EL FRANCONOMICON / I'M IN A JESS FRANCO STATE OF MIND

Robert Monell & Alex Mendíbil Blog Alliance

GRAY MARKET NOTES: TESTAMENTO DIABOLICO

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Above: One of many rogue 1980-90s era VHS releases. This one from EDDE VIDEO.  Besides these they were a number of gray market releases…

VIDEO SEARCH OF MIAMI aka VSOM: circa 1991
No longer available. At least it’s not listed in the  Jess Franco section on their site. Note: the VSOM website was deleted since this was originally posted.
Film [this version]: *
Video: * 1.33:1 [including inserts]; NTSC VHS
Audio: *

This 1hr 45m composite contained approximately 35m of extra non-Jess Franco-generated footage,  including erotic inserts [financed by Eurocine and shot circa 1973] and laughably unconvincing zombie footage reportedly filmed by Jean Rollin (very much in the “style” of the 1980 Eurocine coproduction ZOMBIE LAKE, directed by Rollin).

It composites an English language dub of the film with Spanish subtitles, TESTAMENTO DIABOLICO, along with scenes from, quoting a video generated scroll over footage from the Eurocine lensed garden orgy*,  “…the French releases HOLOCAUSTE DE ZOMBI, Princesse De L’ Erotisme and the Italian-Euro print UNA VERGINE TRA I MORTI VIVENTI.” The scroll goes on to claim to be the “definative” (sic) version which includes all the footage deleted from the “diluted Anglo version.” This is really not correct since all this extra footage was never included in any “Anglo” home video version outside of this grey market composite. Some of the zombie footage does appear in such vintage VHS releases, like the WIZARD VIDEO release, which doesn’t include the earlier shot erotic footage.

Onscreen title: A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD, with TESTAMENTO DIABOLICO [in yellow subtitles below the main title credit font]. I guess this version may have some value for Franco completists {I paid an outrageous 25 dollars + shipping at the time!] but the MIDNIGHT VIDEO composite is in much better audio/visual quality and contains extra erotic/zombie footage not in the VSOM. That will be logged in a separate future post.

*The infamous “garden orgy” is discussed in detail by a panel, including Alain Petit, in “The Three faces of Christina” a 12 minute documentary by Daniel Gouyellete included as a special feature on the 2013 REDEMPTION Blu-ray release of the “director’s cut”. titled CHRISTINA, PRINCESS OF EROTICISM (79 minutes).

There was some commentary that this release still retained some erotic footage not shot by Franco. It’s nonetheless a welcome HD release. A 2k or 4k scan and full restoration, if the camera negatives are available, would also be welcome.   The scene is also included in the bonus material and features mid 1970’s JF regulars Alice Arno (as a nude queen wearing only a cape, mask and crown, sitting on a throne and waving a sceptre), Pierre Taylou (EXORCISME), Waldemar Wohlfaart (YUKA) and Nadine Pascal (THE SADIST OF NOTRE DAME).

C) Robert Monell 2016

Written by Robert Monell

26 agosto 2016 at 10:13 PM

Loosely based on Soledad Miranda?

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An upcoming Seth Rogan-James Franco film has a character in it loosely based on Jess Franco muse Soledad Miranda. I’ve never seen a Seth Rogen/James Franco/Megan Fox film and have no intention of doing so. It’s good she’s at least remembered and inspired the writer of the original novel to based a character on her. I wonder if she’ll continue to be remembered 46 years from now? I think she probably will since her films and legend will be around via some kind of media and on the Internet or what replaces it in the future. I think her image is and will continue to be immortal.

An adaptation of Steve Erickson’s 2007 novel.
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01juliette

Uno de los misteriosos fotogramas de la incompleta JULIETTE, rodada al mismo tiempo que SIE TÖTETE…

Written by Robert Monell

24 agosto 2016 at 8:08 PM

Coming on Blu-ray from MONDO MACABRO

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Jess Franco’s delirious erotic thriller is one of his best from his 1980s Golden Films Internacional collection. A dreamlike crime-horror-noir drama featuring Lina Romay at her most intense. Stunning visuals create a unique mood of suspense and dislocation worthy of David Lynch at his best. This is the North American digital debut of this sought after title. Planned for a release later this year or early next year.

