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

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Jess Franco does Edgar Wallace

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This is a fun, micro budgeted affair, supposedly based on the writings of Edgar Wallace.  wp-1465486403321.jpeg

Since I haven’t read SANDERS COME FROM THE RIVER, the Edgar Wallace story on which SANGRE EN MIS ZAPATOS is supposedly based, I can’t vouch for its relation, if any, to the novel. It may be that Wallace was more of a general inspiration, than a specific source for the various Franco films which claim to be adaptations. I also have not read the book on which THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA (1970) was based. That zoom powered adventure featured the very last performance of the late, lamented Soledad Miranda. The script for that one was credited to Ladislas Fodor, who adapted some of the earlier German lensed, Artur Brauner produced Wallace films. It remains a convoluted  affair enlivened by Miranda’s slow motion strip tease and another catchy score by VAMPYROS LESBOS composers Siegfried Schwab and Manfred Hubler.

The script for SANGRE EN MIS ZAPATOS was by Franco (originally written in the early 1960s, according to Alain Petit in THE MANACOA FILES*), and has notable similarities to the 1970 DER TEUFEL KAM AKASAVA. In SANGRE Lina Romay is a nightclub performer who is pursued by agents on the trail of plans for a nuclear device. Of course, in AKASAVA Soledad Miranda was also a nightclub performer, albeit a stripper, working undercover while investigating the theft of radioactive materials from a mine. Both films also feature Howard Vernon in a prominent role. In this film Vernon is Professor Von Klaus, who has fled the USSR with the plans for a nuclear missile, which he seeks to hand over to a European contact. A musical code is also involved in the complicated narrative, recalling the musical codes in such films as KISS ME, MONSTER (1968) and LA NOCHE DE LOS SEXOS ABIERTOS (1981). Jess Franco loves secret codes, especially if they are musical. Antonio Mayans plays agent Carlos, who teams with Romay as she flees an unfriendly agent (Daniel Katz). There’s some, maybe too much, comic relief, such as bumbling agents hiding in Romay’s small apartment, in the style of a 1940s Bob Hope-Bing Crosby ROAD movie, etc. A blog correspondent has since informed my the British made version of SANDERS is much closer to the original EW novel. Thanks to Doug Campbell for posting this link to information on the 1935 Paul Robeson-Zoltan Korda film version on the FACEBOOK El Franconomicon group: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanders_of_the_River

 

There are some entertaining close calls and a final scene in which our absconding protagnoists are menaced with an aircraft attack by the heavily armed counter agents (cf NORTH BY NORTHWEST). Of course, Jess is not Hitchcock, but the scene is briskly staged and leaves one smiling. A breezy, unpretentious, fast paced programmer in the Eurospy vein which Franco returned to so often. Antonio Mayans and Lina, Franco’s favorite acting team of that period, seem to be enjoying the ride here. Stylishly shot by Juan Soler, the brightly colored, luminous compositions are easy on the eye and go a long way in making this is a minor but appreciated delight. Franco’s other mid 1980s Edgar Wallace adaptation, VIAJE A BANGKOK, ATAUD INCLUIDO (1985). also with Howard Vernon, is also quite visually entrancing, maybe more so, but remains a rather talkative, murky affair, more of a color remake of CARTES SUR TABLE (1966). A Manacoa production, produced by the director in an attempt to create or follow a commercial trend which didn’t really catch on in the action-saturated market of that era.

Also Edgar Wallace related is DER TODESRACHER VON SOHO (1971), which is credited as an adaptation of a novel by Bryan Edgar Wallace. This registers as a relatively action packed mystery featuring German stars Fred Williams (the male lead of DER TEUFEL KAM AUS AKASAVA) and Horst Tappert (DERRICK). This is another visually distintinguised film, this time using wide angle lenses and creative lighting designs to generate atmosphere rather than the telezoom. If she had lived Soledad Miranda might have played the female lead in this Artur Brauner co-production with Fenix Films, Madrid. Once again Ladislas Fodor and Paul Andre are the credited screenwriters, as they were in AKASAVA.

 

The supposedly completed, but unreleased VOCES DE MUERTE (1984) was an adaptation of Wallace’s THE CASE OF THE FRIGHTENED LADY, which was capably made by Alfred Vohrer in 1963 with Klaus Kinski, but remains to be seen.  Franco spoke of remaking THE CASE OF THE FRIGHTENED LADY again toward the end of his life in 2013. VOCES DE MUERTE was shot in the striking Ricardo Bofill structures which were the setting for the director’s essential EUGENIE…(1980) and ranks high on my most wanted list of unavailable Jess Franco films.

[Here’s a helpful mini-survey of the Franco versions of Edgar Wallace stories from a member of the EL FRANCONOMICON FACEBOOK GROUP: Andre Malberg The above mentioned “Sanders of the River” might use Wallace’s characters but it is very different in tone – which means it takes itself far to serious – when compared to his novels. In fact I consider the Wallace films of Franco and the great Alfred Vohrer to be very faithful in spirit, they might change the basic stories significantly, but then again those are mostly just skeletons that Wallace uses to tell us about many other and sometimes quite different things. Like these two directors he has a penchant for what I call meta-krimis, he often reflects upon the structure of the genre itself (some of his works are furthermore just a tad away from outright parody), has a hell of a time playing with the gender roles of his day and a deep-rooted love for the petty outcasts of society. Sexual and other human desires do also play a large role in his many novels – no wonder Franco liked him. All this is reflected quite beautifully in his and Vohrer’s films – a sharp contrast to most of the British adaptions, which tried to cling to the storyline a lot – a hopeless endeavor.“]

 

(C) Robert Monell, 2016 – with thanks to Andre Malberg and Doug Campbell.

Written by Robert Monell

15 junio 2016 a 3:40 PM

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