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

Robert Monell & Alex Mendíbil Blog Alliance

LES DEMONS: X RATED KULT “Director’s Cut” re-evaluated.

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I’ve changed my mind about the 2003 “Director’s Cut” of LES DEMONS. For me, it just doesn’t work on reconsideration. The added cues from other Franco films (BARBED WIRE DOLLS, etc) go against the grain of the film and were a bad idea, gratuitous additions when the original scoring, selected by Gerard Kikione, wasimpressively appropriate for the early 1970s “Acid Rock” instrumentation illustrating the “nun’s-in-heat” scenario. They distract instead of enhancing or counterpointing the action.

The intermediate length is also unsatifactory, given how well the full 114m version plays. Jess Franco had previously said that was his preferred cut and he should have left it alone instead of rescoring and recutting it. It may have been done to recopyright the film, but it doesn’t work as either an epic or a reasonable abridgement.

Here is my vintage review in which I defended this cut, but I have now changed my mind.

An elderly woman tortured and burned as a witch hurls a curse at Lord Jeffreys (Cihangir Gaffari) promising that she will be avenged by her daughters. Kathleen (Anne Libert) and Margaret (Britt Nichols) are convent bound young women whom Lord Jeffreys is informed are the spawn of the exectuted witch. He sends out Lady de Winter (Karin Field) and Renfield (Alberto Dalbes), the girl’s real father, to find them and bring them back to face the Inquistion.

More nudity, lesbian interludes and torture than Franco’s first film about Lord Jeffreys, THE BLOODY JUDGE, LES DEMONS is now available on an essential 2 disc box set from X RATED KULT DVD. Disc 1 contains the longest 114 [118m on the 2014 REDEMPTION Blu-ray release] minute version with German and French language options, original trailer, alternate scenes and other bonus materials. This version, presented in a colorful 2.35:1 transfer finally reveals the films as the Sadean epic that it is: post-modern erotic Fantastique which comments on the Inquisition and nunsploitation genres of that era (cf THE DEVILS). Franco’s use of the widescreen ratio is simply stunning, with an impressive use of multiple fields of action and the colors are gorgeous. All the sex, nudity and violence is present in this uncut print.

Disc 2 contians a new “Director’s Cut”, reedited and rescored by Franco in 2003. He replaces the anachronistic electric rock score of Raiteux with synthesized cues from Daniel White-Jess Franco scores for GEMIDOS DE PLACER, BARBED WIRE DOLLS and other titles. This constitutes a fascinating, self-reflexive, musical commentary along with a new Spanish language track featuring Jess Franco himself dubbing Howard Vernon’s character! At 101 minutes it cuts Doris Thomas’ masturbation scene in the long verions (over 3 mn!) to 1mn and also loses some expository scenes but still has an epic scope. The print looks slightly crisper and more colorful than the longer 114 mn version but the Spanish dubbing is technically limited and somewhat hollow with a “studio” ambiance. As with many Franco “alternates”, it consistutes a separate new film in itself. Onscreen title: LAS POSEIDAS DEL DEMONIO.

Finally, there is the Original German 85 minute version, which censors some of the sex, nudity and torture. English language option included. This is the only version with the fonts and music of the original credit sequence intact, the other two have new video generated fonts.

All three versions are letterboxed at 2.35:1 and have multiple language options. The oversized box is lavishly and lasciviously illustrated with four potential covers.

“The X-Rated Nunsploitation Series 5” Available from Xploited Cinema.

“Sex und Gewalt hinter Klostermauern”

I would now not recommend any other version beside the 118 m as the “Director’s Cut.”

I must also say that I still much prefer this 1972 version of the Judge Jeffries story to THE BLOODY JUDGE (1970), with Christopher Lee.

(C) Robert Monell Updated 2017

Written by Robert Monell

24 abril 2017 at 11:25 PM

Jess Franco en Alicante (1)

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Después de un viaje por las costas de Alicante, probablemente la costa favorita y más explotada por Jess Franco, iré subiendo aquí los lugares descubiertos y sus correspondientes películas.

After a trip along the coasts of Alicante, probably the favorite and more exploited seacoast by Jess Franco, I will upload here my discoverings and their corresponding films.

