12 October, 2014

LABIOS ROJOS (Jess Franco, 1960) Reviewed by Francesco Cesari

[Many thanks to Francesco Cesari for submitting this review of one of Jess Franco's most rarely seen films RM]

REVIEW by Francesco Cesari:
Each Franco fan knows that Red Lips are a pair of sexy and smart female spies, but almost nobody has viewed the first film of the Saga (the second Jess Franco feature film) since it was never released for the home video market. Shot in 1960, Labios rojos is also Franco’s first hommage to classic American cinema. The comedy side isn’t so much developed as will be in the following Red Lips movies, starting with Bésame, monstruo and El caso de las dos bellezas (English titles: Kiss me Monster and Two Undercover Angels, buy pay attention: they are just clumsy reeditings and rewritings of the original Spanish versions), the couple of 1967 films with Rosanna Yanni and Jeanine Reynaud playing the lead roles. Basically, Labios rojos is a stylish b&w noir with additional elements of comedy. All the film highlights belong to the noir genre, such as the curt and powerful scene in which Carlo Moroni, the right-arm man of Kallman – the boss and the gangster – is killed in an ambush, in a lonely place close to a grove, while the headlights of the cars break the darkness of the night.

Moroni, Kallman, Radeck… all names recurring during the whole Jess Franco’s filmography, always as noir characters, and here used for the first time. Antonio Jiménez Escribano, a friend of the director’s, better known as the Dr. Zimmer in Miss Muerte/The Diabolical dr. Z., plays one of the best Kallman and, in general, one of the best gangsters in Franco’s cinema.

Even though it’s a very well made work, with an undoubted artistic value, Labios rojos isn’t as successful as neither the following Franco’s b&w film noirs La muerte silba un blues and Rififí en la ciudad, nor the already mentioned Red Lips films with Yanni and Reynaud. First of all, the script is overlong and overstuffed with gags and details for a director who was always, in his essence, a silent cinema filmmaker. Secondly – and it isn’t of little account – the actresses playing the couple of female spies simply don’t work. The main problem is Isana Medel, who plays the more cunning and cold of the pair girls (Jeanine Reynaud in the 1967 films), but looks just like the good and naive girl she played the previous year in Tenemos 18 años, Franco’s first feature film. No doubt that her casting was a mistake of the director, who at the time was engaged to her. On the contrary, Ana Castor, who plays the foolish of the pair (Rosanna Yanni in the 1967 films), looks terrific, as both actress and sexy doll, but her countenance of a strong woman (years later, Franco wanted her for the role of Irma Zimmer in The Diabolical dr. Z., eventually played by Mabel Karr) makes her character appearing what it shouldn’t: a clever and sometimes even evil femme-fatale.  

Anyway, thinking about the lack of money which Franco had to deal with during the second part of the shooting,  Labios rojos is almost a miracle. One of the main authors of this miracle, besides the director and some other actors (for example, Manolo Morán, playing Commissary Fernández), is Juan Mariné, the director of photography, at least until he left the set because he hadn’t been paid and had a call for another work… Talking with Robert Monell, Franco said that Mariné was the best among the directors of photography whom he worked with. One can understand why, especially looking at a masterpiece as La muerte silba un blues. But also Labios rojos, as well as the former Franco/Mariné documentary short film El destierro del Cid, looks a fascinating gallery of perfect pictures and shots which largely compensates the narrative defects.

(C) Franceso Cesari, 2014

07 October, 2014


Bangkok, Cita con la Muerte
Written and Directed by Clifford Brown (Jess Franco)
Produced by Emilio Larraga Golden Films Internacional S.A. Barcelona
87m Fujicolor, Widescreen.
{No known  DVD release}
{No known English language VHS or DVD available.}

A good natured experiment, BANGKOK CITY OF THE DEAD mixes comic book-style imagery with a crime thriller plot. Franco has tried this before, notably in the delightful LOS BLUES CALLE POP (1983). Unlike that project, BANGKOK lacks that film's poised, very Franco-esque humor. The overly formulaic plot combines drug running, Thai pirates (led by Lina Romay?), karate fighting, kidnapping, and parody on a C minus budget, enlivened by glittering, cubist style compositions executed on colorful Canary Island locations. This isn't Hollywood, it's not even Hong Kong. It's 100 per cent pure Jess Franco

While on a yachting interlude the beautiful young daughter (Helena Garrett) of a millionaire is kidnapped by pirates. Her father (Eduardo Fajardo) hires a bumbling private eye named Panama Joe (Bork Gordon) to locate her. The daughter's boyfriend is also on the kidnappers' trail. Panama Joe discovers the crooks are led by  drug smuggler Malko (Antonio Mayans), who is in turn being double crossed by Queen Amania (Lina Romay). The detective tries to play both sides against the other, while uncovering deeper layers of corruption and double dealing.
Lina Romay as Amania, the pirate...

