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

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Review: REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES

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REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (Jess Franco & Antonio Mayans, 2013): Review of Jess Franco’s final filmImage may contain: one or more people, sunglasses, beard and text

Jess Franco in REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES………

 

Jess Franco plays himself in this sly comedy in which he is engaged in directing another erotic film while the subject of his previous film, private detective Al Pereira, attempts to relate to the eccentric film making process of Jess Franco. Pereira also has difficult relationships with his son and women in general, illustrated in various amusing vignettes. He travels to Germany where he becomes accidentally involved in a sort of international espionage affair due to his presence at a Communist gathering. Lead actor-co-director Antonio Mayans introduces the film as an “Audio-visualization… based on a surreal story”, which is an appropriate enough synopsis.

Back in Spain director Franco continues to film the alligator ladies, Carmen Montes, Irene Verdu and Paula Davis, in extended erotic interludes. Much of the Franco-directed footage is shot through mirrors showing both the erotic action and Franco directing it. These self reflexive images are a carry-over from Franco’s previous Al Pereira adventure, AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES and his 1980 surrealist science fiction parody, EL SEXO ESTA LOCO. The scenes involving Pereria and his family, friends and associates, along with the scenes filmed in Germany were directed by longtime Franco actor-associate Antonio Mayans after Franco’s death in April, 2013. Pereira is gamely played by Mayans as a long-suffering victim of everyone’s ridicule, especially the director and the alligator ladies, who have the last word. The irreverent tone and sharp edged dialogue sometimes evoke the droll repartee of the W.S. Van Dyke’s 1934 mystery-comedy THE THIN MAN. It should be noted that classic film was made on a B budget, on a rushed schedule by Woody “One Shot” Van Dyke.

This is the last in a long running series of Jess Franco directed films about troubled investigator Al Pereira, the first being ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS/CARTAS BOCA ARRIBA (1966), in which Pereira was played by American singer-actor Eddie Constantine. A shorter, incomplete version of REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES, directed by Franco himself, is more focused on the director shooting erotic scenes with Montes and co. Franco’s presence is again central, the film opens with him facing the camera, delivering a comic-esoteric monologue. His image moves even further into the mirror, and now he’s on the other side of the mirror.

Other recommended Franco Al Pereira titles include LES EBRANLEES (1972), with Howard Vernon in the role, DOWNTOWN (1975), which features Franco himself as the detective, BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO (1982) and CAMINO SOLITARIO (1983), in which Mayans finally took over the role.

REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES will be of interest to Jess Franco enthusiasts, cult film historians and collectors as the ultimate illustration of Jess Franco’s obsession with the process of personal creation while continuing to throw himself into his work right up until his passing.

Robert Monell, 2017

Written by Robert Monell

12 enero 2017 at 8:41 PM

LES GLOUTONNES /THE GREEDY/THE EROTIC EXPLOITS OF MACISTE IN ATLANTIS (1973)

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Thanks to Mario Giguere..

MACISTE ET LES GLOUTONNES/LES GLOUTONNES /THE GREEDY/LES EXPLOITS EROTIQUES DE MACISTE DANS L’ATLANTIDE (1973)

 Les gloutonnes [Maciste et

Here’s an update of my review of LES GLOUTONNES, Jess Franco’s Z budget peplum from 1973. Actually, this and YUKA/THE LUSTFUL AMAZONS were shot  back-to-back or since it’s Jess Franco, simultaneously, with same cast, on the same locations. They’re odd wonderments , unpretentious,  no-budget fun. Originally published by the wonderful Club Des Monstres in 2008.

Directed under his French beard, Clifford Brown, this is a fascinating mess due to the fact that Robert de Nesle and co. took a supposedly “serious” movie and made it into a delirious collage of peplum, adventure, comedy, erotic and fantasy patterns. It’s Wal Davis as the legendary Maciste (first seen in the 1913 Italian epic, CABIRIA) vs. Robert Woods (LA COMTESSE PERVERSE) as the explorer Caronte, who, turned by the evil sorceress Parka (Kali Hansa), attempts to overthrow and kill the Queen of Atlantis, played by Alice Arno. Maciste prevails with the help of “the gobblers”,  the lost women of Atlantis. Howard Vernon makes an appearance as Cagliostro (cf LA MALDICION DES FRANKENSTEIN), who, along with his puckish assistant (Richard De Conninick), views the erotic adventures via a magical globe. A very interesting, eclectic score, credited to Robert Viger [?], is a bonus. The shot-on-Madeira locations are rather intoxicating, especially explored by the director’s trademark telezoom lens in the manner of the much more somber LA COMTESSE NOIRE, also 1973.