1. Castillo de Santa Bárbara / Santa Barbara Castle (Alicante)

EL CONDE DRACULA, 99 WOMEN, DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN, EL MUERTO HACE LAS MALETAS (Der Todesrächer von Soho)…

2. La Venta de la Chata  (Calpe, Alicante) Google link

Restaurant – Hotel – Eventos

SIE TÖTETE IN EKSTASE, UN SILENCIO DE TUMBA, DIARIO ÍNTIMO DE UNA NINFÓMANA (SINNER)…

3. Hotel Montíboli (Villajoyosa, Alicante) Google link

Hotel de lujo y zona de chalets / Luxury hotel and surroundings of vilas

LES NUITS BRÛLANTES DE LINDA, KISS ME KILLER, TENDER AND PERVERSE EMANUELLE…

(Próximamente más… / More to follow…)

Written by Álex Mendíbil

23 abril 2017 at 8:49 PM

Yuka (1973)

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I am seeking an English subtitled version of this 1973 Jess Franco Tarzan style adventure, with Wal Davis, Robert Woods, Kali Hansa and Alice Arno, for a future review. If anyone has a copy please contact me by email: monell579@hotmail.com. Or PM me on FB. Thanks.

Written by Robert Monell

17 abril 2017 at 3:18 AM

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Written by Robert Monell

17 abril 2017 at 2:12 AM

Jess Franco Triple Bill, Two Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray from MONDO MACABRO 

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This monster HD package features three separate Jess Franco films, including the rarely seen XXX SEXY NATURE, an alternate version of COUNTESS PERVERSE, the original Director’s Cut, LA COMTESSE PERVERSE, and the Sade adaptation, HOW TO SEDUCE A VIRGIN (PLAISIR A TROIS). Along with a raft of Bonus Features and the soundtrack CD “Distortions” by Blue Phantom, that’s about 6 hours of material. A 12 page booklet is included for after-the-show additional reading.  A full evening of Jess Franco at the top of his 1970s game.  This World Blu-ray premiere of all three films is a Jess Franco fan/collector’s dream, a Jess Franco release to end all Jess Franco releases.

 

The theme of voyeurism is illustrated in the very first shot of COUNTESS PERVERSE

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A victim (Kali Hansa) is washed ashore cannibal island….img_20170330_200723.jpg

 

Bob/Tom (Robert Woods) has second thoughts about the approaching woman hunt….

Below: Ecstasy in the torture chamber from SEXY NATURE

SEXY NATURE  101 m hardcore version wp-image-1408438402jpg.jpg

 

The cubist home of the Count and Countess Zaroff was designed by Ricardo Bofill…wp-image-207599555jpg.jpg

1973 was a typically busy year for Jess Franco.  He managed to make at least 11, by some counts 12, feature films, which would be released in helter-skelter fashion over the next few years. Many of them were made-to-order for the then wide open hardcore porn market. Two of the three features in this package contain explicit hardcore footage.  The 76 minute orignial cut of COUNTESS PERVERSE, is a minimalist cannibal film, shot in a abstract, cubist style during early summer of 1973 on locations in Alicante and Calpe, Spain.

A very low key jet black comedy of manners, this is The Most Dangerous Game by way of Sade. Rador Zaroff (Howard Vernon) could very well be a suave Sade narrator, counseling “reject nothing that gives pleasure” to his proposed victim,  then making ghoulish quips about her gorgeous figure (“dim… but succulent “) as he sizes her up for the concluding woman hunt and following feast. But it ends with another woman becoming the feast. There are numerous visual evocations of Hollywood horror films, particularly the scene where Robert Woods walks into the sea carrying the dying Lina Romay, a direct quote from the Val Lewton-Jacques Tourneur I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943). Franco would quote that classic again in CALL OF THE BLONDE GODDESS (1977) and THE SEXUAL STORY OF O (1982).

