11 October, 2017

KILLER BARBYS (Jess Franco, 1996) REDEMPTION Blu-ray review



After a high-energy appearance in a crowded nightclub, Spanish punk band Killer Barbies take off through the Spanish countryside in their van. Soon they have a breakdown and are greeted by a strange man, Arkan (Spaghtetti Western veteran Aldo Sambrell) who invites them to spend the night within the walls of the mist enshrouded Gothic castle of the Countess Von Fleidermaus (Mariangela Giordano), who is actually a centuries old vampire who stays young, like Elizabeth Bathory, by bathing in the blood of the young. She depends on Arkan to deliver the band member’s body fluids as her next skin treatment.
Essentially an extended promo/music video for the Spanish punk/hard/garage rock band, formed in 1994 by Silvia Superstar (Silvia Garcia Pintos) and Billy King (Arturo Dominguez), this was the first of two films directed by Franco which were build around the image and music of the band. They cut a few albums but their popularity was limited and this film, although Franco’s first theatrical release in Spain in several years, only had about 100, 000 patrons and grossed a mere 100.000 in USD. This would be the last theatrical release of a new Jess Franco film in Spain. It’s also one of his last filmed in 35mm.  The title of the film had to be changed because the name Barbie was trademarked by Mattel manufacturing, which by the 21st Century had become a Fortune 500 company. Franco filmed a follow-up KILLER BARBYS VS DRACULA (2002), which added two Draculas, musical numbers with German vocal star Bela B., a Walt Disney aesthetic and was staged in a bizarre Spaghetti Western theme town in Southern Spain. Eurowestern stars Dan Van Husen (CUT THROATS NINE), Peter Martell and Aldo Sambrell (NAVAJO JOE) were featured. 
Filmed in one month (Jan. 8 to Feb. 8, 1996) in Valencia and other locales, it’s not a bad looking film, especially on the new Redemption Blu-ray, and the Spanish language soundtrack, with English subtitles, is the way to go, since the English track features horrendous voice-casting and muffled English-dubbed voicing. The scenes featuring Aldo Sambrell (VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST) and Ms. Giordano (BURIAL GROUND) come off the best, atmospherically lit and composed by 1970s Franco cinematographer Javier Perez Zofio (SINNER, NIGHT OF THE SKULLS). It’s actually very much a kind of Punk-Gothic comic book, just as EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN was an Adult-Horrorcomic book in 1972, indebted to the kind of sexy/violent comic strips (DIABOLIK, KILLING, SATANIK) which were popular in Europe in the 1960s and 70s. But the film didn’t make much of an impact by the mid 1990s when Spanish audiences were more likely interested in US produced, larger budgeted, mainstream horror offerings.  The Killer Barbies song COMIC BOOKS, states the band’s and the film’s aesthetic, as well as affirms Jess Franco’s lifelong obsession with all kinds of comic book/comic strip characters in his filmography, LUCKY THE INSCRUTABLE (1967) and LOS BLUES CALLE POP (1983), being the most obvious examples. The finale, featuring cult figure Santiago Segura, getting flattened by a steam roller, is something that might be found in an EC Comic infused with punk attitude, which is a good description of this film.
The blood bathing scenes are fairly gory and Ms. Giordano is fully up to the lusty requirements of the scenario. But the scenes don’t have the same sensual-emotional impact as such Jess Franco female vampire operettas as VAMPYROS LESBOS (1970) or FEMALE VAMPIRE/LA COMTESSE NOIRE (1973).  Nonetheless, they work well within the limited context of this film and will be highlights for horror movies fans.  There’s not much viable eroticism in this film, considering Jess Franco’s career long expertise in that realm. Some of the comedy scenes involving the band members in the haunted castle aren’t very amusing and perhaps clash in tone.  Jess Franco had at least one good  vampire film in his future, VAMPIRE JUNCTION, which overall works much better as erotic horror and seems to have a more authorial voice than this.
Also included on the Blu-ray are an audio commentary by Troy Howarth, and a trailer along with the Spanish, French and the dire English language tracks. The 4K scan from the original elements features the film looking the best it could possibly look, with generally good color, definition and detail, considering the often soft-focus original cinematography.
Thanks to Nzoog for additional information
(C) Robert Monell, 2017

