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

Robert Monell & Alex Mendíbil Blog Alliance

Jess Franco and Claude Chabrol

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A DOUBLE TOUR (Claude Chabrol 1959)In the above image, from A DOUBLE TOUR/LEDA, the seemingly respectable aristocrat Richard Marchoux  reclines as he contemplates the murder of his father’s mistress (Antonella Laudli). This was Chabrol’s first thriller which examined and subtly satirized the French bourgeoise. The family unit here is a gradually imploding, quietly dysfunctional system which results in alienation and violence. The quiet, gentle heir to a rural estate, is a monster created by the class regulations and repressed violence of the rural bourgeoisie.

The bucolic area of France’s wine region is the backdrop for this film which set the template for Chabrol’s moody series of subversions of the mystery genre, which would achieve an apex with LE BOUCHER (1970) and LA RUPTURE (1971).  Chabrol always cloaked his work in the clothing of genre which he bored into with the slow persistence of a probe making its way through subterranean layers to find the truth of a scene or a character. This disturbing, gorgeously shot film was streaming on the Amazon channels recently.

EL SECRETO DEL DR. ORLOFF has a similar theme and characters, and I thought of EL SECRETO as I watched A DOUBLE TOUR for the first time recently.  In the strikingly similar shot below, Dr. Fisherman, estranged from his wife and the world, quietly contemplates murdering local women with the help of Andros, the radio controlled living dead robot he has created. He’s the generic “mad scientist” but there’s something else going on underneath the surface. As with many Jess Franco scenarios the fear of and desire for women turn some men into monsters.

There are numerous interesting parallels here and in the filmography’s  of both auteurs. A Chabrol film has a certain look, feel, vibration, conceit which is personal and recognizable, as do the horror thrillers, erotica and comedies of Jess Franco. Both of these films are very much worth seeing and make a fascinating double bill. We’ll be examining more films by both auteurs here in the future. The French version of EL SECRETO DEL DR. ORLOFF is available on Blu-ray from REDEMPTION FILMS. 

I would recommend attempting to track down a copy of the Spanish version of this follow up to GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (1961), which is also preferable in its Spanish variant. Both films were recut and had post-production erotic inserted for export.  In any case EL SECRETO.. is infused with nightmarish monochrome frissions which resonate through his four early 1960s black and white horror films, the other two being THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS (1962) and MISS MUERTE/THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z (1965). All are required viewing.

(C) Robert Monell, 2017

Written by Robert Monell

25 agosto 2017 a 5:29 AM

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