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

Robert Monell & Alex Mendíbil Blog Alliance

NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT

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maxresdefaultLES CAUCHEMARS NAISSENT LA NUIT, 1970, LIECHTENSTEIN

Zagreb, Yugoslavia: Every night Anne (Diana Lorys) performs an extremely bizarre slow-motion strip tease at a sleazy nightclub. She is watched by Cynthia (Collete Jack) who ensnares the vulnerable dancer into a world of deception, crime, madness and death.

A Zero budget crime-noir with an onieric atmosphere which at times recalls the subject matter and imagery of such avant garde classics as Cocteau’s BLOOD OF A POET and Bunuel L’AGE D’OR, possibly best defined by Sigmund Freud as “the imaginary gratification of subconscious wishes.” On the surface it’s a sexy/gritty crime film which also functions as an almost ontological study of Anne, a case history as told by a Jim Thompson or a William Irish. According to OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO, the director claims this was his lowest budgeted film as of 1973*. It really looks down and dirty, but that look only cements its feel of an erotic fever-dream involving seduction, mind control and murder. Mirrors, mirrors within mirrors, birds, knives and jewels play a large role in the nightmare scenarios which drive Anne to madness and self destruction. The minimalist strip club sequences consist of little more than a couch, a statue, a featured boa, and the narcotic presence of Lorys. This is all the mise en scene necessary for Franco to create a soulfully sleazy reverie where Anne’s painfully slow execution of erotic poses hold her audience while Nicolai’s humid sax atmospheres illustrates Anne’s melancholy narration. Lorys gives a terrific, body and soul baring performance as the anxiety ridden victim, and Paul Muller delivers another one of his subtle turns as her ambiguous psychiatrist,a villain with a conscience. It’s really their show and Franco closely observes their tormented interaction while ever so slowly moving in for the final kill.

Lorys’ final epiphany for the lost souls of the world, which she delivers in her “Princess of Istria” persona in front of a full-length mirror, is one of her, and Franco’s, finest moments. It’s the polar opposite of Soledad Miranda’s** self absorbed dances, also performed in front of a large mirror, in VAMPYROS LESBOS. Anne’s performance here is the result of selfless suffering which transcends self pity whereas Miranda’s female vampire is transported into a realm of narcissistic self stimulation. From its rapid fire credit sequence to its knockout double twist ending this is an absolute must for both Franco enthusiasts and those needing proof positive that a poverty row budget can act as a creative stimulus. Josiane Gibert voices Lorys and her soulful, pleading tone floods each and every moment of this film with a mood of deep melancholy.

Bruno Nicolai’s mercurial, dissonant score fits the film like a glove, constantly shifting between the music of dark dreams and the jarring sounds of deceptive realities. Suddently phasing from lyrical interludes to startling piano chords and guitar meanderings, strip club jazz to sitar interludes, rich organ riffs and outre lounge cues which will make you want to get up and dance the dance of the damned. A once lost item in the annals of Euro-bis, LES CAUCHEMARS NAISSENT LA NUIT is a voluptuously nasty suite of surprises. Remember: “Life is all shit.” Robert Monell

*VAMPIRELLA No. 13, Interview with Jess Franco
**Soledad Miranda appears in a small role her along with her future costar from EUGENIE DE SADE and VAMPYROS LESBOS (both 1970, Andres Monales/Andre Montcall. They play two associate members of the jewel robbery gang, headed by Paul Muller. All the scenes with Miranda appear to have been shot during a separate shooting period than the bulk of the film, Aug-Sept. 1969, perhaps just before the January 1970 production of EUGENIE DE SADE in Berlin. If one looks closely at the area around the house-for-sale in which they are hiding out, it appears to be late fall-early winter while the scenes involving the lead players are flooded with sunlight and foliage.

Written by Robert Monell

24 julio 2017 at 11:52 PM

GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (1961): a note on the Spanish DVD.

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TG

 

 

 

 

I realize it looks very dark, but this is how GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, Jess Franco’s first horror film,  should look in terms of contrast. Very dark with light highlights. Not like the previously released DVDs/Blu-rays of the reworked French version, English title: THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF, released in 1964. This is how it looks on the 2012 Spanish Regia DVD.

