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

Robert Monell & Alex Mendíbil Blog Alliance

ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN (1986)

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Jess Franco began his career as an International filmmaker with Harry Alan Tower’s production of THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU, after Franco’s success with such personal films as NECRONOMICON/SUCCUBUS, released in 1967. Tower’s series of Fu Manchu films featured Christopher Lee as the pulp icon, but by the time he invited Franco to helm the final two titles tastes had changed. Franco, sans Towers, would return to the Fu Mancu mythos some 20 years later when he had returned to his base in Spain. By 1985 he had established himself as a maker of hardcore features, which were now legal and profitable there.

ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN) Directed by James Lee Johnson (Jess Franco)

This obscurity is a deliriously filmed erotic adventure that updates Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu tales (Rohmer receives screen credit, as “S. Rohmer”), focusing on the master criminal’s daughter, here played by Lina Romay, made up with “Asian” eyes. By this time Franco had further developed his personal film language into a heavily coded fantasy matrix which defied analysis and didn’t interest serious critics or general audiences for erotic entertainment.

Lina Romay appears as the daughter of Fu Manchu, made up with exotic eye mascara (to appear Oriental) and an outlandish hair style. A title card explains it takes place “in an exotic corner of the distant east, [a] paradise of the drug and the corruption.”

Members of the ROCKY WALTERS rock and roll band are kidnapped by her seductive agents and transported to a hotel in the jungle, which doubles as an armed camp. There they are drugged, tortured, and forced to sign over bank accounts and other financial holdings.

This criminal enterprise is investigated by a karate fighting investigator and an Interpol agent (Marco Moriarity) who wears a pink shirt. The movie climaxes with an air strike carried out by a secret agent flying a Jump-Jet delivering a napalm payload into the encampment, represented by the Hotel Tropicana, filmed through a palm forest. So this qualifies as perhaps Franco’s final Eurospy adventure at a time when that subgenre was in hibernation.

 This amusing, colorful, if sometimes slow-paced trifle is most interesting for the eye-popping filter effects, which fill many scenes with intense color illuminations and bright hues, sometimes overwhelming the action. But Franco, as always, is more interested in style, mise-en-scene, than any kind of realism. This is a live action cartoon or comic strip. The female bunch are a sexy and imposing army of Amazons who recall Shirley Eaton and her followers in FUTURE WOMEN/THE GIRL FROM RIO (1968).

Surviving the air assault Lina Romay gets to repeat the old Fu Manchu standard at the end: “The world will hear from me again!”

After this return to his roots in popular genre cinema Franco would return to hardcore porno features with such titles as PHOLLASTIA and FALO CREST (both 1987), shot back-to-back in sunny, trashy Benidorm, a favorite Franco location, and both vicious send-ups of such then-popluar US television series as FALCON CREST. Franco hadn’t lost his subversive scorpion’s sting. Nonetheless, ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN remains a visual treat for the eyes awaiting an unlikely HD release.

(C) Robert Monell; new version 2020

Written by Robert Monell

16 septiembre 2020 at 4:24 AM

ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN (1986)

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. ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN) Directed by James Lee Johnson (Jess Franco)

This obscurity is a deliriously filmed erotic adventure that updates Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu tales (Rohmer receives screen credit, as “S. Rohmer”), focusing on the master criminal’s daughter, here played by Lina Romay, made up with “Asian” eyes.

Lina Romay appears as the daughter of Fu Manchu, made up with exotic eye mascara (to appear Oriental) and an outlandish hair style. A title card explains it takes place “in an exotic corner of the distant east, [a] paradise of the drug and the corruption.”

Members of the ROCKY WALTERS rock and roll band are kidnapped by her seductive agents and transported to a hotel in the jungle, which doubles as an armed camp. There they are drugged, tortured, and forced to sign over bank accounts and other financial holdings.

This criminal enterprise is investigated by a karate fighting investigator and an Interpol agent who wears a pink shirt. The movie climaxes with an air strike carried out by a secret agent flying a Jump-Jet delivering a napalm payload into the encampment, represented by the Hotel Tropicana, filmed through a palm forest.