02 October, 2017

Rare 16mm print of Jess Franco's COUNT DRACULA on Ebay



Rare 16mm print of Franco's COUNT DRACULA. Thanks to Donald Farmer

1970 16mm Sound Feature Film Color Count Dracula Christopher Lee Klaus Kinski VG in DVDs & Movies, Film Stock | eBay
EBAY.COM

08 September, 2017

THE ONLY HOUSE IN TOWN (Flint Holloway/Edward D, Wood Jr., 1970)

This 53m 40s wonderment is the only surviving record of Ed Wood's 1970 foray into the soft-core feature film realm. I first became aware of this title via Rudolph Grey's essential Wood biography, NIGHTMARE OF ECSTASY. *   Grey lists it in his chronological filmography as 1971 production which followed NECROMANIA (also 1971), quoting cinematographer Ted Gorley as describing it as "inferior" to NECROMANIA, lacking the supernatural elements found in that film and that it was filmed in three days "probably on a budget lower than NECROMANIA". Well, after seeing the film on the fatwvideo DVD, sporting a 2009 Films Around The World, All Rights Reserved onscreen logo and DVD stamp, I can report that much of Grey's notes are incorrect.

Grey lists it as a Cinema Classics Production, Released by Stacey Films, as was NECROMANIA. This much seems correct. But THE ONLY HOUSE IN TOWN (onscreen title) was not an aka for THE YOUNG MARRIEDS, which as we now know is a completely separate, later production, and has now had its own DVD release. Copyright 1971 The Professionals appears on the main title card "THE ONLY HOUSE IN TOWN", but that company is nowhere mentioned in Grey's book.


In fact, THE ONLY HOUSE IN TOWN is superior, in my view at least, to THE YOUNG MARRIEDS, while not being as entertaining, well shot, atmospheric or humorously scripted as NECROMANIA. It also lacks NECROMANIA's engaging couple of Renee Bond and Rick Lutze as the leads. They give good performances as quick witted, likable characters, an endlessly bickering married couple, a Nick and Nora Charles in an all nudie haunted world. That film had something approaching a well-written script. THE ONLY HOUSE... appears to have not had a full script at all, or perhaps only a brief treatment containing several key scenes. 

According to informed sources** THE ONLY HOUSE IN TOWN was made after Wood's 1970 soft-core detective noir TAKE IT OUT IN TRADE, which featured Ed himself in gloriously unapologetic drag. Both TAKE IT OUT IN TRADE and THE ONLY HOUSE IN TOWN marked Wood's return to feature film making since writing and directing THE SINISTER URGE in 1960. What can be said, after sampling the SWV outtakes from TAKE IT OUT IN TRADE, is that THE ONLY HOUSE... does not have that film's colorful stylistic flair. TAKE IT OUT IN TRADE is a candy colored neo-noir with a horny PI getting it on with an endless stream of female informants in lurid settings. The international settings are telegraphed with an almost Godard-like minimalism, primary colored travel posters stand in for locations, the editing is in-your-face and sometimes avant-garde. 

THE ONLY HOUSE IN TOWN does have Uschi Digard, either nude or wearing a floppy hate and high black leather boots, as our hostess at the only brothel in a 19th Century town which now seems to be haunted by the spirits of the horny dead. Or does it emit a weird electromagnetic field which makes everyone who enters uncontrollably lustful to the point of... ?  Rape is always an ugly word and deed but this film opens with a gang rape of a scantily clad brunette, who seems the only inhabitant. A group of six, three men and three women, led by a bearded man with a cigarette in his mouth, quietly mount a staircase in an old, disheveled house. The bearded man snaps his fingers, motioning the group, some of whom are also smoking cigarettes, toward a thick oak door on the second floor. They force open the door to reveal the brunette, clad only in a short lemon colored bathrobe, gasping and looking terrified. She flees the group who pursue her as turbulent piano music is heard on the soundtrack. Finally they all pin her down, lift her up and carry her down the stairs to the lower level. The looks of lust on the male and female attackers are obvious and priceless. The entire idea of gang rape conducted by both sexes was somewhat unique and it's never explained why they are there or how they knew a victim would be waiting. One wonders if the way this opens, in media res, was a deliberate decision or the result of the film being either unfinished or this being an incomplete print. 