BANGKOK is dialogue and plot heavy to no good end, and Gordon's imitation Inspector Columbo ramblings just do not spark the same kind of mystique. But at least he attempts to lighten up the proceedings. He has his moments but not enough of them. The villains pretty much do the heavy lifting here. The characters are shown talking in cartoon dialog balloons during the opening credits, but Franco unaccountably drops this unusual device immediately and never picks it up again. What's left is a C-minus adventure with some ill-timed comic relief and ineptly staged karate stand-offs, in which the participants miss each other by miles. No contact of any kind to be found here.

Favorite scene: Helena Garret getting "tortured" by being forced to sit under one of those old fashioned helmut style hair dryers.

Lina Romay has a few touching moments as the pirate leader, and she looks the part in her headband and leather jacket.. In one rather silly scene, shes dances around in a tight, skimpy leopard skin outfit accompanied by a mechanical band. The result might been cute in 1973, but at this late date it is not at all erotic and unflattering to the talented Ms. Romay. But one wonders if it was meant to be sexy at all. Is it just another Jess Franco in-joke?  It's amusing, for sure, with the absurb music and shots of the animated band instrument, but its the kind of amusement which maybe only Jess Franco enthusiasts might appreciate. Veteran character actor Fajardo at first glance turns in a rather disappointing performance as the millionaire. Looked at more closely it's another of the prolific veteran's expert, reserved depictions of ice cold ruthlessness. These kind of villainous roles had become Fajardo's trademark since his signature villain in DJANGO (1966).

The movie benefits from the aforementioned photography of the exotic Carany Islands locations, buttressed by the stock footage of Thailand and Macao. Familiar Jess Franco sites on the Costa Del Sol stand in for some of the Oriental settings. Pieces of Daniel White's brassy score can also be heard in Franco's earlier FU MANCHU AND THE KISS OF DEATH/KISS AND KILL (1967). OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO also credits some of the Oriental music to Moira Litell.

Noted Spanish film historian Carlos Aguilar was an assistant director and appears in a small role.

(C) 2014 Robert Monell

25 September, 2014

This Weekend in Spain!

Jess Franco's final film has its theatrical premiere...
Finalmente el pase en Artistic Metropol es el sábado 27!! Resumiendo:
Viernes 26 - Zumzeig Cinema
Sábado 27 - Artistic Metropol, en programa doble con REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES
Sábado 27 - Maldà Cine, en programa doble con REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES
'Llámale Jess Redux'
26 setembre Zumzeig Cinema
27 setembre Maldà Cine i Artistic Metropol
' call him Jess Redux '
26 setembre zumzeig cinema
27 setembre maldà film I artistic metropol

16 September, 2014

Jess Franco's final film to open in Spain next week!

THE RETURN OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES will have its theatrical premiere in Spain on September 26 at the Malda' in Barcelona, and on the September 27 at the Artistic Metropol in Madrid. 

Jess Franco's last film, which was completed after his 2013 death by his longtime leading actor and friend, Antonio Mayans, is finally opening theatrically in Spain next week. Mayans, who did the post production and shot some additional footage, was the logical person to complete this very last "Jess Franco" movie. 
As is seen in the trailer, this is another Al Pereira neo-noir, with the favorite Jess Franco PI still encountering sinister men, sexy femme fatales, while on the cellphone with the his late director friend. This looks to be an amusing, colorful, adventure-comedy, full of in-jokes, which closes off the director's long series of films about the sleazy detective. Antonio Mayans certainly looks the part and can hold the villains and audience at gunpoint with assurance and class.
It should be noted that the name Al Pereira surfaces in Franco's universe in his 1962 Eurospy-noir thriller, LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES and the character was also embodied by Eddie Constantine in the 1966 CARTES SUR TABLE and then Howard Vernon in the 1972, LES EBRANLEES. More information on the showings, and hopefully a review of the film itself will follow.

