26 July, 2017


Here's a link to an excellent review by Tim Lucas of a recent German Blu-ray release of Jess Franco's DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN/DRACULA, PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN.

http://videowatchdog.blogspot.com/2017/07/francos-die-nacht-der-offenen-sarge.html http://videowatchdog.blogspot.com/2017/07/francos-die-nacht-der-offenen-sarge.html

16 July, 2017

VENUS IN FURS update: Blu-ray; Jess Franco; versions: Manfred Mann; Mike Hugg; David Lynch, TWIN PEAKS; HD AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO

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VENUS IN FURS red room
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Two things: Can there please be a Blu-ray release of Jess Franco's VENUS IN FURS asap? After seeing PAROXISMUS (...puo una morta rivivere per amore?), the alternate Italian version, credited to Hans Bilian, edited by Bruno Mattei, I wondered and still wonder if that version is closer to what Jess Franco intended, as a Noir style fever dream, than the more familiar cut, which was post-produced without the director's final input, although Jess told me he did supervise a cut, but not the one in general release. Nor have I seem the reported 90m, as opposed to the 86 m BU DVD, German version, VENUS IM PELZ.

Also, the more I see of David Lynch's new TWIN PEAKS television series, and reviewing the feature TWIN PEAKS FIRE WALK WITH ME, I see some interesting similarities with Franco in general and VENUS IN FURS specifically, especially the scenes in the red curtained, zig zagged floored Black Lodge. Red is the primary symbolic color in both feature films and overwhelms all other hues.

Try watching TPFWWM back to back with Franco's 1973 father-daughter incest drama AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO, the similarities may be coincidental, but they are there in terms of imagery, mirrors being a portal to the truth and other worlds in both, for instance. Both Franco and Lynch employ surrealist imagery to tell their tragic stories of young women destroyed by their fathers.

And an English friendly HD release of AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO is needed. It's also one of Jess Franco's key works. More on this in a future blog posting...

Emma Cohen entering the mirror in AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO (1973)
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Laura Palmer in the mirror: TWIN PEAKS
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PAROXISMUS: I wanted to express my own personal reactions to this cut. Rather than a VIDEO WATCHDOG style comparison between this Italian version and the VIF we all know I plan do an ogoing series of shorter blogs on various aspects of both cuts, with some specific comparisons to come. First, the music. There was a fascinating online interview with Mike Hugg about his memories of composing and producing the music track for the original VENUS IN FURS, which unfortunately has been deleted.
 Maria Rohm as the object of desire in PAROXISMUS... PUO UNA MORTA RIVIVERE PER AMORE?

First and foremos,t BLACK ANGEL, as Jess envisioned it, was a love story steeped in the realm of jazz. Directly inspired by Chet Baker's observation that his own playing often transported him into a transcendent place. That element remains central in both versions.

Hugg states that he wrote the songs and the instrumentals were composed by him and Manfred Mann. But a lot of the music in the American cut came from other places, including US television, Stu Phillips library tracks, and cues from the score of the 1966 German made Jerry Cotton feature, THE TRAP SNAPS SHUT AT MIDNIGHT. Still other unidentified music is in the Italian version. I'm going to retry to locate the interview and publish a link if possible.

The film has always struck me as a unique musical-horror-fantasy on the themes of love and death. In a way all Jess Franco's films could be considered musicals, and he has described himself as a musician who makes films.
Manfred Mann, the popular Rock group which had a number of hit records in the mid 1960s before working on the soundtrack for VENUS IN FURS. They also appear performing their music in the film. 

Stay tuned for further information and commentary on PAROXISMUS, hopefully along with a review of the eventual Blu-ray release of VENUS IN FURS  It would be really interesting to have this alternate version as a special feature on an upcoming Blu-ray. 

Updated (C) Robert Monell 7/17

01 July, 2017

ESQUIZO, a film by Ricardo Bofill. Reviewed by Terence Ng.

Esquizo (1970) review

Fri 6/30, 9:31 PM

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27 June, 2017

Jess Franco's favorite film directors.


