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

Robert Monell & Alex Mendíbil Blog Alliance

VIAJE A BANGKOK,  ATAUD INCLUIDO (Jess Franco, 1985)

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The Robot assassin watches the diplomatic party though sunglasses.

Col. Blimp (Howard Vernon) caught in the lens of the killer robot….Ocular adventures in the Edgar Wallace mode. This is actually a pretty faithful remake of Franco’s 1966 black and white cheapie,  CARTES SUR TABLE /CARTES  BOCCA ARRIBA (ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS), which featured Eddie Constantine as Al Pereira, replaced here with Howard Vernon as an agent Investigating a sect of assassins. With Christian Bork,  Helena Garrett and Jose Llamas.     The scenes involving the rituals of the sect are staged with a touch  of minimalist delirium,  complete with smoke and mirrors. Stock footage is  used to represent Thailand. A film of some visual interest despite the recycled plot.

Above-The Excelsior: Cult Fiction

This was  Franco’s final Edgar Wallace “adaptation”, if there is indeed any Wallace element here at all. Franco spoke about wanting to film Wallace’s THE CASE OF THE FRIGHTENED LADY right up to the end of his careerNot as much fun as the 1983 SANGRE EN MIS ZAPATOS, not to mention THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA (1970), as more official Edgar Wallace film adaptations, Jess Franco style. One gets the sense that a gentle type of genre ridicule was intended, which doesn’t quite carry to non Spanish speakers. Howard Vernon appears to be having fun with his Eurospy antics. This Manacoa production was obviously a way to gain further income from an idea which Franco wanted to revisit for nearly 20 years. The color here is less expressive than the black and white noir-look of ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS. There are a lot of personal in-jokes, which only Jess Franco got, simply because he reinvented them, as he did the main plot. It’s always fun to try to imagine what Franco meant with certain scenes in certain projects. But the meaning of this is either deeply buried or nonexistent. As always the “meaning” is not in the dialogue, plot or acting. It’s in the style of the film itself. A hall of mirrors and other reflective surfaces which capture and expand the action, modestly resourced and staged as it is, into sometimes startling dimensions.

(C) Robert Monell (2018)

Written by Robert Monell

26 abril 2018 at 2:02 AM

Subliminal imagery in the films of Alain Robbe-Grillet

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BELOW:  L’Eden et apres (1970):  I managed to capture this after several viewings. This shot lasts for less than one second of screen time and acts as a subliminal flash which doesn’t register immediately to the eye but is retained in the mind. The image is highly stylized, a depiction of a nude woman lying a bath of red liquid, signifying blood. The picture on the counter is of the lead actress, Catherine Jourdan.

The positioning of the pistol suggests that the woman has shot herself. But there is no realism here outside of what is arranged as a transgressive scene. An aesthetic shock of flesh, red, and white, like an abstract painting. And it illustrates how Robbe-Grillet was an abstract painter in his writing and films.  It’s also an example of the influence of Sade on his prose and cinema. More images will be added to this series.img_20180330_001130.jpg

Written by Robert Monell

4 abril 2018 at 9:32 PM

COMING SOON!

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Finally a HD release of Jess Franco’s 1974 occult shocker.  A kind of Faustian tale of a female demon who destroys a Petit bourgeois French family. With Howard Vernon and Pamela Stanford as the succubus Lorna, who invades dreams, bodies and souls.

Written by Robert Monell

19 marzo 2018 at 2:09 PM

Cocktail Special (1978)/Smoking cigarettes with Jess Franco….

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Smoking cigarettes is an iconic activity in the cinema of Jess Franco, from the inspector lighting up during an investigation in his second feature, the 1960 LABIOS ROJOS, his marvelous monochrome Red Lips template [Picture #6]. Jess Franco himself was a prolific, notorious consumer of cigarettes from a very young age until his finals days. He enjoyed his addiction and it was part of his creative make-up.

In LOS BLUES DE LA CALLE POP (aventuras de Felipe Malboro, volumen 8), his wondrous 1983 Neo-noir/live action comic strip extravaganza, we meet cigarette man Sam Chesterfield, a wise guy piano player played by Jess Franco himself.  The villain is named Saul Winston! Characters named for popular cigarette brands all together in a marvelous, sleazy world called Shit City, in a film which plays like a candy colored music video and anticipates the Robert Rodriguez SIN CITY in both style and mood.

