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

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ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN (1986)

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Jess Franco began his career as an International filmmaker with Harry Alan Tower’s production of THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU, after Franco’s success with such personal films as NECRONOMICON/SUCCUBUS, released in 1967. Tower’s series of Fu Manchu films featured Christopher Lee as the pulp icon, but by the time he invited Franco to helm the final two titles tastes had changed. Franco, sans Towers, would return to the Fu Mancu mythos some 20 years later when he had returned to his base in Spain. By 1985 he had established himself as a maker of hardcore features, which were now legal and profitable there.

ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN) Directed by James Lee Johnson (Jess Franco)

This obscurity is a deliriously filmed erotic adventure that updates Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu tales (Rohmer receives screen credit, as “S. Rohmer”), focusing on the master criminal’s daughter, here played by Lina Romay, made up with “Asian” eyes. By this time Franco had further developed his personal film language into a heavily coded fantasy matrix which defied analysis and didn’t interest serious critics or general audiences for erotic entertainment.

Lina Romay appears as the daughter of Fu Manchu, made up with exotic eye mascara (to appear Oriental) and an outlandish hair style. A title card explains it takes place “in an exotic corner of the distant east, [a] paradise of the drug and the corruption.”

Members of the ROCKY WALTERS rock and roll band are kidnapped by her seductive agents and transported to a hotel in the jungle, which doubles as an armed camp. There they are drugged, tortured, and forced to sign over bank accounts and other financial holdings.

This criminal enterprise is investigated by a karate fighting investigator and an Interpol agent (Marco Moriarity) who wears a pink shirt. The movie climaxes with an air strike carried out by a secret agent flying a Jump-Jet delivering a napalm payload into the encampment, represented by the Hotel Tropicana, filmed through a palm forest. So this qualifies as perhaps Franco’s final Eurospy adventure at a time when that subgenre was in hibernation.

 This amusing, colorful, if sometimes slow-paced trifle is most interesting for the eye-popping filter effects, which fill many scenes with intense color illuminations and bright hues, sometimes overwhelming the action. But Franco, as always, is more interested in style, mise-en-scene, than any kind of realism. This is a live action cartoon or comic strip. The female bunch are a sexy and imposing army of Amazons who recall Shirley Eaton and her followers in FUTURE WOMEN/THE GIRL FROM RIO (1968).

Surviving the air assault Lina Romay gets to repeat the old Fu Manchu standard at the end: “The world will hear from me again!”

After this return to his roots in popular genre cinema Franco would return to hardcore porno features with such titles as PHOLLASTIA and FALO CREST (both 1987), shot back-to-back in sunny, trashy Benidorm, a favorite Franco location, and both vicious send-ups of such then-popluar US television series as FALCON CREST. Franco hadn’t lost his subversive scorpion’s sting. Nonetheless, ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN remains a visual treat for the eyes awaiting an unlikely HD release.

(C) Robert Monell; new version 2020

Written by Robert Monell

16 septiembre 2020 a 4:24 AM

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  1. An interesting detail: Fu Manchu reappears with his voice from beyond.

    Johny Malone

    17 septiembre 2020 at 1:55 AM


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