26 December, 2021

LA VENGANZA DEL DR. MABUSE (Jess Frank, 1971) Franco index --------------------------------------------------------------------

 (a.k.a.  DR. M SCHLAGT ZU; DER MANN DER SICH MABUSE NANNTE; DER DOKTOR MABUSE; EL DOCTOR MABUSE)  In a remote lighthouse laboratory, criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse conducts mind control experiments on women who are kidnapped by his assistants. Mabuse uses a mineral from stolen moon rocks (!) to create a ray that turns people into obedient zombies. A stripper, a witness to one of the abductions, in turn becomes the next victim. Under Mabuse's telepathic guidance, she seduces an American diplomat. These rapidly escalating events are investigated by Thomas (Fred Williams), the local Sheriff, who finally manages to locate the hideout. Mabuse is killed during a melee involving his brain damaged henchman as the lab explodes. 


This obscure feature represents the last gasp of the long-lived Dr. Mabuse franchise (albeit there was also Claude Chabrol's 1990 DR. M), which had seen better days in the Fritz Lang thrillers of the 1920s and 30s. Lang's final film, DIE TAUSEND AUGEN DER DR. MABUSE (1960), revived Mabuse as a nuclear age fanatic hiding out in a Berlin hotel outfitted with hidden television cameras, predicting surveillance culture along the way. That iconic film was followed by several Artur Brauner produced follow ups, such as DR. MABUSE VS SCOTLAND YARD (1963), which saw the series winding down amidst the competition of West German produced Krimis. Franco's 1971 movie has a very rushed look, For instance, one scene is partially obscured by a section of the lens-cap which appears not to have been properly removed by the camera team. Also, when the cops finally arrive at Dr. Mabuse's hideout, the shadow of Manuel Merino's camera falls over the arriving police car. Franco didn't have the time or budget to do any Hollywood style "coverage" and didn't bother correcting such technical gaffes as out of focus shots. 

A diplomat (Angel Menendez) falls under the mental control of Dr. Mabuse and his cohorts.

Some amusing touches include Mabuse's hulking henchman, Andros (Moises Rocha), with his sewn-up skull cap, looking like a refugee from a Hammer horror entry. The Red Garter "nightclub," which looks like a parking garage with a few battered chairs and tables placed inside, is the setting for Ewa Stroemberg's minimalist striptease. As usual in Jess Franco films,  WTF moments abound. The office of Sheriff Thomas looks like a leftover from some spaghetti western, and Williams appears throughout the film in a cowboy costume.  Despite these technical jaw droppers -- and that the always suave looking Jack Taylor is somewhat miscast as Mabuse -- the action is punctuated by a decent jazz music score, as well as some impressive color-gel photography. It basically looks like a color photo-novel one might read while listening to jazz on a Sunday afternoon.


            Jess Franco and Spanish horror regular Jack Taylor is Professor Frakas/Doctor Mabuse....

Most interesting are some extremely wide-angle compositions in Mabuse's lab and during the abduction scenes, which distort spatial relationships and employ lighting and color in a way which anticipate the look of Kubrick's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, which was released at the end of 1971. But there's little chance Kubrick saw or was inflected by Franco's micro-budgeted thriller. The difference being that Kubrick's film grossed 100 million plus while Franco's cut-rate epic wasn't even adequately promoted by its producers. The German language version of this has additional scenes during the lab robbery sequence which don't appear to have been directed by Franco but may have been added to extend the runtime. The overall irony is that by the 1970s Mabuse seemed a lot less of a threat to world peace than the very real terrorists who were making the headlines in Europe and the Middle East.

Like Orson Welles before him, Jess Franco favored the wide angle lens which imposed a broader view from fixed perspectives. 

The Spanish language LA VENGANZA DEL DR. MABUSE might be the definitive "Director's Cut" of this obscure film. The German version used for this review was released by the German CCC company.

(C) 2022 Robert Monell

 Robert Monell    

24 November, 2021

The Demons (Jess Franco,1972; 2003 Director's Cut)

I recently revisited the 101 minute version of this Jess Franco witch burning epic, set in 17th Century England, actually a remake of his 1970 THE BLOODY JUDGE/NIGHT OF THE BLOOD MONSTER, with Christopher Lee playing the role of the historical Witchfinder General, Judge Jeffries. Here the Judge is played by the Iranian actor Cihangar Garffari (John Caffari), who doesn't have quite the psychological grasp which Lee had on the character. France decided to create this version in 2003, eliminating over 10 minutes of footage from the full 114 minute version, which is also included here, along with the much shorter German theatrical release. 

               Cihangir Gaffari, Jess Franco's second Judge Jeffries, Chief Inquisitor of England

Doris Thomas' masturbation scene is cut in half, in the original running an epic 3 minutes plus (see below). Jess Franco toning down a sex scene? Curious. A number of dialogue exposition scenes are also trimmed or cut. On the Spanish language option Franco included a number of cues, written for such earlier films as BARBED WIRE DOLLS, replacing the anachronistic acid rock/Pink Floyd style original cues of Jean Bernard Raiteux. In this complete version the self pleasuring writhing of Mother Superior (Doris Thomas) goes on for over 3 minutes as Franco's telezoom moves in and out of her copious folds of flesh, very much like the probings of the verdant Portuguese exteriors. It somehow seems appropriate within the establishment of a totally voyeuristic aesthetic illustrated by the repeated framing of sadistic tortures (performances) from the point of view of enthused audiences (the Inquisition in the opening scene, the villagers in the burning of Nichols). Leaving the obsessive zooming aside, the scope compositions of Raul Artigot get a lot of period detail into the frame as well emphasizing the layers of political and psychological power in the historical context.

Point of view is everything in cinema, especially the cinema of Jess Franco, and he often places his camera amidst the onscreen viewers of the sadoerotic spectacle as a way of subversively implicating/deconstructing the off screen viewer's appetite for such tortures. That may seem a stretch but even the critical Phil Hardy Horror Encyclopedia compares Franco's approach here favorably to Ken Russell's in his equally sadistic 1971 nunsploitation epic, THE DEVILS, which, as admitted by the director in the interview with David Gregory, was  the direct inspiration for this project. Both films exclusively deal with sexually inflamed clerics in the midst of a historical context of witch hunting and official corruption and both have their merits and demerits.

Frequent 1970s Jess Franco producer Robert De Nesle 

 The point of interest is that the accused and accusers in both films are related to religion, the catch being that the Inquisitors often sport political ambitions and agendas. One could expand this in the case of LES DEMONS ( and Franco indicates this in the interview) into an allegory of the situation in Spain under the yoke of Francisco Franco at the time the film was made. Religious hypocrisy in his homeland was a running theme in the life and career of Jess Franco, and some of his films and projects were subject to the whims of the censorship of that era.