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Written by Robert Monell

8 agosto 2016 at 9:41 PM

COMING SOON ON BLU-RAY

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Chimes at Midnight (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Jess Franco worked for four months as a 2nd unit director on this 1965 Orson Welles masterwork, based on several plays by William Shakespeare. He directed footage for the stunning climactic battle sequence, which stands as one of the best ever filmed. He had planned to direct Welles in LA ISLA DEL TESORO, based on the classic TREASURE ISLAND, to be financed by the producer of CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT. Unfortunately the film was never completed.

Franco also post-produced his own version of Welles’ DON QUIJOTE in 1992, which was widely criticized for using inferior footage and dubbing. There’s a lot more to say about that film and we’ll be taking a detailed look at it in future posts.

Welles was a primary influence on the sprawling filmography of Jess Franco, both aesthetically and in terms of personal commitment to produce a singular vision. When I asked Jess who his favorite director was he immediately answered, “Orson Welles!”

 

CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT is my own favorite Shakespeare film and my favorite Orson Welles film and performance. It will be released on Blu-ray by THE CRITERION COLLECTION on August 30, 2016. It’s been a long time coming…

 

(C) 2016 Robert Monell

Written by Robert Monell

3 agosto 2016 at 7:57 PM

Jess Franco interview: link

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9EPOY_gLow&sns=em

El Inclasificable director de Cine Jesus Franco se desnuda ante la cámara de Kike Mesa. un documental que se estreno en el festival de Sitges 2008 y que …

Written by Robert Monell

30 julio 2016 at 11:42 PM

Guest Review: VENUS IN FURS

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Thanks to Michael Blanton for allowing us to reprint his recent review of this Jess Franco classic. Let’s hope it gets a Blu-ray release asap.

Michael Blanton watching Venus in Furs (1969 Franco film).

This review may contain spoilers.

“A guy like me without a horn is like… well, a man without words.”

Certainly, one of Franco’s most surreal, trippy, dream-like films, even more so with its dissolves, montages, filters, zooms, super-impositions, slow-mo, heat-wave distorted cinematography, Venus in Furs (1969) is the story of Jimmy (James Darren), a jazz trumpeter – and also the narrator of the film, done with a hipster patter – who discovers the half-nude body of a dead, tortured woman, washed up on an Istanbul beach, whom he realizes he has seen before. Jogging his memory, he realizes that her name was Wanda Reed (Maria Rohm) and he had witnessed her – in between sets at a jazz club – being whipped by a woman, Olga (Margaret Lee) as two men Ahmed (Klaus Kinski) and Kapp (Dennis Price) looked on. Disturbed by the events, the nonplussed Jimmy heads to Rio, via stock footage of Carnival, with his girlfriend, and singer, Rita (Barbara McNair). To his utter amazement, Wanda also shows up in Rio, at the jazz club where he and Rita are performing. Unable to control himself, Jimmy embarks on a torrid affair with Wanda and does nothing to hide it from Rita, and he heads back to Istanbul at the insistence of Wanda, who unbeknownst to Jimmy, has had an agenda of her own which commenced as soon as she arrived in Rio and will continue once they return to Istanbul. Filled with supernatural moments, Venus in Furs is chock full of ambiguities and dead-ends, with an ending that will throw you for a loop. Look for Franco, playing trombone in one of Jimmy’s combos and piano in another. Franco regular Paul Muller -uncredited – also has a significant role as an impresario of a jazz club. Fans of Kumel’s Daughters of Darkness, Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad, the films of Robbe-Grillet and David Lynch’s films since Lost Highway should find much to engage them in one of Franco’s best films.

