08 May, 2023


Review: MIDNIGHT PARTY (1975)/LADY PORNO version Posted by Robert Monell , Apr 02,2000,09:56 post reply top message newest index New Version (2023) (C) Robert Monell aka Porno Pop, La Partouse de Minuit, Sylvia le Basleuse, Sexy Blues (Production/prerelease titles), La Coccolona (Italian release), Heisse Beruhrungen (Erwin Dietrich/Swiss version). LADY PORNO (76 minute Spanish version) Directed by Tawer Nero (Julio Perez Tabernero) for Titanic Films. "A Belgian-Spanish co-production" is credited onscreen in this Spanish language cut. The longest (94m) cut is presumably Franco's own preferred cut and listed as a French-Belgian production.
This is a sexy spy film once directed by Jess Franco in just a few days, at least it looks like a few days, mostly at a hotel in Southern France (some exteriors of the astral pyramids of La Grande Motte are glimpsed). A typical Franco strategy. Around the same time, he shot two other films there (Le Grand Motte) with the exact same rooms, casts and crews (DE SADE'S JULIETTE, SHINING SEX). The version under consideration here has the onscreen title Lady Porno, a Spanish variant of Franco's original MIDNIGHT PARTY. Julio Perez Tabernero, an actor turned producer-director (he can be seen in Franco's own SADISTEROTICA/Two Undercover Angels)acquired it for his Titanic Films (Julio, your company needs a new handle!) and reconstructed it as an "American-Belgian" co-production. It's very amusingly redubbed and rescored with lewd comments ("I'd like to fuck her in the ass!"), bawdy music and direct-to-the-viewer takes. --Sylvia is a very hot stripper who carries on an affair with a cheap detective, Al Pereira (Olivier Mathot) behind the back of her longtime squeeze, Red Nicholas (film historian-critic-actor-musician-screenwriter-Franco friend, Alain Petit). This is not really another of Franco's Al Pereira episodes, as he is mainly a player in Sylvia's story. This is kind of like a live action cartoon (cf LUCKY, THE INSCRUTABLE) with Lina Romay giving it all she has as the resourceful Sylvia. This might actually be my personal favorite of her performances, she mercilessly teases the viewer directly, the interactive takes allow her to pose, stick her tongue out, and make alluring remarks to the audience before turning back to the scene and players at hand, resuming in the traditional four wall mode. The longest version of this film opens with Romay in full interactive mode, addressing the viewer as she twists and turns in erotic self pleasure.
It's mosty a lot of good natured fun for the initiated, except that the subject of interest is torture. Torture that really hurts to watch! Sylvia is taken by Radeck/Agent 008 (Jess Franco himself), a spymaster and professional torture mogul who takes his business very seriously indeed. Look at the way he abuses poor Sylvia: after being stripped and sexually abused by henchpersons Monica Swinn and Ramon Ardid, she's poked, punched and cigarette burned by the ingrates under the very close supervision of Radeck. They take her to the "torture clinic" which, this being a Jess Franco shoot, merely means another hotel room (or the same hotel room slightly redressed and shot from a different angle). Choosing a metal tool, they try pulling out her toenails, as Radeck is beginning to lose his patience. At this point one of my favorite moments in Franco's monumental filmography occurs, and it only last a few seconds: Radeck simply puts a cigarette in his mouth and lights it. That's it! The exact way which actor Jess Franco jabs the smoke into his mouth and fires it up has to be experienced first hand. It's a grand bit a business, something small made into something very special by a seasoned professional, Franco, the actor, is much more flamboyand here than Franco, the director. Radeck drops the pose at the end, as Sylvia and Al are escaping he faces the camera and admits to us that it was all an illusion. We have been spectators. But what are we doing at this venue? Of course, that question is implied rather than asked. It's a comedy of torture, after all.
Alain Petit is very droll as the Marxist jazz singer, Nicholas. Billed as "Charlie Christian" (cf JUSTINE, the 1979-80 Joe D'Amato composite where he is likewise billed as his footage here is rolled over with scenes from SHINING SEX into a unique reedit) he performs his infamous "La Vie est une Merde", also heard in a blues rendition during Franco's 1982 EMMANUELLE EXPOSED and in Petit's documentary THE MAKING OF TENDER FLESH (1997).
The Spanish language version which was screened for this review (subtitled in English) is very much in keeping with the joker/trickster impulses which frequently bubble to the surface of Franco's work. The finale, a shootout between Petit, the villains and the cops (a minimalist debacle of dutch angles and snap zooms accompanied by light-hearted jazz,) followed by shots of birds flying in the distance as our couple floats away on a pleasure craft, is post-ironic in the sense that it delivers on expectations which Franco obviously considers bogus while gleefully curving past the generic demands of representational, grade B sexploitation production methodology. In other words: don't worry, be happy, it's only a movie. Franco places the absurd action as film within a film within a role play since the party itself turns out to be a spy game. When the director-actor breaks the fourth wall again to dismiss the concocted reality he has just created he's getting the last laugh and word, reminding us that his films represent nothing but meditations on represention.
It's especially interesting to watch this "comedy" lon a double bill with the intense, morbid SHINING SEX, made the same year, with the same main cast, on the same locations in Southern France, sometimes using the same hotel rooms, shot from the same camera angles. There is a perverse atmosphere of toxic sexuality, perhaps anticipating Franco's unreleased SIDA, LA PESTE DEL SIGLO XX (1986), a sci-fi/drama about the dissemination of an AIDS like plague. The secret agents in SHINING SEX are extra-dimensional invaders investigated by a paranormal scientist, played Jess Franco again. A truly mind-bending experience would be to view both and then JUSTINE, which composites footage from SHINING SEX, MIDNIGHT PARTY and Franco's lost JULIETTE DE SADE into one Sadean blow-out, courtesy of post-production producer-editor, Joe D'Amato. REVIEWED BY ROBERT MONELL NOTES: MIDNIGHT PARTY was released in Germany on January 23, 1976, in France on December 7th, 1977; LADY PORNO carries a 1982 Spanish copyright date. The IMDB lists Brussels Belgium, Madrid, Alicante, Comunidad Valenciana Spain and Cote Bleue, Bouches-du-Rhone France as additional locations. (C) Robert Monell--2023 NEW VERSION