The feeling of watching fragments of a film continues even though the film does have its own beginning, middle and ending. After a long groping of the rape victim, who is now moaning "Fuck me', making it all the more disturbing, the second part opens with Uschi, now fully dressed, introducing herself and welcoming the viewer. Facing the camera, standing in front of a large bed, Uschi will be our narrator in this interactive piece of soft core cinema. She introduces several short stories which are acted out by the previously seen six cast members, all of which feature Uschi totally nude and very involved in the hot and heavy action. Also breaking the fourth wall are the constant comments and instructions to the cast shouted out by an off-screen voice, "Move back a little, that's good", "Back off from her, let's see more of her" (referring to Uschi), "Lay down, just move around, don't be so tight". Is this Ed Woods' voice, or an assistant's, or the cameraman's? Was it planned as part of the final film or just left in because of an incomplete final sound mix. The latter is most likely, but it does fit in with the film's interactive structure, making it Wood's most self reflexive work. What would seem merely technically deficient/sloppy in normal production values, becomes a fascinating element in this context. 

The first story features a man Uschi calls "Peter Lewin", played by actor who was the bearded leader of the group in the opening. Rape once again rears its ugly head as Peter forces his way into the room occupied by Wendy (Uschi) accompanied by dire instrumental music, and then forces himself onto her. Later, flighty instrumental music is heard over the scene as the victim becomes compliant. In another story in the omnibus a stripper named "Bouncing Beulah" has a lesbian interlude with Uschi, which ends with them both discussing how much they like each other's breasts. A gritty Blues song sung by a female singer is heard over this segment. Further off-screen directorial comments heard (helpful English subtitles make them understandable amid the muddled sound mix) "Do that again. I really dig it", "All right, get in a group, like that", and "Rub her naked". At one point a naked group sex participant suddenly stands up, shouting "It was me who tipped the cops off". Since no cops arrive at any point in the film, this line is particularly baffling while adding to the general amusement level. There's even a classic Ed Wood cat fight, symphonic music and a Hawaiian guitar interlude. 

The most interesting stylistic element is the way the camera repeatedly floats upward, away from the group sex play, to examine a painting or outside foliage seen through an open window. The painting gets the most attention, one of those large format, cheap looking imitations of 19th Century neo classic style, depicting a nude woman holding up her arms in the foreground as soldiers in what looks like Ancient Roman military armor and helmets are seen in the background near a horse drawn chariot, In the far background ancient wooden ships at sea are seen. Why are we suddenly looking at this dollar store canvas? It seems to be yet another example of Wood's recurrent personal directorial matrix  what the French term "mise-en abyme/mise-en abime", the image within the image, the scene within the scene which the auteur (Wood) encapsulates/contrasts with the action on the main canvas. One thinks of the numerous cheap paintings, posters, photos which decorate the dingy, impoverished mise-en-scene of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, NIGHT OF THE GHOULS, THE SINISTER URGE and other Wood-directed items. The man had an eye for something beyond the obvious, which is why his films still are collected, viewed and examined decades after his sordid passing. And this goes along with the authorial cast directions heard off-screen making this a totally personal work in a totally impossible creative/technical set-up.

It all concludes with Uschi bidding the viewer farewell before she is engulfed  by several nude cast members, only to struggle out of the impending orgy to add, "You still here, people? Get out and let us have some fun!" The End. 

*NIGHTMARE OF ECSTASY, The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr., by Rudolph Grey, Feral House, 1992, pp. 210-212.

** Thanks to Kieth Crocker for additional information

(C) Robert Monell, 2017

02 September, 2017

TWO FEMALE SPIES WITH FLOWERED PANTIES; OPALO DE FUEGO (Jess Franco, 1978) Severin Blu-ray

Directed by Dan Simon (Jess Franco)

Strippers Cecile (Lina Romay) and Brigitte (Nadine Pascal) are taken in handcuffs to a sleazy nightclub. They have recently been released from a Brazilian prison where they were serving sentences for prostitution and lewd dancing. It's daytime, when strip clubs are usually closed, so the girls suspect something is up when the are confronted by U.S. Senator Connolly (Franco regular Olivier Mathot) and a Canary Island's police official who force them to perform a strip tease before offering them a chance at getting their prostitution sentences reduced if they go on a secret mission to Las Palmas. Cecile, who is experienced in photography, is ordered to photograph everyone who enters or leaves a suspicion villa which is adjacent to the hotel where they will be staying.


