afterward, a tarantula enters the woman and deposits its eggs. The spawn is a mutant female who transforms into a lethal spider when sexually aroused. Centuries later, in present day Spain an erotic dancer performs in a bizarre persona,The Killer Tarantula. After her shows she picks up willing victims who will end up entangled in an awesome, tortuous web back at her lair. A local Sheriff (Michelle Bauer) becomes attracted to the performer while investigating the disappearances of several club patrons. Meanwhile, the distraught mother (Linnea Quigley) of a wayward stripper (Amber Newman) seeks out her daughter. All will eventually bear witness to the seductive powers of the mysterious creature.

A squiggly, green title announces "An Outrageous Film by Jess Franco," as if his long time fans needed to be primed for this soft-core horror fantasia. The focus is on kinky sex amidst comic book horror and elements of deliberate self-parody are constantly popping up. The spider-woman motif goes all the way back to the director's 1961 pastel-colored musical VAMPIRESAS 1930 and Estella Blain in the classic MISS MUERTE (1965). Femme fatales are often associated with insects in Franco's filmography, as they are in the films of fellow Spanish surrealist Luis Bunuel.

The naked,tormented, half alive bodies of victims hanging in the awesome web festooned across the tarantula's living room, the sado-erotic arachnid rubber-gear, the obsessed audience at the club, are all images which continue Franco's career long obsession with Performance. Cinema is a show and the show is usually an erotic tinged scenario of seduction and death. The show here is illustrated with candy colored lighting and basic digital effects credited to the University of Malaga. As with many final period Jess Franco Spanish-American productions the English language track is somewhat problematic.

The eye popping visual design of glittering colors and outre costumes hold sway during the extended sexual encounters between Romay and everyone else in the cast. Even such risible effects as the inflatable tarantula with a human face seems a reasonable synapse and bears comparison with the mutations in the 1950's version of THE FLY. But this is late 1990s Jess Franco at his most unhinged. No other filmmaker could have imagined, much less filmed, this demented scenario. It's a high spirited Adult cartoon which ensnares its viewers by sheer oddity value. 

Lina Romay performs with enthusiasm and humor in a role few other actresses could handle. She easily manages to upstage American scream queens Bauer and Quigley, although Bauer's Sheriff-outfit of black leather jacket, fedora, g-string and boots is something to behold. Linnea Quigley's beachwear is ever skimpier.  Both US scream queens, though, camp it up in style adding to the dubious entertainment value.  It's all in the spirit of the old Warner's cartoons there's a final imprint of "That's All Folks!"

I wasn't sure if I liked this film or not when I first saw it  nearly 20 years ago but it does retain its unique oddball charm and Franco did have a way of mastering a tone, even if that tone strikes many normal horror consumers as way off the beam. Actually it's supposed to be a "comedy" a la Jess Franco. But his notion of comedy is what he finds personally amusing, which is not necessary convention, 21st century audience pleasing humor. He's a master at the art of ridicule, but not always a master of telegraphing that ridicule to each and every viewer. This is not his worst film, but it's not Tier One Jess Franco. I would recommend it for a single viewing. It has that hallucinatory look which Franco sometimes achieves without really trying. You may ever find yourself smiling at the weird goings on.

(C) Robert Monell, 2017

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07 September, 2018


A Film produced by Robert De Nesle
Directed by Jesus Franco [credited onscreen to Clifford Brown]
Scenario by Jesus Franco, Nicole Guettard [Nicole Franco; onscreen credit to Nicole Franco only] and Robert De Nesle
With: Pamela Stanford [Monique Delaunay], Lina Romay, Jacqueline Laurent and Guy Delorme
Director of Photography: Etienne Rosenfeld
Music: Andrea Benichou, Robert De Nesle]
Editing: Gerard Kikoine

1H38-1974-France-Integral Version
Encodage AVC/DVD-16/9 Compatible 4/3
French and English in DTS-HD MA Mono, AC3 with English subtitles
2018; a DVD of the film is also available in the package.
11 Chapters
Runtime: 1 hour 37m 56s

Bonus: FRANCO LE POSSEDE Interviews with Alain Petit (47 minutes)-Pamela Stanford, LA POSSEDEE DE FRANCO (14 minutes)-JESUS ET MOI with Jacqueline Laurent (25 minutes) -LA RESTAURATION DU FILM [before and after image comparisons]