01 May, 2023


Directed by Jess Franco. With Soledad Miranda, Fred Williams, Jess Franco, Howard Vernon. A Spanish-West German co-production. Available from European Trash Cinema.
My initial reaction to this 1970 film was negative. I have since reevaluated it. I first experienced it as totally inept rush-job, a belated cash-in on the Edgar Wallace franchise. It was, sadly, Franco's last collaboration with the legendary Soledad Miranda. She would die in a car accident shortly after the completion of this supposed Edgar Wallace adaptation. The plot evokes some of the later Edgar Wallace films from Germany as the series was on a downward spiral, generic eurospy cliches strung end to end with the only interesting aspect being Miranda's participation. A more interesting was to view it as a "Jess Franco" iteration of pulp material. I haven't read the Wallace novel which I understand is quite different than the film. 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 mindless 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 counteragent (Howard Vernon), who is blown up along with the stone in a plane crash while attempting to flee the country. It's obviously from the opening, a flurry of zoom shots in and out of a flock of flamingos in a tropical grotto, that Franco is more interested in the environment than plot. The seeminly compulsive use of zoom shots would continue until the end of the film. Would another director have suddenly panned away from the action to zoom up to the tops of the local palm trees? The point is this is a Jess Franco film. He's shouting at us to look up to something were taking for granted, those towering palms. He's in full tourist guide mode here.
and the viewer is the tourist. 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 German actor Fred Williams, a handsome, rather dull performer, who spends most of the film limping around in a debilitating leg cast and crutches. He has a winning smile and an easy going nature but never manages to engage with the other actors or his role. He may as well been playing a waiter. Miranda 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, which might leave her fans feeling somewhat disappointed and ripped off. She is simply miscast in a role any actress could have done, and 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. The film does lack the esoteric qualities of Franco's earlier collaborations with Miranda. One can only imagine what her career would have been like if she had lived past the age of 27.
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 unpredictabilty of what Franco is going to focus (or unfocus) on next. The wild camera work is accenuated 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. (C) Robert Monell (New Version) 2023.

06 April, 2023

Review: LES GRANDES EMMERDEUSES (Clifford Brown, 1974)

After a few glimpses of the Paço dos Duques de Bragança, Franco zooms up to a window. Inside a lavish bedroom chamber Lina Romay and Pamela Stanford romp in the nude giving the director a chance to employ his infamous vaginal zoom. The remainder of the film is set in what look like budget Portuguese hotel rooms and a few images of attractions on the Atlantic beach resorts. It's difficult to believe there was an actual full screenplay for this Eurospy comedy-adventure, financed by the ever cost conscious Robert (Grandpa) De Nesle. This is a delightfully sleazy Jess Franco romp, and I use the word "romp" with no irony intended. Jess directed under his "Clifford Brown" beard. White watching it one gets the sense that he probably forgot about it the day after shooting was completed. It all looks like it was shot in two and a half days in some hotel where the film crew were probably hiding out from the cops. Lina Romay and Pamela Stanford (Lorna, the Exorcist herself!) jiggle their merry ways through this sleek put-on concerning two almost always naked diamond smugglers (guess where they hide the diamonds) who travel to Istanbul where they hope to fence the jewels. Hot on the trail are a pair of bumbling Interpol agents (Franco regulars Bigotini and Ramon Ardid), who are introduced being bawled out by an Interpol official played by Jess Franco himself, a cameo that was probably dictated by lack of a casting budget. The female hot operators at the center of the action aren't the Red Lips detective team from Franco's second feature, LABIOS ROJOS (1960), or such follow ups as SADISTEROTICA and KISS ME MONSTER (1968). They're definitely on the wrong side of the law. Girls out to have fun. It's more like let's go to Cascais and make a sexy comedy, screenplay not included.
The women manage to elude their pursuers but run into the massive Radeck (amusingly incarnated by the spherical Victor Mendes) a sort of gangster-mad scientist who has developed a hairy montrosity to whom our heroines will be fed if they don't deliver. It's all wild and crazy fun filmed with little or no budget, with plenty of those trademark zooms and without even the bare basics of a camera tripod or lights. The exteriors are mostly shot from a moving car and one can imagine the director hanging out the window with his hand held camera, zooming in and out of every object which caught his attention- a tree here, a bridge there, and so forth. All this will probably drive those insisting on the "well made film" up the proverbial wall, but I loved every minute of it.
Lina and Pamela seem a lot more comfortable nude than most actresses do fully clothed, having a ball running around like jerks, playing sexy tricks on the villains and donning bizarre disguises (Stanford has an outrageous wrap-around cat mask which she puts on before going into action). Franco provides a circular, interactive structure by beginning and ending with the ladies assuming sexy poses, teasing the viewer by looking directly into the camera and telling us of how their latest adventure went down. I was particularly amused by a scene of the elephantine Radeck attempting a melancholy tune at the paino in his castle. This is a typically obscure in-joke which only those thoroughly immersed in Franco's alternate universe will catch on to. Others will stare in wordless amazement that this bleary trifle has even survived. We'll overlook the "Durenstein" monster, who is played by a remarkably ugly shirtless actor. Immediately interactive and stubbornly lacking any obvious serious subtext, it's easy to overlook that it's Franco challenging viewers to believe how little he can do and still make a deliverable film. No sets, no costumes (except for the cat mask), no plot, and totally dependant on the talents of Lina Romay and Pamela Stanford. Even the earlier Red Lips film such as KISS ME MONSTER and SADISTEROTICA look lavish compared to this. It's just women having fun at the expense of male characters, and actresses having fun making a film. A trip to sunny Portugal. In a sense it's similar to Polanski's erotic cartoon comedy, WHAT?, made the previous year, which presented an always nude sex object eluding sexual assault, including gang rape, from obnoxiously horny European men. In that case the horny guys were embodied by Marcello Mastrioanni and Polanski himself. By the way, Polanski rang up Franco and inquired about getting Britt Nichols for the lead.
Outside of my current and previous thoughts on this all nude, fun-in-the-sun spy farce, I could continue to talk about this as yet another example of female empowerment through having more fun and intellectual control than any women in most Eurospy films, including the James Bond series. But that would spoil the fun. It's not a coincidence that Franco's very last completed film AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES, also features two frequently nude muses having a ball at ridiculing the self involved maleness of Fanco's favorite law enforcement representative. A few bullet points: Having written about this in 1999, for MHVF, and later for my blog, my thoughts have evolved. But looking beneath that seemingly lightweight comedy surface this is inevitably another example of what I term Franco's "Cinema, Degree Zero". Quickly, recklessly filmed it nonetheless has its unique artistic rigor embedded in it's frenetic mise en scene. One can hope for a 2 or 4K HD release to reveal more about that obsessive mise en scene in even the most dire of circumstances. That release is unlikely to occur anytime soon. Seeing this nearly a decade 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 old 8mm! But it was a 35mm shoot. My most recent viewing a further decade on notes Jess Franco looks really spaced out or hyped up on something in his appearance, pacing around yet another sleazy hotel room. Did he ever sleep during this workaholic period? 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. My final bullet point is a question: Who will dare do a restored HD release of a film whose title roughly translates The Big Pains in the Ass? Thanks to Monica Swinn. (C) Robert Monell 2023