12 September, 2014

Jess Franco's USHER in HD? A dream... #2

"I wanted to make an Expressionist film." Jess Franco

Jess Franco's EL HUNDIMIENTO DE LA CASA USHER is a dream, a gorgeous nightmare. It registers more like a mannered Gothic fantasy than period horror film and very far from Roger Corman's 1960 version. Even in its Eurocine version, far from the original director's cut, its bleary eyed imagery spins the Gothic tradition into his territory.

Above: Image from NEUROSIS: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. But who shot it? Marius Lesoeur? Olivier Mathot (as Morpho) also worked as a director for Eurocine and may have directed this. Morpho and Francoise Blanchard (reclining) are not seen in the previous cuts of this project.

Both the existing Spanish language version, the second version, and NEUROSIS/REVENGE are "slow" to the point of largo tempo while the imagery could be termed stilted in terms of compositional considerations, the shots are often held much longer than they need to be, as if there were another point to be made beyond the exposition of the plot. And there is. A number of points, in fact. First and foremost being that isolation is a kind of living death which distorts conventional notions of Time and forces the person who has isolated him or herself into a kind of alternate spatial-temporal reality. That alternate space is immediately apparent in the opening scenes. The heavy stone aesthetic of the construction seems psychologically as well as physically oppressive. Motion seems to be discouraged, impeded by the structure and its surrounding area It's almost as if a powerful magnetic field were keeping everything and everyone in place, unable to easily move or maneuver easily. See the below images of Harker exploring and approaching Usher's "castle." 

Photo: Tonight's Film..
Exploring an alternate reality...

The world of USHER, as Jess Franco represents it, is an unreal, irrational, absurd, nightmarish melange of cinema tropes from previous Usher and Jess Franco films. Franco cites Jean Epstien's silent version* as a conscious influence while the insertions from GRITOS EN LA NOCHE are re-contextualized into a different Gothic modality.

  1. Jean Epstein: La Chute de la maison Usher (1928) - YouTube

    Sep 26, 2013 - Uploaded by iconauta2
    *Epstein, a Surrealist, was as much of an iconoclast as Jess Franco, in a less commercial realm.
Franco has said of the film (but which version was he talking about?). "I find the result very interesting." [P. 242, OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO. Interview with Jess Franco.] For an auteur who often dismisses his own work and seems to want to forget many of his films and move on, USHER seems to have been a labor of love, a project he cared about enough to closely overlook all three of its versions.

To really examine what Jess Franco has done with this project we have to go back to the second version, before it was again reshot and recut with Eurocine financial, artistic and logistical input, including actor-sometime director Olivier Mathot (EXORCISM; MANIAC KILLER) who appears as Morpho. We'll look at it closely in Part 3 of this survey. In the meantime, don't get your hopes up for a HD edition of either NEUROSIS..., although it could happen, since Eurocine controls it, and certainly not for the Spanish language version, which was only available on poor quality bootleg video to consult before writing this blog.
As with many of Jess Franco's mid 1980s personal projects, a good quality print seems to linger out of reach at this point. One wonders if the original cut still exists anywhere and if elements for the second version are extant.

"In twenty years perhaps people will discover it's a gorgeous film..." Jess Franco on EL HUNDIMIENTO DE LA CASA USHER**

** Jess Franco quotes from OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO, INTERVIEW-Jess Franco.

 Approaching the twilight zone which is the Castle Usher. Note the spatial distortion via wide angle lens.

31 August, 2014

Cartes Sur Table, Jess Franco (1966)

I recently got a chance to see the GAUMONT DVD of Jess Franco's Eurospy special, CARTES SUR TABLE, a 1966 spy adventure with science fiction and comic overtones, with Eddie Constantine as wise cracking Interpol operative Al Pereira.

The plot is prime comic book material done on a cut-rate sub Bond scale. An army of electronically controlled men and women "robots' (this was titled ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS in the US. I had a VIDEO YESTERYEAR VHS dub of a fuzzy, cut English language version, with Frank Wolff voicing Constantine), created by a sinister group led by a couple (Fernando Rey and Francoise Brion) in the employ of a shadowy political cartel, are carrying out a series of high profile political assassinations. The Chinese are also involved, but are after the formula which is capable of turning humans into mental slaves. Al Pereira, Jess Franco's favorite Eurospy/P.I., surfaces in Franco's universe as early as 1962, in his Eurospy-noir thriller, LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES. Played with casual flair by Eddie Constantine here in this knockoff of Godard's ALPHAVILLE (1965), he's not a character upon which a franchise would be built. This would be the Franco's last black and white feature. The character would later played by Howard Vernon (LES EBRANLEES, 1972) and, most frequently, Antonio Mayans (BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO-1982), among others.