 THE DEMONS is certainly one of Franco's most visually compelling films for producer Robert De Nesle, with the cynical, shifty- eyed Jeffries portrayed by Gaffari as a suitable replacement for Christopher Lee (as Franco notes in the interview), solidly backed up by Anne Libert, Karin Field, Doris Thomas, the always welcome Howard Vernon, and especially the stunningly sensual Britt Nichols. In some ways the film is stolen by Franco and Spaghetti Western regular Luis Barboo as the dedicated torture supervisor. It's not great Jess Franco but it's surprisingly compelling and complex, given the debased genre and available budget. It's definitely a "Jess Franco" film, overflowing with his personal obsessions and touches. This version also has the complete flesh dissolving scene in which Karin Field is reduced to a skeleton after receiving the "kiss of death" from born-again witch Britt Nichols. This scene was also restored on the UK Nucleus Films restoration of the film. Franco's 1976 LOVE LETTERS OF A PORTUGUESE would be a more lavish exercise in transgression, and seemed more generously produced by Erwin C. Dietrich. After 1980 Franco avoided returning to Nunsploitation. 

R2 114 + 200 (Bonus)

Dolby Digital

2.35:1 (the German print looks about 2.50:1)

(C) Robert Monell, 2021

28 October, 2021


Above: Images of a would-be political authoritarian looms over the characters in RIFIFI IN THE CITY (1963) and CITIZEN KANE (1941). The plots tells a different story. 

FRANCO NOIR, the new Blu-ray release from Severin Films, is not only very good news for fans of Jess Franco, it's a feast for the eyes and ears of fans of classic Film Noir, Eurocrime cinema, jazz enthusiasts and rare cult movies. 


 DEATH WHISTLES THE BLUES (1962) filmed directly after Franco's first horror film, GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF), set on such Bond-style locations as South America, Jamaica and New Orleans, is best described as a crime film immersed in a jazz environment, shot in the high contrast black and white, including the Dutch camera angle style referencing classic Film Noir. Given that the villain (Georges Rollin) is ultimately defeated by the appearance and aggressive investigation of Interpol Agent 069 (a Franco joke which survives on the soundtrack of the French language version), it also turns out to be a Eurospy film with jazz interludes, including an on-camera appearance by Jess Franco as saxophone player with the Whisky Jazz Club band.

In 1947, somewhere in a South American police state, Julius Smith and Frederico de Castro, drivers in the employ of international criminal Radeck, are stopped by police and arrested for smuggling guns in their fruit truck. They manage to escape before being taken into custody, but Castro is shot dead while Smith (Manuel Alexandre) escapes, turning up as a jazz trumpeter in New Orleans over ten years later under a different name. The action of the remaining story is triggered when Castro's widow (Perla Cristal EL SECRETO DEL DR. ORLOFF), visiting underworld figure Carlos Moroni's nightclub, recognizes a song played by the band as ''Blues del Tejado", written by her late husband. This Franco composed melody, used again and again throughout the film in different contexts, becomes a haunting anthem of the grief which lingers after the loss of a loved one. Her current husband is, in fact, the same Radeck, now in semi-retired/hiding status as Vogel, who set up Smith and Castro for arrest years before. When she mentions the song to Radeck she signs the death certificate of Smith who her husband orders murdered in a staged traffic accident a few nights later. Grief, revenge, fear all amp up the odds as Radeck decides to silence all those who might reveal his past and present crimes.

The plot becomes more complex when Jao, a ship worker, arrives and starts asking questions about Smith's death. At the same time Moira (Danick Patisson), a new singer who has debuted at Moroni's nightclub, also seems to have a hidden agenda. As Radeck/Vogel, the villain of the piece, the French actor Georges Rollin (THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS) gives the character an understated menacing quality which is very effective and really pays off in the final turns of the narrative when the true identity of the noir femme fatale is revealed. Under his surface charm and elegance Radeck is a ruthless killer. The fact that the film moves with such dispatch illustrates Franco's skill at packing so much plot and atmosphere into a well-paced 81 minutes.

DEATH WHISTLES THE BLUES is action packed, atmospheric, filled with delightful jazz music and a fascinating cast of sinister characters. As the secret agent-protagonist actor Conrado San Martin, who played the relentless police inspector in Franco's previous THE AWFUL DR ORLOF, does not quite have the charm of Sean Connery's James Bond, the actor was even renamed "Sean Martin" on the theatrical and video adverts. The fact that his character's real name is Al Pereira gives Franco's perennial favorite detective/spy a good origin story.  Highlights include a surprisingly well-staged lethal fistfight in a dark alley between the agent and the thuggish Moroni (Gerard Tichy) which has the gritty flavor of similar scenes in such classic 1950s American noirs as KISS ME DEADLY (1955) and Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL(1958).

The unmasking of Radeck at a Gothic styled masquerade ball also shows Franco at his most visually arresting and anticipates the surreal, frenetic masquerade ball which opens his 1967 Eurospy spoof, LUCKY THE INSCRUTABLE. It should also be noted that the local homicide cop Inspector Fenton in DEATH.... is played by Spanish actor Fortunio Bonanova, who also appeared as the voice coach of the wife of the title character in Orson Welles' most famous film, CITIZEN KANE. This would be Bonanova's final film. CITIZEN KANE has a much more prominent influence of the other film on this release, the 1963 RIFIFI EN LA CIUDAD. 

Alternate titles of the French version of DEATH WHISTLES THE BLUES included 077 OPERATION JAMAIQUE and 077 OPERATION SEXY. No one has yet located a print of that SEXY version, according to Franco writer Stephen Thrower on the Bonus featurette included on the release. The version presented on the Blu-ray is the original Spanish language release, before Eurocine retitled, dubbed, and reedited it. This feature, scanned in HD from original negative elements, is presented in 1.78:1 (16:9), no significant loss of image was noticed during playback. Both features are in Spanish 2.0 mono audio with new English subtitles. Scanned from original negative elements the video quality is far sharper, with superior overall definition to the dupes that have been floating around for years.

Speaking of Orson Welles, that legendary director's trademark visual style is written all over both of these features. It is well-known that Orson Welles was impressed with a screening of RIFIFI IN THE CITY, which he was shown to him by a Spanish producer to discourage him from working with Franco. Welles liked it so much, probably recognizing the influences of his own filmography, including CITIZEN KANE (see top images), THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, TOUCH OF EVIL, that he decided to hire Franco to be his assistant on his two upcoming projects, CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT and TREASURE ISLAND (1965).  Franco and Welles reportedly had a falling out and TREASURE ISLAND, which Franco had started directing with Welles in the lead role, was left unfinished. When I asked Jess Franco who was his favorite director when I interviewed him he answered without hesitation, "Orson Welles." He followed that up by saying another top favorite was Robert Siodmak, a German born director who moved to the US in the late 1930ss to make a top notch series of Film Noirs, including a Jess Franco favorite, THE KILLERS (1946). Franco also mentioned that he especially admired the use of jazz music in Siodmak's thrillers, terming them "Jazz-Noir". Both of these films in this release would fall into that classification.