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In the box below is a list of major differences between the LE CHAT QUI FUME Blu-ray and the 2010 MONDO MACABRO DVD (which, by the way, is excellent and recommended if only for the fact that it contains footage not in the LE CHAT QUI FUME and other additional Special Features). The changes, additions, subtractions which LE CHAT QUI FUME made was to elements also used by Mondo Macabro for their previous 2010 DVD-only  release.  Thanks to Christain Valor, who worked on the Blu-ray release. Use the scroll bar at right to read.
Hi Robert! Here are the main differences (there may be others but they are very slight): - The bathtub love scene is 2 seconds longer on the Le Chat BD - The 2nd casino scene is 3 seconds longer (MM cut a shot on Delorme's face and they also changed the order of some shots there) - The love scene between Guy Delorme and Jacqueline Laurent (70') is 11 seconds longer - Finally, as I told you, the last 62 seconds on the MM DVD are made of the previous shot played backwards! I watched it several times but I couldn't notice the trick until I put it in Adobe Premiere... I mostly used my VHS tapes for the French track so it now has 4 or 5 lines which were not on the MM DVD and the music is not exactly the same on 1 or 2 occasions. Cheers, Christain
Thanks so much.
Seen Wed 14:22
Chat conversation end

Jess Franco's delirious exercise in erotic, supernatural horror finally arrives on Blu-ray in an impressive HD package from France's LE CHAT QUI FUME, with gorgeous packaging, significant special features and in noticeably upgraded video-sound quality. But first, let's take a fresh look at the film itself..

LES POSSEDEES DU DIABLE/LORNA, THE EXORCIST ranks, in my estimation, in the top 5 of the director's extensive oeuvre. One of Franco's best acted films, Lina Romay, Guy Delorme, and Jacqueline Laurent (SINNER) are well cast in their roles, and Pamela Stanford is absolute perfection in the role of the female demon. There's a palpable, destructive, unearthly magnetism within the cursed ensemble. I'm not giving any of the plot away since this best works when one simply sits back and watches as it slowly, hypnotically, inexorably unfolds. The infamous emergence of the crustaceans from Laurent's private parts is certainly an image which burns its way into your unconscious. You might want to banish it from your mind, but you won't be able. This is 1000 proof Jess Franco, a bold, subversive vision in which, transgression is omnipresent.  Sexual anxiety has never been more thoroughly explored,  as Bunuel's L-AGE D'OR (1930) was in its era. Look out for a wild eyed Howard Vernon as a thuggish retainer. 

Franco's blocking has never been more subterranean and a truly creepy musical score by Andre Benichou* featuring a hellish, tortuously repetitive, high pitched guitar theme and rumbling chords makes it as effective an audio experience. Curiously, CFFP Executive/Producer Robert De Nesle is also credited as co-composer. What he contributed, if anything, is a mystery.* The locations at Le Grande Motte, both geometric and recalling the ancient Mayan pyramids, place the supernatural action in an outre environment, which was also, in reality, a popular casino resort, We see a lot more of the location in the extended versions on DVD and Blu-ray. The shot of a giant lobster on a local seafood restaurant has unsettling reflections of the hideous crabs which crawl from the cursed woman's vagina. The director's presence as the head of a mental clinic in which one of Lorna's victims resides, allows his fans to see him as the personal ringmaster of this macabre tale in which evil triumphs. 

It opens with 9 plus minute erotic encounter between Lorna (Stanford) and young Linda, who has just come of age. Lorna preens in the mirror (Lacan's "mirror state" comes to mind) wearing see through lingerie.* Her wildly curled hair and deep green eye make-up signal her as a female demoniac, in this case a consciousness-invading succubus).  Linda is revealed when a curtain is drawn open, she seems to have been hiding and watching Lorna pleasure herself, and at the end of the scene it fades in on Linda with her mother at home, as if the interlude was something deep within the girl's unconscious, waiting to emerge. Scored with Benichou's high pitched guitar, a seven note melody becomes apparent, repeated again and again, to the point where is becomes unnerving. As Linda lies down on Lorna's bed the camera incrementally tilts to one side, as if to indicate that the interior point-of-view is Linda's. But, at the end, Linda will become the chalice in which the soul of Lorna will be reborn. Linda's final scream of horror, alternating with demented laughter  lingers long after the extended fade-out. As if we have entered the black hole at the center of Lorna's curse and there would be no return to normalcy. That is the enduring power of this perverse film. 

The French language version is presented with easy to read, highly literate English subtitles capturing the poetic flavor of the phrases. Then I watched the rare  English  language version, which is a pretty strange experience. The voice sync, casting and dialogue are jarring but it's fascinating to program it with the Eng subs on to see the variances in dialogue between French and English. It plays more like a strange, sexually obsessed, near-hardcore mid-70s melodrama. It's a potent modern version of FAUST in any version.   Both the Mondo Macabro DVD and the Blu-ray contain both language options with English subtitles.
FAUST, the opera, in Jess Franco's 1961 GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, his first horror film and the first Spanish horror film. Presented by M. Lesoeur (Eurocine founder!) and conducted by Frank Latimore (LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO), according to the poster. 