Seeing it in OAR, with added English subtitles, and in very good video quality, is a revelation. It looks much slicker and sometimes even elegant in terms of atmospheric interiors. There are also several shots and an entire nightclub exotic dance scene, performed by Sophie Hardy, which have been restored to this presentation. Jess Franco's familiar high-pitched voice can be amusingly heard promoting Jean-Luc Godard's Eddie Constantine starring as Lemmy Caution in sci-fi/spy/noir masterwork, ALPHAVILLE. Franco's voice is heard in the background during scene between Constantine and Ricardo Palacios at a bus stop. CARTES SUR TABLE is not in the same class as ALPHAVILLE, but this edition makes a double bill possible and just maybe revelatory.

Cartes sur table


Plusieurs meurtres de personnalités internationales sont perpétrés. Interpol découvre que des terroristes ont trouvé un procédé scientifique permettant de transformer en assassins, agissant comme de véritables robots, les personnes qui appartiennent à un groupe sanguin très rare, le «rhésus O». Al Pereira, un agent secret possédant le «rhésus O» est envoyé comme appât dans la région d'Alicante, où semble siéger cette organisation criminelle.

Année de sortie : 1966
Durée : 91 mn
De : Jess Franco
Avec : Eddie Constantine, Françoise Brion, Sophie Hardy 
The high points are the glimpses of the high tech-low tech robot factory where kidnapped Rhesus 0 candidates are lowered into a giant electrified test tube, to emerge as mind controlled zombies and the climax where the robots turn on their masters. Francoise Brion, who appears as Lady Cecilia, the alluring leather clad female counterpart of Fernando Rey's renegade scientist,  would go on to appear in an important role in the director's 1973 erotic masterwork, AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO. The film doesn't spill over into horror territory, but the adaptation by frequent Luis Bunuel scenarist Jean-Claude Carriere (THE MILKY WAY, THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY) is quite witty and sophisticated in the way it both parodies and represents a stylish riff on the Eurospy genre. Many of the attempts at silly slapstick fall flat and seem unnecessary and ill timed, even in this spy-spoof context. But the film is a breezy, fun way to visit the world of Jess Franco before he became a brand name and international icon of Le Bad Cinema.

Franco would embark on a higher budgeted, widescreen, color Eurospy, LUCKY, THE INSCRUTABLE, featuring Ray Danton, the next year, and the rest in history. This was remade in 1985 as VIAJE A BANGKOK, ATUAD INCLUIDO, with Howard Vernon.

This version, with added English subtitles, can be ordered from ETC, contact Craig Ledbetter, for only 10 dollars. Call or email him to ask about shipping. See below,,, Recommended.

[Note: Today, Sept. 1, marks the end of our blog poll on preferences for Jess Franco films on Blu-ray. Next month we will continue our series on Jess Franco's 1980s films, starting with Part 2 of our look at the versions of NEUROSIS: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER.
Results of the blog poll will be announced in the future]

(C) Robert Monell 2014^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

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30 August, 2014

La Môme vert-de-gris (1953): Jess Franco's first job in the film industry....

According to OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO* this 1952 French thriller, featuring Eddie Constantine (CARTES SUR TABLE, RESEDENCIA PARA ESPIAS) and Howard Vernon, may have been Jess Franco's first professional level job in the Spanish film industry. He was responsible for   dubbing the film into Spanish. I haven't seen this film but Vernon reportedly was typecast as a villain, a role he would play in numerous Jess Franco films starting with GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (1961), almost ten years later.

The film was adapted from a Peter Cheyney novel by Bernard Borderie, who also directed.

*P. 33-The Classical Years: 1952-1965

20 August, 2014



I burn all over 1979 Je brûle de partout

Review: I'M BURNING-UP ALL OVER (1978)

Posted by Robert Monell , May 01,2000,18:00 post reply  top message  newest index

aka JE BRULE DE PARTOUT. Directed by Jess Franco (credited as Jacques Aicrag). Jenny Goldstone (Susan Hemingway) is abducted after a night at a popular discotheque. She is the most recent victim to fall into the hands of an international white slavery cartel. The point person is the beautiful, blond Lorna (Brigitte Lahaie/Van Meerhaegue) who, along with her henchmen, bundles the girls aboard a ship fitted with an orgy room into which a sedating "love drug" is piped. They are transported to a brothel in Portugal where one of Jenny's customers will turn out to be her own father, ironically revealed to be the financier behind the ring. But there is someone else on trail of the abductors, a certain investigator whose name will be familiar to those familiar with the filmography of Jess Franco...

