28 April, 2019

Conrado San Martin (1921-2019)

Conrado San Martín Prieto (20 February 1921 – 24 April 2019)

Above: Conrado San Martin as Agent 069, in Jess Franco's LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES.

You have to marvel at the 75 year length of actor Conrado San Martin's film career, with over 130 film roles. He had already been acting in Spanish films for over twenty years when he appeared in two significant Jess Franco films, GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (1962), as Inspector Tanner, and in Franco's stylish Europsy/Noir LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES/077-OPERATION SEXY (1964), as Agent 069/Jao.

He also appeared in other Europsy films (TARGET GOLDSEVEN ), as well as Spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Leone (ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST; DUCK, YOU SUCKER) and others (IN A COLT'S SHADOW). He also appeared later in his career in Jose Ramon Larraz's US shot horror film, THE EDGE OF THE AX (1988) and the Spanish remake of VAMPYRES (2015). A reliable actor, certainly better known in Spain than in North America. He's especially effective as the persistent inspector in GRITOS EN LA NOCHE and the manipulative villain in Sergio Leone's peplum spectacular THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES (1961).

(C) Robert Monell, 2019

25 April, 2019


Release dateSpain Feb 23, 1983
Country  Spain
Runtime94 min
Technical details2.35:1

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.

Club music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYSknGwtG3A

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 Franz Liszt composition.* When Moira performs the piece, the door opens and the treasure awaits them. The only problem is that the counter-agents have pursued them by helicopter and plan to relieve Al and Moira of their newly found fortune.

When I mentioned how much I admired the style of this film to Jess Franco when I interviewed him he seemed very surprised that I had seen it and liked it. He thanked me and asked why I had like it so much. I simply said that it was a visually gorgeous film about very sordid happenings in a world of strip clubs filled with Eurospies and criminals. He termed it one of his "black films" (film noir) and thanked me again for singling it out. 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 prolific 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 typical 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. However, as this more personal early 1980s period and his recent digital era films show, Franco is at his best when he is allowed to be himself and do as he pleases.

LA NOCHE... opens with a deliriously filmed strip by Lina Romay, performed in the driver's seat of a classic 1950s 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 XXX level of sado-erotic intensity), exotic locales, and Lina Romay has never looked sexier. The idea of a treasure located by a linguistic/musical code also played a key role in the scenario of an earlier Franco Eurospy related effort, KISS ME MONSTER (1968).

There is no known official North American VHS/DVD/Blu-ray release of this film as of this writing. 

*Liebestraum  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpOtuoHL45Y

Thanks to Bluray.com & Sir Alex Lindsay...

(C) Robert Monell, 2019