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

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Archive for the ‘I’m in a Jess Franco state of mind’ Category

Cocktail Special (1978)

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Written by Robert Monell

21 febrero 2018 at 5:23 AM

THE DEMONS (1972)  Nucleus Films Blu-ray 

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Jess Franco’s wild rock opera of a Nunsploitation epic has finally been given a definitive HD release

from the UK company,  NUCLEUS FILMS.

THE DEMONS was Jess Franco’s answer to Ken Russell’s controversial 1971 Nunsploitation/Witchburning epic THE DEVILS, which specifically inspired producer Robert de Nesle (PLAISR A TROIS) to ask Franco for a film of the same style, content and genre. Franco delivered by essentially remaking his own earlier version of the same story, THE BLOODY JUDGE (1969), with Christopher Lee in the role of the historical Inquisitor Lord Chief Judge George Jeffry’s (1648-1701), which was produced by Harry Alan Towers. There was also the Micheal Reeves-Vincent Price classic, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, which covered the same ground but in a much different style. The success of the 1970 MARK OF THE DEVIL insured that there was money to be had in presenting detailed tortures scenes of female witches. Franco denies he was interested in detailing torture or Sadomasochism in the 17m Featurette included here, Jess’ Demons, and calls the film “bad” before detailing how he carefully planned the costuming, staging and background of the film.

The narrative follows two sisters, novice nuns Margaret (Britt Nichols) and Kathleen (Anne Libert), daughters of an executed witch who condemns Jeffreys and his corrupt consort Lady De Winter (Karin Field) in the opening scene (cf Mario Bava’s MASK OF SATAN). They are arrested and tortured when Lady De Winter discovers their parentage and fears that they will carry out their mother’s dying curse. Franco adds a scene where a demon (Satan?) appears in Margaret’s convent room and rapes her. Or is it just her nightmare/fantasy?  Satan exists in the minds of the accusers as well as the condemned and the point of the film is that fear creates witches and people like Judge Jeffreys. This, of course, was also the theme of THE DEVILS and WITCHFINDER GENERAL, both of which were huge influences on Franco’s film, which is more continental and idiosyncratic in tone. For instance, the early 1970s  prog/acid rock score of Jean-Bernard Raituex, added by sound editor Gerard Kikoine, is an inspired choice here, making the 17th Century mindset come alive in a late 20th Century context.

The performances of Karin Field and John Foster (Cihangir Gaffari, the Iranian-French producer-actor) as the tormentors are spot-on while Anne Libert and Britt Nichols effectively embody the desperate sensuality of the tormented sisters.  Franco’s ever-active telezoom, controlled this time by Raul Artigot (director of the modern day witchcraft thriller THE WITCHES MOUNTAIN) ruthlessly examines the Portuguese architecture and landscapes, delivering striking and consistently engaging images. The religious paintings of the period, the torture chambers, the candlelit rooms are all impressively detailed. The scenes of torture are relatively brief compared to THE DEVILS or MARK OF THE DEVIL, and nowhere near as bloody. What Franco does concentrate on is eroticism, including the 3 minute plus self-pleasuring of Mother Superior (Doris Thomas) and the Satanic violation of Margaret. Witchcraft, sex and Inquistion are all part of the cycle of repression here, which Franco makes explicit in the last ambiguous images.

The new Nucleus Films release finally delivers a  HD transfer of the longest, most complete 118m version along with the 88m English language “export” version (also in HD), which was the way I first saw the film, via UNICORN VIDEO. Much detailed restoration work has been done on the framing, images, soundtrack to correct all issues in previous releases. This simply looks and sounds great. It also restores an 8 second dissolve which shows the macabre dissolving of Lady De Winter’s face into a skull after she has made forbidden love to Margaret, who is by that time the real thing, a willing daughter of Satan with supernatural powers. This image, seen in the above screenshot at the top of the review, was not in the previous Redemption Blu-ray presentation, but was in the 2004 XRATED KULT multi-disc set, which had its own problems otherwise. This Blu-ray is superior in every way to those previous editions, including the unfortunate 2003 “Director’s Cut” in which Franco removed some of the rock style music and replaced it with rather inappropriate Daniel White cues from his previous unrelated films. That cut was also edited down, by Franco himself, to 101 minutes.