RIFIFI IN THE CITY could indeed be termed Wellesian from its very first shots of huge posters of corrupt businessman-senate hopeful Maurice Leprince (Jean Servais). Leprince is a major player in the cocaine smuggling racket and is being investigated by veteran detective Miguel Mora (Fernando-Fernan Gomez). The severe expression on Leprince's face and the sinister edge to his bearing on the poster suggest a threatening personality rather than a helpful, benevolent one which a politician might desire. One night a key informant, Paco, is delivered literally onto Mora's doorstep, dead on arrival. Mora is outraged and steps up his game, informing his colleagues that he's talking the gloves off and will take Leprince down without regards to laws, rules or regulations. But there are more related murders, mysterious clues, twists and turns which delay Mora's plan, leading to frustration, violence and tragedy along the way. 

Based on the 1958 novel by Charles Exbrayat VOUS SOUVENES_VOUS DE PACO?, the key to the murder mystery and conspiring architect of Leprince's downfall lies in the book's title, DO YOU REMEMBER PACO? The last section of the film contains a number of sharp turns and fatal twists giving the violent endgame a one-two punch. This is a sprawling, complex film which employs music, melodrama and political intrigue to create one of Franco's darkest, most stylistically elaborate immersions into a noir nightmare world. The character driven plot is worth the wait it takes to unravel. Daniel White's wide ranging score, from hot jazz, to Latin blues, mambo to big band salsa and beyond, with an especially haunting main theme, is one of his most accomplished for Franco. 

What we are left with is more of a downbeat contemplation of a genre than a straightforward crime thriller. The destruction of the villain necessitates the loss of good people and the feeling of being dropped at the edge of a precipice at the last moment. As with many of his better, more personal films, Franco seems reluctant to give us a completely happy ending, so he gives us complicated one instead with food for thought on the side.  The high contrast black and white cinematography by Godofredo Pacheco creates a sense of ratcheted-up visual delirium both in the violent set pieces and the painstakingly choreographed musical numbers. In fact this film could be also be called a musical-noir. Led by the over-the-top blonde persona of Marie Vincent (the secretary in Benazeraf's once controversial crime-noir, JOE CALIGULA), whose alpha style singing and dancing are set off by her deliciously stylized outfits and hairstyles. One must take into account that Franco had already made two large scale musicals by this time, THE QUEEN OF THE TABARIN and VAMPIRESAS 1930 (both 1960), and that music was as important to him as writing, directing, acting and visual stylistics. It was published as a 1968 photo-novel in Spain in Aventuras de Ciencia-Ficcion #6., according to the review in OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO.*

This feature, like DEATH WHISTLES THE BLUES, is presented in 1.78:1/16:9; although shot in 1.66:1 there is no significant loss of image. Scanned  in HD from negative elements there are a few moments which lack the focus and definition of the rest, but this is the absolute best this film has ever looked on home video. This is full-blown noir, consistently composed with atmospheric poise. The new English language subtitles are an accurate translation of the 2.0 mono Spanish language soundtrack. A 60 plus minute featurette interview with Stephen Thrower details the career of Franco up to the early 1960s, along with discussing the plots, influences, and performances in both films. He also adds some observation and criticism of Franco's seeming lack of interest in conventional plot construction. My own feeling is that both are just about pitch perfect in tone and style, representing Franco's final word on classic Film Noir and his own early steps into a personal brand of neo-noir which would continue to evolve until the very end of his career. 

*Balbo, Lucas, pp 46-47, 1993.

Released by Severin Films.

(C) Robert Monell , 2021

16 September, 2021

ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN (James Lee Johnson, 1986)


                                                               Vintage Spanish VHS

ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN: With direction credited to James Lee Johnson, screenplay to David Khunne, and even taking the space to note that it's based on a story by Sax Rohmer, Esclavas Del Crimen is a double joke from inveterate trickster, Jess Franco.  This candy colored obscurity is a deliriously filmed erotic adventure that updates Sax Rohmer's Sumuru ethos (Rohmer receives screen credit, as "S. Rohmer") to a contemporary Asian region. It's doubtful that the actual story, what little there is of one, is based on any actual Rohmer story.  Lina Romay appears as Fah Lo Suee, the daughter of  a Fu Manchu style Oriental villain, made up with exotic eye mascara to appear Oriental, with an equally Asian wardrobe and hair style. A title card explains it takes place "in an exotic corner of the distant east, [a] paradise of the drug and corruption." The double joke is that it's a parody of Sax Rohmer's universe played straight, if not sober. Romay does a lot of elaborate exotic dancing in her hotel nightclub, located in a jungle high rise guarded by heavily armed female security personnel. It's also typical of the kind of budgetary restraints the director faced that most of the action is staged within convenient hotel rooms.

Members of the Rocky Walters rock band are approached by seductresses at an Asian tourist resort where they are drugged, tortured, and forced to sign over bank accounts and other financial holdings.  This criminal enterprise is investigated by a karate fighting investigator and an Interpol agent who wears a pink shirt. The movie climaxes with an air strike carried out by the agent flying a Harrier Jump-Jet delivering a napalm payload into the encampment. Franco obviously spent a lot of time on creating his personal atmosphere of male enslavement in a jungle hideout ruled by Alpha women.

This amusing if sometimes opium-paced trifle is most interesting for the eye-popping color filter effects, which fill key scenes with bright primary color patterns which appear as odd halos, sometimes obscuring the action. The female bunch are a sexy and imposing army of Amazons that recall Shirley Eaton and her followers in Franco's THE GIRL FROM RIO/ FUTURE WOMEN (1969).  Only in this post hardcore-Franco feature the female army parade around the tropical headquarters in the nude. Following the final assault on the hidden jungle headquarters Lina Romay gets to repeat the trademark Fu Manchu standard: "The world will hear from me again!"


Every so often in his massive filmography Franco returned to the Far East to stage supposed Sax Rohmer/Edgar Wallace tales. The ones produced by Harry Alan Towers in the late 1960s were the most adequately resourced, despite the outrageous use of stock footage in THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU (1969), including the sinking of the Titanic via Roy Ward Baker's 1958 black and white docudrama A NIGHT TO REMEMBER intercut with more lifted footage from the 1966 THE BRIDES OF FU MANCHU, directed by Don Sharp! This isn't really an official Sumuru film, the female villain played by Romay is just a variation on Rohmer's characters and themes. 


Franco's 1985 VIAJE A BANGKOK, ATAUD INCLUIDO was also credited to Edgar Wallace material, although it turns out to be an remake of THE 1966 Franco Eurospy, CARTES SUR TABLE. Then there was the similar BANGKOK, CITA CON LA MUERTE (1985), a colorful mixture of martial arts, drug smuggling thriller and kidnapping for ransom melodrama, featuring Lina Romay as a Thai pirate, filmed in the Canary Islands. The visual style in that one features comic book style frames with dialogue balloons. With the aid of his ace collaborator, cinematographer Juan Soler Cozar, Franco was obviously having a lot of fun with these Far Eastern-set pulp fictions.

