19 July, 2021

LES GRANDES EMMERDEUSES (Clifford Brown, 1974)

LES GRANDES EMMERDEUSES (Clifford Brown, 1974)

with 3 comments

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