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

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Jess Franco Triple Bill, Two Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray from MONDO MACABRO 

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This monster HD package features three separate Jess Franco films, including the rarely seen XXX SEXY NATURE, an alternate version of COUNTESS PERVERSE, the original Director’s Cut, LA COMTESSE PERVERSE, and the Sade adaptation, HOW TO SEDUCE A VIRGIN (PLAISIR A TROIS). Along with a raft of Bonus Features and the soundtrack CD “Distortions” by Blue Phantom, that’s about 6 hours of material. A 12 page booklet is included for after-the-show additional reading.  A full evening of Jess Franco at the top of his 1970s game.  This World Blu-ray premiere of all three films is a Jess Franco fan/collector’s dream, a Jess Franco release to end all Jess Franco releases.

 

The theme of voyeurism is illustrated in the very first shot of COUNTESS PERVERSE

img_20170330_195648.jpg

 

A victim (Kali Hansa) is washed ashore cannibal island….img_20170330_200723.jpg

 

Bob/Tom (Robert Woods) has second thoughts about the approaching woman hunt….

Below: Ecstasy in the torture chamber from SEXY NATURE

SEXY NATURE  101 m hardcore version wp-image-1408438402jpg.jpg

 

The cubist home of the Count and Countess Zaroff was designed by Ricardo Bofill…wp-image-207599555jpg.jpg

1973 was a typically busy year for Jess Franco.  He managed to make at least 11, by some counts 12, feature films, which would be released in helter-skelter fashion over the next few years. Many of them were made-to-order for the then wide open hardcore porn market. Two of the three features in this package contain explicit hardcore footage.  The 76 minute orignial cut of COUNTESS PERVERSE, is a minimalist cannibal film, shot in a abstract, cubist style during early summer of 1973 on locations in Alicante and Calpe, Spain.

A very low key jet black comedy of manners, this is The Most Dangerous Game by way of Sade. Rador Zaroff (Howard Vernon) could very well be a suave Sade narrator, counseling “reject nothing that gives pleasure” to his proposed victim,  then making ghoulish quips about her gorgeous figure (“dim… but succulent “) as he sizes her up for the concluding woman hunt and following feast. But it ends with another woman becoming the feast. There are numerous visual evocations of Hollywood horror films, particularly the scene where Robert Woods walks into the sea carrying the dying Lina Romay, a direct quote from the Val Lewton-Jacques Tourneur I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943). Franco would quote that classic again in CALL OF THE BLONDE GODDESS (1977) and THE SEXUAL STORY OF O (1982).

As a cannibal film COUNTESS PERVERSE is rather restrained, there’s not much gore, but there is a lot of rough sex, a scene where Kali Hansa’s head is cut off with a saw and, in the hard version,ban extended scene of Lina Romay performing oral sex on two Franco regulars. There is also an additional torture scene involving Tania Busselier, Monica Swinn and Alice Arno, set in a strange grotto, where whips, chains and more rough sex are featured. SEXY NATURE also had extra wraparound  scenes featuring Romay and Caroline Riviere (EXORCISM) as bickering tourists is a cheap hotel room. Riviere is a horror writer who composes a story which will become acted out once Romay arrives on cannibal island. But it all turns out to be a dream in a reassuring add on which reminds one of the studio imposed “happy ending” for the 1956 version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. These changes were requested by executive producer Robert De Neale.   I’ve collected at least 5 versions of COUNTESS PERVERSE/THE MUNCHERS and the one in the Blu-ray set is unique and most effective of the ones I’ve managed to see before. All the hard and soft footage was shot by Franco himself, allowing the 101 minute feature to act as a kind of hypertext to the original, and it looks terrific in HD. The colors don’t just pop, they virtually explode off the screen. The women’s blouses and dresses burst with candy colored psychedelia.

 

Rador Zaroff (Howard Vernon) eats human flesh in high style….PLAISIR A TROIS is even more macabre, featuring a basement of women petrified in the midst of tortured agony administered by the sadist Martine (Alice Arno), who has just been released from a mental hospital after castrating a sex partner with a straight razor.It’s an amusing immoral tale where villains becomes victims and vice versa.  A perfect Sadean comedy built around corpse art long before Nekromantik.

The director takes the theme of voyeurism even further here. Every scene, from first shot to last, is a secret POV of one of the characters. Nothing is private in this perverse mise-en-scene. It is also one of his best acted films, with Alice Arno making the sadistic artist a real enigma while Robert Woods is unsettling and shifty as her back stabbing husband. Lina Romay has another wordless role as the family pet, a role which she perfected in LA COMTESSE NOIRE aka FEMALE VAMPRIRE, made later the same year.  The diminutive Alfred Baillou may be best of all, as the overly inquisitive dwarf gardener who tries to warn Busselier of the danger in the villa. It’s all filmed in a highly stylized manner, with a constant deployment of extreme wide angle lenses and Franco’s trademark zoom shots. COUNTESS PERVERSE  contains even more wide angle set ups, at times resembling mid-period Orson Welles.

Franco would return to this scenario in SINFONIA EROTICA (1979), GEMIDOS DE PLACER, a 1982 experiment in which the action was filmed in precisely timed long takes/plan sequences, and EUGENIE, UNA HISTORIA DE UNA PERVERSION, a delirious 1980 surrealist thriller featuring Antonio Mayans as a mad sand sculptor. It seems he just couldn’t get the original Sade story, an episode from the novel JUSTINE, out of his system. The things to notice is that each subsequent version is treated in a totally different aesthetic style, as if he were conducting variations on a musical theme. See Francesco Cesari’s notes on the Spanish SINFONIA EROTICA DVD for more on this.*

Martine inspects her petrified girl exhibition in her basement of ghoulish decadence. 

Seeing these three films in 1080p HD yields countless details not visible in SD, like the crushed leather upholstery in Martine’s car and a clear look at the macabre nooks of the dead girls display.  All three features are presented in 1 37:1 ratio and have superior, rich sound in PCM 24 fps mono audio.   The 11 tracks on the Blue Phantom CD really rock.  On top of all this are the packed bonus interviews with Alain Petit, Stephen Thrower and Robert Woods, ported over from the previous MM SD releases.  All 3 features are in French audio with new English subtitles.

Both of these features are top tier Franco, with  COUNTESS PERVERSE making my top 10.  The cream of the Robert De Nesle crop. The rare alt version of LA COMETESSE PERVERSE only adds value to this  must-have package.

*Thanks to Francesco Cesari.

(C) Robert Monell,  2017

Written by Robert Monell

31 marzo 2017 a 1:38 AM

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