This Herminio Garcia Calvo production followed a series of hardcore features such as EL MIRON Y LA EXCHIBICIONISTA and ENTRE PITO ANDA EL JUEGO (both 1985). It's another return to the Franco-verse take on the Sax Rohmer-Fu Manchu franchise which he explored in the late 1960s with THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU, THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU, and THE GIRL FROM RIO, all produced by Harry Alan Towers. It signaled the final part of that Jess Franco phase before he helmed such bigger budgeted, late 1980s, Eurocine-produced action films as FALL OF THE EAGLES, DARK MISSION, and ESMERALDA BAY. 

Unlike Franco's earlier Sax Rohmer related epics, ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN has yet to have an official DVD or HD presentation in an English friendly or any version in North America or elsewhere. This review was based on  a VHS dub of the Spanish video pictured at the top of this post. 

Yet another supposed Edgar Wallace adaptation was Franco's 1983 adventure SANGRE EN MIS ZAPATOS, based on an actual Wallace novel, "Sanders Come from the River"

(C) Robert Monell, 2021                                                               

29 August, 2021

El Hundimiento de la Casa Usher (1983) Filipe M. Guerra version


I'm gradually putting together a series of blog posts on this unique version of Jess Franco's lost director's cut of his 1983 EL HUNDIMINETO DE LA CASA USHER.  The film was only projected publicly once at a Horror Festival in Spain, where is was roundly rejected by a disappointed audience.

It was then recut and several murder sequences involving Usher (Howard Vernon) were added while other footage was removed. Years later it was again re-edited by Eurocine, Paris, with other newly filmed sequences featuring Olivier Mathot, Francoise Blanchard as Usher's assistant and his daughter. A lengthy clip from Franco's 1962, GRITOS EN LA NOCHE was also included, as a flashback to Usher's past as he relates it to Jonathan Harker (Hacker!). Black and white footage in a color film. This version was given the English language export title, REVENGE IN THE HOUSE OF USHER, with a Wizard Video box graphic including an image of a menacing power drill (cf De Palma's 1984 BODY DOUBLE!). This version is also known as NEUROSIS: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER and ZOMBIE 5.

Part I will be an extensive interview I conducted with Felipe M. Guerra, who created the new composite which gives an impression of what Jess Franco's version might have been.

GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, the 1962 film which was Jess Franco's first horror film, makes a surprise appearance in NEUROSIS: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. 

(c) Robert Monell, 2021

25 August, 2021

EL COYOTE (Joaquin Romero Marchent, 1955)


EL COYOTE (1955): When the territory of California is made a state in the mid 1800s there is much violence and resistance by outlaws and the Mexican residents, which is violently put down by US military force. Massacres and uprisings result in many casualties. Eventually a stranger arrives who takes on the masked identity of a ruthless avenger. This is the first of two feature films featuring a Zorro type character who helps the citizens of California resist anarchy and corrupt US military officials in the newly founded state.
Above: Jess Franco (center), with Rafael Marchent (left) and his brother Joaquin Romero Marchent (right) onset. All three would go on to direct Spanish Westerns in the 1960s.

An atmospheric historical adventure shot in high contrast monochrome by Ricardo Torres with a impressive use of shadows and stylized camera angles. Both this and the sequel were shot in 29 days by the great Joaquin Romero Marchent, assisted by a very young Jess Franco (seen center in the below production still), who was scriptwriter, assistant director, co-composer and appears in a cameo. Marchent went on to become the most prolific maker of Spanish westerns. Franco also co-wrote the 1962 remake, also directed by Marchent, starring Frank Latimore as El Coyote and Howard Vernon as a corrupt US officer. These films tell the story of American expansion from the point of view of the people exploited by the local American politicians and military of that era. Based on characters created by Jose Mallorqui.
Above: Jess Franco, with a prosthetic nose and mustache, as a Union soldier in EL COYOTE (1954)? Or perhaps not.
Although it's very brief, there is a possible Jess Franco appearance as a Union soldier, seen from low angle during a dissolve, in the American flag raising sequence at the beginning of the film. There's a strong resemblance. Perhaps it's the very first Franco cameo. He would also appear as a more recognizable piano player in Leon Klimovsky's Spanish noir, MIEDO (1956), on which he also worked as a screenwriter and composer. It's very interesting to note the difference in style between this film and LA VENGANZA DEL ZORRO, the 1962 color remake. Not only is the monochrome format more effective in creating a period atmosphere, it develops an ambience of noirish deceptive appearances. Black and white is neither reality nor the way humans normally perceive reality. But we can dream in black and white, and black and white movies have been made since the birth of cinema. 
The one major problem with the first two Marchent COYOTE films is the casting of Mexican actor Abel Salazar in the lead role. He's believable as the foppish gentleman who first appears in town, less believable as the ghostly, masked midnight rider. Salazar went on to appear in and produce such key Mexican horror films as EL VAMPIRO (1957) and EL BARON DEL TERROR/THE BRAINIAC (1961). He doesn't appear to have the internal fortitude, athletic sophistication and elan needed for the role. Frank Latimore was somewhat more effective in the remake. 

                                            Above: Mexican producer-actor Abel Salazar

When El Coyote's looming shadow towers over the corrupt commandant in the final confrontation we are transported to the realm of illusion, dreams, 1940s Hollywood horror. Nothing in the remake equals it. The one advantage is that Howard Vernon is a better actor and gives a more layered performance in the remake. Next we'll consider the second film, which is basically an extension of the first with some interesting developments. Once again Franco was assistant/co-director/co-writer since the films were shot simultaneously and then constructed as two separate features. According to director Marchent, it turned out to be a very work intensive, confusing shoot. 

(C) Robert Monell, 2021

19 July, 2021

LES GRANDES EMMERDEUSES (Clifford Brown, 1974)

LES GRANDES EMMERDEUSES (Clifford Brown, 1974)

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Les Grandes Emmerdeuses
1974 82m. ETC Video (U.S. import). Directed by Clifford Brown. Produced by Robert de Nesle-C.F.F.P-Paris; Screenplay by David Khunne; DP: Etienne Rosenfeld; Louis Soulanes; Music: Andre Benichou [Robert Viger?]; P: Ramon Ardid. Eastmancolor.

ABOVE: Bach-rock composer-guitarist Andre Benichou; who also scored Jess Franco’s LORNA, THE EXORCIST (1974); THE OBSCENE MIRROR (1973); EXORCISME (1974); among other titles.

Cast: Lina Romay (Pina) Pamela Stanford [Monique Delaunay] (Tina), Willy Braque [Guy Peraud] (Insurance agent), Raymond Hardy [ Ramon Ardid] (Agent Perez), Monica Swinn (Kashfi), Lise Franval [Lisa Ferrera] (Martine), Richard de Conninck (Interpol Agent 0069), Fred Williams, Susuki (Radeck’s female friend), Jess Franco(Martin)


A couple of air-headed diamond smugglers, Pina (Lina Romay) and Tina (Pamela Stanford), disguised as Interpol agents, travel to Portugal to fence the jewels (guess where they hide the gems), as two Interpol agents track them. The women are captured by a criminal gang also on the trail of the diamonds. The women manage to elude their pursuers through the use of the oldest trick in the book: sex. A much more sexually explicit “Red Lips” style crime adventure than such titles as the 1960 LABIOS ROJOS or ROTE LIPPEN/ El caso de las dos bellezas (1967) [TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS], this has never had a HQ video* or any DVD release of which I am aware.Les emmerdeuses.jpg

ABOVE: Lina Romay as Pina,  one of our charming diamond smugglers, in LES GRANDES EMMERDUESES/LES EMMERDEUSES.