One of Jess Franco's more obscure sexploitation efforts, this one is of note mainly for the alluring presence of Ms. Lahaie who would go on to be featured in several memorable Jean Rollin titles (FASCINATION, NIGHT OF THE HUNTED). Lahaie, like Rita Calderoni or Rosalba Neri, is one of those Euro-cult actresses whose stunning beauty is equaled by a formidable acting talent. She can play a mean bitch (as here, or in FACELESS) or a pathetic victim (cf NIGHT OF THE HUNTED), and sometimes a bit of both (cf FASCINATION). This was shot in less than a week and really looks it. The "love drug" sequences are represented by some smoke being forced through crudely cut rubber tubes. The love drug concept also turns up in the JF filmography as early as THE GIRL FROM RIO asa SUMURU 2 (1968), and is also prominent in CAPTIVE WOMEN aka LINDA (1980) {see the self-explanatory still on p 143 of OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO to get a taste of the latter title}. I term all the above mentioned titles as Women-In-Peril, a related offshoot of the Women in Prison genre, also a goldmine for JF.

Ms. Lahaie apparently quarreled with Franco on set and she doesn't look like a happy camper, but she does look terrific and can act, as she verified forever in Jean Rollin's NIGHT OF THE HUNTED and Franco's FACELESS (1988)! My favorite part was the opening, set in a glittering disco. Franco pans up from Lahaie's black leather boots to the neon colored-light show and you immediately know you're in Jess Franco territory (despite the use of one of his rarer pseudonyms during the amusing spoken credits). The director even manages to work in his trademark Al Pereira P.I. character, but Jean Ferrere's thug-like visage is no match for the more ambiguous mug of Antonio Mayans, my own favorite interpreter of JF's favorite Private Eye. Daniel J. White's moody trumpet score adds a dash of much needed atmosphere. 

This rather obscure title was one of three hardcore quickies produced by the late Robert de Nesle and directed by Franco in 1978, the year of the producer's death and one of the director's less than favorite years. --modified by Robert Monell at Mon, May 01, 2000, 18:04:23
--modified by Robert Monell at Mon, May 01, 2000, 18:57:19

It has been 14 years since I first published this review and there is still no HD/OAR/English friendly DVD of this to be found anywhere that I know.
Anyone have any VHS/DVD release history/info? It's pretty interesting and anything with the exquisite B Lahaie is worth a look/a revisit.

(C) Renewed 2014 by Robert Monell

13 August, 2014

NEW BLOG POLL! Jess Franco Blu-ray Preferences?

Which Jess Franco films do you most want to see on DVD? You can vote for more than one title. Poll will end 9/1/14.

08 August, 2014

Jess Franco in Canada: Posters from John Charles

The international releasing history of Jess Franco films is a complicated, sometimes confusing narrative. John Charles recently sent me some vintage posters and provided a glimpse into how some of his films were released in Canada, pointing out that the adverts were designed by CINEPIX, who also released the films there. Sometimes retitled, often cut by local censors depending on which province they were shown, the exact content and running times of these versions is an unknown. There was no MPAA there and the criteria for what would be cut or banned remains vague, according to John. He also reports that one of the strictest was the Ontario Censor Board and one must file a Freedom of Information request, cost $200 [!], for information on what scenes/films were problematic to them and the basis for their final decisions. Even mainstream Hollywood films were vulnerable to cuts and could be banned outright. 
Given these sometimes cut, retitled releases created for certain localities, there may be a whole other potential Jess Franco filmography yet to be explored. LINDA was one reported retitling of LORNA, THE EXORCIST (1974). SACISTEROTICA is better known as TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS. And other versions may have been distributed/cut/retitled in French Canada. Thanks to John Charles for the information and posters. More will be added in the future.

07 August, 2014


It appears that at least 4 alternate versions of Jess Franco's 1974 EXORCISME are going to be released on this German boxset later this month, including an extended "Director's Cut" (100m) with the original French language track, the French theatrical version, which may or may not be the same as the Redemption/Kino Blu-ray presentation, but without the Franch langauge track, and two versions of the clothed/censored version, DEMONIAC, the US cut and the Canadian cut.