BELOW: Joelle Le Clair in OPALO DE FUEGO
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This film resides in Franco's Women In Peril bin, which includes such titles as THE SLAVES, FRAUEN OHNE UNSCHULD, BLUE RITA (1977), MADCHEN IM NACHTVERKEHR (1976), JE BRULE DE PARTOUT (1978), LINDA/ORGIA DE NINFOMANAS (1980), among many othrs, all of which involve similar scenarios dealing with women forced to work as prostitutes in sleazy nightclubs. It can also be viewed as another entry into his occasional Red Lips adventures, featuring a duo of female nightclub performers who are secretly private investigators, the best of these films was the first, the moody, black and white Film Noir, LABIOS ROJOS (1960). Later entries include TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS/ROTE LIPPEN, KISS ME MONSTER (1967). Unofficial variations on the Red Lips films include LES GRANDES EMMERDEUSES (1974), which TWO FEMALE SPIES.... most closely resembles in style, story and spirit. 

The dangerous assignment here involves the women showing up for an arranged job at a Las Palmas nightclub run by the Mr. Forbes (Yul Sanders/Claude Boisson) and his wife (Joelle L'Quement=Joelle Leclair). Mr and Mrs. Forbes have a rather odd relationship. He sexually assaults women whom he helps kidnap to be sold as private sex slaves to millionaires. She has turned sexually frigid toward him due her the stress of running the day to day affairs of the nightclub. They are operatives of a large, shadowy international crime syndicate which orders the kidnappings and close the sales to clients living in the Canary Islands. This all seems sanctioned by local authorities. The film opens with one such kidnapping involving the international sex star Adriana Rinaldi (Susan Hemingway), carried out by Forbes, aided by a female in large sunglasses (Muriel Montossey, whom would go onto appear as the lead actress in Franco's 1982, THE INCONFESSABLE ORGIES OF EMMANUELLE, as Vicky Adams). The victim is chained to a bed and brutally raped by Forbes, a particularly shocking scene even in this s exploitative context.

When our two female spies arrive in Las Palmas they are greeted by the joyously gay Milton (Mel Rodrigo) the DJ at the Flamingo club. He fills the ladies in on the job and the Forbes observe the two performers as they do their first show. Later both dancers are abducted after Mr. Forbes learns of their mission and true identities. They are both brutally tortured, which results in the death of Brigitte. Cecile is hypnotized by the strange opal ring worn by Mrs. Forbes so that she will become a future mindless slave. But Cecile escapes and is pursued by helicopter, piloted by Mrs. Forbes, only to escape to a local hippie colony living in desert caves. Meanwhile another club employee is set-up as the fall guy for the murder of Connolly and the illegal operations of the nightclub. Will she be able to eventually escape from the island and the agents of the kidnapping ring? 

TWO FEMALE SPIES IN FLOWERED PANTIES has a ridiculous title and an unusually complicated, action filled plot, at least for a Jess Franco film. It contains humor (at least in the French version), exotic/erotic dancing, mind control sessions, sexual torture, rape, machine guns battles, an anarchist uprising, and a political back story. The villains are agents of an international organization said to control world terrorism and have been responsible for the JFK and Martin Luther King assassinations in the U.S.. The local Federal Police and Washington DC politicians are under their command. When Senator Connolly is told about all this he is judged a security threat and gunned down. Given the amount of action, nightclub performances and information which needed to be telegraphed, Franco manages to wrap it all up in his usual personal style, albeit resulting in a technically uneven presentation in which every other shot seems out of focus or misfired. It looks as if, as usual, time and money were in short supply and the director had to rush through a series of complex scenes in order to get them all on film.

The most effective scenes are the amusingly low-tech helicopter pursuit of a bikini clad Lina Romay (credited as Line Castel on the French print and Candy Coster on the Spanish version) and two very character driven scenes between Mr. and Mrs. Forbes in which their erotic relationship is illustrated as their evolving emotional detachment is revealed.  These scenes involving the couple are totally missing from the Spanish version, available as an SD DVD in this package, OPALO DE FUEGO. They were inserted after-the-fact for the French release version by Eurocine when they acquired it from the Spanish producers, Joaquin Dominguez's Triton Films PC, Madrid, who co-produced in association with Studio 8, Lisbon, Portugal. Eurocine also added a different extended opening scene, lasting about 15 minutes, in which the kidnapping of Ms. Hemingway is carried out. Neither Ms. Hemingway or Montossey appear or are credited in the Spanish version. Whether of not Jess Franco filmed these scenes is not clear, but since they involve actors he was working with on other projects at the time, his involvement was likely.

