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

Robert Monell & Alex Mendíbil Blog Alliance

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Written by Robert Monell

17 abril 2017 at 2:12 AM

Jess Franco Triple Bill, Two Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray from MONDO MACABRO 

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This monster HD package features three separate Jess Franco films, including the rarely seen XXX SEXY NATURE, an alternate version of COUNTESS PERVERSE, the original Director’s Cut, LA COMTESSE PERVERSE, and the Sade adaptation, HOW TO SEDUCE A VIRGIN (PLAISIR A TROIS). Along with a raft of Bonus Features and the soundtrack CD “Distortions” by Blue Phantom, that’s about 6 hours of material. A 12 page booklet is included for after-the-show additional reading.  A full evening of Jess Franco at the top of his 1970s game.  This World Blu-ray premiere of all three films is a Jess Franco fan/collector’s dream, a Jess Franco release to end all Jess Franco releases.

 

The theme of voyeurism is illustrated in the very first shot of COUNTESS PERVERSE

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A victim (Kali Hansa) is washed ashore cannibal island….img_20170330_200723.jpg

 

Bob/Tom (Robert Woods) has second thoughts about the approaching woman hunt….

Below: Ecstasy in the torture chamber from SEXY NATURE

SEXY NATURE  101 m hardcore version wp-image-1408438402jpg.jpg

 

The cubist home of the Count and Countess Zaroff was designed by Ricardo Bofill…wp-image-207599555jpg.jpg

1973 was a typically busy year for Jess Franco.  He managed to make at least 11, by some counts 12, feature films, which would be released in helter-skelter fashion over the next few years. Many of them were made-to-order for the then wide open hardcore porn market. Two of the three features in this package contain explicit hardcore footage.  The 76 minute orignial cut of COUNTESS PERVERSE, is a minimalist cannibal film, shot in a abstract, cubist style during early summer of 1973 on locations in Alicante and Calpe, Spain.

A very low key jet black comedy of manners, this is The Most Dangerous Game by way of Sade. Rador Zaroff (Howard Vernon) could very well be a suave Sade narrator, counseling “reject nothing that gives pleasure” to his proposed victim,  then making ghoulish quips about her gorgeous figure (“dim… but succulent “) as he sizes her up for the concluding woman hunt and following feast. But it ends with another woman becoming the feast. There are numerous visual evocations of Hollywood horror films, particularly the scene where Robert Woods walks into the sea carrying the dying Lina Romay, a direct quote from the Val Lewton-Jacques Tourneur I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943). Franco would quote that classic again in CALL OF THE BLONDE GODDESS (1977) and THE SEXUAL STORY OF O (1982).

As a cannibal film COUNTESS PERVERSE is rather restrained, there’s not much gore, but there is a lot of rough sex, a scene where Kali Hansa’s head is cut off with a saw and, in the hard version,ban extended scene of Lina Romay performing oral sex on two Franco regulars. There is also an additional torture scene involving Tania Busselier, Monica Swinn and Alice Arno, set in a strange grotto, where whips, chains and more rough sex are featured. SEXY NATURE also had extra wraparound  scenes featuring Romay and Caroline Riviere (EXORCISM) as bickering tourists is a cheap hotel room. Riviere is a horror writer who composes a story which will become acted out once Romay arrives on cannibal island. But it all turns out to be a dream in a reassuring add on which reminds one of the studio imposed “happy ending” for the 1956 version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. These changes were requested by executive producer Robert De Neale.   I’ve collected at least 5 versions of COUNTESS PERVERSE/THE MUNCHERS and the one in the Blu-ray set is unique and most effective of the ones I’ve managed to see before. All the hard and soft footage was shot by Franco himself, allowing the 101 minute feature to act as a kind of hypertext to the original, and it looks terrific in HD. The colors don’t just pop, they virtually explode off the screen. The women’s blouses and dresses burst with candy colored psychedelia.

 

Rador Zaroff (Howard Vernon) eats human flesh in high style….PLAISIR A TROIS is even more macabre, featuring a basement of women petrified in the midst of tortured agony administered by the sadist Martine (Alice Arno), who has just been released from a mental hospital after castrating a sex partner with a straight razor.It’s an amusing immoral tale where villains becomes victims and vice versa.  A perfect Sadean comedy built around corpse art long before Nekromantik.

The director takes the theme of voyeurism even further here. Every scene, from first shot to last, is a secret POV of one of the characters. Nothing is private in this perverse mise-en-scene. It is also one of his best acted films, with Alice Arno making the sadistic artist a real enigma while Robert Woods is unsettling and shifty as her back stabbing husband. Lina Romay has another wordless role as the family pet, a role which she perfected in LA COMTESSE NOIRE aka FEMALE VAMPRIRE, made later the same year.  The diminutive Alfred Baillou may be best of all, as the overly inquisitive dwarf gardener who tries to warn Busselier of the danger in the villa. It’s all filmed in a highly stylized manner, with a constant deployment of extreme wide angle lenses and Franco’s trademark zoom shots. COUNTESS PERVERSE  contains even more wide angle set ups, at times resembling mid-period Orson Welles.