22 March, 2023

Jess Franco's XXX Files. Falo Crest (1987)

(C) Robert Monell, 2023 Alternate title: CAPRICES SADOS POUR SALOPES DU PLAISIR/Producer: Phalos Films, Madrid/Director: Lennie Hayden [Jess Franco & Lina Romay]/Screenplay: Lennie Hayden, Lowel Richmond [J. Franco & L. Romay]/DP: Terry de Corsia [Jess Franco]/Music: Daniel J. White/Edited by Rosa Maria Almirall [L. Romay]/Agfacolor/Approx. 80m. Widescreen. Cast: Jane Morgan (Marzan) [Lina Romay], Gina Corrington, Andre' White, Brenda Haven [Elisa Mateo], John First [C.Gonzalez Ordi], Mel Power [A. Bartos Velasco], Linda Ewing [M. Fernandez Moreno, Sado Summers [Jose Miguel Garcia Marfa, Carlos Quiroga. Also listed in adverts: Fess Parker [!], Lola Falona, Twin Welamy, Wendy Cano, Andrew White, Sigurney Grant. Shooting locations: Benidorm, Alicante. *Bluray.com; Alex Mendibil. Release dates (Spain): May 4, 1987 August 10, 1988 One of two parodies of 1980s hit US television series, this one taking off from FALCON CREST. On the same wavelength but slightly superior to PHOLLASTIA, which parodied DYNASTY. There's not as much characterization here and the settings aren't as "upscale" as the other but a nonstop torrent of bitchy, sometimes amusing dialogue, which only Jess Franco could have written, saves this from being just another boring fuck and suck fest.
The intentionally ridiculous "plot" involves the Channing's ongoing conflict with the Carrington family. Both hot to trot families are attempting to gain the rights for aphrodisiac fruit which grows on the inherited Channing estate. Franco has a lot of fun with the upscale families restorting to low down affairs and hostile business strategies. The hostess dreams that her guests will drink her mixture of wine and semen. Everyone ends up imbibing and a lengthy orgy ensues. Twosome, threesome, and moresome encounters rule the evening until everyone is drunk on sex and more sex. We've seen this disgusting drink prepared and consumed in Franco's 1978 COCKTAIL SPECIAL, one of the last film productions of Robert De Nesle and a hardcore variant of Sade's PHILOSOPHY IN THE BOURIOR. 
The action unfolds in "real" time before and during the party on the Channing properties. Melissa Channing hosts the affair with zest and a clever plot to get the rights signed over to her without any hitches. The orange drink is mixed with "delicious" semen and drunk like champagne as a wife remarks, "It's so embarrassing to see my husband shoot cum in public!" as another woman drinks the spent semen out of a Phallo Crest wine glass. More witty Franco dialogue ensues until the company collapses into a heap of sweaty flesh. Lots of gynecological close-ups of sex acts make up most of the runtime here.  Lina Romay's brisk editing does keep things moving....
Neither of the two hardcore spin offs of popular American TV shows became profitable due to the miscalculation of spending too much on professional hardcore actors and the costs of the productions themselves. When they were finally sold the price barely covered the costs and there wasn't a huge audience for what must have seemed like a clever marketing idea. It should be noted that Angela Channing in the original FALCON CREST TV series was played by Jane Wyman, the former wife of Ronald Reagan, who was President of the United States during most of the series run. Falcon Crest (TV Series 1981–1990) - IMDb *1980s era Spanish VHS covers. No DVD releases.
It's a long way from Sade to 1980s American television... ***************************************************************** Script sample, likely for English language subtitles, to give an idea of the verbal tone: Oh dear! You've no idea what Angela Channing is capable of! Don't waste your time with those auctions. Sell! Sell! Sell! You'll evaporate in my hands like lightning. The lightning of my power, my intelligence and my cunt. Yes Julia, yes.. You were my favourite until sex and drugs destroyed you. You were the most intelligent. But now you're worthless like all the others. But you're still not as bad as the rest. Don't answer! Let me. - Don't answer it! ________________________________________________________________________________

