21 February, 2020



"It is clear that Kidd-- if Kidd indeed secreted this treasure, which I doubt not--it is clear that he must have had assistance in the labor. But this labor concluded, he may have thought it expedient to remove all participants in his secret. Perhaps a couple of blows with a mattock were sufficient, while the coadjutors were busy in the pit; perhaps it required a dozen--who shall tell."   Edgar Allan Poe, The Gold Bug

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 counter-agents 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 striptease 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 XXX level of sado-erotic intensity), exotic locales, and Lina Romay has never looked sexier. It's all so much fun, Jess Franco style. 

Inspired by Poe's "The Gold Bug" Jess Franco presents a Eurospy tinged mystery build around a secret code. As always, Franco is obsessed with secret codes in popular literature and cinema and developed his own as a filmmaker. The code in the Poe story leads adventurers to a fortune in pirated gold buried on a remote atoll. The code here is part literary, a poem, part musical, Liszt's composition, which when followed or played, open a vault of gold bars. The search for Nazi gold triggers thoughts of the gold guarding zombies in Franco's LA TUMBA DE LOS MUERTOS VIVENTES aka OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES, also filmed in the Canary Islands around the same time. But this is super sexy, light-hearted (with staggering doses of nudity, sex, erotic dancing displays) Eurospy fun all the way. 
This is not a horror film and it's one of the few Golden Films Internacional productions which is not a remake of an earlier Jess Franco film. That said, Severin Films has done another spectacular job delivering a sparkling presentation, scanned in 4K from the origina negative. The colors and definition are breathtaking. It looks delicious and has an intoxicating soundscape. Previously released on Spanish VHS (KING VIDEO), this is the film's official home video debut in North America. New English subtitles are provided for the Spanish Mono track.

Special Features include two hosted by Franco author Stephen Thrower: In the Land of Franco Part 2, a tour of multiple Franco locations; The Night of Open Jess, an interview with Thrower on the film. 

Also included is Part 2 of Donald Farmer's 1993 interview with Franco and Lina Romay during the shooting of JUNGLE OF FEAR. Fascinating stuff. 

Highly Recommended!
Robert Monell, 2020

20 February, 2020

Orgies Revolutionaires- Jose Benazeraf 1983


A 1983 hardcore war adventure as Gabriel Pontello and Olinka star as a military dictator who is visited by a sexy advernturess in the midst of an armed revolution. Benazeraf's subversive humor and a sense of visual detail make this worth a look. 

17 February, 2020

CRIES OF PLEASURE/GEMIDOS DE PLACER: Blu-ray Review by Robert Monell

It opens with the mute  houseboy Fenul (DP Juan Soler Cozar, whose feverish thoughts are voiced by the film's director, Jess Franco), playing what at first seems an easy listening afternoon sonata on an acoustic guitar, as the camera zooms back from a pleasure cruiser cutting across Alicante bay. The camera then zooms back further to an elevated view of the bay from the swimming pool patio. It then zooms into Fenul stringing the notes and ultimately down into the aquamarine pool water in which the recently murdered Antonio (Antonio Mayans) floats. Based on a story by the Marquis De Sade the credits over the image tell us. But adapted by Jess Franco for a daring stylistic experiment. Franco's models were obviously Touch of Evil by Orson Wellels and Hitchcock's extended-take murder mystery, Rope.

As usual in the films of Jess Franco sound and music is as important, possibly more so, than the the images he usual to illustrate his chronicles. One must always keep in mind that Franco has said that he considered himself to be a musician who made films. He worked in cinema because it offered more financial security than being a jazz musician. Just consider the fates of the musicians whose names he used to sign his films, short-lived jazz men Dave Tough and Clifford Brown. Franco was also an actor, both in his own and other's films, and his quivering voice here, representing the frenzied thoughts of Fenul, add a constant audio anxiety to the depraved proceedings.

Cut to the important fact here: The new SEVERIN 4K scan of this Jess Franco adaptation of Sade's sex and death game is absolutely stunning. It's like a gorgeous nightmare from which you can't awaken. Be bold. Do not hesitate to order. It's one of Franco's best films and now looks brand new. CRIES OF PLEASURE actually is from a Sade episode filmed at least twice before by the director, as a sequence in Franco's first Sade epic JUSTINE (1969) and in an expanded version as the 1979 SINFONIA EROTICA.