As a cannibal film COUNTESS PERVERSE is rather restrained, there’s not much gore, but there is a lot of rough sex, a scene where Kali Hansa’s head is cut off with a saw and, in the hard version,ban extended scene of Lina Romay performing oral sex on two Franco regulars. There is also an additional torture scene involving Tania Busselier, Monica Swinn and Alice Arno, set in a strange grotto, where whips, chains and more rough sex are featured. SEXY NATURE also had extra wraparound  scenes featuring Romay and Caroline Riviere (EXORCISM) as bickering tourists is a cheap hotel room. Riviere is a horror writer who composes a story which will become acted out once Romay arrives on cannibal island. But it all turns out to be a dream in a reassuring add on which reminds one of the studio imposed “happy ending” for the 1956 version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. These changes were requested by executive producer Robert De Neale.   I’ve collected at least 5 versions of COUNTESS PERVERSE/THE MUNCHERS and the one in the Blu-ray set is unique and most effective of the ones I’ve managed to see before. All the hard and soft footage was shot by Franco himself, allowing the 101 minute feature to act as a kind of hypertext to the original, and it looks terrific in HD. The colors don’t just pop, they virtually explode off the screen. The women’s blouses and dresses burst with candy colored psychedelia.

 

Rador Zaroff (Howard Vernon) eats human flesh in high style….PLAISIR A TROIS is even more macabre, featuring a basement of women petrified in the midst of tortured agony administered by the sadist Martine (Alice Arno), who has just been released from a mental hospital after castrating a sex partner with a straight razor.It’s an amusing immoral tale where villains becomes victims and vice versa.  A perfect Sadean comedy built around corpse art long before Nekromantik.

The director takes the theme of voyeurism even further here. Every scene, from first shot to last, is a secret POV of one of the characters. Nothing is private in this perverse mise-en-scene. It is also one of his best acted films, with Alice Arno making the sadistic artist a real enigma while Robert Woods is unsettling and shifty as her back stabbing husband. Lina Romay has another wordless role as the family pet, a role which she perfected in LA COMTESSE NOIRE aka FEMALE VAMPRIRE, made later the same year.  The diminutive Alfred Baillou may be best of all, as the overly inquisitive dwarf gardener who tries to warn Busselier of the danger in the villa. It’s all filmed in a highly stylized manner, with a constant deployment of extreme wide angle lenses and Franco’s trademark zoom shots. COUNTESS PERVERSE  contains even more wide angle set ups, at times resembling mid-period Orson Welles.

Franco would return to this scenario in SINFONIA EROTICA (1979), GEMIDOS DE PLACER, a 1982 experiment in which the action was filmed in precisely timed long takes/plan sequences, and EUGENIE, UNA HISTORIA DE UNA PERVERSION, a delirious 1980 surrealist thriller featuring Antonio Mayans as a mad sand sculptor. It seems he just couldn’t get the original Sade story, an episode from the novel JUSTINE, out of his system. The things to notice is that each subsequent version is treated in a totally different aesthetic style, as if he were conducting variations on a musical theme. See Francesco Cesari’s notes on the Spanish SINFONIA EROTICA DVD for more on this.*

Martine inspects her petrified girl exhibition in her basement of ghoulish decadence. 

Seeing these three films in 1080p HD yields countless details not visible in SD, like the crushed leather upholstery in Martine’s car and a clear look at the macabre nooks of the dead girls display.  All three features are presented in 1 37:1 ratio and have superior, rich sound in PCM 24 fps mono audio.   The 11 tracks on the Blue Phantom CD really rock.  On top of all this are the packed bonus interviews with Alain Petit, Stephen Thrower and Robert Woods, ported over from the previous MM SD releases.  All 3 features are in French audio with new English subtitles.

Both of these features are top tier Franco, with  COUNTESS PERVERSE making my top 10.  The cream of the Robert De Nesle crop. The rare alt version of LA COMETESSE PERVERSE only adds value to this  must-have package.

*Thanks to Francesco Cesari.

(C) Robert Monell,  2017

Written by Robert Monell

31 marzo 2017 at 1:38 AM

SHINING SEX- LA FILLE AU SEXE BRILLANT (1975)

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  • Directed by Dan L. Simon (Jess Franco)
  • “A superior force obliges me to love you and then to kill you.”
  • It’s not insignificant that Jess Franco’s name is nowhere to be found onscreen in this film’s credits. It was “Directed by Dan L. Simon” suggesting an anonymous employee of Eurocine, Paris and Brux Inter Film, Brussels.
  • SHINING SEX , released in both soft and hardcore versions, could have been just another cheap continental sex film. Jess Franco’s experimental erotica is set in an alternate reality anticipating Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 UNDER THE SKIN.  As in that film the female protagonist is both the seductive force who lures victims (male and female here) to their doom, and finally a victim herself. Franco himself plays the disabled Dr. Seward, who tries to help the hapless Cinthia (Lina Romay), but cannot save her.