There’s even a hardcore sex scene thrown in the mix, with a nude man descending  a spiral staircase to spray down Ms. Arno and another actress with pent up white fluid which looks like mayonnaise. Mark Forest was originally supposed to play Maciste, according to Franco, but another actor was mistakenly engaged. Davis (rn Wadlemar Wohlfahrt) ending up as a goofy looking Maciste.
The opening sequence of Robert Woods exploring  a misty valley and the first view of the stormy coast of “Atlantis” are outstanding images, but unless you are a Franco completest you may hate this film. The emergence of a platoon of white sheeted ghouls looks lik outtakes from the alternate Spanish version of  EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN while some additional footge of Alice Arno looks like alternate footage from one of the many versions of THE HOT NIGHTS OF LINDA. Franco also made YUKA (also 1973 with Davis / Wohlfahrt Waldemar and Robert Woods playing the leads), another erotic “peplum” set in the Middle Ages. Both would make a nice double bill on a High Def restoration.   Robert Monell

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(C) Robert Monell 2010-2017

Written by Robert Monell

3 enero 2017 at 11:16 PM

Vintage Jess Franco Videobox Artwork from around the world….

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lovesofirina-privatescreenings1-vhscollector-com

It’s 2017 and no one collects/watches videotapes anymore. Right? Not quite. Video collecting and watching films on VHS has never totally disappeared and in recent years a number of groups dedicated to this have appeared online/on social media.

I have 4 operating VCR players/recorders and still own about 500 videotapes. Some are dupes, some are OOP prerecords. I have about 100 Jess Franco related videotapes. Many are boxed prerecords which I acquired through trading or purchased from defunct video stores over the years. Some have yet to appear on DVD/Bluray. nachts_wenn_dracula_erwacht Here are some vintage Jess Franco video boxes. A few of which are in my collection

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fumanchuodds   manhunter-jess-franco-vhs-front-back2

oasis-of-the-zombies-wizard-vhs-front21El conde dracula13230058_183261128740234_6214451199034115299_n

Frauen vhs

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Caged Women UK VHS

DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN (thanks to Detlev Straß )

LA NOCHE DE LOS SEXOS ABIERTOS

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La Maldicion de Frankenstein

De la colección de Nico González

De la colección de Gerardo F.

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Sadomania (Spectrum)

Mujeres acorraladas

Thanks to Michelle Alexander for the Australian Video covers below….succubusvideo

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thumbnail_99women thumbnail_love-camp-vhs-filmways-video

Written by Robert Monell

2 enero 2017 at 6:08 PM

Jess Franco’s Forgotten Films: Vol. 1

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This HD double bill, JESS FRANCO’S FORGOTTEN FILMS: Vol. 1 from Dorado Films, is another welcome addition to the growing list of Blu-ray releases of the the films of the prolific director. This set contains two of his first MANACOA FILMS productions, LOS OJOS DEL DOCTOR ORLOFF/THE SINISTER EYES OF DOCTOR ORLOFF (1973) and UN SILENCIO DE TUMBA (1972).img_3341968679648.jpeg

This is a review of The Ultimate Edition of this Dorado Films release, which contains 4k scans from 35mm elements of both features. Also included in the edition is THE MANACOA EXPERIENCE, a 14 page history of Films Manacoa P.C., the production company which Franco founded in late 1972. The Manacoa company lasted until the very end of his career, including his last two features, AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES and REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (2012 and 2015, respectively). One of my favorite Franco films LOS BLUES DE LAS CALLE POP (1983) was also spawned by Manacoa. The well researched booklet, written by Jess Franco experts Francesco Cesari and Roberto Curti, also analyses both completed films in some depth, including how they differ from their original screenplays.