On top of all this the Nucleus release includes EXORCISING DEMONS, a new featurette with Stephen Thrower, who presents his own thoughts on the films, along with the American, French and German trailers, and German opening credits. One of the extras I really appreciate are the inclusion of some fascinating out-takes and trims (silent) of various scenes along with the (Clean) opening credits, which gives you the opportunity to enjoy Franco’s wild camera work without the text credits to distract attention. There’s also an extensive image gallery.

French with English subtitles; English Dub Versions; Color; 1972 1080p HD; 24fps, LPMC

Highly recommended.

(C) 2018 Robert Monell

Written by Robert Monell

9 febrero 2018 at 11:08 PM

Recently received 

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Review coming soon!

Written by Robert Monell

29 enero 2018 at 9:01 PM

Update on new UK RB Jess Franco Blu-ray releases from Stephen Thower

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An update by Stephen Thrower on the new Nucleus UK releases of two Jess Franco horror classics. I’ll be reviewing these on my Franco blog in the future. These look to be significant upgrades in terms of content, video, audio and bonus features, including alternate editions of each film making them two for oners.

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Stephen Thrower added 3 new photos.

THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE DEMONS: two peak period Jess Franco movies that no serious fan should be without, now available from Nucleus Films (http://nucleusfilms.com/) and featuring on camera interviews with yours truly! I’d also say that these two films are well worth buying if you’re curious about Franco but uncertain about where to start. Some will counsel caution and recommend the slightly more sober and conventional 1960s titles, but to hell with all that. Why not throw caution to the wind and grab these two – they’ll give you a fantastic insight into his freewheeling style in the 1970s.

Nucleus majordomo Marc Morris has done a huge amount of extraordinary work restoring THE DEMONS in particular. Here’s a list of some of the work he’s done which viewers and reviewers may not otherwise be aware of:

1. Incorrect aspect ratios on numerous shots fixed throughout.
2. White line frames removed throughout.
3. The soundtrack was out of synch throughout (sometimes by as much as 6 seconds). Marc has fixed this.
4. The soundtrack was missing audio, and in these scenes had been badly looped. Marc has located audio from alternate sources and replaced the annoying looped audio with correct audio where possible.
5. There was some German dialogue on the French soundtrack, which Marc has replaced with the correct French dialogue.
7. There were numerous instances of actors speaking with no dialogue heard on the soundtrack – now fixed.
8. There were numerous instances of dialogue spoken, with the actors’ mouths not moving – now fixed.
9. The dissolve from face freeze frame to skull was completely missing – Marc has added this back.
10. He has also created from scratch an English language master, which is believed to match the original English language export version.
11. German Trailer – On the Kino Blu-ray, this was incorrectly dubbed with random French audio from the movie. This has been replaced with the original German soundtrack.
12. Marc has also corrected the frame rates from 23.976 fps to 24 fps, so if you have exquisitely perfect musical pitch the soundtrack will now match your LP record of Jean-Michel Lorgère’s Trafic Pop!

And finally, look out for the startling fx shot included in the French trailer for Erotic Rites of Frankenstein which as far as I can recall doesn’t appear in any currently available version of the film. Face-ripping!

Written by Robert Monell

18 enero 2018 at 12:16 AM

Coming on Blu-ray 2/6/18

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One of Jess Franco’s very best sci-fi/horror thrillers is very much in the mode of his early  black and white Dr. Orloff films. This time around a student of Dr. Orloff invents the Z ray, capable of altering the psyche of criminals. But it must be tested on human subjects. His insane daughter plots revenge when the mad scientist succumbs to scientific ridicule. Meet the sensuous deadly Miss Muerte (Estella Blain) a sexy nightclub performer who acts out perverse, slashing fantasies of bloody vengeance on unsuspecting male victims. First time on Blu-ray,  from a new master! 738329228620

Written by Robert Monell

16 enero 2018 at 2:12 AM

LAS CHICAS DEL TANGA (1983)

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Robert Monell & Alex Mendíbil Blog Alliance

Updated version by Robert Monell; translation by Nzoog (c) 2017

LAS CHICAS DEL TANGA (1983)*

Below: Main title of an anthropological Beach Party film, Jess Franco style.

»* Registration date on final credit. Probably released later.

This is a wonderfully droll, multi-story mosaic, done in the signature style of Jess Franco at his most satirical and ironic. The subject is the tourist city of Benidorm, Spain. A group of tourists arrive and interact with some of the locals in amusing, touching and curious ways. One of Jess Franco’s love-hate letters to the city which he obviously finds crass and tastelessly designed. The city is an abstraction, cubism gone Las Vegas, a Le Corbusier nightmare. At least as photographed by Jess Franco.