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  • Abstract mise en scene, an eerie Industrial style score and an excellent performance by Lina Romay,  make this the most interesting of the two Jess Franco films shot back to back in 1975 at Le Grande Motte, the hotel-casino complex in Southern France.  The two were micro-budgeted features, sharing the same cast members and locations . The other film is the interactive comedy THE MIDNIGHT PARTY.  The geometrical architecture of the structures along with the alien factor place this adjacent to the Fantastique sub genre. Highlights include a memorable encounter between Romay and Monica Swinn framed in a mirror and the dialogue-free ferry sequence. Franco remade this in the mid 1980s as AIDS, THE 20TH CENTURY PLAGUE, with Francoise Blanchard, Ricardo Palacios and US actor Bill Hoverstein,  partiality funded by Golden Films Internacional. That apparently completed film languishes in a laboratory somewhere in Spain.  SHINING SEX could perhaps be seen as rough draft. Of course, that could be said about many of the director’s films.
  • Franco abstracts every moment of the film, from the reflections in the sunglasses of human turned alien  Andros (Ramon Ardid), to the cubist wallpaper of the hotel room where Cinthia and Alpha (Evelyn Scott) have an erotic encounter while the camera lingers on a rose placed on a pedestal. Encounter is probably a better word than sex here, because the act is clinically observed and occurs within an environment which is both recognizable, hotel rooms mainly, and uncanny. True close encounters of another kind.

  • The fact that Franco’s wheelchair bound occult expert is named Dr. Seward and a victim of the alien plot (Olivier Mathot) is a biologist named Van Helsing* speaks to the insistence on genre hooks within this airless allegory. Character names from Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, echoing into the late 20th Century post-modern genre exploits of a notorious director.
  • Cinthia is an exotic dancer at a decadent resort. A performer, as are the main characters of the majority of Jess Franco’s key works. Franco himself appeared as a piano player, performing for drunken slugs in his first horror film, GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (1961). Cinthia is introduced applying make-up and then performing her act, which is called “Shining Sex”. She is avidly watched by Dimension X invaders Alpha and Morpho, who plan to use her until she is used up. Dr. Seward has his own psychiatric clinic, but spends most of his time engaged in para-psychological research. He is “connected” with Cinthia, as is Doriana Gray to her insane sister,  and provides her with temporary shelter after her first deadly mission.
  • One also thinks of another performer from an earlier period of the director’s career, Miss Muerte (Estella Blain) in the 1965 film of the same name, who is also a remote control killer sent by someone with a special agenda. Lorna (Janine Reynaud) in Franco’s SUCCUBUS/NECRONOMICON is another significant example. A female Faust doing a devil’s bidding.  Franco himself inhabits the center ring and gives his most vital performance, raging against the dying light, in his last completed film, AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (2012).
  • Jess Franco, like Seward, would end up in a wheelchair, as he continued directing in his waning years. The important point is that the wheelchair didn’t slow him down or stop him. Seward can only move in straight lines, in perfect concert with the geometry around him. Characters live in, enter, exit from triangles, rectangles, parallelograms, rhomboidal areas in this science fiction universe. Cinthia is destroyed and abandoned at the end, but Seward lives on to tell her narrative to a world which considers him at best irrelevant, a dubious crank.

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  • Not much seems to happen in the 100 of so minutes of SHINING SEX. Hardcore scenes were added for that market, which necessitated the removal of much atmospheric footage. Even so, that version is about 15 minutes shorter and seems rather pointless. It somehow works better in its longer, English language version. As in UNDER THE SKIN, aliens are all around us, but everyone is too distracted to be aware of them, and in both that film and SHINING SEX, they are an unaddressed threat. Seduction is just a means to an end, a bad end.  One might say the message is “Wake up”. But  Jess Franco would leave messages to Western Union, adding that it’s only a very low budget erotic film, made at a French resort over 40 years ago.
  • Look for this on Blu-ray, maybe later this year, hopefully with both versions available. It will be nice to be able to see this in its original 2.35:1 Techniscope format
  • *Kallman in some versions.

Robert Monell,  2017

Written by Robert Monell

12 marzo 2017 at 11:59 PM

Coming from Mondo Macabro: LE-Order Now!

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Written by Robert Monell

7 marzo 2017 at 10:49 PM