08 March, 2023


LA CASA DE LA MUJERES PERDIDA (1982) Most of Jess Franco's films are built around protagonists who are either trapped within or escaping from a dysfunctional real or extended family. The family is often a real or symbolic prison with a punishing mother/father figure, brothers and sisters in suffering communion and the psycholgical and existential weight of that specific situation. In the director's final film AL PERIERA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES the father figure is Jess Franco himself, the aged, demanding director, confined to a wheelchair but free to play with the apparatus of cinema and the representations of those within his mirror-enclosed mise-en-scene.
THE HOUSE OF LOST WOMEN went into production during a typically busy year for Jess Franco. He was involved in shooting, editing, preparing and doing post-production on at least 9 films in 1982. It was shot in late Summer/early Fall of 1982, probably toward the end of September, and completed post-production on October 18th, 1982. It was viewed by the Spanish ministerial commission which rated the film with a Clasificada "S" (sensitive material not suitable for viewers under 18 years old and even adults who might be offended). Theater workers checked that customers had ID that they were over 18. A film could be rated S for violence also, as was DAWN OF THE DEAD in Spain at that time. Filmed in coastal areas in the provinces of Murcia and Malaga, most of the action takes place in the seaside house of actor Mario Pontecorvo, played by Jess Franco regular Antonio Mayans. It opens with Desdemona, played by LIna Romay, walking along the beach and thinking in voiceover about her loneliness. There are no other residents on the island beside the dysfunctional Pontecorvo family. There is a tone of macabre, dark humor in the way the family is represented. We’ll be aware of this tone all through the film.
Fetishism, family style.... The film opens with shots of waves crashing on the island’s shore. We then listen to Desdemona’s thoughts as she walks along the beach. She’s lonely and frustrated as she watches the passenger jets fly overhead toward international destinations. She senses she will never leave the island and feels trapped. Her physical nudity represents her emotional nudity and vulnerability. She spends most of the film pleasuring herself, her only escape from the grim reality of her family life. These scenes of the island and the seashore were filmed along the coastal regions of Murcia and Malaga, mostly Malaga, two provinces in the southeast and south of Spain. The coast line of Murcia is seen in the first shots in Franco’s 1973, A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD. Some shots were filmed on the coastal area near the city of Benidorm, which is near Alicante, to the north of these other areas. Once again, Jess Franco is using various fragments taken in different regions of the Spanish landscape to create his own unique alternate reality. Lina Romay’s character is named Desdemona while Mario’s second wife is Dulcinea, both names of characters in famous Shakespeare tragedies. It should be emphasized that The House of Lost Women is a tragedy. The behavior of the head of the family, Mario, who could best be described by as a legend in his own mind, is that of a pathological liar. He claims to be from Argentina, where he was a leading stage presence for years until he had to leave the country due to a sex scandal. He constantly reminds the other family members that he in is permanent hiding and lives in fear of being found and arrested by Interpol agents and returned to stand trial. Desdemona also lives in a fantasy world while her sister Paulova is developmentally disabled and confined to a wheelchair. Both sisters are verbally, physically and emotionally abused by Mario’s second wife, played by the late actress Carmen Carrion. Mario’s wife also verbally humiliates him for being impotent in their sexual relations. Mario ignores all this and sits all day reading aloud from various magazines about such famous celebrities such as Margaret Thatcher and actors in classic movies. This is one of Antonio Mayan’s best roles and performances. He has to play a character who is never all in reality, but slides in and out of it. He’s self-absorbed to the point where he can no longer function normally, he lives in a plane somewhere between neurosis and psychosis. The late actress Carmen Carrion is also well cast as Mario’s dissatisfied wife. Some may remember the actress from Jose Larraz’s BLACK CANDLES. She’s very skilled at playing brooding, manipulative characters. Besides acting she worked in the garment industry and was a nightclub entertainer as well. Paulova is played by the actress Ausunscion Calero, who acts under the name Susana Kerr, and the character of the hunter/journalist is played by actor Tony Skios (Antonio Rebollo). Both actors appeared in other Jess Franco films around this time, including THE SINISTER DR ORLOFF.
One element to listen for on the soundtrack are the constant chatter of radio and television commercials for skin creams, food products, coffee, automobiles and an advert for the Spanish version for the 1980s American television hit DALLAS, which features a character named JR. Even the isolated, depraved world of this island bound family is invaded by the commercial entertainment world. Perhaps this is Jess Franco’s comment on his own position as a commercial Spanish director in the 1980s. He told me when I interviewed him in 2005 that “I was not free” when discussing his Spanish films in the 1960s and 70s, that the Spanish censorship only allowed him to make certain films which would be later censored of material the commission found offensive. He later gained a degree of creative freedom when in the 1980s the Spanish censors of the Francisco Franco regime had disappeared and there was a healthy soft-core sex film industry in Spain. He could deal with explicit themes and show things which were once forbidden in Spain.
1974 Eurocine composite, despite the presence of Franco veterans Jack Taylor and Olivier Mathot, not to be confused with THE HOUSE OF LOST WOMEN --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- THE HOUSE OF LOST WOMEN, was made in total freedom which he was give by Spanish producer Emilio Larraga, who owned Spain’s GOLDEN FILMS INTERNACIONAL, for which Franco made films from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s. The only limitation he had was money. “They were very poorly resourced” he told me. He had micro-budgets and unlimited creative freedom. This film has only 5 or 6 characters and most of it takes place in a small house. There were no big expenses incurred by a large cast, sets or travel. What he delivered with this film, as with his similar Bahia Blanca, was a very serious, personal project without an artificial plot, clichéd characters, generic demands. This wasn’t a spy film, a horror film, a neo-noir, a comedy, an action film, it was a film about real people trapped in a painful existence. The alternate Spanish title Perversion en la Isla Perdida highlights its existential placement in the “S” film marketplace of the era. It's set on island where we visit a hermetically sealed, closed world outside of the boundaries of reality. In that sense it's similar to such films as FEMALE VAMPIRE, COUNTESS PERVERSE, A VIRGIN AMOND THE LIVING DEAD,99 WOMEN, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR, MACUMBA SEXUAL and many of his WIP films, an off shore off-world built from the ground up by Jess Franco. What’s important to consider about LA CASA… is that if fulfills the commercial requirements of an “S” film, crafted for that market, while at the same time taking a deep dive into collective insanity. He remade this film almost 20 years later with BROKEN DOLLS (2000), which is also very much worth seeing. It’s done in a different style, using a different technology, a more experimental film, as most of his 21st Century digital films were. Both films are 100 percent Jess Franco. Thanks to Ismael Fernandez, Alex Mendibil and Francesco Cesari for additional information. © Robert Monell, 2023