UN SILENCIO DE TUMBA was the first completed Manacoa film production. Based on a novel by E. Jarber (Enrique Jarnes Bergua). He also authored comics, a format beloved by Jess Franco who even modeled the visual style of some of his films after them (NECRONOMICON, LUCKY, THE INSCTRUTABLE, LOS BLUES DE LAS CALLE POP, in particular). Santos Alcocer’s somewhat similar locked room murder mystery EL ENIGMA DEL ATAUD aka ORGIES OF ORLOFF (1967) is also based on a Jarber novel, and features Howard Vernon in a key role.

UN SILENCIO… is in fact more like another version of Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE….. a group of people, this time a movie star (Glenda Allen) and her friends, are targeted by a seeming madman who kidnaps her son and disposes of the adults one by one during a weekend retreat on an island. It registers as a psychological thriller, with the action being experienced through the consciousness of the vulnerable Valerie (Montserrat Prous), the sister of the movie star who is also the kidnapped child’s caregiver and guardian during his mother’s long absences.

Franco allows for a kind of stream of consciousness, interior narrative by conveying Valerie’s disturbed, conflicted thoughts though voice-over, through which we learn that she hates her famous sister for being socially and sexually promiscuous while neglecting her young son. She also despises the entourage of cinema people who surround her, especially the womanizing producer (Luis Induni) and his sleazy lawyer. Her thoughts and self isolation from this decadent bunch is cleverly illustrated by the director’s staging of scenes with Valerie placed out of stage center, on the literal sidelines as the group drinks, dances and parties the night away. She is also quieter and dresses more conservatively, focusing her presence on her sister’s son. When the son is kidnapped and a ransom note is found her deportment and demeanor rapidly and decidedly evolve as the hipsters run for cover.  Standing up to the increasingly alarming demands of the invisible kidnapper with a level head, she finally becomes a tightly wrapped current of integrity and, despite her slight frame, a  courageous warrior when the power to the villa is cut and she stands alone against the terror,* armed with a shotgun, swathed in a full metal bandolero of live ammunition, as she stalks the criminal from room to room.

Montserrat Prous would appear in several more significant roles in such Jess Franco films as SINNER: LE JOURNAL INTIME D’UNE NYMPHOMANE (1972), which revolved around her as a tragic prostitute whose suicide triggers a CITIZEN KANE style prismatic narrative. She is the heart and soul of UN SILENCIO… and one cannot imagine the film without her. The Argentinean actor Alberto Dalbes, familiar as Doctor Seward in such Franco monster fests as DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN and EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (both 1972), also has a quietly effective presence as the private detective who acts as the rock solid supporter of Valerie even as his actual identity and agenda surprisingly evolve in the twist ending.

A solid mystery film with a thumping score by “David Khunne” supported by an opening and closing samba composed by favorite Franco musician Fernando Garcia Morcillo.  It looks and sounds absolutely terrific here, with saturated colors, even in the dark scenes where architectural details of the villa, the furniture covers and costumes seem to almost glow in the dark, where in the  previous only available video everything was too dark to see. This marks the film’s digital as well as HD debut.

LOS OJOS DEL DOCTOR ORLOFF aka THE SINISTER EYES OF DOCTOR ORLOFF also features Montserrat Prous  (voiced, as in UN SILENCO DE TUMBA, by Spanish dubber Selica Torcal) in the lead role of the paralyzed-from-birth Melissa Comfort, who lives in a wheelchair and is attended by a butler and her two scheming sisters, who are quite unsympathetic to Melissa’s existential plight. Opening as a literal locked-room mystery, in the midst of Melissa dreaming of how her teenage self was able to walk one stormy night in the locked house, empty except for herself and vulnerable late father (played by Jess Franco himself) who has been stabbed by an unseen assailant and bleeds to death with his blood staining his daughter’s nightgown. Opening in media res, Franco immediately introduces a kind of psychoanalytic horror into the development of the story. The nightmares of compulsive murders under the authority of Orloff are further explained by him as he recounts to the terrified Melissa how he psychically guided her deformed growth through magnetic waves while she was in her mother’s womb. His utter confidence in this science fiction scenario is  consistently unsettling, especially given the malignant deportment and delivery of Berger, voiced here by Spanish actor-dubber Jose Guardiola (THE VAMPIRE’S NIGHT ORGY’s Mayor). Repeated close-ups of Orloff’s hypnotic eyes underline his baleful, inescapable gaze.