This minor spy/sex comedy-adventure starts as an almost-hardcore romp with the camera zooming into close-ups of our heroines’ pudendum, as they talk directly to the audience and explain how they eluded ruthless international criminals and got away with a stash of diamonds. This kind of interactive cinema, a sexual come-on for the raincoat crowd, also can be found in Franco’s MIDNIGHT PARTY (1975), which opens with Lina Romay stimulating herself and the audience as she directly addresses them. Franco's films are more often than not about "performance" and the interaction between the audience and the performer both within the context of the film and in relation to the viewer of the film. The actresses verbally identify their characters as Interpol agents but it could be all a put-on. They even joke about "James Bond" as if to comment on the long running European Bond spoofs. Franco doesn't usually stay within the confines of whatever genre he is working in, he breaks its boundaries making yet another "Jess Franco" film, a genre in itself.

The film is amusing, mainly due to the charms of Lina Romay and Pamela Standford, who really  seem to be enjoying teasing the camera/audience. It’s a lot of harmless fun in a Eurospy masque. Franco also hams it up with his telezoom lens, which is as overactive as ever, zooming in on everything from jets passing overhead to more intimate places. Romay spends most the time nude (except for black gloves pulled up to her elbows), while Stanford dons an outrageous wrap-around cat mask and leopard skin tights in order to distract the enemy.

The Eurospy element is confined to the presence of, bumbling police agents,  played by Franco regulars Bigotini and Ramón Ardid, who both look like they had a ball during the shoot. There’s a mad scientist subplot (featuring a Doctor Radeck. Who else?) and even a kind of Frankenstein creature  (the Duranstein monster) who must be dealt with (cf THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN-1972, which, in comparison, looks like it was set, and made in 1872!).

Franco recycles some of the score from his sexy peplum LES GLOUTONNES (1973). Curiously enough, the music is credited to Robert Viger in that film, while here Andre Benichou is listed as the composer. The same haunting piano theme in LES GRANDES EMMERDEUSES can also be heard in several other Franco titles from that period, including the opening credit sequence in LE MIROIR OBSCENE (1974). It is repeated as a guitar-driven acid rock theme throughout the film.*  Some of the director’s freewheeling camera antics recall certain 16mm experimental features of the 1960s New York Underground (Jack Smith, Andy Warhol).

[Additional comments to my original 1999 published review:
Seeing this over 15 years later made me appreciate Franco’s sheer creativity in the face of dire poverty all the more. It looks like this was shot in Super 8mm, or maybe just regular 8mm! I highly doubt there was a formal script and most of it takes place in cheap looking hotel rooms (hmmm… where I have seen those rooms before?). The ladies search for jewels secreted in a phallus, which is also sought by the male agents. In the meantime the monster is deployed. The “thing” is created by yet another evil “Radeck” who uses it to threaten our heroines. It’s really just a very ugly guy (I hesitate to use the word “actor”).

Jess Franco appears as a sort of spy-master, but looks really spaced out or hyped up on something, pacing around yet another sleazy hotel room somewhere in Portugal or the South of France. Willy Braque (Guy Peraud), a familiar face from a number of Jean Rollin films (DEMONIACS, LIPS OF BLOOD), is even stranger looking than Jess Franco! This guy looks like he hasn’t had a decent meal in his life. In other words, he’s perfectly credible as the “connection” Kashfi.

Don’t expect to see this on R1 DVD anytime soon. But you never know…

And over ten years on I still can’t get over Pamela Stanford’s cat mask.

Filmed in Cascais, Portugal. 

*Thanks to the BACH CANTATA WEBSITE for crediting my musical research on this film’s score on my Jess Franco blog http://www.robertmonell.blogspot.com. It’s becoming a rare pleasure to be fully credited for Internet writing in our age of impatient Social Media hijacking, if not piracy. So, I tip my hat to them.

Andre Benichou (Electric Guitar, Arranger) – Short Biography

Source: Robert Monell Blog (2007); IMDB Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2008)

New Version: (C) Robert Monell


André Bénichou: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Bach-Benichou: PT – Works | PT- Recordings

13 July, 2021

THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA (1970): Edgar Wallace, the zoom lens, Soledad Miranda....

Directed by Jess Franco.
With Soledad Miranda, Fred Williams, Jess Franco, Howard Vernon.
A Spanish-West German co-production.
Available from European Trash Cinema.


Franco's last collaboration with the legendary Soledad Miranda. She would die in a car accident a few weeks after the completion of this supposed Edgar Wallace adaptation. The plot is basically generic Eurospy cliches strung end to end with the most interesting aspect being Miranda's participation. Based on the Wallace story "Keepers of the Stone" from the author's "Sanders of the River" collection, I doubt if the finished film closely adheres to the original story. The screenplay by Ladislas Fodor is pretty generic stuff. It looks like a launching pad for another Edgar Wallace item to be promoted on the German and international markets. 

British Agent Jane Morgan (Miranda) joins forces with undercover Scotland Yard investigator  Rex Forrester (Fred Williams) to locate a stolen mineral which has the capacity to transform base metal into gold. The downside is that it emits rays which turn all those who come into contact with it into toasty zombies. After a trip to the tropical country of Akasava, where the stone was discovered, the agents discover two eminent physicians ( Franco regulars Paul Muller and Horst Tappert) have secured the element and are planning to sell it to a corrupt philanthropist. The men are murdered by a counter-agent (Howard Vernon), who is blown up along with the stone in a plane crash while attempting to flee the country. The climactic plane crash is edited in an amusingly minimalist fashion, a sort of abstract montage.


Miranda's participation in this enterprise is highly erratic — she pops in and out of the story and her main role is to provide a romantic interest for the hero, indifferently played by the soporific Fred Williams, a dull actor who spends most of the film limping around in a debilitating leg cast and crutches. She doesn't really get a chance to project the obsessed sensuality which burned up the screen in her stunning turns in VAMPYROS LESBOS and EUGENIE (both 1970). She does get to perform some abstract strip teases during which she barely moves and doesn't even remove any clothing. No strip and a lot of tease, but its a very hot, dreamlike performance, directed by Franco in an obvious state of delirium. She is simply too talented to fit into a role any actress could have done, and she never only occasionally turns on that mysterious aura of narcotic eroticism which surrounds those indelible performances. Howard Vernon and Franco himself appear in small roles as agents and lighten up the proceedings with some humorous asides.

What saved the film for me were the whirlwind vocal and brass score by Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab (available on CD) and Franco's frenetic camera style and pacing. The director really goes over the top with the zoom lens here (as many critics have complained), moving in and out of the action (or non-action) or suddenly zooming up to the top of palm trees and back down again for no particular reason. These rather personal and seemingly desperate directorial moves and become kind of amusing to watch for the sheer unpredictability of what Franco is going to focus (or unfocus) on next. 