Reginald Le Borg
Reginald Le Borg directs Louise Allbritton in San Diego I Love You (1944)

During my interview with Jess Franco he noted some of his favorite film directors. The Austrian director Reginald Le Borg was one of them. Franco compared his career as an eclectic B director to that of Le Borg, who made numerous low budgeted films in Hollywood from the 1930s to the 1970s. He made a number of interesting, stylish horror films including DEAD MAN'S EYES, WEIRD WOMAN (Inner Sanctum mysteries), THE BLACK SLEEP, the last feature film of Bela Lugosi, DIARY OF MADMAN with Vincent Price, VOODOO ISLAND, with Boris Karloff. He also made THE MUMMY'S GHOST (1944), possibly the best of the UNIVERSAL follow ups to the 1932 classic, THE MUMMY.

Le Borg, who reportedly had a rather intimidating on set attitude, was a busy filmmaker, with over 60 films to his credit between the 1935 and 1965. He also directed episodes of such prominent 1950s US television series as 77 SUNSET STRIP (1958), MAVERICK, DEATH VALLEY DAYS, SCHLITZ PLAYHOUSE (1951) and numerous others. 

Jess Franco's favorite film directors.


During my interview with Jess Franco he noted some of his favorite film directors. The Austrian director Reginald Le Borg was one of them. Franco compared his career as an eclectic B director to that of Le Borg, who made numerous low budgeted films in Hollywood from the 1930s to the 1970s. He made a number of interesting, stylish horror films including DEAD MAN'S EYES, WEIRD WOMAN (Inner Sanctum mysteries), THE BLACK SLEEP, the last feature film of Bela Lugosi, DIARY OF MADMAN with Vincent Price, VOODOO ISLAND, with Boris Karloff.

17 June, 2017


AKA: TWO FEMALE SPIES IN FLOWERED PANTIES/OPALO DE FUEGO, Directed by Dan Simon, 1978--Starring Lina Romay, Nadine Pascal, Olivier Mathot and Yul Sanders. An exotic crime-spy-thriller, filmed in the Canary Islands, about an International kidnapping ring, investigated by a corrupt U.S. Senator who blackmails two female ex-cons into infiltrating the gang. Lots of action, sleaze and torture in this upscale production.

Both versions will be in the package. MERCHANTS OF SEX [French version} in HD: OPALO DE FUEGO{Spanish Version} in SD. Fully loaded with Special Features. 
Neither feature has been available on disc in North America and this will be the HD debut of MERCHANTS.... .

07 June, 2017

N. TOOK THE DICE (Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1971)

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I recently streamed this intriguing 1971 feature by novelist-filmmaker-theorist Alain Robbe-Grillet on the Fandor Amazon channel. It was well worth it since the film is an experimental restructuring of his 1971 L'EDEN ET APRES, which was also filmed in Bratislava and Tunisia with the same cast and a similar plot. But plot is not as important as image and soundtrack in ARG's universe, where character and story are one or two dimensional pulp devices. All of his films have a pulp fiction quality which is very upfront and intentional. 

ARG was a contemporary and kindred spirit to Jess Franco. Both were immersed in the literature, imagery and philosophy of the Marquis de Sade. Franco actually adapted several of his books, including JUSTINE, JULIETTE (unfinished), PHILOSOPHY IN THE BOUDOIR and EUGENIE DE SADE, to name a few. ARG's films are awash in Sadean imagery, in which sadomasochism is visualized and discussed throughout. 

Robbe-Grillet's name is mentioned during the word game in SUCCUBUS/NECRONOMICON (1967) and Franco's VENUS IN FURS is a virtual remake of ARG's debut feature, L'IMMORTELLE (1963). Both films feature a search for an elusive women who represents and delivers death to the man who finds her. N. TOOK THE DICE and its template both feature a woman (Catherine Jourdain LE SAMOURAI) who ends up imprisoned in a Tunisian torture complex, where women are kept in hanging cages by pirates with clandestine motives. Misogynist? Maybe. Is it Art? It depends on personal definitions. What is art to one person, may be mere pornography to others. Where does eroticism end and pornography begin?

 The key question is: can eroticism be a subject and technique in Art? I think most would answer yes to that.   Robbe-Grillet never worked in the hardcore sex mode, as did Jess Franco, but he did create a series of erotic conundrums in his books and films which transgress common definitions of taste and are pornographic to some. His film SLOW SLIDINGS OF PLEASURE (1974) actually was the subject of criminal litigation in Italy and was banned there. 