Venus in Furs (1969 Franco film)
(C) Michael Blanton, 2016

Written by Robert Monell

24 julio 2016 at 2:57 PM

DAUGHTER OF DRACULA in HD!

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Craig Howarth's photo.

Comment

Coming Oct 4, 2016 on Blu-ray from Redemption Films.  Features: French language with English subtitles, audio commentary by Tim Lucas, alternate covered footage and original theatrical trailers.  The commentary and alternate footage promise to be of special interest. I also hope the original credit sequence is restored.

The 1hr 22 m announced runtime is several minutes longer than any version I’ve seen. I also hope they do a future HD release of DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN at some point. I’ve always considered DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN, DAUGHTER OF DRACULA and EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN as a sort of unofficial monster rally trilogy, Jess Franco style. Howard Vernon as Dracula, in similar garb and coffin bound in DOD,  in the first two and the lumbering silver skinned Frankenstein (Fernando Bilbao) in two separate films, are unique, outre creations, which carry a distinct Jess Franco imprint. These are not Universal’s or Hammer’s classic monsters, which explains why enthusiasts of those earlier films often reject Franco’s presentation of the creatures and ambiance.Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein

It’s startling to behold the esteemed but downward spiraling Dennis Price as the mad monster maker in DCF and EROF, failing to dominate the world with his sewn together man.  All three also have Franco regular Alberto Dalbes as the representative of “good science”/law and order. According to Franco, the alcoholic Price would start drinking brandy at 6.30AM every morning to prepare himself for the day’s shoot. He does not look like a well man in these films, which only adds to the macabre tone.  Britt Nichols is in all three, as a female vampire in two and the intended bride of Frankenstein in EROF. Her tragically obsessed character in DOD may be her best role and performance for Franco.

All three seem to have been made back-to-back/within the same year (1971 to 1972), with the same settings, recurring characters, crew members and casts. Of course, the covered Spanish version of EROTIC RITES ( LA MALDICION DE FRANKENSTEIN) is an interesting, if problematic outrigger to the trilogy idea, if that was what the director intended. When I asked Jess about it in 2004, he almost shouted that he preferred the “Erotic!” version of EROF and regretted having to do covered re-shoots, which extended the schedule while looking pretty ridiculous and distracting from the intended visual design. Finally, and importantly, all three are Robert De Nesle C.F.F.P. co productions, which meant that rigid budget constraints and detailed work on post-production reverted to the De Nesle team, who did their usual wonders.

These monster-bis entries have a special Erotic-Fumetti-Neri style, featuring frequent telezooms into forbidden zones, faces, bloody carnage and architectural details, along with sparse dialogue and outre soundscapes with some of the most memorable music to appear in Franco’s filmography. DCF and EROF would make it onto my list of tier one Jess Franco films.

Please let it be known that a release of DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN aka DRACULA PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN, in correct OAR, is needed and wanted. I have to admit every time I see the mad zoom shots into the misty mountain top castle Frankenstein, set to the rumbling music of Bruno Nicolai, I get a chill up my spine. It should be noted that both the Spanish and 2006 IMAGE DVDs of DCF are annoyingly cropped at 1.85:1, cutting off information on both sides, distorting the carefully composed compositions, which Jess told me were painstakingly calibrated to the scope format so that a separate but equal field of presentation would be available  in center, right and left of each composition. This strategy is lost in most previous video/digital presentations and contradicts the frequent criticisms that this is a sloppily made film. Also, the somewhat faded color, mediocre definition, sharpness and overall detail leave a lot to be desired in these releases. It’s actually one of the director’s most successfully realized projects, albeit a no-budget shoot done on a rushed schedule. He would frequently mention it as one of the films with which he was most pleased. I hope whoever has the American release rights reads this post and provides the kind of HD presentation this film deserves.

 

C Robert Monell, 2016

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Written by Robert Monell

19 julio 2016 at 3:15 PM

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