The wild camera work is accentuated by the fast paced editing (unusual in a Franco film from this period) and heady music. Franco obviously knew he was involved in a lost cause and at least produced film with a few of his personal touches, a Eurospy quickie which his longtime fans can laugh at while regretting the fate of the doomed Miranda. As film historian, critic, Franco collaborator Alain Petit wrote of the film, "The zoom lens is king here." And Soledad Miranda was the soon to be lost queen. Franco continued his trademark use of the telezoom throughout the 1970s and into his 1980s Golden Films Internacional period. The use of zoom shots is now very out of fashion, but I find it a rather fascinating tool when employed by an auteur like Franco. He uses it here not only as a way to focus attention but to collapse conventional cinema space, explore dimensional unrelated to the story at hand, and to generally add brush strokes to his action painting. Cinema is, after all, movement, action and tension. 

An HD restoration of this Edgar Wallace/Eurospy adaptation would be very welcome. All the prints I've seen run short of a published 88 minute runtime.

view from 1999; published on Mobius Home Video Forums.

New Version (C) Robert Monell, 2021

27 June, 2021

Montserrat Prous interview link

One of Jess Franco’s most memorable early-1970s regular actresses, the elusive Montserrat Prous granted a rare interview to Jose Luis Salvador Estebenez and subsequently published in Issue 22 of Spanish fanzine El Buque Maldito several years ago. Ms. Prous discusses her background, career, working with Franco, and what she’s been up to since retiring from acting. Here is an abridged version of that interview, which, although condensed, is still an absolute must-read.

Interview in original Spanish:

Entrevista a Montserrat Prous – La abadía de Berzano (wordpress.com)

Interview translated into English:

Google Translate

Some thoughts on Diary of a Nymphomaniac

By Michelle Alexander

Nightclub stripper Linda Vargas (Montserrat Prous) seduces Ortiz (Manuel Pereio), a middle-aged man who had been watching her latest show, getting him hopelessly drunk in the process. They go to her apartment when, after he collapses on her bed in an alcoholic stupor, Linda calls the police anonymously to report a murder, slits her own throat, places the knife in Ortiz’s hand, and lays over him to die. Soon enough the cops turn up and immediately arrest a bewildered, protesting Ortiz. Rosa (Jacqueline Laurent), Ortiz’s wife, is in disbelief that her husband could be capable of murder and embarks on her own investigation to uncover the mystery. Rosa meets Countess Anna de Monterey (Anne Libert), one of Linda’s former lovers. The Countess reveals Linda’s tragic background – how she ran away from her uncaring family in a provincial village to the big smoke as a teenager, and what happened to Linda not long after arriving in the city. Wandering aimlessly around, painfully naïve and unaware of her surroundings, she fails to spot the creep who stalks her to a fairground – Ortiz. As she takes in the attractions, Ortiz approaches the innocent girl and offers to accompany on her on a Ferris wheel, where she is brutally raped, a nightmare she relives when she is raped once again at her first job by her boss. Deeply traumatised but not knowing how or where to seek help, the doomed Linda dives headfirst into a self-destructive sex and drugs lifestyle. Desperate to block out the pain and find true love and acceptance, Linda is instead used and abused repeatedly. Rosa meets another of Linda’s friends, fellow stripper and XXX-photographic model Maria (Kali Hansa), who reads Rosa excerpts from the deceased woman’s diary. The diary holds the key as to what led up to the fatal night of Ortiz’s murder…

Diary of a Nymphomaniac was filmed during Jess Franco’s manically busy early 1970s period, and is my favourite title of what I’ve viewed to date from that era. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s one of Franco’s best movies, hands down. With its frank presentation of sexual exploitation, rejection, prostitution, drug addiction and suicide, Diary…, is also an undoubtedly downbeat affair. Even the rare moments where Linda is at her most happy and carefree – frolicking at the beach with the Countess, dancing at the nightclub she frequents, or in the arms of her various lovers – are dogged with a sense of morbidity, as the viewer knows death will be the inevitable end for Linda. The beautiful Montserrat Prous delivers a powerful performance as Linda, effectively injecting a combination of sexuality, naivety and pathos into the proceedings. Prous’ eyes alone are incredibly expressive, for example when she is raped by Ortiz – one of the most harrowing depictions of sexual abuse ever depicted on screen. Ortiz starts to molest Linda, her discomfort transforming into horror as she realises what is going to happen and is trapped on the Ferris wheel. The combination of haunting soundtrack music, fairground music simultaneously playing and the relentlessly spinning wheel juxtaposed with Linda’s violation creates a truly disorienting effect. The rape is depicted off camera, but Linda’s dazed appearance and haunted, frozen-in-terror eyes as the ride finishes and Ortiz rushes off to disappear into the crowd speaks a million words. Jacqueline Laurent is also notable as Rosa, the prim and proper middle-class wife of Ortiz who is dragged into a waking nightmare, as is the exotically stunning Kali Hansa as the permanently drugged-out exhibitionist Maria. Although clearly filmed on a limited budget, Franco seems to have taken extra care with Diary The opening club sex-show, with Prous and Hansa, is strikingly lit with blood-red lighting, and the womens’ simulated couplings are languid and sensual, as they are during scenes where they pose for X-rated photo shoots. The, again vastly limited, location settings are also pleasing to the eye, as are the actresses’ skimpy, colourful 1970s outfits – a plethora of cute mini-skirts, crop tops, shirt dresses and chunky platform heels. Special notice must also be given to the incredible acid rock-tinged progressive rock score by Jean-Bernard Raiteux and Vladimar Costa. At turns raunchy, at turns melancholy, the music perfectly complements the onscreen happenings perfectly.  

An often-used advertising heading in English-language theatrical promotional material for Diary… was (“Linda loves her work and her work was love”). Needless to say, any punters sucked in by the misleading tagline and fully expecting a frothy light-hearted sex romp would have been in for a rude shock with its depressing atmosphere (although probably mollified with the extensive nudity). Those who appreciated the film also as a serious low budget sex-drama and character study of an irredeemably broken person would have known they were onto a winner with Diary of a Nymphomaniac. Quite simply ESSENTIAL viewing for both Jess Franco devotees and novices.  

09 June, 2021

SEXY SISTERS/SWEDISH NYMPHO SLAVES retitling madness in Australia!!!

