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

Robert Monell & Alex Mendíbil Blog Alliance

THE MIDNIGHT PARTY (1975, Spanish version)

leave a comment »

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)

leave a comment »

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

THE GIRL WITH RED LIPS (1986)

leave a comment »

From EL FRANCONOMICON

Written by Robert Monell

23 noviembre 2016 at 10:08 PM

Coming December 13, 2016!

leave a comment »

image

Looking forward to Mondo Macabro’s upcoming HD release of this Jess Franco favorite. One of his best films from the 1980s. A delirious erotic thriller…

http://http://www.mondomacabro.bigcartel.comhttp://www.mondomacabro.bigcartel.com

Posted from WordPress for Android

Written by Robert Monell

21 noviembre 2016 at 5:34 PM

Coming in January 2017!

leave a comment »

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.

secreto1

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.

Written by Robert Monell

18 noviembre 2016 at 10:13 PM

ESCLAVAS DEL CRIMEN (1986)

leave a comment »

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

 

Written by Robert Monell

4 noviembre 2016 at 9:42 PM

UNA RAJITA PARA DOS (1982)

leave a comment »

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.

 Below: Jess Franco as the hotel voyeur in UNA RAJITA PARA DOS.
Photo

Spy (Emilio Linder) in UNA RAJITA PARA DOS (Lulu La Verne, 1982)

Image may contain: one or more peopleEveryone is a spy in this film, including Jess Franco himself as a hotel clerk-voyeur. The most amusing character is a happy-go-lucky spy nicknamed “The Queen” (Franco regular Antonio Mayans). His spyware includes the kind of audio pick-up that James Bond might have used in one of his classic adventures, enjoying the sounds of the various erotic adventures in adjacent hotel rooms.
Image may contain: 1 person , people smiling , close-up
Tommy  Proculi aka Antonio Mayans practices audio voyeurism as a gay Russian spy named “The Queen”…..
The setting is the Flamingo Hotel located on the exotic Costa del Sol. Linda is a female spy who is attempting to recover some stolen microfilm secreted in the rectum of a male agent (Johnny Poyales aka Jose Llamas).  Her team includes such 1980s Franco players as Maria del Carmen Nieto (MANSION OF THE LIVING DEAD) and Emilio Linder (DIAMONDS OF KILAMANJARO). The Queen is also on the trail of the microfilm.
Lina Romay, who co-directed with Franco, and Mayans look like they had a lot of fun making this very minor hardcore which is mostly made up of grind footage, money shots and gynecological close-ups featuring the most disgusting images Franco even filmed, detailing the insertions and extractions of the microfilm into a spy’s nether region. Think Pasolini’s SALO. To drive home his satirical point, Franco shot these scenes through a magnifying glass. His philosophy seemed to be to give “too much information” to the raincoat crowd, who just expected the typical cheap thrills.
I guess Jess Franco figured if he had to make a film like this he might as well have some fun with hermetic in-jokes and a sarcastic toned overview of the hardcore product which flooded the Spanish market at that time.  Another mixture of self, linguistic and cultural satire which launched a series of hardcore mini-epics produced by Fernando Vidal Campos’ FERVI FILMS, Madrid. My own personal favorite of the Fervi hardcores, and also a favorite of Jess, is the 1985 EL MIRON Y LA EXHIBICIONISTA, which features magnetic interactions between these typical close-ups, a thriller undercurrent and a cubist mise-en-scene.
This obscurity received a Spanish video release on the Valfer label. Don’t expect a restored Blu-ray edition anytime soon.
The hotel and Costa del Sol exteriors shimmer with candy colored flora and there are a few sight gags which might produce a guffaw from the completest.  My favorite scene is the ending where Franco’s voyeur passes off the microfilm to “The Queen” who skips his merry way back toward the Soviet Union. The upbeat Hot Jazz/80s funk score* is credited to Victor Chichi Nabeira, presumably a beard for the director.  More sexually related pseudonyms in the credits include Francesco Del Pi Trofuera (out with your cock) as DP (also Franco), Tony Procula (stick it up the rear),  Mele Metes (stick it in) and Cheno Manboliques (sounds like something bizarre) as exec producer.
Runtime is 84 minutes, four minutes longer than the time noted in OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO.
*The score also contains excerpts from Daniel White’s LA COMTESSE NOIRE (1973) music and other soundtracks credited to Pablo Villa.
Thanks to Nzoog for the translations and helping me see this ultra obscure title.
(C) Robert Monell, 2016

Comment

Written by Robert Monell

1 noviembre 2016 at 9:17 PM