director Jesús Franco
Figuring out my overall sense of European schlock filmmaker Jesús Franco has been an elusive and odd experience for me, one I’ve only started giving real energy to in recent times.
The Awful Dr. Orloff is the film that sort of set him on the map, or at least gave credence to his career, one that consisted of innumerable movies (and I say innumerable because you’ll literally get a different answer anywhere you go — and some of that variation is due to his own multiplicative versioning and strange approach to shooting several films at the same time without telling people that they were in multiple movies).
Frankly, he’s growing on me.
Dr. Orloff is a sort of Victorian-era knock-off of Georges Franju’s classic Eyes Without a Face (1959), about a mad doctor who is killing young women to fix the damaged face of his beautiful, scarred daughter. Dr. Orloff is far more pulpy, low-brow, and low-budget, but at the same time, quite beautifully and artfully shot and enacted in a good-looking black-and-white. Interestingly, another Spanish filmmaker, one of much more fame and acolytes, Pedro Almodóvar, would reinterpret Franju as well in his 2011 film, The Skin I Live In, not knocking off Franju as much as homaging his film in a serious reinterpretation of the material. It does make me wonder if Almodóvar was familiar with Franco’s film. It seems likely.
Franco’s work, it seems (again, I’ve quite the tyro in his world), varies vastly between works in quality and interest. And part of his charm may be his more bizarre and campy than his pure aesthetic high points. Though, this film might be one of the latter than the former.
It’s really pretty good.