Franco would return to this scenario in SINFONIA EROTICA (1979), GEMIDOS DE PLACER, a 1982 experiment in which the action was filmed in precisely timed long takes/plan sequences, and EUGENIE, UNA HISTORIA DE UNA PERVERSION, a delirious 1980 surrealist thriller featuring Antonio Mayans as a mad sand sculptor. It seems he just couldn’t get the original Sade story, an episode from the novel JUSTINE, out of his system. The things to notice is that each subsequent version is treated in a totally different aesthetic style, as if he were conducting variations on a musical theme. See Francesco Cesari’s notes on the Spanish SINFONIA EROTICA DVD for more on this.*

Martine inspects her petrified girl exhibition in her basement of ghoulish decadence. 

Seeing these three films in 1080p HD yields countless details not visible in SD, like the crushed leather upholstery in Martine’s car and a clear look at the macabre nooks of the dead girls display.  All three features are presented in 1 37:1 ratio and have superior, rich sound in PCM 24 fps mono audio.   The 11 tracks on the Blue Phantom CD really rock.  On top of all this are the packed bonus interviews with Alain Petit, Stephen Thrower and Robert Woods, ported over from the previous MM SD releases.  All 3 features are in French audio with new English subtitles.

Both of these features are top tier Franco, with  COUNTESS PERVERSE making my top 10.  The cream of the Robert De Nesle crop. The rare alt version of LA COMETESSE PERVERSE only adds value to this  must-have package.

*Thanks to Francesco Cesari.

(C) Robert Monell,  2017

Written by Robert Monell

31 marzo 2017 at 1:38 AM

SHINING SEX- LA FILLE AU SEXE BRILLANT (1975)

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  • Directed by Dan L. Simon (Jess Franco)
  • “A superior force obliges me to love you and then to kill you.”
  • It’s not insignificant that Jess Franco’s name is nowhere to be found onscreen in this film’s credits. It was “Directed by Dan L. Simon” suggesting an anonymous employee of Eurocine, Paris and Brux Inter Film, Brussels.
  • SHINING SEX , released in both soft and hardcore versions, could have been just another cheap continental sex film. Jess Franco’s experimental erotica is set in an alternate reality anticipating Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 UNDER THE SKIN.  As in that film the female protagonist is both the seductive force who lures victims (male and female here) to their doom, and finally a victim herself. Franco himself plays the disabled Dr. Seward, who tries to help the hapless Cinthia (Lina Romay), but cannot save her.

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  • Abstract mise en scene, an eerie Industrial style score and an excellent performance by Lina Romay,  make this the most interesting of the two Jess Franco films shot back to back in 1975 at Le Grande Motte, the hotel-casino complex in Southern France.  The two were micro-budgeted features, sharing the same cast members and locations . The other film is the interactive comedy THE MIDNIGHT PARTY.  The geometrical architecture of the structures along with the alien factor place this adjacent to the Fantastique sub genre. Highlights include a memorable encounter between Romay and Monica Swinn framed in a mirror and the dialogue-free ferry sequence. Franco remade this in the mid 1980s as AIDS, THE 20TH CENTURY PLAGUE, with Francoise Blanchard, Ricardo Palacios and US actor Bill Hoverstein,  partiality funded by Golden Films Internacional. That apparently completed film languishes in a laboratory somewhere in Spain.  SHINING SEX could perhaps be seen as rough draft. Of course, that could be said about many of the director’s films.
  • Franco abstracts every moment of the film, from the reflections in the sunglasses of human turned alien  Andros (Ramon Ardid), to the cubist wallpaper of the hotel room where Cinthia and Alpha (Evelyn Scott) have an erotic encounter while the camera lingers on a rose placed on a pedestal. Encounter is probably a better word than sex here, because the act is clinically observed and occurs within an environment which is both recognizable, hotel rooms mainly, and uncanny. True close encounters of another kind.