MONDO MACABRO DVD: A number of previously deleted and extended scenes are included. Most significantly two completely new scenes to me: a tense family dinner and post dinner discussion among the Mariel family about Patrick's possible motives for changing the location of the family holiday (he has to follow Lorna's commands) and Chapter 10, which is the first time the "initiation" of Linda by Lorna (who has emerged through the wall) into her supernatural web, has been seen totally uncensored on any video format. I'm not going to describe this scene. You probably already know what it entails but seeing it after hearing about it for a quarter of a century was a seminal experience for me. A still from this scene is included in the 1993 publication OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO. It's the stuff nightmares are made of, mythic, dreamlike, delirious and sinister. And indelible. With these additional scenes (I've collected about half a dozen video versions  from around the world all lasting no more than 82m) it now runs nearly 100m. Mondo Macabro did a heroic job, with the help of Lucas Balbo, who discovered a 35mm print with a lot of previously missing footage, of piecing together the most complete version yet. Some print damage, lines and color instability was still visible, as it still is in the LE CHAT QUI FUME Blu-ray, although, due to further cleaning/repair work, it's noticeably improved. My only complaint about the Blu-ray is that the abbreviated ending, compared to the Mondo Macabro DVD, cuts short the feeling of falling into a  bottomless pit, represented by a very long fade-to-black. Franco's ultimate long goodbye (the MM DVD runs 98m 59s as opposed to the BD runtime of 97m, 57s), overwhelming the viewer with the certitude that when one sells their soul to the Devil, there's a price to be paid.  The brief addition of some footage in the elaborate detailing of Lorna's and Patrick's fateful betting in the casino on the Blu-ray adds to the Faustian symbolism. No automatic alt text available.

The French soundtrack is the option of choice for me, with more resonance and detail, but the English language track is an appreciated bonus. 

Fascinating interviews, in French with English subtitles, with Pamela Stanford and Jacqueline Laurent, are welcome special features in which the actresses recount their long, sometimes difficult careers in French commercial cinema. Unfortunately, for non-French speaks, a 47 minutes interview with Jess Franco actor-writer, film historian Alain Petit, is in French with no available English subtitles. LA RESTAURATION DU FILM is also included, which features before-and-after examples of the color correction, cleaning and frame restoration.

The LE CHAT QUI FUME Blu-ray presentation of this key Jess Franco title, is the Blu-ray debut of the director's transgressive masterwork and highly recommended. 

*I was somewhat curious about the music credit for De Nelse on Lorna.... but film journalist and Jess Franco expert Lucas Balbo has informed me that the producer graduated from a music school or has a degree in music but that the guitar solos were indeed by Andre Benichou. So, he may very well have had a hand in the score. 

**Pamela Stanford told me during an unpublished interview I conducted with her that her outre wardrobe was quickly chosen by herself during a pre-shoot stop to a nearby thrift shop. She also told me she considered the pyramidal structures in Le Grande Motte, influenced by ancient Mayan architecture gave her the feeling of being in a "celestial city" during the filming.  Thanks to Pamela Stanford for her comments and additional information.

NB: The Blu-ray is actually a little over a minute shorter than the Mondo Macabro DVD, due to the excision of some of the end footage.

(C) Robert Monell, 2018

01 September, 2018

LORNA, THE EXORCIST/LE JOURNAL INTIME D'UNE NYMPHOMANE (Clifford Brown [Jess Franco]), 1974;1972: Le Chat qui Fume Blu-ray release

I'll be adding a longer review of the Blu-ray of LES POSSEDEES DU DIABLE, along with a review of the Le Chat qui Fume LE JOURNAL INTIME D'UNE NYMPHOMANE Blu-ray, which I haven't seen yet, asap. They both include a Blu-ray and DVD disc.
Robert Monell shared a post to the group: EL FRANCONOMICON (Jess Franco).

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LORNA, THE EXORCIST (1974): A very nice Blu-ray presentation of LES POSSEDE DU DIABLE/LORNA, THE EXCORCIST, excellent new interviews with Jess Franco screenwriter/actor/friend Alain Petit, Jacqueline Laurent, [ Pamela Stanford w English subs] and a 60 page booklet with numerous fascinating images, from LE CHAT QUI FUME. This HD release has some slight variances with the previous Mondo Macabro DVD, which will also be discussed. The French and English vintage soundtracks are also included, with English subtitles. Also included is LA RESTAURATION DU FILM, a documentary on the restoration.
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SINNER/LE JOURNAL INTIME D'UNE NYMPHOMANE (1972). There are also new interviews on the LE JOURNAL disc, with Jacqueline Laurent, critic/film historian Alain Petit and the sound editor for both releases, Gerard Kikoine. In French with English subtitles. These are very welcome HD presentations of two of Jess Franco's key works.
The HD debut of both films.  Recommended!

(C) Robert Monell, 2018