Melissa is introduced to the eminent neurologist Doctor Orloff, who also acts as the local coroner, as someone who uniquely qualified to “treat” her, by her untrustworthy sisters.  His treatment turns out to be another Franco mind control scenario in which the victim is used as a human robot to eliminate the rest of her family so Orloff and the sisters can control the family fortune. It doesn’t work out quite that way, of course, because Orloff has a master list and he plans to be the only one left in control of the property when All the names are crossed off. Melissa’s physical impairment mirrors the emotional vulnerability of the victim of a similar mental dominance in Franco’s 1970 NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT, a more straightforward crime film and the mother of all the following versions/remakes. These characters and this story were further elaborated in the director’s much later, more downbeat SOLA ANTE EL TERROR (1983), in which Lina Romay took on the role of Melissa, and most successfully in the visually entrancing MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE, featuring Romay as a nightclub psychic under the menacing control of her criminal manager (Daniel Katz).

There are numerous mirror shots in LOS OJOS… as well as imprisoning chambers filled with stifling furniture, strange clocks and details filmed from stifling camera angles which make the villa seem like a ready made prison. Doctor Orloff’s office is more like a cement bunker used by the typical mad scientist in countless B horrors. More familiar from other Euro genres are the reassuring presences of Spaghetti Western icon Robert Woods (SEVEN GUNS FOR THE MACGREGORS-1965; MY NAME IS PECOS-1972; SAVAGE GUNS-1971), as Melissa’s hippie-musician savior; Edmund Purdom (PIECES) as a typically ineffectual Franconian police inspector and Austrian actor Berger, who had a lot of practice playing stone killers in such Eurowesterns as FASTHAND IN STILL MY NAME (1973).  The use of a complex flashback structure, an attempt at some subliminal imagery and another whistling, industrial-experimental percussion-organ score composed by the director, fill in the outlines of this inheritance thriller which also recalls some of the 1960s German produced Edgar Wallace pictures, including Franco’s own DER TODESRACHER VON SOHO (1971).

This is the HD debut of LOS OJOS DEL DOCTOR ORLOFF, which has had a Spanish VHS and a  2013 Spanish language DVD release, as well as a 2010 US DVD release, with English subtitles, from INTERVISION. This 4k scan makes all previous releases immediately obsolete, with vivid color, outstanding sharpness of detail and overall image.

Both of these Manacoa productions only received very spotty local distribution in the mid to late 1970s at off-circuit Spanish venues, with Orloff only garnering 26,000 admissions during a brief theatrical run.

Included on the Ultimate Edition version is an informative 15 minute interview with Robert Woods**, the script of the original ending of THE SILENCE OF THE TOMB and Dorado trailers. A highly recommended collector’s item for Jess Franco enthusiasts and those wishing to enter the director’s closed, parallel universe. Both features include newly created English language subtitles.

*a play on Franco’s 1983 locked room thriller SOLA ANTE EL TERROR

** Robert Woods told me in a separate interview which I conducted with him several years ago that he had quite a bit of good natured fun with William Berger at the expense of a somewhat exasperated Edmund Purdom during the shoot of LOS OJOS…in the summer of 1973. Woods would go onto appear as the male lead in several other key Franco titles that summer, including LA COMTESSE PERVERSE, PLAISIR A TROIS and AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO (all 1973). Woods also explained during our interview that the locations for the interiors of LOS OJOS…. were shot at a villa rented by Franco about 15 minutes outside of Barcelona, the same villa is also the main location of PLAISIR A TROIS.

Thanks to Nzoog and Robert Woods.

(C) Robert Monell

 

 

 

 

Written by Robert Monell

28 diciembre 2016 at 9:09 PM

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND DESIRES/MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE–Mondo Macabro Blu-ray

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A delirious exercise in horror y sexo, this pitch black Film Noir is one of Jess Franco’s most visually arresting entries from his early 1980s Spanish period. NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND DESIRES aka MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE is one of the series of films he made for producer Emilio Larraga’s GOLDEN FILMS INTERNACIONAL S.A., based in Barcelona. These productions were low budget films covering a variety of genres, including an outstanding follow up to GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (1961), EL SINIESTRO DR. ORLOFF, softcore romps like LAS ORGIAS INCONFESABLES DE EMMANUELLE, erotic crime-thrillers, BOTAS NEGRAS, LATIGO DE CUERO, and Sade adaptations, GEMIDOS DE PLACER (all 1982). There were also Poe adaptations EN BUSCA DEL DRAGON DORADO and even martial arts adventures LA SOMBRA DEL JUDOKA CONTRA EL DOCTOR WONG (both 1983). From Clasificasa S softcores to Kung Fu to children’s adventures, what locks all these films together, good, bad, or not completed, was that they are all 100 percent undiluted Jess Franco in terms of style, tone, music and content. They were not just simple jobs for hire, hack work done to pay the bills with little evidence of the director’s signature. They were films he wanted to make and he made them the way he wanted.

MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE is one of the high points of this series and is rich in atmosphere, a neo-noir suffused with exotic imagery, enhanced by an eerie, resonant soundscape. The plot may seem familiar to those who have seen Franco’s 1970 erotic thriller NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT. Irina, an emotionally vulnerable psychic (Lina Romay) murders a group of guests at a luxury hotel while under the mental control of a ruthless criminal. The villain of this piece is Fabian (Daniel Katz, very ably voiced by long running Franco actor-collaborator, Antonio Mayans), the gigolo manager of Irina who travels from hotel to hotel with her, performing mind reading acts in nightclubs.

The action of the film is set over several days in a coastal resort (it was filmed on Spain’s Costa Del Sol and in Las Palmas, Canary Islands) during which Irina is mentally programmed by Fabian to seduce and murder a number of the hotel’s guests, all of whom are owed money by Fabian for assisting him in a criminal operation. It sounds like a pulp fiction set-up but is transformed into a weird psychodrama by focusing on the dysfunctional emotional ties between the co-dependent Irina (one of Lina Romay’s most intense and unpredictable performances) and the manipulative Fabian, who has much to hide from her and the rest of the world.

Irina is also being treated by a psychiatrist, played in a reserved manner by Franco himself, who will play a pivotal role in the twisting narrative.  The plot is sketchy and interrupted by regular stalk, seduce and kill interludes as Irina, commanded by the disembodied voice (which sounds a lot like Jess Franco) of Fabian to isolate, seduce and eliminate his former partners. She uses an elaborate, curved blade with arcane imagery sculpted into the handle. The details of the setting are carefully studied by the director’s slowly tracking camera while the slow zoom shots into bright pools of  blood oranges, lush emeralds and canary  yellows immerse the viewer in the exotica by heightening the normal hues into sensuous eruptions of pure color. This is a gorgeous film.

There’s very little dialogue, the plot is illustrated by disorienting camera set-ups, frequent Dutch angles, third degree lighting of the tropical settings which creates a series of shimmering hallucinations, the environment as experienced by the mentally compelled Irina. Franco’s 1967 masterpiece NECRONOMICON/SUCCUBUS is also referenced in the character of Irina and the story of the Prince killed by Satan’s daughter, which is repeated here by Fabian. The viewer is given extended visits into Irina’s hermetically sealed consciousness, which is repeatedly invaded by Fabian’s commands.  Encounters with mirrors and Irina’s ability in teleportation give the overall sense of a sinister alternate dimension in which she is trapped.  At times the film recalls Hitchcock’s psychoanalytic thriller SPELLBOUND (1946), in which the imagery of surrealist painter Salvador Dali was used to unravel a murder mystery. Dali would also be directly referenced in Franco’s 1980 EUGENIE, HISTORIA DE UNA PERVERSION.

I had a chance to talk about this film with Jess Franco when I interviewed him in 2004, during the making of one of his digital films.* He remembered it as one of what he called his “black films”, by which he meant Film Noir, a genre which he loved perhaps more than any other. Especially the ones made in the  1940s by Robert Siodmak (THE KILLERS, PHANTOM LADY). He was surprised when I praised the film’s dense, toxic atmosphere and told me it was a very rushed and micro-budgeted film, made with little money but in complete freedom from producer interference. He noted that he was influenced by John Farrow’s 1948 similarly titled THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES, which featured Edward G. Robinson and Gail Russell in the lead roles. He also acknowledged the strong influence of  the crime fiction of Cornell Woolrich, on which the 1948 film was based.