Also, recently watching the Spanish version on that DVD, I noted that the first female victim staggers across the room to confront her own image in the upright mirror as the credit Director JESUS FRANCO appears. A kind of mission statement from the newly born auteur, who featured increasingly intensive mirror imagery in his subsequent filmography.

DVD/Blu-ray releases have a tendency to brighten everything up and add light where none or very little was intended. ” State of the art technology” also has a tendency to subject every image to DNR [Digital Noise Reduction] which reduces grain and other textures to nothingness while the bottomless, overwhelming blacks of GRITOS EN LA NOCHE are presented in 50 shades of gray.  No longer vintage Black and White.

You really haven’t seen the film as it was intended until you’ve seen this longer Spanish version (R2 DVD runtime: 93m, 40s), which is available on Spanish DVD. Very preferable to the previous DVDs in release of the abridged French language version. Horror reaching out of the darkness, toward light it never quite finds. Also, the music commentary is very different, in a more upbeat tone at times, as in the music hall gala in the final shots as the inspector and his friends walk away.  Needless to say, this is a highly recommended must-have for the serious collector of Jess Franco films.

  • Gritos En La Noche [DVD]
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Gritos En La Noche [DVD]

Thanks to Nzoog for helping me see the Spanish DVD of the original version.

(C) Robert Monell, 2017

Written by Robert Monell

2 julio 2017 at 3:03 AM

The Erotic Universe of Div For’e

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www.twilightwomen.com

The videos of Div For’e can be found exclusively on the Adult webiste TWILIGHT WOMEN

Les Vampires – Monique’s Story Part Six

Kathy, Monique and Others

Emily, seeking pleasure, is pulled further into the lesbian vampire world of Kathy and Monique.