By Michelle Alexander

From mid-1981 and for several years following, Die teuflischen Schwestern aka Sexy Sisters made its way through drive-ins and less reputable cinemas around Australia, where it was inexplicably re-titled Swedish Nympho Slaves. Aside from plunging Jess Franco completists into confusion, as Die Sklavinnen is also known as Swedish Nympho Slaves in some territories, this alternate title appears, on the surface, to be utterly pointless as there are no Swedish characters nor actors in the film. The reason for this nonsensical decision appears to a canny marketing decision by distributor Filmways to cash in on the tail end of the Scandinavian softcore film craze in Australia (which had already been done to death by the early 1980s). Beginning with the 1970 release of Swede Mac Alberg’s Fanny Hill (1968), but particularly running rampant upon the remarkable success of Danish sex comedy specialist John Hildbard’s Bedroom Mazurka (1970) – at Melbourne’s Roma cinema it screened for an almost 2-year consecutive run, from March 1972 to December 1973 – a deluge of clunkily dubbed European softcore features were rechristened with new titles featuring the buzzword “Swedish”, regardless if the film was not from that nation. Ehepaar sucht gleichgesinntes (1969) materialised as Swedish Wife Exchange Club, Christa (1971) turned up as Swedish Fly Girls and Wilder Sex junger Madchen (1972) did the rounds as Love Play Swedish Style.

Changes in audience tastes and the advent of home video meant the “sexy Swede” stereotype was well and truly running out of steam by the time of Die teuflischen Schwestern’s rebirth as Swedish Nympho Slaves in Australia, with final attempts to wring out every last dollar from the trend via distribution of Walter Boos’ Drei Schwedinnen auf der Reeperbarn aka Three Swedish Girls in Hamburg and Erwin C. Dietrich’s High Test Girls aka Swedish Sex Service (both 1980). Notably, Australian comedians were parodying the dubbed Scandi sex film phenomenon up until the early 1990s, most prominently in the sketch comedy TV show Fast Forward.    

Australian Distributor Filmways Press Sheet

Australian Daybill

14 May, 2021

TANZERINNEN FUR TANGER: To Be or Not To Be a Jess Franco film.....

TANZERINNEN FUR TANGER, a 1977 sexploitation drama/mondo thriller co-produced by Erwin C. Dietrich, features Josiane Gibert, as a World Health Organization reporter investigating an international white slavery operation in Europe and the Middle East. Directed by Guy Gibert, it's being sold as a "Jess Franco" film on Amazon. Curious, because it has the almost exact plot and characters as Franco's candy-colored BLUE RITA, made the same year. It also includes the actors who play the main roles in BLUE RITA, Dagmar Burger and Eric Falk. It also has the same music cues heard in BLUE RITA, by the same composer, Walter Baumgartner. The final scene in the film includes black mass footage, possibly made by Jess Franco, from the 1976 Dietrich production MONDO EROTICO (probably mostly directed by Dietrich), a film credited to Franco on the Jess Franco Goya Collection Blu-ray disc credits and packaging.
You've seen this scenario before in countless Jess Franco/Erwin Dietrich/Eurocine product. Open with an erotic performance in some sleazy Euro dive, proceed with police procedural style scenes of an inspector setting up an investigation of the club, stage more exotic dancing in the background as detectives watch the shows from preferred seating, have regular chases and fistfights here and there, end it all with Interpol and the local cops busting the villains. In Eurocine's UNE CAGE DOREE (1976), Franco was called in to direct some of the stage shows while footage from other Eurocine films (Paul Naschy's CRIMSON) and new scenes directed by Eurocine founder Marius Lesoeur told the tale. However, when Franco himself directed one of these Women In Peril films you could be sure that he'd shoot it all with distinctive camera set ups, Mario Bava style colored gels, and selective use of his patented power-zoom. There's none of that in TANZERINNEN FUR TANGER. 
                                                                Josiane Gibert aka P. Belair

This could all be explained that most of the films discussed above were produced by Dietrich, who was using the similar elements to sell different products. It's nonetheless good to see the talented Josiane Gibert in a lead role for once. She was involved as a supporting actress  in Franco's DEVIL'S ISLAND LOVERS and DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN (both 1971) and dubbed Soledad Miranda in EUGENIE DE SADE (1970). She is also known on various CD compilations and films as the Canadian voice actress/singer P. Belair.  She's can be found on Facebook.
Tanzerinnen Fur Tanger can be found for sale on Amazon or streamed on the Erogarga.com Adult website in German language only.  It's an interesting Franco-related oddity, but not a Jess Franco film.
(C) Robert Monell, 2021

20 April, 2021

Women In Peril: Brigitte Lahaie; Jess Franco; Alain Robbe-Grillet.

EDEN AND AFTER/L’Eden et apres (1970):   The shot captured below appears for less than one second of screen time and acts as a subliminal flash which doesn’t register immediately to the eye but is retained in the mind. The image is highly stylized, a depiction of a nude woman lying a bath of red liquid, signifying blood. The picture on the raised portion of the tub is of the lead actress, Catherine Jourdan.

The positioning of the pistol suggests that the woman has shot herself. But there is no realism here outside of what is arranged as a transgression.  An aesthetic shock of flesh, red, white, like an abstract painting. The fact that it registers subliminally rather than as readable image completes the transgression.  And it illustrates how Robbe-Grillet was an abstract painter in his writing and films.  It’s also an example of the influence of Sade on his prose and cinema. img_20180330_001130.jpg

When discussing Sade in cinema it’s difficult to minimize the filmography of Jess Franco. He returned to “The Divine Marquis” as an inspiration again and again, adapting his novel Justine (1791), his story Eugenie De Franval (1788). Sade's epic “Dialogues” Philosophy in the Bedroom (1795) was filmed by Franco as EUGENIE, THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION, released in 1970, featuring Christopher Lee as the Sadean narrator Dolmance. Other Sade adaptations followed until the end of his career in 2013

Image result for N Pris le des

I recently streamed N. A PRIS LES DES… an intriguing 1971 feature by novelist-filmmaker-theorist Alain Robbe-Grillet on the Fandor Amazon channel. It was well worth it since the film is an experimental restructuring of his 1971 L’EDEN ET APRES (EDEN AND AFTER), which was also filmed in Bratislava and Tunisia with the same cast and a similar plot. But plot is not as important as image and soundtrack in ARG’s universe, where character and story are one or two dimensional pulp devices. All of his films have a pulp fiction quality which is very upfront and intentional. (I have since acquired the excellent Kino Classics Blu-ray of EDEN AND AFTER which contains N. A PRIS LES DICE as a bonus feature. It's highly recommended.) N... can accurately be described as a totally self-reflexive work in which an onscreen narrator deconstructs and comments on the film as we watch it. 

ARG was a contemporary and kindred spirit to Jess Franco. Both were immersed in the literature, imagery and philosophy of the Marquis de Sade. Franco actually adapted several of his books, including JUSTINE, JULIETTE (unfinished), PHILOSOPHY IN THE BOUDOIR and EUGENIE DE SADE, to name a few. ARG’s films are awash in Sadean imagery, in which sadomasochism is visualized and discussed throughout.
Robbe-Grillet’s name is mentioned during the word game in SUCCUBUS/NECRONOMICON (1967) and Franco’s VENUS IN FURS is a virtual remake of ARG’s debut feature, L’IMMORTELLE (1963). Both films feature a search for an elusive woman who represents and delivers death to the man who finds her. N. A PRIS LE DES… and its template both feature a woman (Catherine Jourdain LE SAMOURAI) who ends up imprisoned in a Tunisian torture complex, where women are kept in hanging cages by pirates with clandestine motives. Misogynist? Maybe. Is it Art? It depends on personal definitions. What is art to one person, may be mere pornography to others. Where does eroticism end and pornography begin? What Robbe-Grillet does as director is arrange aesthetically endowed S&M tableaux in various sequences.
The key question is: can eroticism be a subject and technique in art? I think most would answer yes to that. It's been an artistic device since the art and literature of antiquity.  Robbe-Grillet never worked in the hardcore sex mode, as did Jess Franco, but he did create a series of erotic conundrums in his books and films which transgress common definitions of taste and are pornographic to some. His film SUCCESSIVE SLIDINGS OF PLEASURE (1974) actually was the subject of criminal litigation in Italy, was subsequently banned there and ordered destroyed. 

