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)


  1. This one may, in fact, be somewhat based on an Edgar Wallace story. I haven't read it yet, but Sanders of the River contains the apparent source story, "Keepers of the Stone", as well as a later chapter/story, "The Akasavas". Sure, everything gets updated to contemporary Eurospy tropes, but it's probably a closer adaptation than Blood on my Shoes would be, or Cries of Pleasure was of de Sade.

  2. Is SANDERS OF THE RIVER, stories or a novel? I haven't read any Wallace whatsoever, although I've seen a lot of film adapted from his writings, including KING KONG, which he wanted to direct shortly before his death.

  3. I believe "Sanders of the River" is what was later termed a fix-up --- short stories connected, fixed up into a "novel", but haven't read it yet. I have read or listened to a couple of his other novels, the mysteries he was famous for dictating in about three days. Though they don't overlap with any of the film adaptations I've seen, they definitely have the same flavor: energetic, with some genuinely good bits, and lots of gimmicks that would never fly today.

    For example, "Angel of Terror" might be the first story about a femme fatale, a real one without any redeeming qualities, and her characterization is indeed a bit terrifying. On the other hand, the climax turns on whether or not a piece of writing is an attempt at a short story, or a threat of murder, and finding a partly-burned letter with the same handwriting is the deciding factor. That sort of stuff was right in line with the pulp plotting of the time, but I believe Wallace was always held to be above the pulps, publishing books directly, or stories published in the slicks. What made him more "respectable", other than success, I do not know.