20 Clips – Total running time: 1 hr. 45 min.
25 May 11

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Preceding his 2012 Vampire interlude, The Feed:Parts 1 & 2, Div For’e shot the Seven Part erotic epic, LES VAMPIRES: Monique’s Story. Just a quick dip into the opening of Part 6 illustrates his style. Unlike many of his videos, this one features some fascinating, ambiguous, evocative dialogue between two of the main characters, Kathy and Emily.
Having reviewed NIGHT PICK UP (2013) and LES VAMPIRES-THE FEED 1&2 (2012), available on the TWILIGHT WOMEN website, I knew what to expect from Div For’e in terms of a lesbian vampire series, but the 7 part, that’s over 12 hours of clips and scenes, of LES VAMPIRES-MONIQUE’S STORY, continues and expands into another dimension. This one features dialogue. But not the kind one would expect in a soft porn film. The dialogue here is mysterious, penetrating and poetic. It has a hypnotic quality, with an emphasis on ellipsis. “I’m a vampire” Kathy announces as she walks into the bedroom, gently confronting the somewhat reluctant, and visibly frightened Emily. The line is delivered with a sultry edge..  There’s a sense erotic mystery in that line reading, which underlines the subtext of vampire mythology from Bram Stoker’s DRACULA to all the books and films dealing with the subject. Kathy and Emily have roles to play, possible victim and predator, in this scene where the vampire attempts to educate her pupil in the ways of the vampire life. Some are killed, some are used to feed upon. We don’t know which way this will go for Emily. She speaks of her fear of death. Kathy responds that death is relative, there are many kinds of death. The death of the normal life, the death of social/intellectual conformity. This is not dialogue heard in the usual vampire film. But these are not typical vampire films. Div For’s vampire films unfold in a parallel reality. They take on added interest when examined in reference to the horror y sexo vampire films of Jess Franco.
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The eroticism is in the slow burning build up to sex, blood letting or something intangible. This five to seven minute clips, are not about nudity or even soft-core sex. When watched in streaming continuity they are a time spend in an alternate zone. The glances exchanged between the women, as Monique enters and watches, tell a different story, or adds another level of reality. The Female Gaze is established and explored, as it is in all of Div For’e’s erotic videos. Men are a supporting cast to these dangerous, unpredictable, fascinating women. There is no King Vampire or Van Helsing type vampire hunter here, the types usually played by Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in such classic Hammer films as HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).
Watching is a key element to the LES VAMPIRES videos and there is almost always a person, or a group, watching the seduction unfold. Div For’e often slowly pans from character to character, following the gaze of the participants. There is no sense of conventional editing, time and space become blurred, irrelevant. The effect is hypnotic. The invisible magnetism which exists between the vampires and the humans is defined in this style. The camera seems to float into areas unknown, where words are not necessary. This technique is very similar to the aesthetics found in the vampire films of Jess Franco (FEMALE VAMPIRE) and Jean Rollin (REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE), made in the early 1970s. Those films had very little dialogue and played as almost silent films, in color, with nudity and sex conducted in misty European landscapes. It also reminded me of Joe Sarno’s 1973 VEIL OF BLOOD, a shot in Germany fever dream where a lesbian vampire cult stalks a group of international tourists, obtaining blood to resurrect a 300 year old vampire queen. More on MONIQUE’S STORY in future editions.
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BLOOD is a series of short scenes shot for a possible feature or series of features. These scenes feature the brunette Christine, Ann Ampar and Robin Joy as participants in a blood orgy. Set in a castle dungeon style set, also used in THE FEED, it opens with Christine and two men slowly reclining on a giant pillow where a middle aged man in a 1950s style wardrobe vampirizes Christine while a younger, long haired man in 1970s style clothing watches along with an older man in a more conservative business-casual wardrobe. Watching and waiting become key tropes in Div For’e videos. There is no dialogue in the 50 or so minutes of vampire sensuality. The men drink her blood and she drinks theirs. It’s a mutual sharing scenario observed by Robin Joy, who is placed off to the side of the space. Once again the camera pans hypnotically, obsessively, from the viewer to the participants. Time seems suspended. No words are needed. One senses that Robin wants to get involved, which she does eventually. Again, total nudity and hardcore sex aren’t part of the scenario. The erotic quality is generated by the actor’s movements and the dreamy camera work.
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Ann Ampar arrives, placed in the same space where Robin was watching the action. The watcher-performer dynamic once again is asserted, silently and inexorably. Seated off to the side of action again, anxious but patient, wearing a long skirt, with her legs crossed, Ann’s intense interest in the action is telegraphed by her subtle movements and her intent gaze. Will she become involved, or remain at a distance? That question arises in the mind of the viewer, creating more erotic tension. The uncertainty becoming a drawn out prelude. The scenes described above equal only about one hour of the dozens of hours of erotica, visualized by Div For’e and acted out by the talented performers on Twilight Women. It’s important to note that the performers are not professional actors.
As in the LES VAMPIRES series, the vampire films of Jess Franco are a key influence, as Div For’e himself has confirmed in interviews. From LA COMTESSE NOIRE to DAS BILDNIS DER DORIANA GRAY to VAMPIRE BLUES to VAMPIRE JUNCTION to SNAKEWOMAN, the sense of suspended animation is palpable as the players move from seduction to seduction. The erotic atmosphere overwhelms whatever plot exposition or reality which is present. A dream-time is established which replaces the seconds, minutes and hours of conventional waking time. The fourth wall of closed off space within set time is removed and the viewer is able to enter an interactive space. A negative space which can’t be pre-scripted.
More on these two series and other Twilight Women video clips will be published here in the future.
(C) & Text by Robert Monell, 2017test1

Written by Robert Monell

27 junio 2017 at 9:13 PM

MARQUISE DE SADE (Jess Franco,1976)

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DAS BILDNIS DER DORIANA GRAY/DIRTY DRACULA/EJACULATIONS; Switzerland/W. Germany-1976

The immeasurably wealthy and solitary Doriana Gray (Lina Romay) is a predatory sexual vampire who inhabits a castle perched above a jungle located in either a fairy tale or her own unconscious mind. Wandering through the densely overgrown tropical gardens, dressed in a long pink gown, she is a remote queen of nothingness. Her publishing empire promotes the kind of women’s fantasy literature which is read by bored, idle society ladies who live to dream of doing something of value. Doriana and her mute servant (Ramon Ardid) are actually partners in deadly plots which unfold like erotic serials in and around the vicinity of the castle. Young, and some not-so-young, women visit/are lured, seduced and finally succumb to the energy sucking female vampire. No blood is shed or transferred but something essential is stolen from the bodies of her victims. The characters and themes of Oscar Wilde’s story are somehow transposed into a Jess Franco vampire riff.

