25 June, 2022

(C) Robert Monell, 2020

Cocktail Special (1978)/Smoking cigarettes with Jess Franco….

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Photo credits:


2/ Producer Robert De Nesle


5/LABIOS ROJOS (Jesus Franco, 1960)

Smoking cigarettes is an iconic activity in the cinema of Jess Franco, from the inspector lighting up during an investigation in his second feature, the 1960 LABIOS ROJOS, his marvelous monochrome Red Lips template [Picture #6]. Jess Franco himself was a prolific, notorious consumer of cigarettes from a very young age until his finals days. He enjoyed his addiction and it was part of his creative make-up.

In LOS BLUES DE LA CALLE POP (Aventuras de Felipe Marlboro, volumen 8), his wondrous 1983 Neo-noir/live action comic strip extravaganza, we meet cigarette man Sam Chesterfield, a wise-guy piano player played by Jess Franco himself.  He is an informer for the film's anti-hero, unlucky PI Felipe Marlboro (Antonio Mayans).The villain of the film is named Saul Winston! Characters named for popular cigarette brands all together in a marvelous, sleazy world called Shit City, in a film which plays like a candy colored music video and anticipates the Robert Rodriguez SIN CITY in both style and mood.

Franco himself was a lifelong smoker from his teenage years into his 80s. He smoked furiously while he directed onset, while offset and when acting before cameras. He appeared to enjoy every single puff he took. One of my favorite scenes of his onscreen smoking is when the torture expert he plays in THE MIDNIGHT PARTY (1975) stops directing the torture of Lina Romay to fire one up. 

I recently revisited Franco’s last film for producer Robert De Nesle (Picture #3) the 1978 hardcore COCKTAIL SPECIAL. It’s a micro-budgeted version of Sade’s PHILOSOPHY IN THE BEDROOM, earlier filmed  by Franco in 1969 as EUGENIE, THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION and more freely adapted in Franco's 1973, PLAISIR A TROIS.. It opens with images of women reading (The ultimate sin in a man’s world; Picture # 3) and continues with long sequences of Eugenie (Touxa Beni) and her friends lounging around a Portuguese villa, making love, drinking the disgusting title concoction [urine, sperm, whiskey] and… you guessed it, smoking cigarettes (Picture #1).  Robert De Nesle is credited with the script (as Robert Hugue). The film ends with Eugenie unknowingly having sex with her own father (Picture #5) during a masked ball. 

 Producer/director/writer Jacques Garcia (Aicrag) was also involved. But it’s still 100% Jess Franco.

Cigarettes also played a role in another 1978 Jess Franco film, OPALO DE FUEGO (TWO FEMALE SPIES WITH FLOWERED PANTIES) in which Lina Romay, who plays a stripper, has to undergo torture involving getting sensitive areas burned with cigarettes. Smoking is Cool in Jess Franco’s alternate universe, as cool as Humphrey Bogart smoking his way through a series of 1940s Film Noirs. The Howard Hawks version of THE BIG SLEEP opens with images of cigarettes in an ashtray. Photo #5 features of police inspector from Franco's 1960 noir, LABIOS ROJOS, lighting up another cigarette.

A few comments: Lina Romay, supposedly as "Martine", is not in the 71 minute version I saw of this film, which is from the Swedish Video, WET LIPS.  It was first released in France July 5, 1978. It was filmed in Portugal at some of the exterior locations use in Je Brule De Partout, also 1978. Touxa Beni is the prefect Sade heroine, delighted with herself as she is corrupted.

Robert De Nesle, Born: August 1, 1906. Died: April 21, 1978 (age 71) , died before the theatrical debut of this film. De Nesle was owner of the Production company CFPC (Comptoir Français de Productions Cinématographiques) [fr]. He produced/co-produced such peplums as HEROD THE GREAT, THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES, THE CONQUEST OF MYCENE, before moving into financing Eurowesterns (Mario Bava's THE ROAD TO FT. ALAMO), Eursopy films (the Agent Coplan series) and ordered porno versions of such Jess Franco films as LORNA, THE EXORICST, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR and THE PERVERSE COUNTESS. 

15 June, 2022


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

This may seem, on first viewing or by someone just looking for a well-made spy action-adventure, to be a totally inept rush-job. It was, sadly enough, Franco's last collaboration with his legendary discovery, Soledad Miranda. She would die in a car accident shortly after the completion of this supposed Edgar Wallace adaptation. The plot is basically generic Eurospy cliches strung end to end with the main interesting aspects being Miranda's participation and the director's stylistic solutions to make the then-flailing Edgar Wallace franchise compete with numerous Bond imitations.


British Agent Jane Morgan (Miranda) joins forces with a Scotland Yard investigator (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 barbecued zombies. After a trip to the tropical country of Akasava, where the stone was discovered, the agents discover two eminent physicians (well played by 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 ultimately blown up along with the stone in a plane crash while attempting to flee the country.

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 handsome, dull actor who spends most of the film limping around in a debilitating leg cast. 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 DE SADE (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. Cubist eroticism, Jess Franco, style. She is simply somewhat wasted in a role any actress could have done, and whenever offstage she never 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 desperate directorial moves become kind of amusing to watch for the sheer unpredictability of what Franco is going to focus (or un-focus) 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. It's a Eurospy quickie which his longtime fans can laugh at while regretting the fate of the doomed Miranda. 

There is also an English language dub of this film. Would anyone know who dubbed Soledad Miranda in this version? Please answer in comments, thanks.

(C) Robert Monell, 2022 (new version)