 This amusing, colorful, if sometimes slow-paced trifle is most interesting for the eye-popping filter effects, which fill many scenes with intense color illuminations and bright hues, sometimes overwhelming the action. But Franco, as always, is more interested in style, mise-en-scene, than any kind of realism. This is a live action cartoon or comic strip. The female bunch are a sexy and imposing army of Amazons who recall Shirley Eaton and her followers in FUTURE WOMEN/THE GIRL FROM RIO (1968).

Surviving the air assault Lina Romay gets to repeat the old Fu Manchu standard at the end: “The world will hear from me again!”

(C) Robert Monell; new version 2020

Written by Robert Monell

16 septiembre 2020 at 4:10 AM

LA VENGANZA DEL DOCTOR MABUSE (1972)

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la venganza del doctor mabuse
1972 Directed by Jess Frank (Jess Franco)
(a.k.a. DR.M SCHLAGT ZU; DER MANN DER SICH MABUSE NANNTE; DER DOKTOR MABUSE)

In a remote lighthouse lab, criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse conducts mind control experiments on women who are kidnapped by his assistants. Mabuse uses a mineral from stolen moon rocks (!) to create a ray that turns people into obedient robots (cf ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS-1966). A stripper (Ewa Stroemberg), a witness to one of the abductions, in turn becomes the next victim.
Under Mabuse’s telepathic guidance, she seduces an American diplomat. These rapidly escalating events are investigated by Thomas, the local Sheriff, who finally manages to locate the hideout. Mabuse is killed during a melee involving his brain damaged henchman resulting in the lab’s destruction.

This obscure feature represents the last gasp of the long-lived Dr. Mabuse franchise, which had seen better days in the Fritz Lang thrillers of the 1920s and 30s. Franco’s movie has a very rushed look, For instance, one scene is partially obscured by a section of the lens-cap which appears not to have been properly removed. Also, when the cops arrive at Dr. Mabuse’s hideout, the shadow of the Manuel Merino’s camera falls over the arriving police car.

Some amusing touches include Mabuse’s hulking henchman (Moises Rocha), who with his sewn-up skull cap looks like a refugee from a Hammer horror entry. The Red Garter “nightclub,” which is obviously just a parking garage with a few battered chairs and tables placed inside, is the setting for Ewa Stroemberg’s minimalist striptease (the German version of which contains topless nudity removed in the Spanish cut). The office of Sheriff Thomas (Fred Williams) looks like a leftover from some spaghetti western, and Williams appears throughout the film in a cowboy costume. Perhaps this aspect was Franco’s satire of the then popular Eurowestern craze.108225293_10217371291821302_7258743081684700332_o

Despite these technical glitches — and that Jack Taylor is miscast an evil mastermind (he appears too normal to be an evil mastermind, but that does support a banality-of-evil subtext)– the action is punctuated by a “le jazz hot” music score, as well as Manuel Merino’s stylish-on-a-budget photography. Most interesting are some extremely wide-angle compositions in Mabuse’s lab and during the abduction scenes, which distort spatial relationships and employ lighting and color in a way which reminds one of Kubrick’s dystopian sci-fi CLOCKWORK ORANGE, which had a much larger budget and was critically acclaimed while Franco’s live action comic book sank without a trace. Producer Artur Brauner also released an alternate version with footage which Franco did not direct. He also didn’t sufficiently promote the film or add it to CCC’s catalogue.

The final judgement on this is to try to find the longer Spanish language version and take the German language version, available on the CCC DVD with a grain of salt. To reconstruct a proper version one would need to include scenes from both.  The robbery sequence in the German cut has footage obviously not directed by Jess Franco. It was likely added by producer and CCC founder/CEO Artur Brauner, who is also co-credited with the film’s story. It wasn’t included in the CCC sales catalog and Brauner pretty much buried the film instead of trying to give it a wide theatrical release.

This outcome was all to typical of Franco’s career. Films which were condemned to obscurity/failure by frustrated producers. Seeing the film almost 50 years after it was made one immediately thinks of it as kind of animated photo comic or Eurospy fumetti, complete with the legendary Dr. Mabuse continuing his experiments and planning to throw the civilized world into chaos. It must be remembered that Lang’s series began in the cauldron of German post World War I Expressionism and when the country had Hitler and the Third Reich in its tormented womb. In 1933 Lang would make THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE, which Hitler admired to the point of having Goebbels offer Lang the reins of the German film industry. Lang politely withdrew and left the country rather than make Nazi propaganda. His wife, the Nazi supporter Thea Von Harbou, stayed.