I recently revisited Franco’s last film for producer Robert De Nesle (Picture #3) the 1978 hardcore COCKTAIL SPECIAL (Dutch title card, Picture 4). It’s a micro-budgeted version of Sade’s PHILOSOPHY IN THE BEDROOM, earlier filmed  by Franco in 1969 as EUGENIE, THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION. It opens with images of women reading (The ultimate sin in a man’s world; Picture # 3) and continues with long sequences of Eugenie (Touxa Beni) and her friends lounging around a Portuguese villa, making love, drinking the disgusting title concoction [urine, sperm, whiskey] and… you guessed it, smoking cigarettes (Picture #1).  Robert De Nesle is credited with the script (as Robert Hugue). The film ends with Eugenie unknowingly having sex with her own father (Picture #5) during a masked ball.  Producer/director/writer Jacques Garcia (Aicrag) was also involved. But it’s still 100% Jess Franco.

Cigarettes also played a role in another 1978 Jess Franco film, OPALO DE FUEGO (TWO FEMALE SPIES WITH FLOWERED PANTIES) in which Lina Romay, who plays a stripper, has to undergo torture involving getting sensitive areas burned with cigarettes. Smoking is Cool in Jess Franco’s alternate universe, as cool as Humphrey Bogart smoking his way through a series of 1940s Film Noirs. The Howard Hawks version of THE BIG SLEEP opens with images of cigarettes in an ashtray. Yesterday was the 5th anniversary of the passing of Jess Franco and I’d like to think he is somewhere sitting back and relaxing with a Chesterfield, a Winston or a Marlboro in his hand.Image may contain: text

(C) Robert Monell, 2018

Written by Robert Monell

21 febrero 2018 at 5:23 AM

THE DEMONS (1972)  Nucleus Films Blu-ray 

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Jess Franco’s wild rock opera of a Nunsploitation epic has finally been given a definitive HD release

from the UK company,  NUCLEUS FILMS.

THE DEMONS was Jess Franco’s answer to Ken Russell’s controversial 1971 Nunsploitation/Witchburning epic THE DEVILS, which specifically inspired producer Robert de Nesle (PLAISR A TROIS) to ask Franco for a film of the same style, content and genre. Franco delivered by essentially remaking his own earlier version of the same story, THE BLOODY JUDGE (1969), with Christopher Lee in the role of the historical Inquisitor Lord Chief Judge George Jeffry’s (1648-1701), which was produced by Harry Alan Towers. There was also the Micheal Reeves-Vincent Price classic, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, which covered the same ground but in a much different style. The success of the 1970 MARK OF THE DEVIL insured that there was money to be had in presenting detailed tortures scenes of female witches. Franco denies he was interested in detailing torture or Sadomasochism in the 17m Featurette included here, Jess’ Demons, and calls the film “bad” before detailing how he carefully planned the costuming, staging and background of the film.

The narrative follows two sisters, novice nuns Margaret (Britt Nichols) and Kathleen (Anne Libert), daughters of an executed witch who condemns Jeffreys and his corrupt consort Lady De Winter (Karin Field) in the opening scene (cf Mario Bava’s MASK OF SATAN). They are arrested and tortured when Lady De Winter discovers their parentage and fears that they will carry out their mother’s dying curse. Franco adds a scene where a demon (Satan?) appears in Margaret’s convent room and rapes her. Or is it just her nightmare/fantasy?  Satan exists in the minds of the accusers as well as the condemned and the point of the film is that fear creates witches and people like Judge Jeffreys. This, of course, was also the theme of THE DEVILS and WITCHFINDER GENERAL, both of which were huge influences on Franco’s film, which is more continental and idiosyncratic in tone. For instance, the early 1970s  prog/acid rock score of Jean-Bernard Raituex, added by sound editor Gerard Kikoine, is an inspired choice here, making the 17th Century mindset come alive in a late 20th Century context.

The performances of Karin Field and John Foster (Cihangir Gaffari, the Iranian-French producer-actor) as the tormentors are spot-on while Anne Libert and Britt Nichols effectively embody the desperate sensuality of the tormented sisters.  Franco’s ever-active telezoom, controlled this time by Raul Artigot (director of the modern day witchcraft thriller THE WITCHES MOUNTAIN) ruthlessly examines the Portuguese architecture and landscapes, delivering striking and consistently engaging images. The religious paintings of the period, the torture chambers, the candlelit rooms are all impressively detailed. The scenes of torture are relatively brief compared to THE DEVILS or MARK OF THE DEVIL, and nowhere near as bloody. What Franco does concentrate on is eroticism, including the 3 minute plus self-pleasuring of Mother Superior (Doris Thomas) and the Satanic violation of Margaret. Witchcraft, sex and Inquistion are all part of the cycle of repression here, which Franco makes explicit in the last ambiguous images.