Eurocine also removed one of the absolute best, and most Franconian episodes, the Salome 2000 exotic dance performed by Ms. L'Quiment with what is meant to represent the severed head of John the Baptist. The blasphemous, Bunuelian qualities of this scene are quite obvious and 100 percent Jess Franco. Also removed were two key scenes which explained the exact agendas of Milton, who is revealed as not being gay and as a fellow US government operative,  and nightclub associate Mr Morales (Canary Island native Albino Graziani, who would show up as a character actor in other Franco films shot there including OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES, MANSION OF THE LIVING DEAD, TREASURE OF THE BLOND GODDESS, and BANGKOK, CITY OF THE DEAD). Cecile's discovery of a murdered man hanging in her closet is yet another scene removed from the Eurocine cut. This scene is an exact copy of an episode in Franco's 1966 CARTES SUR TABLE/Attack of the Robots, where Eddie Constantine, as secret agent Al Pereira, made the discovery. It's played for laughs in both films. Considering all this, it's likely the Spanish version was Franco's preferred director's cut, but that he went along with the Eurocine revisions. The torture scenes include the burning of Lina Romay's naked flesh with lit cigarettes, producing ugly burns. This torture method was also prominently used, administered by Jess Franco himself, in th 1976 Women In Peril-White Slavery sexploitationer, THE SLAVES, another Dietrich production.

All this results in two very different versions of a film with the same actors, plot and setting. The Spanish version plays like a much more sober,  intense, cynical, downbeat variation, opening with Mrs. Forbes putting a new hire under the mental control of her opal of fire. Not only does this opening have a more moody atmosphere, set to Daniel White's jazz score (the music is credited to Franco alone on the Spanish print), it sets the tone for the rest of the film, where the mind control aspects recalls such previous Franco films as CARTES SUR TABLE (1966), MISS MUERTE/THE DIABOLICAL DR.Z (1965) and NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT (1970)., among many others, as a favorite Jess Franco conceit.  Eurocine also re-filmed one key scene, where Connolly is briefed on the political agenda behind the Las Palmas organiztion, setting it in a seedy office rather than the more elegantly staged scene and attractive setting in the Spanish version.

Both versions are very absorbing and entertaining action thrillers with strong erotic overtones and feature pretty graphic scenes of blood spattered torture.  Daniel White's sometimes moody jazz styling add a lot to the atmosphere, although the main drawback is the sometimes shaky cinematography, credited to Gerard Brissaud and, in some sources, Ramon Zaldia and Lionel Efe, but it actually may have been lit by Jess Franco himself, just in order to get it done.

Severin includes both versions on separate discs. TWO FEMALE SPIES IN FLOWERED PANTIES is presented in 1080p Full HD resolution, both versions are pillar-boxed and look properly framed with no image missing from the frame. The HD version is much brighter and more colorful than the SD presentation of OPALO DE FUEGO, naturally. Daniel White is properly credited for the music on the French version, which credits Dan Simon as the director and Evelyn Deher with the original story. The English LCPM Stereo track is noticeably more dynamic then the French language track. Both the BD and SD have English subtitles available for the original French and Spanish tracks, respectively. This marks the debut of this title of US home video. There have been no previous official North American video or digital releases. The only previous release of which I have been aware is the Dutch VHS release. This is probably the best this rather obscure Franco entry ever has looked or will look, theatrical presentations included.

The special features includes a 10 minute interview with Franco in which he discusses the Canary Island locations such as the prehistoric desert caves where the hippie  sequences were shot. He also reveals his script was influenced by the SAS spy-action novels of Gerard De Villiers. He also discusses how he enjoys mixing light comedy with violence, drama,  tragedy and confirms the films of George Cukor (especially THE MARRYING KIND) as a guiding influence. Since Cukor directed many musicals (MY FAIR LADY) and Franco always places musical performances upfront in his films, that influence is very enlightening. There is also an unprecedented interview, shot in the mid 1990s, with frequent Franco composer-actor Daniel J. White, who discusses his many collaborations (he lists 40) with the director and his admiration for Franco's abilities as a total filmmaker who can write, direct, act, edit, score and complete a film. He also reveals his awareness the bad producers often let him and Franco down by paying them with bad checks and cutting off funding for films or making damaging additions/subtractions to Franco's director's cuts.