The attacks are sexual but Doriana experiences no pleasure during them. Instead, the sexual climaxes are somehow transferred to her secret sharer, Doriana’s mentally shattered sister, a Siamese twin separated a birth, who is locked away in the exclusive asylum of Dr. Orloff (Ronald Weiss).  The operation to separate the twins resulted in Doriana’s frigidity and the mental degeneration into nymphomania of her incarcerated double. One day an American journalist (Monica Swinn) arrives to do a story on Doriana. She will be the next victim in the vicious cycle. But Doriana’s end is near, rushed forward by desperate acts of destruction and self-destruction. The polarity of the sister’s sexuality, one driven to constant sexual activity which never results in pleasure, the other lost in hopeless sexual addiction which results in explosive orgasms which need to be followed by further ones, is the subject of the film. It’s not a love story like LE COMTESSE NOIRE, but rather an illustration of the private Hell of these women who are driven toward sex without love.

DORIANA GREY is one of the more subdued, artistically designed and mysterious of the films Jess Franco made for Zurich based producer Erwin C. Dietrich between 1975 and 1977. It’s also an example of the director’s methods. Take a film, LA COMTESSE NOIRE (1973) in this case, remake it as a piano improvisation in a more somber key, and then move on. Franco never stayed in one place, he always moved on to something else. He lived to make cinema and died in the midst of making his final film in 2013. Visually elegant, painted with a cold palette,  featuring a quiet, almost subliminal sound design, the film has a hypnotic quality. The compositions, Doriana and her victims drifting among the classical columns, a stunning shot in which Doriana is silhouetted in a window opening up onto a vista featuring a rainbow and a huge tropical leaf, are quite entrancing and resonate long after the film concludes. The final scene is an almost exact replay of the final scene of LA COMTESSE NOIRE, only done in a much more stark manner, without the director himself there as a character who witnesses the tragedy. Doriana drowns alone in a pool of crystal clear water.

There isn’t much dialogue, but the soundtrack brims with the cries of jungle birds and the sitar-like music of Walter Baumgartner. Franco was his own DP on this,  rather than the reliable Dietrich partner, Peter Baumgartner, and he often slowly zooms into the gargoyles and baroque architectural designs fitted onto the castle’s facades. The seemingly constant rainstorms outside the castle add to the melancholy ambiance, the raindrops suggesting the tears of Doriana. The interiors are often shot through omnipresent mirrors, giving the action added dimensions and creating portals into the kind of negative space in which Franco films often unfold. In terms of mood, visuals, themes, characters and poetic plotting, this film also anticipates and evokes Krzysztof Kieslowski’s masterpiece THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE (1991).

Lina Romay perfectly embodies both of these diametrically opposed characters and the film seems to exist so Jess Franco can observe her performances in personal tranquility. Shot in the South of France, producer Dietrich gave Franco carte blanche on this one, albeit with the stipulation that versions were created for both the hard and softcore markets. Ascot-Elite released both versions on Blu-ray as part of their Jess Franco Golden Goya Collection.

The recent FULL MOON DVD contains the more rarely seen soft version, taken from Dietrich’s HD master. Video Quality is good to very good, correctly reproducing Franco’s carefully calibrated color scheme. There is no visible print damage, The image quality is consistently sharp, luminous, detailed. Mastered from Dietrich’s own original negatives, preserved in his Zurich archives, it’s about as good as this film will ever look. The hardcore version is, of course, not presented on the FULL MOON DVD. Only the English language track is available. A release of the German language version, with English subtitles, would be most desirable. It plays much more atmospherically in German than with the existing English language track.

The hard version often breaks the special mood of the film with rather ugly gynecological close-ups. The soft core version would seem to be closer to a “Director’s Cut” and plays much more of a piece. The hardcore footage is replaced by surrealistic inserts, including a scene of a nude Lina Romay descending a spiral staircase while holding a giant sunflower stalk. This striking image is a kind of recreation of Marcel Duchamp’s 1912-13 series of Cubist paintings, NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE. Not that Franco was trying to be artistic, but it comes off as  an artist’s rendering of a key emotion in uniquely visual terms.  And that’s what Jess Franco was all about. This may not be Jess Franco’s best film, but it’s one of his personal best of the Erwin C. Dietrich period. It’s pleasing that this superior version can be seen in an English friendly version. Unfortunately, the English language voice track is cast with more contemporary, sometimes jarring voice performances and awkward dialogues which somewhat detract from the film’s dreamlike quality.  But it is very much worth seeing.