The new Nucleus Films release finally delivers a  HD transfer of the longest, most complete 118m version along with the 88m English language “export” version (also in HD), which was the way I first saw the film, via UNICORN VIDEO. Much detailed restoration work has been done on the framing, images, soundtrack to correct all issues in previous releases. This simply looks and sounds great. It also restores an 8 second dissolve which shows the macabre dissolving of Lady De Winter’s face into a skull after she has made forbidden love to Margaret, who is by that time the real thing, a willing daughter of Satan with supernatural powers. This image, seen in the above screenshot at the top of the review, was not in the previous Redemption Blu-ray presentation, but was in the 2004 XRATED KULT multi-disc set, which had its own problems otherwise. This Blu-ray is superior in every way to those previous editions, including the unfortunate 2003 “Director’s Cut” in which Franco removed some of the rock style music and replaced it with rather inappropriate Daniel White cues from his previous unrelated films. That cut was also edited down, by Franco himself, to 101 minutes.

On top of all this the Nucleus release includes EXORCISING DEMONS, a new featurette with Stephen Thrower, who presents his own thoughts on the films, along with the American, French and German trailers, and German opening credits. One of the extras I really appreciate are the inclusion of some fascinating out-takes and trims (silent) of various scenes along with the (Clean) opening credits, which gives you the opportunity to enjoy Franco’s wild camera work without the text credits to distract attention. There’s also an extensive image gallery.

French with English subtitles; English Dub Versions; Color; 1972 1080p HD; 24fps, LPMC

Highly recommended.

(C) 2018 Robert Monell

Written by Robert Monell

9 febrero 2018 at 11:08 PM

Recently received 

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Review coming soon!

Written by Robert Monell

29 enero 2018 at 9:01 PM

Update on new UK RB Jess Franco Blu-ray releases from Stephen Thower

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An update by Stephen Thrower on the new Nucleus UK releases of two Jess Franco horror classics. I’ll be reviewing these on my Franco blog in the future. These look to be significant upgrades in terms of content, video, audio and bonus features, including alternate editions of each film making them two for oners.

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Stephen Thrower added 3 new photos.

THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE DEMONS: two peak period Jess Franco movies that no serious fan should be without, now available from Nucleus Films (http://nucleusfilms.com/) and featuring on camera interviews with yours truly! I’d also say that these two films are well worth buying if you’re curious about Franco but uncertain about where to start. Some will counsel caution and recommend the slightly more sober and conventional 1960s titles, but to hell with all that. Why not throw caution to the wind and grab these two – they’ll give you a fantastic insight into his freewheeling style in the 1970s.

Nucleus majordomo Marc Morris has done a huge amount of extraordinary work restoring THE DEMONS in particular. Here’s a list of some of the work he’s done which viewers and reviewers may not otherwise be aware of:

1. Incorrect aspect ratios on numerous shots fixed throughout.
2. White line frames removed throughout.
3. The soundtrack was out of synch throughout (sometimes by as much as 6 seconds). Marc has fixed this.
4. The soundtrack was missing audio, and in these scenes had been badly looped. Marc has located audio from alternate sources and replaced the annoying looped audio with correct audio where possible.
5. There was some German dialogue on the French soundtrack, which Marc has replaced with the correct French dialogue.
7. There were numerous instances of actors speaking with no dialogue heard on the soundtrack – now fixed.
8. There were numerous instances of dialogue spoken, with the actors’ mouths not moving – now fixed.
9. The dissolve from face freeze frame to skull was completely missing – Marc has added this back.
10. He has also created from scratch an English language master, which is believed to match the original English language export version.
11. German Trailer – On the Kino Blu-ray, this was incorrectly dubbed with random French audio from the movie. This has been replaced with the original German soundtrack.
12. Marc has also corrected the frame rates from 23.976 fps to 24 fps, so if you have exquisitely perfect musical pitch the soundtrack will now match your LP record of Jean-Michel Lorgère’s Trafic Pop!

And finally, look out for the startling fx shot included in the French trailer for Erotic Rites of Frankenstein which as far as I can recall doesn’t appear in any currently available version of the film. Face-ripping!

Written by Robert Monell

18 enero 2018 at 12:16 AM