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

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VIAJE A BANGKOK, ATAUD INCLUIDO (1985)

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A cult seen through Asian pottery, curtains and smoke and mirrors….

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Jess Franco welcomes Agent Philip Sanders (Jose Llamas) to Bangkok….

Produced by Jess Franco/Manacoa Films–Directed by Jess Franco–Screenplay by David Khunne (Jess Franco), based on a novel by Edgar Wallace–DP: Joan Soler/Juan Soler Cozar–Music: Dennis Farnon/Jess Franco (Ed. Harmony, Madrid)–Asst. Dir: Rosa Maria Almirall (Lina Romay), Carlos Aguilar– Editor: Rosa Maria Almirall (Lina Romay)–Art. Dir: Carlos Spitzer–Ma: Juana de la Morena–Production Asst: Angel Oriales, Enrique Diaz–Prod. Mgr: J. Antonio Mayans–92m. Eastmancolor. Widescreen. Locations: Alicante, Canary Islands. Spain. 1985.

Based on “novel” by Edgar Wallace… But what novel or story?A brainwashed assassin breaks into a diplomatic reception, cuts the throat of the British Ambassador and is quickly shot down. The aging but still sharp M1 agent, Colonel Daniel J. Blimp (Howard Vernon) arrives to conduct an inquiry. He is joined the a younger, brash Australian agent, Philip Sanders (Jose Llamas) and the victim’s daughter (Helena Garret)  in uncovering a strange cult under the mental domination of the blind Professor Tao (Albino Graziani). More terrorist style murders of political figures occur but Blimp’s trusty cane and trick tobacco pouch save the day, along with bursts of machine gun fire directed by the young Sanders.

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Jess Franco in the hardcore UNA RAJITA PARA DOS (1982)…From Edgar Wallace to hardcore, the 1980s were a grab bag of tricks for Jess Franco….

Basado en la novela de Edgar Wallace according to the poster, this is actually an on-the-fly remake of CARTES SUR TABLE (1966), with Howard Vernon playing the Eddie Constantine role. Without sex, nudity or significant action scenes this looks like a by the numbers reboot of an earlier low-budget film on an even slimmer contract which doesn’t have a significant female foil like Francoise Brion or Sophie Hardy in the template. Like CARTES SUR TABLE it’s an uneasy, highly personal blend of rushed looking action scenes, Jess Franco in-jokes (the Ambassador is named after the editor of several Harry Alan Towers-JF collaborations), but the Romantic intrigue just isn’t there nor are the charmingly dog eared scrap ups. What is here are some strikingly composed sequences set in the hidden lair of the “cult of ultimate knowledge” executed by mere clever placement of a few vases, geometric blocking along with typical Jess Franco smoke and mirrors effects. The “robots” look more than mid 1980s lounge lizards than Manchurian Candidates.

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The robot killers are controlled by a sinister cult….

Spanish film historian Carlos Aguilar, who would eventually write several books on the director, was assistant director, and appears in a small role as the hotel clerk. The name of Sanders appears to be the main element taken from the work of Edgar Wallace. Jess Franco, looking somewhat bored, appears as an inquisitive hotel agent. Nevertheless, it’s a sometimes fun trifle, features some amusingly inept Kung Fu interludes and German actor Christian Bork (Bork Gordon) from the somewhat similar Golden Films Internacional no-budget action epic BANGKOK, CITA CON LA MUERTE(1985), which was made in an overlap with this film according to the director*

Actually, the best shot in the film is in the first scene where the diplomatic reception is reflected in the sunglasses of the robot-assassin who is lurking in the night just outside the window.  Jess Franco, when up against it, is sometimes better at making scattered memorable images like this than he is at writing original stories or compelling characters, but he obviously was more concerned this time in making yet another film and moving on to the next. The secret code of Jess Franco lives on in even obscure commercial knocks offs. The director would return to hardcore in 1985-1987, with such tiles as EL MIRON Y EL EXCIBICIONISTA, EL OJETE DE LULU and ENTRE PITOS ANDA EL JUEGO.

This film was preceded by the 1983 SANGRE EN MIS ZAPATOS, a fast-paced actioner supposedly based on Edgar Wallace’s SANDERS COME FROM THE RIVER [!], a book I have never read, so I can’t testify to its faithfulness to the credited source. This one features Howard Vernon as an absconding Soviet scientist who has fled his homeland with a high-tech nuclear homing device. An International espionage would be thriller which has numerous amusing scenes involving a duo of agents played by Antonio Mayans and Lina Romay. It all ends with a NORTH BY NORTHWEST style air to ground pursuit where the couple are bombed by an airborne menace. An unusual and very welcome action-adventure turn by the director, with a lot of subversive humor, personal touchstones and a musical code. Released on Spanish video-Basic Home Video S.A., according to OBSESSION THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO, this film also had Internet broadcast on a Spanish site some time ago and looked to be in good shape in terms of video quality.

*Quoted in OBSESSION, THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO, p.164.

(C) Robert Monell, 2015

Written by Robert Monell

1 mayo 2015 a 10:21 PM

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