07 March, 2023


RESIDENCIA PARA ESPIAS 1968-90 minutes/European Trash Cinema and Video Search of Miami (U.S. import) Directed by JESS FRANCO; From a novel by Michael Loggan Cast: EDDIE CONSTANTINE, DIANA LORYS, OTTO STERN, ANITA HOFFER, TOTA ALBA, MARIA PAZ PONDAL, CRIS HUERTA, DINA LOY, Howard Vernon, Wolfgang Preiss (alternate version)/A Spanish-West German co-production. ======================================= Features Reviews DARK WATERS; Robert Monell's EUROSPY FILES
Video Resources (ETC VIDEO) Links Credits (a.k.a. ÇA BARDE, CHEZ LES MIGNONNES; DAN CHEZ LES GENTLEMEN; LES MIGNONNES) This obscure title, one of two Jess Franco spy films starring Eddie Constantine, the other being the much better known ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS (a.k.a. CARTES SUR TABLE), also features the charmingly rough-hewn actor-singer as a smarter-than-he-looks secret agent. In RESIDENCIA PARA ESPÍAS, his character is named Dan Leyton, but the part is a virtual carbon copy of the Al Pereira spy in CARTES SUR TABLE.
As usual Franco composes his film with layered imagery which challanges the viewer to really watch the film in order to "see" it; there is a difference between watching and seeing in the Franco galaxy. The above image tells us a lot about the plot and a major character in the film, but we have to look into the image, instead of just at it, to the picture on the wall, to "see" the revelation which will not be fully understood until the final scene. Once again, we are prisoners of appearances as is Dan Leyton in his journey toward a truth which will further disillusion him and provide an ironic twist. The story, which is not as original or interesting as the one in CARTES SUR TABLE, has Constantine trying to ferret out a traitor to American military interests in Istanbul. After an extensive investigation and many false leads, it turns out that a high-ranking official is leaking information with the help of someone close to Leyton. The key to the mystery has been hiding in plain sight. Constantine, as low-key as ever in this rather cut-and-dried role, is mostly seen wandering around in a spiffy military uniform while dodging fists and femme fatales. The movie maintans interest due to the exotic locales -- the mosques, bazaars, and back alleys of Istanbul -- which Franco spends a lot of time recording with an overactive zoom lens. One welcome factor is that the film is in color, which enhances the exotic locations. The black and white cinematography in CARTES SUR TABLE was competent but didn't boost either the aesthetic or commercial value.
RESIDENCIA PARA ESPÍAS offers some nicely understated moments of erotic frisson provided by the usually scantily-clad Diana Lorys, who played the female lead in Franco's first horror film, THE AWFUL DR ORLOFF. I found the film fascinating but somewhat talky, especially in untranslated Spanish. It works best as a relaxed travelogue with an occassional chase or fight thrown in for good measure. Eddie's reactions to the various women populating the film, especially a dominating female officer, are quite amusing. There's even a bizarre rendition of the song "When the Saints Come Marching In," done by an all-female chorus, with Leyton playing the keyboard.
The best parts of this are when it upshifts into Eurospy action gear as in a ferocioius fight, staged in a chicken coop, between the protagonist and some rough local agents. Leyton survives the attack by his ability to shift into a mode which is as nasty as his attackers. Istanbul is an amoral place for a Western agent, no matter how experienced, as it is pleasantly exotic for the innocent European tourist trade. At the end Leyton finds out that his closest friends there are betraying him and his country. He allows his friend (Otto Stern) the dignity of suicide before walking away with the bitter recognition that it's a dirty job in a corrupted world. This is in marked difference to the silly slapstick which concludes Franco's other Eddie Constantine Eurospy CARTES SUR TABLE (ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS, 1966). The point is that Leyton has been behind the curve despite his spy movie machinations. For the Franco fan, these minor diversions (which also includes a lively jazz and Turkish score by Odon Alonso) make this unpretentious entry easy on the eyes and ears. Franco would return to Istanbul for further atmospheric location shooting on THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU and VENUS IN FURS (1969). At this point the filmmaking skirts on the edges of the avant garde into which the director would make a deep dive with NECRONOMICON (1967).
Wolfgang Preiss, actor famous for portraying villains in numerous films, including the legendary title character in the final film of Fritz Lang, DIE TAUSEND AUGEN DES DR. MABUSE (1960). Unfortunately, this review is based on a truncated Spanish-language version from an old TV broadcast (in bootleg form) on video. It is watchable but runs about 15 minutes shorter than the 90-minute running time listed in some reference books. As a final note, it would be interesting to see the French version of this film which reportedly contains additional inserts featuring Howard Vernon and Wolfgang Preiss (Doctor Mabuse in Fritz Lang's DIE TAUSEND AUGEN DES DR. MABUSE!), filmed during the 1966 preparations for the shooting of NECRONOMICON! That legendary item, though, may be a version once offered by the various, defunct grey market dealers. It would also be interesting to read the source novel, Leyton et les Chatelaines. An attack by thugs on Radeck (Howard Vernon) does remain in the Spanish VHS I consulted for this review. RESIDENCIA PARA ESPIAS is certainly interesting enough to deserve a full-scale HD restoration with all the trimmings. The rather extensive shoot took place between June and August 1966. It was released in Turkey in 1968. Locations included Alicante; Comunidad Valencia, exteriors, including Jardin des Abril; Estudios CEA, Cuidad Lineal, Madrid; Bosphorous, dock exteriors, sunset; Istanbul, exteriors, including the Blue Mosque; Lisbon, Portugal, elevator de Santa Justa (scene of attack on Howard Vernon). (C) Robert Monell [New Version, 2023]

12 February, 2023

EROTISMO (MDV VHS) Caliente Video/EUGENIE, HISTORIA DE UNA PERVERSION-1980/Filming at La Muralla Rojo