Credited to Pablo Villa, the musical choices add another layer of fascination to the film. Irina’s sensual interludes are sometimes scored with Daniel J. White’s lovely melancholy main theme from Franco’s 1973 FEMALE VAMPIRE, while the murder sequences are scored with the jungle-voodoo cues heard in DEVIL HUNTER and MACUMBA SEXUAL (1980).  The feverish drumming and native chanting (again sounding voiced  by a synthesized Jess Franco) are very effective here. Bird calls, industrial sounds, electronica and the sounds of the nearby sea are always in the background, an almost subliminal presence lulling the viewing into a vaguely menacing audio environment. As in NECRONOMICON and  EXORCISM and many other Franco films it opens with a performance which is not what it seems to be, acts which slowly or suddenly reveal hidden agendas. Performance and the role of the audience/viewer is the key matrix in Jess Franco’s best and most personal films.

MONDO MACABRO has given this entrancing film a deliciously detailed 2.35:1, 1080p transfer from the 35mm negative with Dolby Digital PCD 24fps mono audio which really provides overwhelming soundscapes to this 94 minute fever dream. At times the film has an almost 3D quality with the vivid hues, heated up sets and layered soundscapes reaching out to pull the viewer into this unique, disturbing world.  Special features include newly created optional English subtitles (this is the film’s English friendly, as well as HD debut), a 30 minute interview about the film with Jess Franco author Steven Thrower, a vintage Eurotika! documentary on the director and a Mondo Macabro preview reel.

An overpowering visual and audio experience, this dreamlike thriller is in the style of classic Hitchcock and David Lynch. One of Jess Franco’s most delirious and sought after films finally makes its world Blu-ray debut from Mondo Macabro. Highly recommended

*Big thanks to Kris J. Nygaard-Gavin for making it possible for me to interview Jess Franco.

  • Thanks to Nzoog for additional information used in this review.

(C) 2016 Robert Monell

Written by Robert Monell

21 diciembre 2016 at 6:27 PM

THE MIDNIGHT PARTY (1975, Spanish version)

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Image result for The Midnight Party 1975 images

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

Written by Robert Monell

20 diciembre 2016 at 11:00 PM

LA CHUTE DES AIGLES (1989)

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Image may contain: 1 person, sitting

Shifting roles in the winds of war………..

LA CHUTE DES AIGLES aka LILLI, UNE CHANSON POUR BERLIN/FALL OF THE EAGLES/UNA CANCION PARA BERLIN (Spanish video title): Working titles: WAR SONG/WAR ZONE

