ABOVE: Ramon Ardid and Monica Swinn prepare Lina Romay for torture under the careful direction of Jess Franco,.
aka La Coccolona (Italian release), Heisse Beruhrungen (German version). LADY PORNO (Spanish version) Directed by Tawer Nero (Julio Perez Tabernero) for Titanic Films. This is a sexy spy film once directed by Jess Franco in just a few days at Le Grande Motte, a hotel in Southern France. A typical Franco strategy. Around the same time, he shot two other films there using the same hotel rooms, casts and crews (DE SADE’S JULIETTE, SHINING SEX).
The version under consideration here has the onscreen title LADY PORNO [Porno Dama], a Spanish variant of Franco’s original MIDNIGHT PARTY. Julio Perez Tabernero, an actor turned producer-director (he can be seen in Franco’s own SADISTEROTICA/Two Undercover Angels), acquired it for his Titanic Films company (Julio, your company needs a new handle!) and reconstructed it as an “American-Belgian” co-production. It’s very amusingly redubbed and rescored with lewd comments, bawdy music and direct-to-the-viewer takes.
Sylvia is a very hot stripper who is introduced dancing in a glittering silver costume. Off stage she carries on an affair with a cheap detective, Al Pereira (Olivier Mathot) behind the back of her longtime squeeze Red Nicholas, a Communist musician frenetically embodied by French film historian and Jess Franco friend, Alain Petit . This is not really another of Franco’s Al Pereira episodes, as he is mainly a player in Sylvia’s story. This is kind of like a live action cartoon (cf LUCKY, THE INSCRUTABLE) with Lina Romay giving it all she has as the resourceful Sylvia. This might actually be my personal favorite of her performances, she mercilessly teases the viewer directly as the interactive approach allows her to pose, stick her tongue out, and make alluring remarks to the audience before turning back to the scene and players at hand, resuming in the traditional fourth wall mode. It’s a lot of good natured fun. Except that the subject is torture. Torture that doesn’t draw blood but really hurts!
Sylvia is taken by Radeck/Agent 008 (Jess Franco himself), a spymaster and professional torture mogul who takes his business very seriously indeed. Look at the way he abuses poor Sylvia: after being stripped and sexually abused by henchmen Monica Swinn and Ramon, she’s poked, punched and cigarette burned by the ingrates under the very close supervision of Radeck. They take her to the “torture clinic” which, this being a Jess Franco shoot, merely means another hotel room (or the same hotel room slightly redressed and shot from a different angle). Choosing pliers they try pulling out her toenails, as Radeck is beginning to lose his patience. At this point one of my favorite moments in Franco’s monumental filmography occurs, and it only last a few seconds–Radeck simply puts a cigarette in his mouth and lights it. That’s it! The exact way which actor Jess Franco suddenly jabs the cigarette into his mouth and fires it up has to be experienced first hand. It’s a grand bit a business, something small made into something very special by a seasoned professional. It will bring a smile to the face of all Franco enthusiasts.
Franco drops the Radeck pose at the end, as Sylvia and Al are escaping he faces the camera and admits to us that it was all an illusion, only a movie. It is Jess Franco talking to us now. We have been spectators. But what are we doing at this venue? Of course, that question is implied rather than asked. Alain Petit is very droll as the Marxist jazz singer. Billed as “Charlie Christian” (cf JUSTINE, the 1979-80 Joe D’Amato composite where he is likewise billed. His footage in that and MIDNIGHT PARTY is rolled over with scenes from SHINING SEX into a unique reedit) he performs his infamous “La Vie est une Merde”, also heard in a blues rendition during Franco’s 1982 EMMANUELLE EXPOSED and in Petit’s documentary THE MAKING OF TENDER FLESH (1997). The Spanish language version which was screened for this review (subtitled in English) is very much in keeping with the joker/trickster impulses which frequently bubble to the surface of Franco’s work. The finale, a shootout with the cops (a minimalist debacle) followed by shots of birds flying in the distance as our couple floats away on a pleasure craft, is post-ironic in the sense that it delivers on expectations which Franco obviously considers bogus while gleefully curving past the generic demands of representational, grade B sexploitation production methodology. In other words: don’t worry, be happy, it’s only a movie.
Tabernero seems to have simply reedited, cut down, dubbed/ rescored the director’s cut. Ther is also the 90m THE MIDNIGHT PARTY, in English, which may be the best way to ascertain the director’s intent since it includes the interactive opening in which Lina Romay frolics on a queen size bed while she lasciviously addresses the viewer. The longer version does stretch the very broad humor to its absolute limits. But at least it never crosses over into hardcore terrain.
The gangling Tabernero can be seeAn as a supporting plalyer in such 1960s Eurowesterns as FURY OF THE APACHES (1964), SEVEN GUNS FOR THE MACKENNAS(1965) and in Eurospy titles such as RIFIFI IN AMSTERDAM (1966) as well as in his own SEXY CAT (1972), his best film as a director , a highly entertaining Spanish giallo done in the style of cine-comic strip complete with a black clad villain who kills with long, razor ship fingernails a la Franco’s MISS MUERTE (1965). Private Investigator Al Pereira would appear in more Jess Franco directed features, including his final completed film, AL PEREIRA VS. THE ALLIGATOR LADIES, his ultimate interactive experiment, with the director himself placed at the center of the action.
REVIEWED BY ROBERT MONELL (C) renewed 2016
Shifting roles in the winds of war………..
Jess Franco’s second film in his long running Dr. Orloff series is finally debuting on Blu-ray. Redemption Films has announced they will be releasing this presentation in January 2017. It will include a commentary track by Tim Lucas.
GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (aka THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF, 1961), the first in the series, has already been released by Redemption in HD. It should also be noted that Dorado Films is releasing the third Jess Franco Dr. Orloff film, THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF (1973), in a number of different editions in the next few weeks. No plans yet have surfaced for a HD edition of the fourth in the series, THE SINSTER DR. ORLOFF (1982), which features Howard Vernon as an aged Dr. Orloff and Antonio Mayans as his son, an insane biologist who continues his father’s dubious experiments. The latter is a pretty delirious exercise in Spanish Horror y Sexo and one hopes it will get a much needed HD upgrade. I have seen an English subtitled copy and will discuss that in a future blog.
I have seen three versions of EL SECRETO DEL DR. ORLOFF, including the Spanish version which features footage not in any other version. The French version LES MAITRESSES DUDOCTEUR JEKYLL, has alternate footage Franco shot as the request of Eurocine, the French co-producer. DR. ORLOFF’S MONSTER is the US release version, which has an alternate opening credit sequence with Americanized names of the cast and crew.
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
Credited to “Lulu La Verne” UNA RAJITA PARA DOS (rough translation: A PUSSY FOR TWO) is Jess Franco’s most disgusting film. Nevertheless, it is not an uninteresting dip into the sordid waters of scatological hardcore.
Spy (Emilio Linder) in UNA RAJITA PARA DOS (Lulu La Verne, 1982)