ARG is mainly interested in presenting films and books as experiments in anti/non/multi linear-narrative and alternate literary/film forms. Conventional representation is critiqued, ridiculed and turned inside-out.  Eroticism is often a portal to a dangerous type of personal/political freedom, although his films don't deal with specific political matters, as do those of Jean-Luc Godard. It's all a game, to enjoy, one which allows and encourages reader/viewer participation. The meaning is provided by the reader.viewer, as the narrator assures us in the last moments of N. TOOK THE DICE, a film which directly addresses the audience with respect and conspiratorial intimacy. 

In 1975 I had the chance to see EDEN AND AFTER presented with a following Q&A by Robbe-Grillet. The second feature was his even more transgressive SLOW SLIDINGS.... . I was somewhat shocked by the intensity of the sadomasochistic imagery in the latter, and it had trouble finding wide release in France or any release in North America at the time. Robbe-Grillet was teaching in New York at the time and was a most interesting host for his films, appearing bemused and answered questions politely and gratefully. 

(C) Robert Monell, 2017

26 May, 2017


Les gloutonnes

Here's an update of my review of LES GLOUTONNES, Jess Franco's Z grade Peplum from 1973. Actually this and MACISTE CONTRE LA REINE DES AMAZONES/YUKA, made with same cast, on the same locations, are good, no-budget fun. Updated from a review originally published by the wonderful Club Des Monstres!

Credited to Clifford Brown, this is a fascinating mess due to the fact that Robert de Nesle, or somebody, took a supposedly "serious" movie and made it into a delirious collage of Peplum, period adventure, comedy, erotic and Fantasy patterns. It's basically the erotic adventures of Waldemar Wohlfaart/Wal Davis as Maciste vs. Robert Woods as the evil Caronte, who, with the aid of Kali Hansa, attempts to overthrow and kill the Queen of Atlantis, played by Alice Arno. Maciste prevails with the help of "the gobblers"/the women of Atlantis. Howard Vernon makes an appearance as Cagliostro (see LA MALDICION DES FRANKENSTEIN), who watches the antics via a magic medieval television along with his horny expectant, played by the puckish Rick Deconninck / Bigotini. A very interesting, eclectic score by Robert Viger [?] is a bonus. There's even a hardcore sex scene thrown in the mix involving a young, naked stud who walks down a spiral staircase to ejaculate over a golden wrapped Alice Arno.  Peplum regular Mark Forest (LION OF THEBES) was supposed to play Maciste, according to Franco, but somehow Steve Forest was mistakenly engaged. The blond Davis ended up playing the role. He seems to in a happy daze and walks through the lush settings wearing a goofy smile. There are also other "erotic" interludes consisting of shots of Alice Arno reading an erotic text as she lounges in bed. These scenes could be outtakes form THE HOTS NIGHTS OF LINDA (1973) and seem to be there to suggest the Peplum/adventure action is a visualization of the material being read by Arno. Are they fantasies, flashbacks, or whatever? It's difficult to discern if these scenes and much of the rest were the director's intent or the result of producer meddling. 

The opening sequence of a mistyvalley and the first view of the stormy coast of "Atlantis" are outstanding images but unless you are a Franco completest you may hate this film. Franco also made YUKA, filmed back-to-back/simultaneously in 1973 with Davis / Wohlfaart and Robert Woods playing the male leads, another erotic "Peplum" set in the Middle Ages. In some versions of YUKA Davis is named Karzan. Lina Romay plays a water nymph who leads Maciste to the island. The Gobblers include Montserrat Prous, Caroline Riviere and Pamela Stanford (who are somehow teleported to an erotic encounter with Bigotini at Cagliostro's remote castel) and Chantal Broquet. As Parka, Kali Hansa is impressive as a particularly ferocious ally of the veil knight Caronte.

This is a difficult film to describe or dislike. Even in the recut version it's often visually engaging and a good time seems to be had by all. But one wonders about Franco's original "somber" version. Actually, the action does not take place in the legendary Atlantis, but on another island to which the survivors of the destruction of the island's destruction have migrated. A typical Jess Franco geographical spiral, situating the action on degree away from legend and into Jess Franco terra firma.

Released in France by American Video. At this point still no HQ DVD/HD release.