  • The fact that Franco’s wheelchair bound occult expert is named Dr. Seward and a victim of the alien plot (Olivier Mathot) is a biologist named Van Helsing* speaks to the insistence on genre hooks within this airless allegory. Character names from Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, echoing into the late 20th Century post-modern genre exploits of a notorious director.
  • Cinthia is an exotic dancer at a decadent resort. A performer, as are the main characters of the majority of Jess Franco’s key works. Franco himself appeared as a piano player, performing for drunken slugs in his first horror film, GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (1961). Cinthia is introduced applying make-up and then performing her act, which is called “Shining Sex”. She is avidly watched by Dimension X invaders Alpha and Morpho, who plan to use her until she is used up. Dr. Seward has his own psychiatric clinic, but spends most of his time engaged in para-psychological research. He is “connected” with Cinthia, as is Doriana Gray to her insane sister,  and provides her with temporary shelter after her first deadly mission.
  • One also thinks of another performer from an earlier period of the director’s career, Miss Muerte (Estella Blain) in the 1965 film of the same name, who is also a remote control killer sent by someone with a special agenda. Lorna (Janine Reynaud) in Franco’s SUCCUBUS/NECRONOMICON is another significant example. A female Faust doing a devil’s bidding.  Franco himself inhabits the center ring and gives his most vital performance, raging against the dying light, in his last completed film, AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (2012).
  • Jess Franco, like Seward, would end up in a wheelchair, as he continued directing in his waning years. The important point is that the wheelchair didn’t slow him down or stop him. Seward can only move in straight lines, in perfect concert with the geometry around him. Characters live in, enter, exit from triangles, rectangles, parallelograms, rhomboidal areas in this science fiction universe. Cinthia is destroyed and abandoned at the end, but Seward lives on to tell her narrative to a world which considers him at best irrelevant, a dubious crank.

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  • Not much seems to happen in the 100 of so minutes of SHINING SEX. Hardcore scenes were added for that market, which necessitated the removal of much atmospheric footage. Even so, that version is about 15 minutes shorter and seems rather pointless. It somehow works better in its longer, English language version. As in UNDER THE SKIN, aliens are all around us, but everyone is too distracted to be aware of them, and in both that film and SHINING SEX, they are an unaddressed threat. Seduction is just a means to an end, a bad end.  One might say the message is “Wake up”. But  Jess Franco would leave messages to Western Union, adding that it’s only a very low budget erotic film, made at a French resort over 40 years ago.
  • Look for this on Blu-ray, maybe later this year, hopefully with both versions available. It will be nice to be able to see this in its original 2.35:1 Techniscope format
  • *Kallman in some versions.

Robert Monell,  2017

Written by Robert Monell

12 marzo 2017 at 11:59 PM

Coming from Mondo Macabro: LE-Order Now!

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Written by Robert Monell

7 marzo 2017 at 10:49 PM

XXX Version of FEMALE VAMPIRE

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LA COMTESSE NOIRE Versions: LUSTERNDE VAMPIRE IM SPERMARAUSCH

  
2001 X RATED KULT DVD version / Even male lead Jack Taylor wonders: Which version is which?!

 

A confused Ramon Ardid is the hotel masseur who gets a full service blow job by the Countess Irina in the hardcore versions while in others just gets teased before it cuts to his body being carried away by helpful female vampire butler Luis Barboo!

How many versions are there of the 1973 Jess Franco project best known as FEMALE VAMPIRE? Countless!

Filmed under the title, LA COMTESSE NOIRE, as a non hardcore erotic vampire film set on the island of Madeira, this popular title had alternate scenes shot of bloody vampire attacks (for EROTIKILL) and still later hardcore scenes were added for that market. Franco/Eurocine obviously wanted different versions for different venues.

I’m going to attempt to do a single blog on each and every version I have on video/DVD or have heard about.

LUSTERNDE VAMPIRE IM SPERMARAUSCH [onscreen title]: version under EROTIKILL/LADY DRACULA 2 on the X RATED KULT DVD BOX #24/ LAUFZEIT GESAMT: 105+9 Minuten
Deutsch [German language] Dolby
Dolby Stereo
1.2.35:1
Code 2/Europa

Extras: Trailers for Jean Rollin’s ZOMBIE LAKE; JF’s DIAMONDS OF KILIMANJARO (tinted); MONDO CANNIBAL; others.

This version contains all the hardcore footage but none of the straight bloodsucking footage seen in EROTIKILL [Force Video] and in the IMAGE FV extras folder.

VIDEO: Fair. Soft, generally unsharp, somewhat faded color, visible print damage.
AUDIO: Fair to poor- The most unusual, and annoying, aspect of this presentation is that the German dubbers have added various sounds made by the supposedly mute Countess Irina, she goes “Uh…”, “Oh…” and “Umm…”, moans and emits other atmosphere destroying noises. Why this was done is beyond me. She’s supposed to be completely silent! At least the movie works best that way.

I would be interested to know how many distinct versions of LA COMTESSE NOIRE blog readers have in their own collections and which are the favored ones. Don’t try to collect them all. Remember, there’s a recession on!

Written by Robert Monell

2 marzo 2017 at 3:43 AM

COMING FROM MONDO MACABRO: April 2017!

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Three films in HD plus a CD! Thanks to Cinema Arcana:

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Coming this April from our friends at Mondo Macabro — a Limited Edition set featuring HD upgrades for two of Jess Franco’s more twisted efforts from his Robert de Nesle period, plus some new surprises!