Lang returned to Germany in 1960 to make his final film, DIE TAUSEND AUGEN DER DR. MABUSE, produced by Artur Brauner. Lang refused to make follow-ups, which were given to directors such as Dr. Harald Reinl, and were commercial successes. LA VENGANZA DEL DR. MABUSE is a far cry from the Lang series, but not uninteresting. The final Lang film can be seen as a template for the 1960s Bond spy series. Gert Frobe who played the inspector in Lang’s film went on to play the villain Goldfinger in what is still the most famous of the James Bond epics. Franco’s LA VENGANZA… looks impoverished in comparison. The director himself appears in it as the Sheriff’s superior who demands that the abductions ordered by Mabuse be solved post haste. They are, with an assist from plot elements from Franco’s 1961 GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, which was already a decade old.

Franco repeatedly points his camera into the setting sun and bright lights as if trying to saturate his mise-en-scene with chromatic energy if not dynamically staged action. The final showdown has the look and aesthetic  of a grade C western.  One wonders what Fritz Lang, who had publicly admired Franco’s 1967 NECRONOMICON, would have made of it.

 

(C) Robert Monell 1999-New Version 2020.

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Written by Robert Monell

13 julio 2020 at 12:44 AM

VAYA LUNA DE MIEL online with English subtitles

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Filmoteca Española ha colgado en su canal de vimeo VAYA LUNA DE MIEL (1980) la película que encontramos en sus archivos, restaurada y con subtítulos en inglés. ¡SOLO HASTA EL MARTES 24 DE MARZO! Hoy a las 19:30 en el Instagram de Filmoteca haremos un Q&A sobre la película con Carlos Reviriego.

Filmoteca Española has posted on its vimeo channel VAYA LUNA DE MIEL (1980) the film that we find in its archives, restored and with English subtitles. ONLY UNTIL MARCH TUESDAY 24TH!

 

 

 

Written by Álex Mendíbil

23 marzo 2020 at 10:28 AM

Publicado en El Franconomicon

Severin Films anuncia una serie documental sobre Jess Franco

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Grandes noticias para empezar 2020 y pronosticar una nueva temporada de ediciones franquianas. El sello norteamericano Severin Films acaba de anunciar una serie documental que se irá publicando como extra en los próximos blu-rays de Jess Franco que tiene pensado editar. En el trailer aparece como presentador el crítico británico Stephen Thrower (Murderous Passions) acompañado por Antonio Mayans, visitando localizaciones míticas del tío Jess por Lisboa y España. Próximamente se anunciaran los títulos de los blu-rays, entre 5 o 6, aunque se ha venido rumoreando desde hace tiempo la publicación en EEUU de películas como SHINING SEX, AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO, LA VENGANZA DEL DR MABUSE, LES GRANDES EMMERDEUSES o LES EBRANLEES… ¡Estaremos muy pendientes del Facebook de Severin!

Written by Álex Mendíbil

8 enero 2020 at 6:11 PM

Publicado en Antonio Mayans, Noticias

LA NOCHE DE LOS SEXOS ABIERTOS (1981)

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NOTE: This Golden Films Internacional production has never had any kind of U.S. VHS, DVD, Blu-ray release, although it has been available on the gray market and online. I would say that it’s about time to have a North American debut of this fascinating, highly entertaining, visually entrancing title, preferably on Blu-ray. This article is based on the 1994 KING HOME VIDEO: COLECCION CINE EROTICO Spanish release. 

Moira (Lina Romay) is a sexy cabaret stripper by night and a secret agent by day. She is attempting to gain information on the Segunda Guerra Mundial, an international criminal group who are about to locate a hidden consignment of gold bars which was secreted beneath the desert during the last days of the Nazis.

Private detective Al Crosby is also on the trail of the gold and teams up with Moira. Eventually, Prof. Von Klaus provides a complex code which, when deciphered, will reveal the location. Moira is briefly captured by the opposition, tortured, and then freed by Al. They make a concerted effort to break the word puzzle, and finally succeed in locating Von Klaus’s desert villa, in which there is a secret room containing the gold.

First, the right notes have to be played on an organ which will electronically trigger the lock mechanism. It involves musical notation from a Liszt composition. When Moira performs the piece, the door opens and the treasure awaits them. The only problem is that the counter-agents have pursued them by helicopter and plan to relieve Al and Moira of their newly found fortune.