ARG is mainly interested in presenting films and books as experiments in anti/non/multi linear-narrative and alternate literary/film forms. Conventional representation is critiqued, ridiculed and turned inside-out.  Eroticism is often a portal to a dangerous type of personal/political freedom, although his films don’t deal with specific political matters, as do those of Jean-Luc Godard. It’s all a game, which the viewer is invited to enjoy, one which allows and encourages reader/viewer participation. The meaning is provided by the reader viewer, as the narrator assures us in the last moments of N. A PRIS LE DES, a film which directly addresses the audience with respect and conspiratorial intimacy.  N…. projects the film we are watching as a game of chance, and is a separate film from EDEN AND AFTER.
In 1975 I had the chance to see EDEN AND AFTER presented with a following Q&A by Robbe-Grillet. The second feature was the even more transgressive, SUCCESSIVE SLIDINGS OF PLEASURE, an eyeful for the first time viewer. . I was somewhat shocked by the intensity of the sadomasochistic imagery in the latter, and it had trouble finding wide release in France or any release in North America at the time. Robbe-Grillet was teaching in New York at the time and was a most interesting host for his films, appearing bemused as he answered questions politely and gratefully.
So, how does Jess Franco, generally considered a commercial hack with a penchant for arty pornography, fit into this dangerous game?

Consider his 1978 I'M BURNING UP ALL OVER, one of his last films produced by Robert De Nesle.

 De Nesle, who achieved fame and fortune producing sword and sandal films in the early 1960s (SAMSON, HERCULES VS. MOLOCH) by this time was targeting the French porn circuit with his productions. He went so far as to order Franco to shoot post production hardcore porn inserts for such films as LA COMTESSE PERVESE (1973). 

Here's what I thought of I'M BURNING UP ALL OVER when I reviewed it on Mobius Home Video Forums over 20 years ago: 
I burn all over 1979 Je brûle de partout
 aka JE BRULE DE PARTOUT. Directed by Jess Franco (credited as Jacques Aicrag). Jenny Goldstone (Susan Hemingway) is abducted after a night at a popular discotheque. She is the most recent victim to fall into the hands of an international white slavery cartel. The point person is the beautiful, blond Lorna (Brigitte Lahaie/Van Meerhaegue) who, along with her henchmen, bundles the girls aboard a ship fitted with an orgy room into which a sedating "love drug" is piped. They are transported to a brothel in Portugal where one of Jenny's customers will turn out to be her own father, ironically revealed to be the financier behind the ring. But there is someone else on the trail of the abductors, a certain investigator whose name will be familiar to those familiar with the filmography of Jess Franco, Al Pereira. 

One of Jess Franco's more obscure sexploitation efforts, this one is of note mainly for the alluring presence of Ms. Lahaie who would go on to be featured in several memorable Jean Rollin titles (FASCINATION, NIGHT OF THE HUNTED). Lahaie, like Rita Calderoni or Rosalba Neri, is one of those Euro-cult actresses whose stunning beauty is equaled by a formidable acting talent. She can play a mean bitch (as here, or in FACELESS) or a pathetic victim (cf NIGHT OF THE HUNTED), and sometimes a bit of both (cf FASCINATION). This was shot in less than a week and really looks it. The "love drug" sequences are represented by smoke being forced through crudely cut rubber tubes. The love drug concept also turns up in the JF filmography as early as THE GIRL FROM RIO asa SUMURU 2 (1968), and is also prominent in CAPTIVE WOMEN aka LINDA/NAKED SUPERWITCHES OF THE RIO AMORE (1980) {see the self-explanatory still on p 143 of OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO to get a taste of the latter title}. 
I term all the above mentioned titles as Women-In-Peril, a related offshoot of the Women-in-Prison genre, also a goldmine for JF. Some plot elements, especially the father-daughter erotic complications, are also present in Franco's COCKTAIL SPECIAL, another adaptation of Sade's PHILOSOPHY IN THE BEDROOM, also made in 1978, the reported year of Robert De Nesle's death. 

Ms. Lahaie apparently quarreled with Franco on set and she doesn't look like a happy camper, but she does look terrific and can act, as she verified forever in Jean Rollin's NIGHT OF THE HUNTED and Franco's FACELESS (1988)! My favorite part was the opening, set in a glittering disco. Franco pans up from Lahaie's black leather boots to the neon colored-light show and you immediately know you're in Jess Franco territory (despite the use of one of his rarer pseudonyms during the amusing spoken credits). The director even manages to work in his trademark Al Pereira P.I. character, but Jean Ferrere's thug-like visage is no match for the more ambiguous mug of Antonio Mayans, my own favorite interpreter of JF's favorite Private Eye. Daniel J. White's moody jazz score adds a dash of much needed atmosphere. 

This rather obscure title was one of three hardcore quickies produced by the late Robert de Nesle and directed by Franco in 1978, the year of the producer's death and one of the director's less than favorite years.

NOTE: I have recently come across this quote from Brigitte Lahaie in a 2009 interview on the website PSYCHOVISION "Jess [Franco] who has a certain talent unfortunately ruined by some confusion [...]." This was about 20 years after Franco give her role of the female villain in his gore epic FACELESS (1988), in which she was absolutely terrific. I guess she was thinking of her more negative experiences on JE BRULE DE PARTOUT. by Robert Monell at Mon, May 01, 2000, 18:04:23
--modified by Robert Monell at Mon, May 01, 2000, 18:57:19.

It has been 20 years since I first published this review and there is still no HD/OAR/English friendly DVD/BD (of which I'm aware) to be found anywhere. You may be able to find it on some Internet torrents with English subs. One thing is for sure, both Franco and Robbe-Grillet were endlessly fascinated by images of captive women in chains, bondage or in cages. Franco formalized this interest in his Women-In-Prison films for Harry Alan Towers, Eurocine, Erwin Dietrich and in his 1980s films. The most noticeable difference is Franco's WIP films are never arty or slick whereas Robbe-Grillet's images of women in cages in EDEN AND AFTER and some other of his films are almost suitable for framing. Seeing I'M BURNING UP... again recently I was struck by how little dialogue there is in the film. It opens with a long scene in a disco as Ms Lahaie dances it up while recruiting women for future capture. The victims are kidnapped and taken to an offshore cargo ship by speedboat. No dialogue needed here. It's all very straightforward.
(C) Robert Monell, 2021