First up is the much requested Blu debut of Franco’s COUNTESS PERVERSE (1974). Restored to its director’s cut and scanned from the original negatives, the film is a sort of Most Dangerous Game by way of De Sade, as swingin’ couple Bob and Moira pick up beach bunnies from the sunny shores by day, and spend their nights seducing the same. However, things take a dark turn when their new friends are introduced to the Count & Countess Zaroff, who have their own idea of a good time. Showcasing great turns from Franco regulars Robert Woods, Howard Vernon, Alice Arno, and, of course, Lina Romay, COUNTESS PERVERSE is a disturbing mixture of sex and death, and has long been a fan favorite, for good reason — its legendary nude hunt is easily one of the most iconic sequences from the director’s vast filmography. Definitely one not to miss.

The second feature here is HOW TO SEDUCE A VIRGIN (aka Plaisir à trois, 1974). The Countess de Bressac returns home from a forced nuthouse stint, the court-appointed result of castrating her former plaything. Greeted by her hunchbacked gardener, mute maid and enabling husband, she immediately retreats to her dungeon, surrounded by human statues formed from past conquests. Her spouse proposes a new game, involving the seduction of the wealthy heiress next door, but when things don’t go as expected… Another of Franco’s examinations of the perversion of innocence, PLAISIR A TROIS is likewise one of the provocateur’s darker efforts, and it’s presented here scanned from the original negatives looking better than ever.

With these titles being previously released by Mondo Macabro on DVD, the company’s obviously porting over their existing special features, including a pair of excellent analyses by Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jess Franco author Stephen Thrower, and great chats with COUNTESS PERVERSE actor Robert Woods and HOW TO SEDUCE A VIRGIN screenwriter Alan Petit.

But wait, there’s more! This collection also contains the English-friendly disc debut of SEXY NATURE (1974), the complete 101-minute Adults Only variant of COUNTESS PERVERSE! Throw away those bootlegs; as with the other films here, it’s presented in HD from the original film elements — no tape inserts or anything of the sort.

Guess what? That’s not all! The outfit is additionally including a bonus CD featuring Blue Phantom’s 1971 psych-rock classic DISTORTIONS, containing several of the memorable tracks that popped up in both COUNTESS PERVERSE and the director’s SINNER: THE SECRET DIARY OF A NYMPHOMANIAC (1973). If you’re a fan of those films’ soundtracks, this is an incredible inclusion, and one I guarantee will be in heavy rotation at the ol’ Arcana HQ. Last, but certainly not least, there’s a printed booklet with liner notes from MM’s own Pete Tombs.

This Region A set is limited to 1,000 numbered copies, and will be an exclusive to Mondo Macabro’s webstore (mondomacabro.bigcartel.com). Pre-orders are set to go live Friday, March 3rd, with a ship date in early April. Pricing is expected to be set at $45 with free shipping, which may seem a bit high, but the company is really attempting to give Franco fans the kind of release they’ve been asking for, and it should be a great addition to our collections — whether or not you think it’s worth it is up to you. Viva la Franco!

(Note: I censored the cover art for Facebook; the actual release will be untouched.)

Written by Robert Monell

28 febrero 2017 at 1:42 AM

SADISTEROTICA

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aka Rote Lippen,  Sadisterotica, EL CASO DE LAS DOS BELLEZAS…

Michel Lemoine as the Werewolf-henchman 

Jess Franco’s delirious, candy colored Pop Art comedy-thriller was filmed in early 1967 right after Necronomicon (Succubus) with the same main cast, sans Jack Taylor. It was produced by Adrian Hoven in Munich and Alicante. Hoven also plays the villain,  Pop Art painter Radeck, who creates a werewolf-slave to kidnap women who will become models for his sado-masochistic canvases and sculptures. Once again the Artist-as-killer theme is the matrix in Franco’s second Red Lips film. Avoid the severely cut English language export, TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS. BESAME MONSTRUO, also featuring the Red Lips detective team, would follow,   with the same cast. This film was also influenced by the 1960 Italian Gothic MILL OF STONE WOMEN and has a scene involving “water boarding” torture.  A rousing jazz score by Fernando Garcia Morcillo boosts the action. Thanks to Francesco Cesari.

This, of course, would look terrific in High Definition. Let’s hope for an English release of the longer Spanish version, the English language TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS is missing about 15 minutes of footage. This is a visual delight, a time-trip straight back to the 1960s of Andy Warhol canvases and Jean-Luc Godard genre deconstructions. I always thought this film would make a great double bill with Joseph Losey’s OP-ART Eurospy confection, MODESTY BLAISE.

(C)Robert Monell 2017

Written by Robert Monell

26 febrero 2017 at 3:25 AM