26 September, 2022

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR (Jess Franco, 1973) Mondo Macabro Blu-ray review by Nathaniel Thompson/Mondo Digital: link


Here is a link to the Mondo Digital review of the Mondo Macabro Bluray release of Jess Franco's THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR (1973), the first English friendly HD release of the director's cut in North America. 

I was pleased to be able to contribute a commentary track with Rod Barnett as part of this essential release. It's certainly one of my top 10 favorite Jess Franco films. Thanks to Mondo Macabro.




09 September, 2022


This Robert De Nesle production from Jess Franco's very busy early 70s period is a visually entrancing downer. Suicide, seduction, sexual abuse, prostitution, lesbianism, drugs, sex, rock n' roll, it's all here. Oh yes, and nymphomania. The delirious cubism of this film, along with the acid tinged Jean Bernard Raiteux electric guitar powered score (think early Pink Floyd), redeems the TV-movie-meets-Russ Meyers script (credited to Jesus Franco Manera), which moralizes every twist and turn, which Franco turns it into a typical "Clifford Brown" sexploitation epic of the era.

 The script's structure and final edit seem to indicate CITIZEN KANE as a possible influence, it makes sense considering Franco's history with Welles. The prying investigator here is female, and the film takes on a resolute Feminist tone while remaining sexploitation. Women are shown as pathetic objects of desire and the film exploits them as such. A parallel investigation is carried on by Jess Franco himself, as the clueless local police inspector. He just wants a signed confession. But the perpetrator is dead. In fact, the film examines the relationship between perpetrator and victim, sexploitation and Feminist critique of pornography. It's a candy colored 70s film noir-melodrama at baseline, though. 

Sexed up as much as possible, filmed in long takes and plan-sequences, the most impressive being the stalking of Linda through an amusement part by the man who will destroy her life, the film suceeds as artfully crafted sexploitation. But sexploitation with a moral conscience. The handheld camera floats past Linda and the predator taking in the garish booths and rides in the park, gliding by the customers who often stare into the camera stifling a smile. At one point the operator's shadow becomes visible on a street sign. It's an audacious sequence, looking forward to the plan sequences in GEMIDOS DE PLACER (1982) a decade later. OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO cites an 86m version, which was later cut to 75m. 

It will be interesting to see if someone can find the longer version (see the LE CHAT DE FUME Blu-ray release, which became available after I first wrote this review). OBSESSION... also states that several scenes were cut and replaced with hardcore inserts, including a lesbian scene between Kali Hansa and lead actress Montserrat Prous. The film is like a fever-dream of and from the early 1970s. There's very little dialogue, except for Linda's narration from her journal. She speaks of her broken spirit and her sexual addiction. She must have constant stimulation from both sexes. She seems to trust and crave women more than men, though. She speaks of experiencing orgasm while watch a female object of desire dancing to the loud hard rock music. The film illustrates how her Sexual addiction is subtly related to her childhood trauma. She actually realizes this and pleads for love, understanding, writing that the man who destroyed her must pay. We hear her words as they are read by Rosa Ortiz (Laurent) who realizes that her husband is a monster who must be destroyed. In the film's finale Rosa must make a terrible choice which she does in a spasm of rage and pain.The final image of the journal sinking into the ocean is a near-perfect metaphor which pulls the themes and characters together into the moment of truth which Franco is always seeking. It's one of the director's best written and acted films.

And now, the remake. Franco inevitable remade, or perhaps creatively revisited, many of his films as his career and age progressed. He revisited DIARY OF A NYMPHOMANIAC during his two year stretch (1975-1977) working for the sexploitation factory of Erwin C. Dietrich in Switzerland.

 Robert Kuhn (Khunne?), a customer at an upscale strip club in Zurich watches a dancer closely one night. She comes over to his table and invites him to her apartment. After making love, the dancer suddenly jumps out of the upper story window. She is hospitalized and the customer is jailed. His wife (Pilar Coll) visits him, tells him it is over between them, but promises to help him.vlcsnap-2012-06-03-17h39m12s8

Above: the template?


The wife then visits the club where she meets the owner, Lena (Kali Hansa), who also performs there and was the lover of the hospitalized performer. She invites the wife to her apartment, they make love and she tells the story behind the attempted suicide of her lover.  The dancer-lover of Hansa (Diatta Fattou)  also appears in the opening credits of DIE SKLAVINNEN (1976), another Dietrich produced, Franco helmed softcore.

A severe, budget imposed minimalism was imposed by producer Erwin C. Dietrich on this quickly made softcore, which was also made into a hardcore variant, as was sometimes the case with Franco's Dietrich productions, most notably DAS BILDNIS DER DORIANA GRAY, also made in 1976.This is nowhere near the quality of that film. One gets the impression that the hardcore inserts, which inflate this films runtime by about 5 minutes, from 74/75 to 75/80m, were offered to various venues, depending on the law and clientele.


Basically a remake of the  much more personal LE JOURNAL INTIME D'UNE NYMPHOMANE (1972), this film represents yet another phase of the director's career, between the early 1970s burst of personal creativity and looking toward the 1980s Spanish restoration, including the verdant Golden Films Internacional period.


The only real acting comes from Kali Hansi,  an always welcome presence in Franco's universe, who tries her best to create a credible character, mostly succeeding. The budget limits the action to club, apartment, jailhouse interiors which all look like one constantly redressed set. Cheap. But the smoke and mirrors onstage performances, opening with the display of flesh and the gaze of the customer, refreshes memories of the director's primary theme of the dynamic between performance and watching. Basically, it's a series of rapidly composed, ingeniously placed cubist compositions within a minimalist framework. The hand of Jess Franco is visible, but the film was doubtless completed in post produced by producer Dietrich. Still, it's as throwaway as MONDO EROTICO, made the same year under the same circumstances. There's even a BDSM sequence of the stripper-hooker whipping a customer while he pleasures himself. Less stimulating are the hardcore inserts, see the Update below.


This film was thought to be a lost Erwin C Dietrich film (OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO and other references) but was rediscovered and remastered in HD in 2014 by the producer and released as part of his JESS FRANCO GOLDEN GOYA COLLECTION. The package includes the soft and hard versions, along with interviews with Eric Falk and Franco.

This is definitely a Jess Franco film, if a decidedly minor effort in the workaday world of the Dietrich porn operation.

Update: I finally watched the hardcore version, which includes scenes of hardcore sex featuring numerous extreme close-ups of male and female genitalia and sex acts. These scenes add nothing of thematic importance of stylistic interest to the film. Franco was once again, as he did with Eurocine, Robert De Nesle, simply complying with the demands of his producer. 

(C) Robert Monell, 2022