A variety of special features are included, including commentaries, interviews with Franco regular Antonio Mayans and others, alternate scenes from THE SADIST OF NOTRE DAME, and much more. The exact content of each version is unclear at this point.

It will be available through DiabolikDVD.com

02 August, 2014

USHER in HD? A dream...


Zombie 5 Revenge in the house of Usher

I, for one, would love to see an HD restoration of Jess Franco's EL HUNDIMIENTO DE LA CASA USHER, the 1983 Spanish language production which has appeared in an alternate form on US VIDEO and DVD under the title REVENGE IN THE HOUSE OF USHER (Wizard Video) and NEUROSIS/REVENGE IN THE HOUSE OF USHER (IMAGE DVD, 2001).

It's not an easy film in any version, deliberately paced, heavily mannered in the Expressionist style, and almost esoteric in tone.

Franco did not originally intend this as another Dr. Orloff entry, which it somehow became when footage from the director's 1961 GRITOS EN LA NOCHE was added as flashbacks to Usher's criminal past in the Eurocine prepared version. But Jess Franco has said that he was involved in this revision also, "Once the film was finished, the idea of including scenes from GRITOS EN LA NOCHE turned me on. Vernon and I decided that the film was almost like a sequel. So I added in some scenes in flashback. I find the result very interesting." [P242, OBESSION THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO; INTERVIEW- JESS FRANCO, Tim Lucas, Lucas Balbo, Peter Blumenstock, Christian Kessler, 1992, Garf Haufen & Frank Trebben]

Nonetheless, it is also very likely these inserts were Eurocine requests.
  Click for full-sized image
1982 VHS. With power drill scene?!
According to my colleague and blog associate, Nzoog,  EL HUNDIMINETO....Jess Franco's original cut, has never played theatrically anywhere after it was recut in the wake of a Festival showing.
Apparently, Franco's original version had a very poor reception when screened in Spain at the Imagfic Fest and was later recut into THE CRIMES OF USHER, which had a brief Spanish release, but again according to Nzoog, no Spanish video release


Below: The Orlofff Collection boxset [IMAGE]

Several gory, perverse murder scenes were added where Howard Vernon's USHER attacks a woman, a prostitute and a young girl, beating them to with his cane or slicing them up and licking their blood off the murder weapon's  blade. A serial killer-vampire Usher. These added inserts do not appear in REVENGE, which adds new, different footage, including the GRITOS EN LA NOCHE material.

This fetish shot, included in the reshot Spanish version, precedes a brutal murder and blood drinking interlude.

Shot in Jaen, Andalusia, with some scenes lensed in Madrid, the film has a very odd neo-Gothic look, but with saturated colors and very dense mise-en-scene, it's rather like a wake during which everyone is frozen in place for around 80 minutes, perhaps appropriate to Poe.

Franco has also said that in retrospect he considered this a kind of semi-sequel to GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, even if he didn't initially intend it to be. That might make it appropriate that it was eventually included in The Orloff Collection DVD boxset 

Thanks to Nzoog for additional information.

More images and text to come!
(C)  Robert Monell

28 July, 2014

Jess Franco's 1980s Hardcore Films

This 1986 hardcore sex comedy features Lina Romay and Antonio Mayans, credited as Lulu Lavenre and Tony Proculi [more on that beard later], as an outrageously flamboyant couple, she's a loud dresser, he's a screaming queen, who check into the no-tell Hotel Venus for some fun and games in which several other couples join. The character bits are amusing and provide some satirical comic relief from the many gynecological close ups of penetration, oral sex, female and male genitalia.

The Hotel Venus could be a wink at Wagner's VENUSBURG but most probably was a low rent, convenient, photogenic location which Jess roped into hosting the production, or maybe just shot it in secret, on the fly. Note how the facade of the hotel is used as a formal element and introduces the location of the action in the very first image, another example of the director's minimalist expertise.

Para las Nenas.... Leche Calentita translates, according to OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO to "Warm cream... for the babes" and the babes include Maria Del Carmen G. Alonso (Rossy Pussy), Romay and other familiar female and male Franco players, including Jean Morcillon = Jose Miguel Carcia Marfa; Peplo Tiesez = Jose Llamas, Pici Palo= R.A. Garcia.