Considering the fact that Jess Franco has returned to Euro-spy genre again and again throughout his career, it would seem the genre holds a special fascination for him, as well as providing the trickster director with narrative action that functions as a necessary backdrop to his trademark erotic scenes, personal touches, visual spirals, barbed jests wpid-img_9117923194936.jpegand private conundrums.

Filmed on exotic locations in the Canary Islands this plays like a very outre James Bond detour, embedded with layers of codified musical, cinema, pulp fiction references. Decipher a linguistic code rewards the searches with the location of the gold, if not the entire fortune, but the decoding also involves a musical code, based on Liszt, whose music inspired the Jess Franco written score and scenario for the director’s SINFONIA EROTICA (1979). An even more hermetic joke is that Franco credits a non-existent Liszt composition as the source inspiration.

It is impossible to separate the sex from
any generic conventions at this point in Franco’s career. His later Euro-spy feature DARK MISSION (1988), offers evidence that he could leave aside the obsessive focus on eroticism and make a relatively straight commercial product, but as this more personal early 80s period and his recent films show Franco is at his best when he is
allowed to be Franco.

LA NOCHE… opens with a deliriously filmed strip by Lina Romay, performed in the driver’s seat of a classic fifties American car. This all takes place in an ultra-glitzy night spot, where the sexy action is bathed in gorgeous neon hues. Lina’s gyrations and Franco’s camera work and lighting design seem in perfect harmony this time around, and the sequence is hypnotic.

There are many shootings, double crosses, torture sessions (one outrageously borders on a XXX level of sado-erotic intensity), exotic locales, and Lina Romay has never looked more appealing. 
 (C) Robert Monell: new version (C) 2019

Written by Robert Monell

10 septiembre 2019 at 11:35 PM

VAYA LUNA DE MIEL (El escarabajo de oro)

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INT: Lina Romay, Emilio Álvarez, Max B, Antonio Mayans, Antonio de Cabo, Susy Boulois, Óscar Martínez, Marisol García | FOTO: Juan Soler | MUS: Pablo Villa (Daniel White) y Jess Franco | SONIDO: Tomás del Barrio | DIR. de PROD: Joaquín Domínguez | GUION y DIR: Jess Franco.

1980. Magna Films. España. Color. 93′

Lee el resto de esta entrada »

Written by Álex Mendíbil

6 marzo 2019 at 10:19 PM

Estreno de “Vaya luna de miel” en Filmoteca Española

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El pasado jueves 28 de febrero de 2019 tuvo lugar el estreno mundial de la película encontrada de Jess Franco VAYA LUNA DE MIEL (1980), inaugurando las celebraciones del 30 Aniversario de Filmoteca en el Cine Doré, o Palacio de las pipas como era popularmente llamado. A las 19:30 comenzó un cóctel de bienvenida y a las 20:00 el programa en directo de Radio3 “El séptimo vicio”, donde Javier Tolentino entrevistó a  los participantes al evento. Al acto acudió el Ministro de Cultura José Guirao, la directora del ICAA Beatriz Navas, la dirección de Filmoteca Josetxo Cerdán y Carlos Reviriego, y el empresario Enrique Cerezo, entre otros. Antonio Mayans, el malo de la película y servidor, presentamos la película tras los discursos de Guirao y Cerdán.  La película fue proyectada en un DCP de ratio 1.66:1, procedente escanear el positivo en 2K (¿o 4K?), y seguida de los trailers en 35mm de “Crisis Mortal” (Luis Revenga, 1970) y “Fu Manchu y el beso de la muerte” (Jess Franco, 1968).

Written by Álex Mendíbil

2 marzo 2019 at 11:22 AM

Lost Jess Franco film will have its World Premiere in Madrid, Feb. 28th, 2018. An interview with Alex Mendibil.

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Jess Franco scholar/creator of the Facebook Group/Blog EL FRANCONOMICON, Dr. Alex Mendibil, has announced that a previously unknown (by me, at least)/unreleased/never reviewed Jess Franco film will have its world theatrical premiere in Madrid, Spain on February 28th, 2019, at the Cine Dore. Alex discovered a complete 35mm negative of this obscure jungle adventure in the vaults of the Filmoteca Espanola and convinced the library to create a positive of the film from the camera negatives.

