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

Robert Monell & Alex Mendíbil Blog Alliance

MARQUISE DE SADE (Jess Franco,1976)

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DAS BILDNIS DER DORIANA GRAY/DIRTY DRACULA/EJACULATIONS; Switzerland/W. Germany-1976

The immeasurably wealthy and solitary Doriana Gray (Lina Romay) is a predatory sexual vampire who inhabits a castle perched above a jungle located in either a fairy tale or her own unconscious mind. Wandering through the densely overgrown tropical gardens, dressed in a long pink gown, she is a remote queen of nothingness. Her publishing empire promotes the kind of women’s fantasy literature which is read by bored, idle society ladies who live to dream of doing something of value. Doriana and her mute servant (Ramon Ardid) are actually partners in deadly plots which unfold like erotic serials in and around the vicinity of the castle. Young, and some not-so-young, women visit/are lured, seduced and finally succumb to the energy sucking female vampire. No blood is shed or transferred but something essential is stolen from the bodies of her victims. The characters and themes of Oscar Wilde’s story are somehow transposed into a Jess Franco vampire riff.

The attacks are sexual but Doriana experiences no pleasure during them. Instead, the sexual climaxes are somehow transferred to her secret sharer, Doriana’s mentally shattered sister, a Siamese twin separated a birth, who is locked away in the exclusive asylum of Dr. Orloff (Ronald Weiss).  The operation to separate the twins resulted in Doriana’s frigidity and the mental degeneration into nymphomania of her incarcerated double. One day an American journalist (Monica Swinn) arrives to do a story on Doriana. She will be the next victim in the vicious cycle. But Doriana’s end is near, rushed forward by desperate acts of destruction and self-destruction. The polarity of the sister’s sexuality, one driven to constant sexual activity which never results in pleasure, the other lost in hopeless sexual addiction which results in explosive orgasms which need to be followed by further ones, is the subject of the film. It’s not a love story like LE COMTESSE NOIRE, but rather an illustration of the private Hell of these women who are driven toward sex without love.

DORIANA GREY is one of the more subdued, artistically designed and mysterious of the films Jess Franco made for Zurich based producer Erwin C. Dietrich between 1975 and 1977. It’s also an example of the director’s methods. Take a film, LA COMTESSE NOIRE (1973) in this case, remake it as a piano improvisation in a more somber key, and then move on. Franco never stayed in one place, he always moved on to something else. He lived to make cinema and died in the midst of making his final film in 2013. Visually elegant, painted with a cold palette,  featuring a quiet, almost subliminal sound design, the film has a hypnotic quality. The compositions, Doriana and her victims drifting among the classical columns, a stunning shot in which Doriana is silhouetted in a window opening up onto a vista featuring a rainbow and a huge tropical leaf, are quite entrancing and resonate long after the film concludes. The final scene is an almost exact replay of the final scene of LA COMTESSE NOIRE, only done in a much more stark manner, without the director himself there as a character who witnesses the tragedy. Doriana drowns alone in a pool of crystal clear water.

There isn’t much dialogue, but the soundtrack brims with the cries of jungle birds and the sitar-like music of Walter Baumgartner. Franco was his own DP on this,  rather than the reliable Dietrich partner, Peter Baumgartner, and he often slowly zooms into the gargoyles and baroque architectural designs fitted onto the castle’s facades. The seemingly constant rainstorms outside the castle add to the melancholy ambiance, the raindrops suggesting the tears of Doriana. The interiors are often shot through omnipresent mirrors, giving the action added dimensions and creating portals into the kind of negative space in which Franco films often unfold. In terms of mood, visuals, themes, characters and poetic plotting, this film also anticipates and evokes Krzysztof Kieslowski’s masterpiece THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE (1991).

Lina Romay perfectly embodies both of these diametrically opposed characters and the film seems to exist so Jess Franco can observe her performances in personal tranquility. Shot in the South of France, producer Dietrich gave Franco carte blanche on this one, albeit with the stipulation that versions were created for both the hard and softcore markets. Ascot-Elite released both versions on Blu-ray as part of their Jess Franco Golden Goya Collection.

The recent FULL MOON DVD contains the more rarely seen soft version, taken from Dietrich’s HD master. Video Quality is good to very good, correctly reproducing Franco’s carefully calibrated color scheme. There is no visible print damage, The image quality is consistently sharp, luminous, detailed. Mastered from Dietrich’s own original negatives, preserved in his Zurich archives, it’s about as good as this film will ever look. The hardcore version is, of course, not presented on the FULL MOON DVD. Only the English language track is available. A release of the German language version, with English subtitles, would be most desirable. It plays much more atmospherically in German than with the existing English language track.