Director: Candy Coster [Jess Franco & Lina Romay], Producer: Fernando Vidal Campos for FERVI Films Madrid. Screenplay: Jess Franco & Lina Romay. DP: Joan Almirall = Juan Cozar. Music: Daniel J. White. Edited by Jess Franco. Agfa color. 73m (the VHS dub I referenced cut out after about 60m in the middle of a hardcore scene!). Widescreen.

LAS CHUPONAS, TELEPORNO, BRAGUETA STORY, are other rarely seen JF hardcores from the same year. Franco also worked on several uncompleted projects that year, along with the still unreleased SIDA, LA PESTE DEL SIGLO XX, the latter co produced by Golden Films Internacional and Eurocine.

26 July, 2014

The Sinister Dr. Orloff (1982)

 This 1982 Golden Films Internacional Production is my personal favorite of Jess Franco's Dr. Orloff series.

24 July, 2014


I purchased this hardbox clamshell prerecord from MILLION DOLLAR VIDEO CORP. in Los Angeles in 1994.

This delirious, highly stylized 1982 remake of NIGHTMARE COME AT NIGHT remains one of my favorite Jess Franco films from his visually striking Golden Films Internacional period. Lina Romay plays the role of the victim of a criminal plot engineered by a phony nightclub hypnotist (Daniel Katz, dubbed by Franco regular Antonio Mayans). The female lead in the original was memorably played by Diana Lorys (GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, RESEDENICA PARA ESPIAS, THE BLOODY JUDGE). This version has a rather more upbeat ending and is done in a totally different visual style, emphasizing saturated tropical colors and Dutch camera angles, as illustrated in the caps. 
Drug party: Tilt Camera.

[From the Video Box copy on the back cover: "A beautiful who captivates the minds of men. A businessman whose wife in constantly complaining about how little time he dedicates to her. A professional photographer who will do anything for money. These are the elements for a movie in which sex and erotism {sic} are only surpassed by the tension and horror of a crime." I guess this kind of sums up the plot and characters. I'm not sure if the "beautiful" woman is meant to be Lina Romay or Carmen Carrion, the latter a villainous in the mystery story. The plot is basically the same of NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT, with the exception of the "happier" ending, which is boosted by the sudden appearance of Jess Franco himself, as the heroine's therapist, who shows up with a small army of heavily armed police.

Some of the music is recycled from Daniel White's trademark score for LA COMTESSE NOIRE (1973) aka FEMALE VAMPIRE. NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT may have stronger lead performances by Paul Muller and Ms. Loryr, and a more compelling score by the great Bruno Nicolai (which maybe my personal favorite of this scores for Jess Franco) but MIL SEXOS.... has an arrested visual style of its own which completely immerses the viewer into the disordered mind of Irina, who shares the name the is played by the same actress who portrayed the title character in LA COMTESSE NOIRE. This film illustrates that while Jess Franco may have a tendency to tell the same stories over and over, he manages each time time he repeats them to conduct fascinating variations in style, tone and atmosphere.

A good quality version can be found on Youtube, albeit in Spanish language only. When I interviewed Jess Franco about this film in 2004, he called it one of his "black" films ie Film Noir, and expressed surprise that I singled it out for praise. 

This title really needs a HD release with English language options. More caps, taken from the MILLION DOLLAR VIDEO Spanish language VHS, and comments will follow.

(C) 2014 Robert Monell

10 July, 2014

From Severin Films

New contest!!! We're thrilled to announce our partnership with Westgate Gallery, a new poster shop specializing in the horror and exploitation films we love. You can get 15% off 1-2 items and 20% off 3 or more by mentioning Severin when you order through them. You can follow them on here or on Twitter (@westgateposters), and they have a wide range of international posters to browse on their site (http://westgategallery.com/). To help us celebrate this weeks blu-ray release of BLOODY MOON, they're giving away the original Spanish poster for the film, sized 27 x 39. Share this post to be entered. The contest closes at 4PM tomorrow, so don't miss your chance to win this amazing piece of horror history!!!

08 July, 2014

BLOODY MOON Blu-ray is now available!

Today is the official street date for this new Blu-ray upgrade of this notorious Jess Franco gore epic and it's highly recommended. You can almost see the mountains on the moon which the director's compulsive zoom lens often closes in on.

Jess Franco's 1981 contribution to the slasher genre was a German financed production, lensed in Alicante, Spain. It looks better than ever on this new Blu-ray edition from Severin Films. A stunning BD presentation which reinvents Jess Franco's Spanish lensed slasher epic as a series of candy colored gore tableaux; the detail, definition, sharpness and color are just dazzling. The clarity of each and every image is razor sharp and the luminosity it a 100% improvement over the previous DVD presentation.

