ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN (1986)
Slaves of Crime 1986 European Trash Cinema print. Produced by Mundial Films; Directed by James Lee Johnson (Jess Franco); DP: Juan Soler Cozar. With: Lina Romay (Saï Sen, Fu Manchu’s daughter), Marco Moriarty (Marco Mandell), Mel Rodrigo (Jessie), Maite Saury, Erik Raymond, José Llamas, Maria Hill, Yolanda Mobita, Carmen Carrion (Magda). 87m, Agfacolor, widescreen.
(a.k.a. ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN)
This obscurity is a deliriously filmed erotic adventure that updates Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu tales (Rohmer receives screen credit, as “S. Rohmer”). Lina Romay appears as the daughter of Fu Manchu, made up with heavily applied exotic eye mascara and an outlandish hair style. She is the merciless Sai Sen, queen of crime.
A title card explains that the action will unfold “in an exotic corner of the distant east, [a] paradise of drugs and corruption”… Rock star Rocky Guardas is kidnapped by Sai Sen’s seductive female agents and transported to a high rise hotel in the jungle, which doubles as an armed camp. He is the most recent victim of a large scale kidnap operation where the abducted are drugged, tortured, and forced to sign over bank accounts and other financial holdings while being held for further ransom.
This all-female criminal enterprise is investigated by a karate fighting private investigator and an Interpol agent who wears a pink shirt. The movie climaxes with an air strike carried out by Jump-Jets delivering a napalm payload into the encampment. This amusing, if sometimes slow-paced trifle is most interesting for the extensive use of lens filters which flood many scenes with eye pleasing halation effects, bathing the action with bright, candy colored waves which sometimes obscure the action.
The female bunch are a sexy and imposing army of Amazons that recall Shirley Eaton and her followers in THE GIRL FROM RIO/FUTURE WOMEN (1968). There’s more erotica on display here than that Harry Alan Towers production, with extensive nudity and some flogging, bondage, etc. thrown into the hazy mise-en-scene.
An action film with too little action and too much talk, nevertheless the hallucinatory lens flares and atmosphere of humid exotica exert a certain pull. The use of extensive stock footage to establish the milieu and is obvious and distracting. Nonetheless Jess Franco’s ability to pack each frame with interesting, arcane visual detail, personal fetishes and obscure Pop-Art/cinema references always gives the interested viewer something to discover. The downmarket studio exotica of Von Sternberg’s THE SHANGHAI GESTURE and MACAO are perhaps related points of reference.
One wonders what the Clasificada S crowds in Spain thought of this entry. Even when the action, actors and dialogue falter Juan Soler Cozar’s compositions continue to engage interest.
(C) Robert Monell, 2013