Stephen Thrower helpfully places the film in the busy Franco timeline as a breather between his more reasonably budgeted Erwin C. Dietrich productions, his final Robert De Nesle oddities (COCKTAIL SPECIAL) and his later, much more personal Spanish films. Time-coded and VHS outtakes from the Spanish version and a 3 minute theatrical trailer are included. By combining two very different versions of one film, this package makes an interesting collector's item for those seeking to understand the complete filmography of the director and the conditions of his employment at that time.

(C) Robert Monell, 2017


22 August, 2017

MARI-COOKIE AND THE KILLER TARANTULA.... An Outrageous Film by Jess Franco












MARI-COOKIE AND THE KILLER TARANTULA (1998-2000)
EIGHT LEGS TO LOVE YOU [European Version}

Produced by One Shot Productions/Draculina Cine 
Directed and Written by Jess Franco
Photography: Raquel Cabra
Music: Jess Franco, Daniel White
Cast: Lina Romay (Mari-Cookie), Analia Ivars, Linnea Quigley,
Michelle Bauer (Sheriff), Robert King, Peter Temboury, Amber Newman.



During the Spanish conquest of Europe a pregnant woman is raped by a conquistador. Shortly afterward, a tarantula enters the woman and deposits its eggs. The spawn is a mutant female who transforms into a lethal spider when sexually aroused. Centuries later, in present day Spain an erotic dancer performs in a bizarre persona,The Killer Tarantula. After her shows she picks up willing victims who will end up entangled in an awesome, tortuous web back at her lair. A local Sheriff (Michelle Bauer) becomes attracted to the performer while investigating the disappearances of several club patrons. Meanwhile, the distraught mother (Linnea Quigley) of a wayward stripper (Amber Newman) seeks out her daughter. All will eventually bear witness to the seductive powers of the mysterious creature.

A squiggly, green title announces "An Outrageous Film by Jess Franco," as if his long time fans needed to be primed for this soft-core horror fantasia. The focus is on kinky sex amidst comic book horror and elements of deliberate self-parody are constantly popping up. The spider-woman motif goes all the way back to the director's 1961 pastel-colored musical VAMPIRESAS 1930 and Estella Blain in the classic MISS MUERTE (1965). Femme fatales are often associated with insects in Franco's filmography, as they are in the films of fellow Spanish surrealist Luis Bunuel.

The naked,tormented, half alive bodies of victims hanging in the awesome web festooned across the tarantula's living room, the sado-erotic arachnid rubber-gear, the obsessed audience at the club, are all images which continue Franco's career long obsession with Performance. Cinema is a show and the show is usually an erotic tinged scenario of seduction and death. The show here is illustrated with candy colored lighting and basic digital effects credited to the University of Malaga. As with many final period Jess Franco Spanish-American productions the English language track is somewhat problematic.

The eye popping visual design of glittering colors and outre costumes hold sway during the extended sexual encounters between Romay and everyone else in the cast. Even such risible effects as the inflatable tarantula with a human face seems a reasonable synapse and bears comparison with the mutations in the 1950's version of THE FLY. But this is late 1990s Jess Franco at his most unhinged. No other filmmaker could have imagined, much less filmed, this demented scenario. It's a high spirited Adult cartoon which ensnares its viewers by sheer oddity value. 

Lina Romay performs with enthusiasm and humor in a role few other actresses could handle. She easily manages to upstage American scream queens Bauer and Quigley, although Bauer's Sheriff-outfit of black leather jacket, fedora, g-string and boots is 
something to behold. It all ends with the classic Fu Manchu threat, the world will hear from her again. In the spirit of the old Warner's cartoons there's a final imprint of "That's All Folks!"

I wasn't sure if I liked this film or not when I first saw it  nearly 20 years ago but it does retain its unique oddball charm and Franco did have a way of mastering a tone, even if that tone strikes many normal horror consumers as way off the beam. Actually it's supposed to be a "comedy" a la Jess Franco. But his notion of comedy is what he finds personally amusing. He's a master at the art of ridicule, but not always a master of telegraphing that ridicule to each and every viewer. This is not his worst film, but it's not Tier One Jess Franco. I would recommend it for a single viewing. It has that hallucinatory look which Franco sometimes achieves without really trying. You may ever find yourself smiling at the weird goings on.

(C) Robert Monell, 2017

26 July, 2017

DRACULA, PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN- German Blu-ray: Review Link

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

Image result for VEnus in Furs 1969 movie images
VENUS IN FURS red room
Image result for the black lodge twin peaks
TWIN PEAKS-THE RETURN red room

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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TWIN PEAKS FIRE WALK WITH ME..




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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