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

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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