The hard version often breaks the special mood of the film with rather ugly gynecological close-ups. The soft core version would seem to be closer to a “Director’s Cut” and plays much more of a piece. The hardcore footage is replaced by surrealistic inserts, including a scene of a nude Lina Romay descending a spiral staircase while holding a giant sunflower stalk. This striking image is a kind of recreation of Marcel Duchamp’s 1912-13 series of Cubist paintings, NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE. Not that Franco was trying to be artistic, but it comes off as  an artist’s rendering of a key emotion in uniquely visual terms.  And that’s what Jess Franco was all about. This may not be Jess Franco’s best film, but it’s one of his personal best of the Erwin C. Dietrich period. It’s pleasing that this superior version can be seen in an English friendly version. Unfortunately, the English language voice track is cast with more contemporary, sometimes jarring voice performances and awkward dialogues which somewhat detract from the film’s dreamlike quality.  But it is very much worth seeing.

Reviewed by Robert Monell

(C) Robert Monell, 2017

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Written by Robert Monell

14 junio 2017 at 6:07 AM

20 Weird Women of Jess Franco

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Janine Reynaud NECRONOMICON/SUCCUBUS

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Pamela Stanford surgiendo del gotelé.

 

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Alice Arno in PLAISIR A TROIS

 

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Lina Romay in ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN

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Rosa Valenty se destapa como ella bien sabe

 

Janine Reynaud and mannequin in NECRONOMICON

Montserrat Prous in THE SILENCE OF THE TOMB

wp-image-651618747jpg.jpgLina Romay and Lynn Montiel in SEXY NATURE

Soledad Miranda smokes in THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA

 

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Kali Hansa in COUNTESS PERVERSE

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Mikaela Wood in LA REINA DEL TABARIN

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Alice Arno is CHRISTINA PRINCESS OF EROTICISM

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Mamie Kaplan in HISTORIA SEXUAL DE O

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Yelena Samarina in EL MISTERIO DEL CASTILLO ROJO

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Evelyn Scott a punto de abducir a Lina Romay in SHINING SEX

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Analía Ivars en el inolvidable climax

 

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Victoria Adams, la tigresa.

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Britt Nichols

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Tania Busselier in COUNTESS PERVERSE

 

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Caroline Munro y Brigitte Lahaie in FACELESS

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Catherine Laferriere in EXORCISME

 

 

 

Written by Robert Monell

11 junio 2017 at 7:46 AM

DRACULA, PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN coming on Blu-ray, but….

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 Reportedly scanned in 2k from a rare 35mm print…




Dominik Ehlers Pre Order is up at amazon https://www.amazon.de/gp/aw/d/B071RL93WH/ref=mp_s_a_1_1…







Die Nacht der offenen Särge [Blu-ray]

Die Nacht der offenen Särge [Blu-ray]

AMAZON.DE

Thanks to Dominik Ehlers over at the El Franconomicon blog for posting. I hope this release is properly framed at 2.35:1 instead of changing to 1.85:1 after the scope credits, like the DIVISA and IMAGE DVDs. Also the end music is prematurely cut off, signalling they were both from the same master. I’m hoping this release 

is a new HD master from the camera negative and in full Techniscope.

I had a long talk with Jess Franco about the framing and he was very adamant that the scope ratio was not imposed on him nor was it done arbitrarily.

More on that in a future blog.

It’s one of my favorite of his surrealist Gothics of the early 1970s (cf VAMPYROS LESBOS, THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN) and a much underappreciated and underrated work.  UPDATE, recent caps on the German site indicate this will be in 2.35:1 and have superior definition and color.


Written by Robert Monell

2 mayo 2017 at 1:29 AM

Jess Franco en Alicante (2)

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1 . Calpe

Decenas de películas han sido rodadas allí, cerca del peñón o en el conocido complejo Xanadú de Ricardo Boffil, a las afueras del pueblo.

Dozens of films have been shot there, near the rock or in the famous Xanadú complex by Ricardo Boffil, on the outskirts of the town.

2. Benidorm

La más importante ciudad turística de la zona sale también en multitud de películas, desde EUGENIE (STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION) a DIARIO ÍNTIMO DE UNA NINFÓMANA o LAS CHICAS DEL TANGA.

The most important tourist city of the area also shows in a multitude of films, from EUGENIE (STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION) to SINNER or THE TANGA GIRLS.

 

3. Altea

Pequeña localidad sobre una colina, con una iglesia que sirve de horizonte a muchas películas, como RESIDENCIA PARA ESPÍAS, ORGÍA DE NINFÓMANAS, UN SILENCIO DE TUMBA, KISS ME KILLER…

Small town on a hill, with a church that serves as horizon for many films, such as RESIDENCE FOR SPIES, LINDA, THE SILENCE OF TOMB, KISS ME KILLER…

 

Written by Álex Mendíbil

30 abril 2017 at 12:24 PM

LES DEMONS: X RATED KULT “Director’s Cut” re-evaluated.

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I’ve changed my mind about the 2003 “Director’s Cut” of LES DEMONS. For me, it just doesn’t work on reconsideration. The added cues from other Franco films (BARBED WIRE DOLLS, etc) go against the grain of the film and were a bad idea, gratuitous additions when the original scoring, selected by Gerard Kikione, wasimpressively appropriate for the early 1970s “Acid Rock” instrumentation illustrating the “nun’s-in-heat” scenario. They distract instead of enhancing or counterpointing the action.