It also illustrates how he uses the camera, music, montage and his stock company for expressing his personal, very mixed, feelings about Spanish culture at a specific place and time. He finds Benidorm, its residents and visitors, exuberant, rude and funny. Antonio Mayans, also the production manager, along with his wife and children, play key roles in the film. In a way, this film reminds me of Robert Altman’s Country & Western music epic, NASHVILLE (1975), only done on a no-budget scale and shot in a few days. The overall multi-story structure, the equal focus on many characters instead of one or two, the cynical tone, the aesthetics are very similar. A group portrait of numerous individuals intersecting in a certain place at a certain time, with bittersweet results. Below is a translation by Nzoog from the opening narration, followed by a plot summary:

The summer season’s nearing its end and the sun now rises much later. The city awakens, slowly and sleepily. The police cars are doing their last round while the cleaning women are hurrying up, as the first customers, those foreigners who rise along with the cocks, will be arriving very soon. A few madmen practice jogging, while some visitors, presumably from the furthermost northern countries, have the courage to bathe at dawn. The dawn is a misty one; we’re Benidorm. And it will not take long for the sun to assert itself in its daily struggle against the mist. The first children can be seen in the streets; the departure of a circus troupe has been announced; and the first Benidorm girl starts her frantic day’s work. Also, the first tourist, camera in hand, starts taking pictures of the city’s most unusual corners. Her name’s Ana and she’s a typical product of Benidorm: one of many girls who came here and decided to stay. His name’s Philippe and he seems particularly interested in the city’s chaotic architecture. Also, hovering around the town’s leading hotels, the first local playboys have begun their quest for female tourists.”
[Plot Summary]
In the tourist town of Benidorm, at the end of the summer season, several parallel stories unfold. Among the city’s visitors is Lola Clavijo, a Spanish Song performer who, in keeping with her professional image, insists on speaking with an Andalusian accent although she is from Murcia. During her stay, she becomes smitten by the charms of Curro, a penniless hustler who claims to be a marquis’s son. Curro has recently been ditched by his gold-digging girlfriend Ana, due to his lack of money. While skating around town in search of wealthy tourists who may take her abroad, Ana has several chance encounters with Philippe, a Dutch architect who is writing his doctoral thesis on the buildings in Benidorm. Ana decides to settle for Philippe in the belief that she will take her to Holland, although he insists that he is far from wealthy and no good for gold-digging purposes. Soon, their diversity in tastes draws the two apart and Ana returns to Curro, who has made away with the money and other property Lola Clavijo kept in her hotel room. The latter is horrified when she learns about the theft, but is relieved when it turns out that Marga, her sullen secretary, had kept the singer’s jewels in hiding. Marga finally imposes herself on Lola, telling her that she is to have no other lover than her secretary. Lola reluctantly accepts. Meanwhile, Tony, a local, manages to pick up a Frenchwoman by the name of Muriel. Although they are initially practically unable to communicate with each other due to the lack of a common language, a love affair blossoms between them. Muriel eventually learns more Spanish although she is somewhat put off by the old-fashioned Tony’s jealousy. Later, Tony learns that Muriel is dying but the two are willing to pursue their affair to the very end. Another strand concerns Paco, a bouncer and muscleman who is preparing for a sports competition. The body-builder rescues Charo, a streetwalker he has become infatuated with, from being assaulted by two thugs. Paco offers Charo, who has just been ejected from her flat, a room in his apartment. After some time, he expresses his desire to have sex with her; when Charo suddenly reveals herself as a transvestite, Paco brutally throws her out. Finally, however, he repents and resumes his relationship with Charo, offering to finance the latter’s sex-change operation if he wins the competition. Another of the town’s visitors is Juana, who arrives with her two small daughters, both of whom are given to asking for money in the streets so that they can spend it on video arcade games. Juana, long abandoned by her husband, discovers that he has found success as the drag singer Ángel Antequera. The artiste finally finds himself face to face with his family and returns to them.
[Thanks to Nzoog for the translation and plot summary]
Hopefully this very personal essay on a topic unknown to those who don’t know Spain or Jess Franco, but is universal in its human insight, will get a HD release it deserves.  This episodic celebration of love and life in the sunny Costa Del Sol is lighthearted but serious in its engagement with spatial-temporal meditations on the city and the various characters who inhabit it. Analia Ivars as thedelightful roller-skating girl and frequent 1980s DoP Juan Soler Cozar are two of the focal points.