Reviewed by Robert Monell (C) 2017

11 May, 2017


Review and Interview with Mirek Lipinski:
Publication preview
Issue #1 of the new magazine, GOLDEN AGE OF SPANISH HORROR, is now available for order. The unique 32 page publication is the only English language magazine devoted exclusively to Spanish Horror cinema. The cover image is a high contrast posed shot from Jess Franco's iconic 1961 Spanish Horror classic, GRITOS EN LA NOCHE aka THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF. A colorful Jano poster for Franco's 1973 UN SILENCIO DE TUMBA graces the back cover. It's published and edited by Paul Naschy expert and Latarnia Intenational creator Mirek Lipinski. 

It opens with a quote about "tragic eroticism" and "pain and blood" from Baron Von Klaus himself. An appropriate epigraph. An editorial correctly states that Spanish Horror has been underrepresented in conversations about Euro-Horror and offers an appreciation of the dark legacies of those films, this is set  against an inside spread of Bruegel's THE TRIUMPH OF DEATH. The contents proceed with an article on the emergence of Dorado Films, who earlier this year released the first Blu-ray presentations of Jess Franco's THE SILENCE OF THE TOMB and THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF, followed by a thoughtful essay on Spanish horror films currently in demand and in release. There is a review of Kino Lorber's recent Blu-ray of DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER and a note on upcoming Franco DVDs.

An informative 3 page illustrated spread on Spanish actor Julian Ugarte (FANGS OF THE LIVING DEAD, FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR) reveals his presence in some unexpected places. Equally interesting is a preview of Lipinski's upcoming book, PAUL NASCHY: A LIFE ON THE SCREEN, with information on Naschy's role in a vintage episode of the US television series I SPY.

Two articles on Ray Danton's 1973 vampire film, CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD, a review by George R. Reis of the Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray and a well researched essay on the mystery of who actually directed the film, provide some important information on this Drive-In oddity. There's also a review of the album of Phillip Lambro's effective score for the film.

Several pages of full color adverts and promos for Naschy's HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE and Amando de Ossorio's LAS GARRAS DE LORELEI provide welcome eye candy. Also included are brief picture profiles of Spanish horror actresses Dianik Zurakowska (the heroine of Naschy's first werewolf epic, LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO ) and Patty Shepard, the US born actress who appeared as the iconic vampire woman in Leon Klimovksy's WEREWOLF SHADOW (1970), the film that sparked the Spanish Horror boom.. The magazine concludes with a very welcome inclusion of F.G. Loring's atmospheric 1900 vampire story, THE TOMB OF SARAH, the uncredited source material for CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

All this and more make this a must-have for fans of Euro-Gothic in general and Spanish Horror in particular. It's well laid out and filled with concise, intriguing articles. The magazine is lavishly illustrated with black and white and color photos, artwork, vintage posters and adverts. I had the chance to ask Mirek Lipinski a few questions about the genesis and future of the publication: 

Q: What was the inspiration for this magazine?

A: A few things--if I remember. I liked the old CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN magazine.

Q: What will be your publishing schedule?

A: There is no set release date for GOLDEN AGE OF SPANISH HORROR, Whenever, though I am working on the second issue and may have it ready in a couple of months.

Q: How did you start out compiling it?

A: The magazine was started when I took out of the closet all of my Naschy and Spanish Horror collections, and I realized I had a lot! I also knew I would not last forever--a point driven home to me when I had a health scare last year. For a moment I thought I was dying, but I'm alright now, of course. I wanted to get out as much as possible. I have a lot of information in my head and also a lot in my collection and this needed to see the light of day. Also, I haven't done a magazine in a long, long while and Golden Age was like a refresher course. I had to relearn stuff, like In Design, that I had forgotten. So the first issue was a challenge, even though people may not consider it that way. Also, there is a lot of Spanish Horror coming out on Blu-ray this year. That was not a deciding factor, but I was aware of it. I'm one not to judge these things harshly, even though I have my likes and dislikes. I love the genre, actually, so writing about it, and producing a magazine is easy, except for the effort involved in putting something tangible out there. 

Q: I can't think of any other magazines dealing exclusively with Spanish Horror, at least not in English.

A: I think the magazine is the only English language magazine dealing with Spanish Horror, its Golden Age. I have a lot of ideas and am looking forward to actualizing them.

Thanks to Mirek Lipinski

(C) Robert Monell, 2017