EUGENIE, HISTORIA DE UNA PERVERSION (1980), is another Franco adaptation of Sade's PHILOSOPHY IN THE BEDROOM (1795), previously filmed in 1969 as EUGENIE, THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION, featuring Christopher Lee, Maria Towers and Jack Taylor. This would also be filmed by the director as a Robert De Nesle financed project, the hardcore COCKTAIL SPECIAL, a 1978 production which appears to have been the last film JF made for the prolific French producer, who died that year. This is one of my favorite versions of the text, which the director would remake several times. Not to be confused with Franco's version of Sade's 1788 "Moral Tale" EUGENIE DE FRANVAL [EUGENIE DE SADE-1970]. Filmed mostly in two of the outstanding Ricardo Bofill structures in Calpe, this is one of Franco's most assured, and personal, responses to Sade. Bofill(1939-2022), a friend and collaborator with the director, sadly expired in 2022, a victim of COVID-19. He was more than an architect but he will be remembered for his innovative, visionary designs for living.
Bofill's mind boggling structures tease the eye, he is often compared with M.C. Escher, and stimulate the mind. Jess Franco obviously found a place where his other-worldly tales could be told so that the available decor would enhance his film. A work of art being created within a work of art. They become ideal settings for the onieric ambience of the film. Relativity, M.C. Escher (1953)
The exterior and swimming pool (installed on the roof for tenants of the apartment complex) of "The Red Wall" are impressive and the structure immediately captures the attention of the eye even at significant distances. Since Eugenie.... is primarily a visual essay on the relationship between madness, crime, and artistic creation what better place to stage it than in the presence of a visionary structure. Franco had had full permission from the achitect to film in his buildings since the late 1960s, when Muralla was still being designed. The nearby Bofill housing complex Xanadu is also used, especially in the film's second part. It's basically a compilation of cubes accessed by stone staircase. Fortress comes to mind when describing the structure's unique shape. Both buildings overlook the Mediterranean.
LA MURALLA ROJO, Calpe (1973) d Daniel J. White) and one by Gerhard Heinz https://youtu.be/y_HvfPlNGJI The Franco-Villa score succeeds better at capturing the state of mind of Alberto De Rosa (Antonio Mayans), the homicidally disturbed maker of sand women whom adorn his beach and predict his future crimes. Research has indicated that some psychotics see/experience reality in different ways than non-psychotic individuals. Given the environmental context of the Bofill structures, along with the contradictory jazz sonics of the Franco Villa score this film offers a complete sensory overload of alien sights and sounds, alien in the sense that the approximate the mindset of the insane killer. Cues from the Heinz score can be heard of this CD collection.
PHILOSOPHY IN THE BEDROOM is a Sade novel from 1795, which Franco and Harry Alan Towers filmed with remarkable fidelity in 1969, featuring Maria Rohm as Madame St. Ange and Jack Taylor as her depraved brother. Christopher Lee guests stars as the Sadean narrator Dolmance and he is quite effective as a dry master of ceremonies, looking like a dandy in his red smoking jacket. Marie Liljedahl is Eugenie, the character who is targeted by St. Ange and her brother but who ends up undoing both of them. A rather glossy production for Jess Franco, despite some out of focus cinematography courtesy of the busy Manuel Merino. Leaving aside the strictly minimalist (due to budget constraints), EROTISMO/EUGENIE STORY OF A PERVERSION is probably the personal adapatation of the story in regards to Franco's stylistic development. Much of the film has the effect of watching things through the binoculars used by Alberto in his voyeuristic mode. Watching is always a dangerous thing is a Franco film. It incoropates the watcher into the scene being watched in a way which can't be disconnected. It leaves open a question: why are you watching this? Sade also seeks to ensnare the reader into the sado-erotic scenes which are being detailed. The film opens and closes on the beachfront focusing on Alberto's sand people. He is the sort of mad artist who replaces the mad scientists which often frequent Franco's horror films, Dr. Orloff being the one which comes to mind first since he's the protagonist of the director's first horror film. By the mid 1970s the protagonist villain would be Franco himself playing a serial killer who haunts the area around the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The killer is also a writer, like Franco himself, and he writes for a sadomasocthistic publication just as Jess Franco was by that time making films or variants for the hardcore market (SEXORCISM-1975). At the very end Eugenie (Katia Beinert) destroys the sand sculputes which represent Alberto's mad internal world. In the 1970 EUGENIE... the heroine also ends up on a beach finding some measure of freedom from her parent's world and the world of Dolmance (Christopher Lee) and his sadistic cult. As with Fellini, or Rollin, the beach is often the setting of a final scene which represents a ritual of transformation where one communes directly with a natural element, the sea, without human interruptions. I'm not aware of this being released on Spanish VHS, but it has been released on a US Spanish language VHS label*. It was rated CLASIFICADA S for its Spanish theatrical release *EROTISMO:Caliente Video MDVC-MIllion Dollar Video Company
(C) Robert Monell, 2023