International Boarding School of Languages, Alicante: During a dance at the language school for young women the facially deformed Miguel (Alexander Waechter) steals a Mickey Mouse mask and stalks an attractive student, brutally stabbing her to death in bungalow #13 to stop her horrified screams when she discovers his grotesque features. Several years later Dr. Domingo Aunous (another cameo by Uncle Jess) releases Miguel from psychiatric confinement into the care of his sister Manuela (Nadja Gerganhoff), the lover of Alvaro, the language school's director who is trying to cover up his financial mismanagement. The couple are mistrusted by the elderly Countess, who controls the family fortune and intends to disinherit niece Manuela, leaving Miguel set to inherit the Countess' considerable estate.

But Miguel will become a key suspect when several of the new batch of female students are found murdered in cursed bungalow #13. Is this all a plot by Manuela and Alvaro to set up Miguel? You bet. In the meantime the frantic imagination of the recently arrived Angela (Olivia Pascal), looking more like a runway model than a student, becomes overstimulated as the killer begins to leave body parts in her room like ritual offerings.

The Jess Franco circular saw massacre....

The original German title card...

The 1080p full HD resolution presentation of this German LISA-RAPID-METRO Film Production emphasizes more than any previous release Jess Franco's ability to make a slick, seamless mainstream thriller very much in the style of  John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN and the thrillers of Brian De Palma, and both directors are directly quoted in Franco's crafty, often delirious mise-en-scene. The opening murder, presented through the eyes of the killer's "party" mask, in this case Mickey Mouse, is the most obvious example. The glossy, red, white and blue color design is more prominent than ever now, perhaps an indication that the director was going "the American way" while recalling the American flag color scheme of De Palma's 1981 BLOW OUT. Images from the notorious head severing by circular saw sequence can also be seen in Amoldovar's MATADOR.

Special features include the documentary interview Franco Moon (18m 51s), directed by David Gregory and the original theatrical trailer (1m 39s), the latter featuring some alternate English language dubbing. Franco obviously was displeased with many aspects of this project, on which he worked as a gun for hire on a script concocted by the producer, Erich Tomek.He also discusses his displeasure with the Gerhard Heinz disco-dancing score, remembering he wanted to use the music of Pink Floyd. It's a revealing interview in that it shows how he was able to operate both as a hack and a [frustrated] auteur. Notice the very last image, the clasped hands of the incestuous siblings, which the title Directed by Jess Franco is printed over. A final indication that the director's intended focus is on the twisted love story which lies underneath the generic slasher elements 

Miguel, on the other side of the mirror, a recurring image in the films of Jess Franco.

Overall this is an impressive upgrade for this uncharacteristic entry in the Jess Franco canon. This is a clean, luminous, crystal clear transfer from elements which do not evidence any noticeable wear and tear. A few seconds of blood spattered gore have been included from inferior elements, in snippets often missing from other video versions. This version is complete. BLOODY MOON was a video nasty and banned in the UK.

English MONO Audio [my only reservation is a wish that the German language track could have been included]

(C) Robert Monell 2104

30 June, 2014

Review: LES GRANDES EMMERDEUSES (1974) Updated Archived Review

 [This is an updated review originally published in the MOBIUS HOME VIDEO FORUM: EUROPEAN CULT CINEMA in Nov. 1999. Thanks to John Charles]

This is a delightfully sleazy Jess Franco nudie comedy romp, and I use the word "romp" with no irony intended. Jess directed under his "Clifford Brown" pseudo, and 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 Super 8MM at some hotel in France where the film crew was 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 [rn Rick Deconninck]and Ramon Ardid) under the supervision of the director himself in a cameo that was probably dictated by lack of a casting budget. 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 monstrosity to whom our heroines will be fed if they don't deliver. 

It's all wild and crazy fun, part slapstick comedy, part porn, part Z grade Eurocrime, part horror parody, 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. 

 Pamela Stanford [rn Monique Delaunay] in cat disguise...

 Lina and Pamela seem a lot more comfortable nude than most actresses do fully clothed, having a ball running around like hopped-up sprites, 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 piano 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. I just kick back and enjoy

*This piece will be familiar to Jess Franco archaeologists. It's also heard under the credits of LE MIROIR OBSCENE and in LES GLOUTONNES (both 1973) and other Jess Franco related titles.

(C) Robert Monell, 2014