Reviewed by Robert Monell

(C) Robert Monell, 2017

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Written by Robert Monell

14 junio 2017 at 6:07 AM

20 Weird Women of Jess Franco

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Janine Reynaud NECRONOMICON/SUCCUBUS

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Pamela Stanford surgiendo del gotelé.

 

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Alice Arno in PLAISIR A TROIS

 

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Lina Romay in ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN

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Rosa Valenty se destapa como ella bien sabe

 

Janine Reynaud and mannequin in NECRONOMICON

Montserrat Prous in THE SILENCE OF THE TOMB

wp-image-651618747jpg.jpgLina Romay and Lynn Montiel in SEXY NATURE

Soledad Miranda smokes in THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA

 

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Kali Hansa in COUNTESS PERVERSE

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Mikaela Wood in LA REINA DEL TABARIN

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Alice Arno is CHRISTINA PRINCESS OF EROTICISM

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Mamie Kaplan in HISTORIA SEXUAL DE O

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Yelena Samarina in EL MISTERIO DEL CASTILLO ROJO

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Evelyn Scott a punto de abducir a Lina Romay in SHINING SEX

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Analía Ivars en el inolvidable climax

 

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Victoria Adams, la tigresa.

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Britt Nichols

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Tania Busselier in COUNTESS PERVERSE

 

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Caroline Munro y Brigitte Lahaie in FACELESS

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Catherine Laferriere in EXORCISME

 

 

 

Written by Robert Monell

11 junio 2017 at 7:46 AM

DRACULA, PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN coming on Blu-ray, but….

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Image may contain: one or more people and text



 Reportedly scanned in 2k from a rare 35mm print…




Dominik Ehlers Pre Order is up at amazon https://www.amazon.de/gp/aw/d/B071RL93WH/ref=mp_s_a_1_1…







Die Nacht der offenen Särge [Blu-ray]

Die Nacht der offenen Särge [Blu-ray]

AMAZON.DE

Thanks to Dominik Ehlers over at the El Franconomicon blog for posting. I hope this release is properly framed at 2.35:1 instead of changing to 1.85:1 after the scope credits, like the DIVISA and IMAGE DVDs. Also the end music is prematurely cut off, signalling they were both from the same master. I’m hoping this release 

is a new HD master from the camera negative and in full Techniscope.

I had a long talk with Jess Franco about the framing and he was very adamant that the scope ratio was not imposed on him nor was it done arbitrarily.

More on that in a future blog.

It’s one of my favorite of his surrealist Gothics of the early 1970s (cf VAMPYROS LESBOS, THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN) and a much underappreciated and underrated work.  UPDATE, recent caps on the German site indicate this will be in 2.35:1 and have superior definition and color.


Written by Robert Monell

2 mayo 2017 at 1:29 AM

Jess Franco en Alicante (2)

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1 . Calpe

Decenas de películas han sido rodadas allí, cerca del peñón o en el conocido complejo Xanadú de Ricardo Boffil, a las afueras del pueblo.

Dozens of films have been shot there, near the rock or in the famous Xanadú complex by Ricardo Boffil, on the outskirts of the town.

2. Benidorm

La más importante ciudad turística de la zona sale también en multitud de películas, desde EUGENIE (STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION) a DIARIO ÍNTIMO DE UNA NINFÓMANA o LAS CHICAS DEL TANGA.

The most important tourist city of the area also shows in a multitude of films, from EUGENIE (STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION) to SINNER or THE TANGA GIRLS.

 

3. Altea

Pequeña localidad sobre una colina, con una iglesia que sirve de horizonte a muchas películas, como RESIDENCIA PARA ESPÍAS, ORGÍA DE NINFÓMANAS, UN SILENCIO DE TUMBA, KISS ME KILLER…

Small town on a hill, with a church that serves as horizon for many films, such as RESIDENCE FOR SPIES, LINDA, THE SILENCE OF TOMB, KISS ME KILLER…

 

Written by Álex Mendíbil

30 abril 2017 at 12:24 PM