09 February, 2023


Robert Monell & Alex Mendíbil Blog Alliance LES EBRANLEES (1972) Producer: Robert De Nesle C.F.F.P/Scénariste: Elisabeth Ledu de Nesle Dialoguiste : Elisabeth Ledu de Nesle/ Director: [Clifford Brown] Jess Franco
A burnt-out, morally compromised Al Pereira (Howard Vernon) considers the man, or woman, in the mirror…. Robert Monell's photo. A bloody woman-on-woman S&M performance at La Maison Du Vice becomes reality in the final scene (cf NECRONOMICON-1967).. Kali Hansa is the Alpha Woman who dances a ferocious dance and administers hardcore torture when needed….
There seem only red and whites in La Maison Du Vice…. Then again, I saw a dismal color faded VHS dub down from a poor source. And don’t hold your breath waiting for a HD edition of this obscurity. LA MAISON DU VICE, a micro-budgeted affair even by Robert De Nesle standards, looks like it was shot in a few days while everyone was holed up in the Las Palmas Hotel Santa Catalina. Grim and grimy, it’s a sleaze-fest even by Jess Franco standards. This is a hopeless nightclub world populated by desperate men, strippers, career criminals, transsexuals, lesbians, sadists, masochists, transvestites and a universe of LGBT personages all competing for the attention of the pathetic Al Pereira. Played by Howard Vernon, who follows Eddie Constantine (CARTES SUR TABLE) in the role, this PI is neither entertaining to watch nor is it possible to care about him. He’s just there. But there’s no there there. Vernon exudes a vibe of palpable disgust, perhaps the actor’s comment on having to play this role. CARTES SUR TABLE was lighthearted, fast fun. Disposable Eurospy business which breezes by. The lack of resources really didn’t sink that ship, which exulted in no-budget sci-fi settings where men and women were turned into «robots» who would roam the world at the will of another Jess Franco mad scientist (Fernando Rey).
The Hotel Santa Catalina, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, in the 21st Century. Some critics have slammed this title but I give it high marks for an overwhelming ambiance of desperate lust converted into despair. The most sympathetic character, the elegant exotic dancer Valentina (Montserrat Prous) meets the most horrendous fate when she’s slowly tortured to death by Kali Hansa and co. Franco spares us no detail of the pain of this character. Her elegant striptease features very little stripping but a lot of showstopping posing and striking gestures which approach a kind of erotic sculpture. The setting which houses all this depravity seems a series of impersonal cubicles where elaborate perversions are performed for paying customers. One of them is occupied by Jess Franco, who seems to be getting stoned while bathed in crimson light. This is a rather delirious enterprise but one also feels the need to shower after viewing. The density of the malignant atmosphere is ultimately overwhelming. Al Pereira is on a steep downward spiral here and his pent up rage and disgusts explodes as he stabs to death the performer (Glenda Allen aka Dany Sam) who he has used to help him retrieve some evidence. She seems a seductive woman but is actually a devious sex change who has just knifed Anne Libert in the midst of more sleazy sex. The implication being that Al hates himself and when he finds out he has been having relations with someone born as another man, he kills what he hates most, the feminine lurking within the masculine. Franco’s deploys his performers in imaginative, stylized set ups in very close quarters here. A world of tattered dreams, penny ante glitz and endless erotic shows for the edification of an unappreciative audience. The Canary Island locations are a perfect emblem of chic faded into corruption, a bargain basement tourist nightmare. Al Pereira looks in the mirror and hates what he sees in this entry. Jess Franco would play Pereira next in the lighter hearted DOWNTOWN (1976). Ultimately Antonio Mayans, the definitive interpreter of this role, would play the PI in such 1980s grunge masterpieces as BOTAS NEGRA, LATIGO DE CUERO (1982) and CAMINO SOLITARIO (1983). Mayans would also return in the role for the last completed Jess Franco film, AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (2012), an 8 1/2 style final farewell from the dying auteur. In those later films the character was both threatened and sometimes saved by females. If he let his guard down, he was dead meat. In LA MAISON DU VICE, Al is the walking dead, waiting for the bullet which never comes. The bilious intensity of Kali Hansa lingers long after the film is over, like a superb performance of a very nasty number.
The walking dead or the living dead? BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO seems to be a kind of remake of this, but it’s a much more personal and resonant work, even though it has an even more downbeat conclusion. By the 1980s Jess Franco had achieved a long delayed personal and artistic freedom working on his Golden Films Internacional and Manacoa productions in which he didn’t have any thematic/stylistic constraints or post-production meddling with his output. He did have severe budgetary limitations which he managed to overcome and turned out some of his most personal and interesting work. One wonders what the men in search of wet thrills found to have a happy ending over when seeing this in some of the downmarket urban settings where it inevitable flickered on the big screen. One thing is for sure, it still registers as simultaneously hypnotic and narcotic, this is a rather grim tidbit which will be of interest to Franco collectors due to its long standing unavailability on a quality, English friendly video/DVD and those who need to see another chapter in one of the director's longest running roadshows- the Al Pereira Chronicles. Over 20 years after I first saw and reviewed this there is still no official DVD and noBlu-ray in sight. The story and atmosphere of this film were recycled in Franco's 1980 PICK-UP GIRLS,* which is every bit as sleazy and slightly less somber, also dealing with a transexual character's spiral into criminality. In that film's case, as with LES EBRANLEES, the treatment of a trans character is brutally retrograde. Antonio Mayans played the PI Al Crosby in that film, but he was every bit a return to the character of Al Pereira. **** NOTES: "THE JESS FRANCO FILES, VOL.1" by Francesco Cesari and Roberto Curti, where the script for the unfinished "RELAX BABY" is compared to the completed films,"LES EBRANLEES" and "PICK-UP GIRLS (La Chica de las Bragas Transparentes)" is recommended reading for those interested in the development of this film. (C) Robert Monell, 2023

07 January, 2023


LA ESCLAVA BLANCA Cast: YVONNE MANUEL, JOSÉ LLAMAS, MABEL ESCAÑO, JOSE MIGUEL GARCIA MARFA, AUGUSTÎN GIL, LINA ROMAY, CONCHI MONTÉS, JAMES TALL; Manacoa Films--Santiago Moncada Prod. NOTE: This was my first Internet published review (1998) of a Jess Franco film, written when I was the US associate editor of the DARK WATERS website. It has since been updated.  
-------------------------------------------------------------------- Jess Franco enjoyed everything pulp. He loved comic books, comic strips, pulpy television, pulp culture, pulp fiction (but not the QT film). What's more Pulp than an adventure set in a jungle involving a young couple tricked by corrupt guides into going on a honeymoon safari which results in the bride being sold as a sacrifice to a stone age tribe's lizard god? White slave trade is a familiar trope in the history of cult movies. Even Black Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) got involved, courtesy of Joe D'Amato. Then there's the plot of Franco's 1978 JE BRULE DE PARTOUT, previously reviewed here and out on an attractive Blu-ray. Don't forget the white slavers busted by Lina Romay in TWO FEMALE SPIES IN FLOWERED PANTIES. So, this was already an oft treaded Jess Franco trail by 1985. This time he mounted an ethnographic/antropological variant and placed it within his cine-comic format.
The 1980s were busy years of abrupt aesthetic and commericial transition for Jess Franco. Of the eight films Franco released (exluding several incompleted projects) in 1985, half of them hardcore porno features, this very low budget jungle adventure stands out because of an entertaining, multi-layered scenario by the estimable Spanish screenwriter Santiago Moncada. Beside writing such outstanding films as Mario Bava's HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (1969), THE BELL FROM HELL (1973) and THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER (1972), Moncada had written screenplays for a variety of European genre directors (Manuel Cano's THE SWAMP OF THE RAVENS, TARZAN'S GREATEST CHALLENGE, and VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST were all based on Moncada scripts). LA ESCLAVA BLANCA started out as a programmer conceived very much in the Saturday morning serial mode.
Santiago Moncada-- In LA ESCLAVA BLANCA, Moncada gives us three separate stories that gradually interweave and come together in third act. The first story can be described as a variation on Macbeth. A weak-willed jungle guide is manipulated by his domineering wife into committing a series of crimes. During a safari, he leads a honeymoon couple (José Llamas and Conchi Montés) into a trap laid by the Tobongas, a Stone Age tribe which worships a giant lizard god. The bride is tied to a sacrificial altar for later sacrifice. The guides are piad by the Tobanga with diamonds.
牋牋 The second story starts out in the city, where a karate student (Lina Romay) and two of her instructors accidentally discover the secret of the Tobonga. The instructors decide to attempt to steal the tribe's diamonds. In the third story, two separate expeditions make their way back to the remote Tobonga camp. Sprawling yet minimalist this is a true absurdity, yet somehow a wholesome entertainment. Talky parrots crack jokes overhead as the action progresses into Tobonga hell. One of these groups includes the original guide, who has been abducted by the karate instructors (they have also killed his wife). The other consists of the husband of the abducted woman and the female karate student who has split off from the school. During the long trip back, the guide has a change of heart and decides to repent, turning against his captors and helping the people he originally betrayed.
牋 The climax of the film, rather expertly shot and edited despite the severe budgetary restrictions, may remind some viewers of a miniature version of the final scene in THE WILD BUNCH. The very last scene, in which the Tobonga gold is discarded, echoes THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE. Franco's film, of course, is a lot less ambitious than those two classics, but maybe that's why it works so well. The massacre at the Tobonga camp, the abduction scene, and the opening safari are as well-staged as anything Franco has ever done. It's all done on such a miniature scale that the action fits together like a children's board game. There's also an amusing dose of voodoo dancing thrown in for good measure. Daniel White's pulsating drum and vocal score (Carlos Franco does his familiar voodoo chanting) is familiar from some of Franco's other jungle adventures, but this is by far the best of the lot. Miguel Ross (Marfa) and Mabel Escaño are both very effective as the safari guides from hell. With its karate scenes, voodoo rituals, adventure story, literary and film references, LA ESCLAVA BLANCA seems like a kind of compendium of Franco's 1980's output (minus the XXX sex material). And if one can get past his other standard jungle/cannibal fare, this one is most definitely worth seeking out. This delightful entertainment still lacks an official North American, English friendly DVD or HD release.
(C) Robert Monell: New Version, 2023