France-Eurocine, Paris

It opens with documentary footage of Adolph Hitler emoting and reviewing marching Nazi troops, but if you are expecting a traditional, action oriented war film you are going to be disappointed by Jess Franco’s FALL OF THE EAGLES (1989). You may also be surprised, this a Jess Franco film, after all, that it contains absolutely no erotic scenes, no gore and not a hint of sleaze. It was a set-up for a hack to step in and deliver a typical Eurocine genre film, cheaply and quickly. But Jess Franco delivered something more than that. Despite the inclusion of a generous amount of stock footage from previous Eurocine war films (including EAST OF BERLIN-1978, the closing credits read “Pre-recorded footage by LES [Lesoeur?] Company”*) this maintains a sober focus on a group of Germans who live through, and are profoundly changed by, the tragedy of World War II.
The scenario, by veteran Eurocine founder Marius Lesoeur, writer-director Georges Freedland and Franco, covers the crucial years of 1939-1945. The main story opens with the birthday party of Lillian Strauss (Alexandra Erlich), the daughter of wealthy banker Walter Strauss (Christopher Lee), who is making a fortune selling war bonds. Lilli is a talented singer and a young woman who also supports Germany’s political/military aspirations. Her goal is to sing for wounded Wehrmacht soldiers in hospital. Lilli is in love with Peter Frohlich (Ramon Sheen), a young idealistic musician who does not share her enthusiasm for Hitler’s political and military plans. She is pursued by Nazi supporter Peter Froelich (Mark Hamill), who already wears a German uniform. Lilli and Peter also join the Army. Peter is sent to the North African theater, where he becomes cynical and refuses to answer Lilli’s letters. He is seriously wounded in battle and hospitalized while Lilli is sent to the Russian front where her train comes under attack. She survives, falls in love with a young Russian folk singer who is killed while trying to sabotage a Nazi meeting place. She makes friends with a secretly gay Nazi officer (Daniel Grimm), who is also killed. Lilli finally reaches the bedside of the mortally injured Peter and agrees to marry him and deliver a last kiss before he dies before her eyes. Finally reunited with first love Karl,  But her downward spiral is completed when he is shot down by American forces as they try to escape the carnage. Hitler is dead and Germany is defeated. The last scene takes place in a crowded pub as Lilli now sings tawdry songs for the Allied victors as her now destitute father, ruined by the economic collapse of Nazi Germany, looks on disapprovingly.
There’s a lot of plot here, most of it telegraphing the theme of the futility of war in the fashion of high melodrama. Given that the war scenes occur via either stock footage, reported by radio broadcasts or are talked about after the fact, it is left up to the actors to engage interest. With the exception of an pathetically unprepared Ramon Sheen, they do a pretty credible job, especially the aging but still towering Christopher Lee as the slowly deflating banker and Alexandra Erlich who performs her musical numbers and love scenes with equal verve. Her cabaret scenes are accompanied by frequent Franco composer Daniel J. White, who plays piano in front of a Nazi flag toward the beginning and in front of a large American flag in the final scene. The dialogue, adapted by Franco and veteran Eurocine scribe Georges Freedland, is sincere in a 1980s television miniseries mode, “People hate us, They should realize it’s for their own good. We’re bringing them a new order for a better world.” The final shot of Lilli’s emotionally ravaged, hardened, coarsened face telegraphs the theme more effectively.
There are little “Jess Franco” touches throughout, such as the elegant music box topped with waltzing ballerinas which is used as a transitional device and the “last kiss” between Erlich and Hamill. The most interesting character, the gay Nazi officer, delivers a line which is pure Jess Franco, “Nobody respects a nice guy,” before expiring. This does not look or play like any other Jess Franco film, it’s played straight and serious from beginning to end. It probably won’t please fans looking for scenes of the director’s trademark “horror y sexo” nor will it satisfy war movie enthusiasts. But given the material and conditions it’s obviously that Franco took it seriously and did the best job he could. It’s not as unwatchable as most Eurocine World War II exploitation (HELLTRAIN, ELSA FRAULEIN DEVIL SS), has a number of effective dramatic scenes and delivers its admittedly unoriginal message that “No one wins wars, everyone loses” in a fairly resonant manner. The use of music, a wedding march played like a dirge by a Nazi, the war songs given a sexy twirl by Lilli and some familiar Daniel J. White cues are sometimes the only indicator that this is a Jess Franco film. Also, the inclusion of “good Nazis” in the sweeping scenario may cause some to feel this is a morally ambiguous, agathokakological war film.
The end scroll includes a lyrics credit for “Clif Brown” and the final Ultra Stereo mix by Eric Lardy (who would co-produce Franco’s next project, LA PUNTA DE LAS VIBORAS/DOWNTOWN HEAT–1990) has stability and resonance in the English language version screened for this review, which thankfully includes the real voices of Christopher Lee and the other actors, recorded in what appears to have been in direct sound. Other versions are reportedly more problematic. Franco had considerable difficulty with the system during post-production, prompting him to walk away, severing his longtime ties with Eurocine.  For comparison sake, a viewing or reviewing of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s LILI MARLEEN (1981) or Bob Fosse’s CABARET (1972) is recommended.
Thanks to Nzoog.
*There also appears to be some additional footage from Patrice Rhomm’s 1977 ELSA FRAULIEN SS and Alain Payet’s TRAIN SPECIAL POUR SS here and there.  Footage from Alfredo Rizzo’s Spaghetti War epic I GIARDINI DEL DIAVOLO (1971) was also acquired and is extensively used, as it was in Franco’s previous Eurocine Nazi-related co-production LA TUMBA DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTE/OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (1981), and as in that project the grading, formatting and style of that Italian war movie obviously clashes with the Franco shot footage. This Italian produced footage was also used in RETURN OF THE BLOODSUCKING NAZI ZOMBIES, a 2103 horror-war web series by Mathis Vogel and Robert Monell, available on Blu-ray and DVD from Spain’s CAMEO MEDIA S.L., as a supplemental feature to Jess Franco’s last completed film, AL PEREIRA VS. THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (2012).
(C) Robert Monell, 2013

Written by Robert Monell

18 diciembre 2016 at 7:24 PM