From EL FRANCONOMICON Facebook Group: “Time for the news… WORLD PREMIERE!

VAYA LUNA DE MIEL (What a Honeymoon aka The Golden Bug/ El escarabajo de oro, 1980) se estrena el 28 de febrero en el Cine Doré, cortesía de Filmoteca Española que la ha recuperado tras encontrarnos el negativo en sus sótanos. Es una comedia romántica slapstick, con aventuras en la selva y robots de broma, entre cosas como La noche de los sexos abiertos, Sangre en mis zapatos o ¿Cuánto cobra un espía?

Filmoteca Española has restored the negatives we found in its vaults and a big premiere is scheduled for February 28 in Madrid! It’s a slapstick rom-com mixed with jungle adventure and toy robots, between the likes of La noche de los sexos abiertos, Sangre en mis zapatos or ¿Cuánto cobra un espía?

Time for the news… WORLD PREMIERE!

What a honeymoon (what a honeymoon aka the golden bug / the golden beetle, 1980) premieres on February 28 at the cinema doré, courtesy of Spanish film library that has recovered it after finding the negative in its basements . It’s a romantic comedy comedy, with adventures in the jungle and joke robots, between things like open sex night, blood on my shoes or how much does a spy charge?

Filmoteca Española has restored the negatives we found in its vaults and a big premiere is scheduled for February 28 in Madrid! It’s a slapstick rom-com mixed with jungle adventure and toy robots, between the likes of La noche de los sexos abiertos, Sangre en mis zapatos or ¿Cuánto cobra un espía?”

“I talked to the CEOs at Filmoteca and let them know about the importance of the finding, and they agreed to to make a positive print and release it as part of the 30th anniversary of the Filmoteca on Feb. 28th. ,” Alex explained. ” I hadn’t heard of the film before and asked Alex for some details of its history. “It was registered in 1980, but no record of a premiere at that time can be found. Working at the Filmoteca I asked for the negative to check. I found the title credits as “VAYA LUNA DE MIEL [What a Honeymoon in English] and that the films was already edited, the sound post-production was also done.”

The film features Lina Romay, Max Boulois, Antonio Mayans, Antonio de Dabo and Emilio Alvarez. It was photographed by Juan Soler and Produced by Joaquin Dominguez. This is one of a number of Franco adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe’s story THE GOLD BUG; but set in modern day Spain.

Alex describes the film as a romantic comedy-adventure, “It’s about newlyweds who find paper with magic ink from Poe’s story. It quickly becomes a jungle adventure romp, with the couple being chased by fake Chinese villains and Max Boulois as a corrupt consul. There is also a fair with a spooky train, a scene on a ferris wheel, toy robots that self-destruct, and an ending in the style of GOLDEN TEMPLE AMAZONS (1984), with skeletons and the golden scarab. We have the typical music themes by Daniel White, a cameo by Jess, and the locations from BLOODY MOON (1980).”

“The movie has a very fast pace” Alex adds “and a very cool tone. It’s a very small project, without ambitions, but also very effective.”

Since this film has had no theatrical, VHS, Laser disc, DVD/Blu-ray release anywhere this theatrical display of a 35mm projection will be its world premiere. It’s sounds like a fun, serial type affair, Jess Franco style. Alex describes his Jess Franco archaeology at the Filmoteca as “a slow process. The Filmoteaca may have 3000 unregistered titles!” One can only hope some enterprising DVD/Blu-ray company will step up and arrange for a belated HD release. A review of this film will appear here asap.

 Keep up the good work, Alex.

(C) Robert Monell, 2019

 

Written by Robert Monell

22 febrero 2019 at 9:51 PM

Congratulations to Dr. Alex Mendibil

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My sincere congratulations to Alex Mendibil, the creator of this blog and the Facebook EL FRANCONOMICON group. Alex has been awarded a PhD for his doctoral thesis on the cinema of Jess Franco. This is the first such thesis written in Spain and first PhD awarded on that topic there. It joins several other doctoral texts on the director published in New York and the UK.

Alex is a true world class scholar on the dizzying vortex which is the alternate world of Jess Franco. 46220699_10212865867788517_2864979847719944192_n

Written by Robert Monell

14 noviembre 2018 at 11:12 PM