24 November, 2022


Whoever would have thought that a Jess Franco film would open with a quote by James Joyce? The quote vectors the film toward a slightly different entertainment plane and welcomes a new boatload of viewers, hipper, more literate, and more aware just who Jess Franco was and where he came from. There is a structural connection since Joyce's writing is unapologetically about language, its usages, boundaries and interpretations. Franco's films could also said to be about language, the language of cinema. Film and its various elements were subjects to be explored and played with, just as a Trickster plays games with minds, Jess Franco is always playing games with viewer expectations. So, that said, this is more or less a cannibal film, but it's also something else, it never defaults into genre banality as certain of the more infamous Italian cannibal films do. As the title indicates, this was another cannibal movie in the then still expanding Franco filmography, only this time the 21st Century was right around the corner, ready along with video technology, to change Franco's strategies. He had new business partners and a new audience to potentially reach. The film opening scene, rendered by reflections in Lina Romay's sunglasses as her character interviews Paula (Amber Newman) for a job as a hostess/stripper at a palatial villa, tells us we're in Jess Franco territory, a place in Spain where optics are given priority over such elements as sound, plot continuity and character developement. That place in Spain is Malaga, a picturesque tropical plantation which is rendered well enough to make the film look more expensive than it actually was. The wealthy, depraved Radecks (Romay and previous Franco friend/associate Alain Petit) are most interesting and better played than the younger couple (Ms. Newman and Mikel Kronen) who will becomes victms of the final hunt. It replaces the occasional abstraction and subtle dark humor of COUNTESS PERVERSE, its obvious model. One can't imagine watching it in a cinema, it pretty much screams straight-to-video softcore horror-porn. Recycling elements of his own COUNTESS PERVERSE and his "serious" l980s cannibal flicks (DEVIL HUNTER/THE MAN HUNTER, WHITE CANNIBAL QUEEN), it was made for an audience which no longer existed in the late 1990s. Partially shot on video, with the ending reverting to such 1960s television game-show gimmicks as a canned audience laugh track, this attempts a more upscale, partially American financed updating of elements from his earlier Euro-grindhouse films.
Above: Alice Arno is the title character who directs social class conscious cannibal games in COUNTESS PERVERSE, Jess Franco's first cannibal epic.... -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In TENDER FLESH the famous French chef Paul Radeck (Alain Petit) and his predatory wife (Lina Romay, in the Alice Arno role here) hire Carlos (Mikel Kronin) to find an uninhibited woman to join them in a sensual island vacation. Joining in the fun and games are international financier Kallman (Aldo Sambrell) and his domineering wife (Monique Parent). Paula (Amber Newman), an American tourist in Spain, is auditioned as a stripper and eventually paid to join this oddball group. Once at the Radeck estate, the vacation turns into a twisted nightmare for her. Everyone wants to have sex with her. Paul constantly records the activities with a camcorder. The food for the feast is seasoned with Radeck's secret recipe, which includes human urine contributed by a live-in sex slave Furia (Analia Ivars). Petit also camcorded a Making of...featurette which is included on the DVD.
Things get really out of hand during a televised "treasure hunt" staged by the Radecks, in which Kallman puts up the cash prize, hidden in a briefcase on a boat, that has to be located within a specified time limit. Paula jumps at the chance, but she is hunted by the rest of the players. In addition to their other perverse habits, they are cannibals who cook and eat their prey after an elaborate stalk and kill. Franco seems to have reinvented himself as a lightweight satirist with this irreverent comedy-of-manners. Shot in English as a USA-Spanish co-production, Franco combines contemporary American performers such as Amber Newman and Monique Parent with Euro-trash veterans Aldo Sambrell along with his veteran collaboraters Alain Petit and Lina Romay. The result is an odd culture clashing erotic adventure with glossy sex and violence interludes.
DEVIL HUNTER, an earlier (1980) cannibal adventure done in the Franco Primitivist modality.... After the opening Joyce reference Franco keeps his tongue firmly in cheek throughout. Monique Parent is wonderfully bitchy as the huntress while Romay, Sambrell, and Petit wisely underplay their sinister characters to good effect. It's more satiric than COUNTESS PERVERSE, but the game is still deadly, and bloody. The one completely over-the-top turn comes from by the statuesque Ivars, as the Super-Freak Furia, a mute (except for one hilarious word at the end) and scantily clad siren with a forever darting tongue. This lizard-woman is perhaps Franco's wildest creation since the bird-woman from EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN.
Remember the cannibal bird woman in EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN? Also, Franco plays with the relationship between audience and movie. For instance, in the climatic hunt sequence he parodies himself with the aforementioned canned laugh track over the sequence, complete with audience whistles and catcalls as things turn bloody. One really can't imagine Franco using such a device in his earlier cannibal films, but he seems to be indicating that he's aware of changing times. TENDER FLESH may not be as "good" a Franco film as THE PERVERSE COUNTESS, but it's good fun while it lasts. (C) Robert Monell 2022