Below: A female predator (Rocio Freixas) moves toward a fateful encounter in Jess Franco's GEMIDOS DE PLACER (1982), "based on the writings by the Marquis de Sade." The impressive villa where the action is set was provided by the film's producer, Golden Films Internacional S.A. founder/CEO, Emilio Larraga. The villa is exotic in design, with a spiraling staircase, but it becomes more oppressive and claustrophobic as the film progresses.

Franco has said there are approximately 20 shots in this film, but I have counted over 30 at various times based on my viewings of the old Caliente Video from Million Dollar Video Corporation (cropped at 1.33:1) Spanish language VHS and this 2006 Spanish DVD. A later Spanish DVD version is part of the CINE EROTICO ESPANOL series- CLASIFICADA "S", licensed from VIDEO MERCURY FILMS S.A., Formato 4:3 [non-anamorphic, and it shows]; Mono; Multizona "0"; DVD5; approx. 83 min. Genero: Erotica; Boutique Multimedia S.l. Grupo Edider 88, S.L. there's even a Madrid ground mail, and this web address www.internacionaldersa88.com


"Una presumible orgia con un desenlace soprendenta" [or, as I said to Jess when we first met: "Lo siento, no hablo Espanol"]

Back copy: [Un liberal matrimonio quieren probar a realizar un trio sexual con una amiga de ambos. Pero en relaidad la utilizan para matarse el uno al otro con argucias y todo tipo de artimanas. El desenlace es sorpendente."]

Anyone who has seen it knows this is a hypnotic film, one of Franco's most personal and experimental works. It unfolds in flashback, narrated by mentally challenged guitar player, Fenul (DP Juan Soler Cozar, dubbed by Jess Franco himself). The extended takes suggest a link to Hitchcock's ROPE, also a story of murderers and their victims. The opening take, zooming slowly back from a yacht in Alicante Bay to pan over the villa, its swimming pool and a floating dead body (cf SUNSET BOULEVARD), is a tour de force.  A tale told by an idiot signifying the corruption of its four main characters, two of whom will die in paroxysms of sexual violence during the course of the film.

As pointed out above this opening immediately recalls the stunning plan sequence which opens Orson Welles' noir masterpiece TOUCH OF EVIL. The constantly probing camera here is as much of a character as the occupants of the villa. Like Hitchcock and Welles, the director wants to make us complicit in the following action, which is a study in casual amorality. The camera is always a voyeur in cinema, but Franco takes this concept to its absolute limit here. With very little dialogue and an overwhelmingly toxic ambiance, offset by Fenul's wandering guitar improvisations, the film becomes a kind of Sadean daydream ending in death, decay and a silent scream recorded from a final God's-eye camera angle.

As the mesmerizing instigator of the increasingly complex erotic games, Rocio Freixas, as the recently discharged mental patient Martina, emanates a powerful ambiguity which immerses the proceedings with a slow burning sense of danger. At any given moment she seems capable of anything and appears to exert a kind of mental control over the participants. She's also in two other impressive Jess Franco films from this period, EL SINIESTRO DR. ORLOFF and BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO, both 1982 Golden Films Internacional Productions in need of HD upgrades. In all Franco filmed around a dozen of films in the busy year of 1982 for producer  Larraga, who left him alone to make the film he wanted in the way he wanted. "I had complete freedom," the director told me when I interviewed him in 2005, adding that what he didn't have was large budgets. This film, in particular makes up for the lack of big bucks with the elegant, expansive, abstract, beyond conventional time and space mise-en-scene.

One could write a book on this film alone and Franco author Stephen Thrower is on hand for two Special Features, In the Land of Franco Part 1, a tour through familiar Portuguese locations for such Franco films as A Virgin Among the Living Dead, and Jess Franco's Golden Years, a consideration of the unique Golden Films Internacional features he made during the 1980s. There's also a subtitled interview with Franco and Lina Romay conducted in 1993 by Filmmaker Donald Farmer, during which the couple discuss their relative anonymity in the Spanish film market and such subjects as budgets. Franco even singles out director Martin Campbell as a worthy contemporary film director!

Severin's 4K scan from the original negative reveals layers of light and color which make the dreamlike film even more rapturous. Presented in Spanish with English subtitles, the soundscape is as enveloping as the imagery.

CRIES OF PLEASURE is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Severin Films, who are also releasing another fascinating Franco film produced by Golden Films Internacional, the erotically charged spy thriller NIGHT OF OPEN SEX, which I hope to review here soon.

(C) Robert Monell, 2020.