The cinematographer (Juan Soler Cozar) and the production manager (Antonio Mayans) share a moment at a sidewalk cafe below the cement beehive architecture of Benidorm. The shady capital of Costa Del Sol tourism is a favorite site  for cultural/aesthetic ridicule from Jess Franco. Hopefully I’ll be able to study this further on DVD or in HD at some point in the future. I’ve just seen it online a few times at this point and an upgraded, English subtitled digital release would be very nice. The planned release with CAMINO SOLITARIO didn’t happen, as CAMINO … is being prepared with a different co-feature [Franco’s JUEGO SUCIO EN CASABLANCA-1984).

Tanga torre

Las chicas del tanga

Earlier version: Written by Robert Monell Editar

19 junio 2015 at 11:08 PM

LAS CHICAS DEL TANGA (1983)

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This is a wonderfully droll, multi-story mosaic, done in the signature style of Jess Franco at his most satiric and ironic. The subject is the tourist city of Benidorm, Spain. A group of tourists arrive and interact with some of the locals in amusing, touching and curious ways. One of Jess Franco’s love-hate letters to the city which he obviously finds crass and tastelessly designed. The city is cubism gone Las Vegas, a Le Corbusier nightmare. At least as photographed by Jess Franco.

It also illustrates how he uses his camera, music, montage and stock company for expressing his personal feelings about Spanish culture. Very mixed feelings. He finds it exuberant, rude and funny. Antonio Mayans narrates and was also the production manager, his wife and children play key roles in the film. In a way, this film reminds me of Robert Altman’s Country & Western music epic, NASHVILLE (1975), only done on a no-budget scale and shot in a few days. The overall multi-story structure, the equal focus on many characters instead of one or two, the cynical tone, the aesthetics are very similar. A group portrait of numerous individuals intersecting in a certain place at a certain time, with bittersweet results.

Below is a translation by Nzoog from the opening narration:

The summer season’s nearing its end and the sun now rises much later. The city awakens, slowly and sleepily. The police cars are doing their last round while the cleaning women are hurrying up, as the first customers, those foreigners who rise along with the cocks, will be arriving very soon. A few madmen practice jogging, while some visitors, presumably from the furthermost northern countries, have the courage to bathe at dawn. The dawn is a misty one; we’re Benidorm. And it will not take long for the sun to assert itself in its daily struggle against the mist. The first children can be seen in the streets; the departure of a circus troupe has been announced; and the first Benidorm girl starts her frantic day’s work. Also, the first tourist, camera in hand, starts taking pictures of the city’s most unusual corners. Her name’s Ana and she’s a typical product of Benidorm: one of many girls who came here and decided to stay. His name’s Philippe and he seems particularly interested in the city’s chaotic architecture. Also, hovering around the town’s leading hotels, the first local playboys have begun their quest for female tourists.” [Thanks to Nzoog]
Hopefully this very personal essay on a topic unknown to those who don’t know Spain or Jess Franco, but somehow universal in its insight, really needs an HD release.

Below: The cinematographer (Juan Soler Cozar) and the production manager (Antonio Mayans) share a moment at a sidewalk cafe below the bizarre architecture of Benidorm. The shady capital of Costa Del Sol tourism is a favorite site  for cultural/aesthetic ridicule from Jess Franco.

By Robert Monell and Nzoog (C) 2017

Written by Robert Monell

30 diciembre 2017 at 5:29 PM

Jess Franco’s GOLDEN FILMS INTERNACIONAL, S.A.: HISTORIA SEXUAL DE O.

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Filmed in 1981, but released in 1983, this erotic drama gradually spirals into S&M territory and digs deeply into that dark landscape. It’s also one of the director’s most visually ravishing films. The beauty of the Costa Del Sol’s vegetation, coastal formations and dappled light emanating

from a tangerine Sun floating in a velvet sky. Actually, this erotic drama is another version of Sade’s PHILOSOPHY IN THE BOUDOIR (1795), which Franco had filmed with more or less success a number of times before (cf EUGENIE THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION-1970).

Below: Odile “O” reads from Norman Mailer’s novel THE NAKED AND THE DEAD.