The intermediate length is also unsatifactory, given how well the full 114m version plays. Jess Franco had previously said that was his preferred cut and he should have left it alone instead of rescoring and recutting it. It may have been done to recopyright the film, but it doesn’t work as either an epic or a reasonable abridgement.

Here is my vintage review in which I defended this cut, but I have now changed my mind.

An elderly woman tortured and burned as a witch hurls a curse at Lord Jeffreys (Cihangir Gaffari) promising that she will be avenged by her daughters. Kathleen (Anne Libert) and Margaret (Britt Nichols) are convent bound young women whom Lord Jeffreys is informed are the spawn of the exectuted witch. He sends out Lady de Winter (Karin Field) and Renfield (Alberto Dalbes), the girl’s real father, to find them and bring them back to face the Inquistion.

More nudity, lesbian interludes and torture than Franco’s first film about Lord Jeffreys, THE BLOODY JUDGE, LES DEMONS is now available on an essential 2 disc box set from X RATED KULT DVD. Disc 1 contains the longest 114 [118m on the 2014 REDEMPTION Blu-ray release] minute version with German and French language options, original trailer, alternate scenes and other bonus materials. This version, presented in a colorful 2.35:1 transfer finally reveals the films as the Sadean epic that it is: post-modern erotic Fantastique which comments on the Inquisition and nunsploitation genres of that era (cf THE DEVILS). Franco’s use of the widescreen ratio is simply stunning, with an impressive use of multiple fields of action and the colors are gorgeous. All the sex, nudity and violence is present in this uncut print.

Disc 2 contians a new “Director’s Cut”, reedited and rescored by Franco in 2003. He replaces the anachronistic electric rock score of Raiteux with synthesized cues from Daniel White-Jess Franco scores for GEMIDOS DE PLACER, BARBED WIRE DOLLS and other titles. This constitutes a fascinating, self-reflexive, musical commentary along with a new Spanish language track featuring Jess Franco himself dubbing Howard Vernon’s character! At 101 minutes it cuts Doris Thomas’ masturbation scene in the long verions (over 3 mn!) to 1mn and also loses some expository scenes but still has an epic scope. The print looks slightly crisper and more colorful than the longer 114 mn version but the Spanish dubbing is technically limited and somewhat hollow with a “studio” ambiance. As with many Franco “alternates”, it consistutes a separate new film in itself. Onscreen title: LAS POSEIDAS DEL DEMONIO.

Finally, there is the Original German 85 minute version, which censors some of the sex, nudity and torture. English language option included. This is the only version with the fonts and music of the original credit sequence intact, the other two have new video generated fonts.

All three versions are letterboxed at 2.35:1 and have multiple language options. The oversized box is lavishly and lasciviously illustrated with four potential covers.

“The X-Rated Nunsploitation Series 5” Available from Xploited Cinema.

“Sex und Gewalt hinter Klostermauern”

I would now not recommend any other version beside the 118 m as the “Director’s Cut.”

I must also say that I still much prefer this 1972 version of the Judge Jeffries story to THE BLOODY JUDGE (1970), with Christopher Lee.

(C) Robert Monell Updated 2017

Written by Robert Monell

24 abril 2017 at 11:25 PM

Jess Franco en Alicante (1)

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Después de un viaje por las costas de Alicante, probablemente la costa favorita y más explotada por Jess Franco, iré subiendo aquí los lugares descubiertos y sus correspondientes películas.

After a trip along the coasts of Alicante, probably the favorite and more exploited seacoast by Jess Franco, I will upload here my discoverings and their corresponding films.

1. Castillo de Santa Bárbara / Santa Barbara Castle (Alicante)

EL CONDE DRACULA, 99 WOMEN, DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN, EL MUERTO HACE LAS MALETAS (Der Todesrächer von Soho)…

2. La Venta de la Chata  (Calpe, Alicante) Google link

Restaurant – Hotel – Eventos

SIE TÖTETE IN EKSTASE, UN SILENCIO DE TUMBA, DIARIO ÍNTIMO DE UNA NINFÓMANA (SINNER)…

3. Hotel Montíboli (Villajoyosa, Alicante) Google link

Hotel de lujo y zona de chalets / Luxury hotel and surroundings of vilas

LES NUITS BRÛLANTES DE LINDA, KISS ME KILLER, TENDER AND PERVERSE EMANUELLE…

(Próximamente más… / More to follow…)

Written by Álex Mendíbil

23 abril 2017 at 8:49 PM

Yuka (1973)

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I am seeking an English subtitled version of this 1973 Jess Franco Tarzan style adventure, with Wal Davis, Robert Woods, Kali Hansa and Alice Arno, for a future review. If anyone has a copy please contact me by email: monell579@hotmail.com. Or PM me on FB. Thanks.

Written by Robert Monell

17 abril 2017 at 3:18 AM