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




03 June, 2021

LES EBRANLEES aka La Maison du Vice/Vibrating Girls (1972).


I first encounted this film in an abridged (approx, 69m) French language version (original title: LES EBRANLEES, although the title card is missing on the version I saw, a transfer from French video to VHS). This fullscreen transfer looks like it came from a 35mm print which played every grindhouse in France for the last few decades, which somehow seems perfectly appropriate considering this is an utlra-sleazy, sweaty foray into a feral Euro-underworld investigated by Jess Franco's favorite private eye, Al Pereira. The fact that Al is incarnated by the legendary Howard Vernon, an elegant stylist who brought a haggard dignity to his work for Franco, Godard, Lang and many others, gives this grade Z Eurocrime obscurity a gravity amid its porno designation.


 

The plot synopsis published in OBSESSION-THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO bears little or no relation to the version under consideration here. But since the continuity is so choppy, it's hard to offer an alternative scenario. Periera seems to be investigating a drug/prostitution ring operating out of a number of hotels and clubs. After brushing off some pimps and thugs, he becomes involved with a stripper (Montserrat Prous) whom he uses to infiltrate the criminal organization. The boss turns out to be a club owner (Doris Thomas), who has an amazon girlfriend (Kali Hansa) also adept at kidnapping, torture and seduction.


 

As with so many Franco titles the action commences in the middle of an erotic performance (cf: SUCCUBUS (1967), EXORCISM (1967), to name just a couple). A trashy nightclub where trashy patrons gawk at one of the "vibrating girls" thrashing around on a red and white checkerboard stage to Janin and Hermel's electrified lounge score. A minimalist striptease by Montie Prous that seems all the more erotic because she removes nothing more than her black leather gloves. Hansa getting the drop on an exhausted looking Vernon by holding a gun against his private parts and threatening to pull the trigger. Vernon's slow burn when he discovers that the stripper he has been using has been tortured to death. These arresting, very brief encounters are afterimages which play in the mind long after the porno loop design burns itself out. Alternately hypnotic and narcotic, this is a rather grim tidbit which will be of interest to Franco collectors due to its long standing unavailability on video and those who need to see another chapter in one of the director's longest running roadshows- the Al
Pereira Chronicles.


 

Since originally reviewing this pre 2000 I have seen a longer version, in OAR, with English subtitles and it's still a very downbeat, sordid neo-noir with a very sleazy atmosphere. Franco's telezoom lens is as active as ever in determining a hectic authorial point-of-view. In the book THE JESS FRANCO FILES, Vol. 1 (Vial Books, 2017) by Robert Curti and Francesco Cesari, the film's source is traced to the script for the unfinished Franco film, RELAX BABY. That script is published in the book as A SHOT IN THE TEMPLE. That film was unfinished after commencing shooting in December 1972,

according to the authors, who also write, "....in the Canary Islands, Franco started shooting a French movie for Robert De Nesle, which would be released theatrically as LES EBRANLEES (La Maison du Vice). Actually, LES EBRANLEES isn't anything else than the erotic version of Un Tiro en la sien (A Shot in the Temple), retaining just the backbone and character's names from the Spanish script." *p.501. The published script even has the same tragic ending as was filmed in LES EBRANLEES, although some details are changed. It is instructive to read and then view the film and its later incarnations.

 

Hopefully, some day LES EBRANLEES will have a restored/HD release so the film can be enjoyed as the bitter neo-noir that it is and another adventure of Al Pereira. NOTE: LES EBRANLEES was somewhat remade as LAS CHICA DE LAS BRAGAS TRANSPARENTES/PICK-UP GIRLS (1980) and is an also an ancestor of BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO, both featuring Antonio Mayans as the unfortunate Private Investigator.

(C) Robert Monell, 2021


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