 

All of the gorgeously framed and lit images have an almost supernatural glow to them, a radiance which often occurs in Franco’s Golden Films Internacional productions of the early to mid 1980s. Franco told me when I interviewed him that these films were “very poor” by which he meant low budget but that he had total creative freedom and the final cut while editing. So they are 100 percent pure Jess Franco, with no artistic or commercial compromises or producer interference.  Also at that time Spanish censorship had ceased pre-editing/rejecting submitted script proposals as they did with Franco’s screenplays of the 1960s and 70s period. THE SEXUAL STORY OF O was a clasificada “S” release, which indicated it was an Adult film.

Historia Sexual de O
1981 86 MINUTES European Trash Cinema and Video Search of Miami (U.S. import); Severn Films DVD. DIRECTED BY JESS FRANCO WITH: ALICIA PRINCIPE (ODILE), CARMEN CARRION, DANIEL KATZ, MAMIE KAPLAN, MAURO RIVERA

Odile, a beautiful but naive young woman vacationing in Spain, attracts the attentions of a voyeuristic couple who live across from her hotel. The couple spy on her as she lounges around naked, and when they invite her over for a session of grou sex, Odile gives in immediately.

After spending days enjoying this menage a trois, the couple take Odile to the villa of the wealthy Wanda Von Karlstein, where the sex continues. Wanda’s perverted husband (Daniel [MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE] Katz) drugs Odile’s drink and rapes her. When she awakens, Odile is chained to a bed, and her captors have sado-erotic torture and murder in mind. One of her abductors has a sudden attack of remorse before finding her mutilated body, murders the Von Karlsteins with a shotgun, and walks into the ocean carrying Odile’s dead body.  This final image echos the ending of Franco’s 1973 LA COMTESSE PERVERSE, which also featured a naive female character who is lured by a more experienced couple into the clutches of an older, depraved couple, who in that case were cannibals. Jacques Tourneur’s I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, the 1943 Val Lewton produced horror classic also had an ending where a male protagonist walked into the ocean carrying the murdered body of a beautiful young woman. It’s very likely Jess Franco was consciously or unconsciously referencing that RKO B movie in both films.

HISTORIA SEXUAL DE O is quite a bit more engaging than most of Franco’s sometimes tedious sex-a-thons of this period. The flowery, tropical locations and gorgeous cinematography offers a counterpoint to the downbeat melodrama. A melancholy female vocal, composed by Daniel White and first heard in Eurocine’s 1973 Paul Naschy medical horror CRIMSON, sets a sombre tone throughout,  which Franco maintains until the very last shot of the blazing sun beating down on the aftermath of violence and death. There are many effective visual and aural touches throughout, which amplify the theme of corrupted innocence. For instance, the victim is first seen wandering in an idyllic garden reading excepts from Norman Mailer’s “The Naked and the Dead,” literally her own fate.  As she reads we hear the text narrated by the melodious voice of frequent Jess Franco actor/dubber Antonio Mayans, although he does not play a physical role in the film. It is also significant that Odile’s abductors use Beethoven’s famous chorus from his Ninth Symphony to seduce her attention, underscoring the Henry James theme of Old World decadence preying on Odile’s New World American innocence/gullibility.

As Odile, Alicia Principe (a.k.a. Alicia Pedreira) offers sensuality and modernity with a tragic ignorance of the brutal ways of the world. Exotic looking Carmen Carrion and the gaunt, sinister Daniel Katz are well-cast as the wealthy tormentors. Katz’s impotent freak-out while raping Odile is especially blood-curdling.

There is also a subtle sociological subtext similiar to the situation in Franco’s 1973 THE PERVERSE COUNTESS, wherein owning class villains use a financially struggling middle-class couple to provide victims for their bloodlust. In both films, this class manipulation creates a scene in which a henchman turns on his vicious employers. The distance between classes is constantly exposed and illustrated in these films.

The long, excruciating sequence detailing Odile’s torture and slow, painful death are filmed through filters which create intoxicating red, blue and emerald halations which harshly contrast with the ugly actions, as chains, whips, and studded medieval-style weapons are used to strip away her flesh. Franco encourages us to become emotionally engaged with the victim while using this aesthetic distancing effect which ratchets the level of intensity even higher. But at the same time it’s as if he doesn’t want us to get too caught up in something which is only a story staged in a film. What matters most is the beauty of the light, the colors, the floral arrangements, the early journeys of the fishermen in their small boats who are totally obvious to the cruel fiction which is unfolding in the the villa on the shore.

This wouldn’t be the final time that Franco filmed a variation of this Sade story.

 

(C) Robert Monell 2017

Written by Robert Monell

29 noviembre 2017 at 5:15 AM