Mondo Cannibale (1980)

Mondo Cannibale (1980) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 10/04/2017

Mondo Cannibale is neither the best nor the worst cannibal flick ever, though it’s closer to the latter.

It’s kind of like H. Rider Haggard’s She as a cannibal flick with an origin story. With 17 year old Sabrina Siani as blonde cannibal queen. Her father, played by Al Cliver must return to rescue her.

It features some very ethnically diverse cannibals in hella face paint.

It’s crap for sure but it’s the first film I’ve seen that I’d definitely say that Jesús Franco elevated with his style. Maybe because it was less a pure Franco flick, not working from his own script.

Ah, well. Vive, Franco!

Two Undercover Angels (1969)

Two Undercover Angels (1969) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 09/05/2017

“Without fantasy one’s life isn’t worth anything. And one doesn’t need it only when drinking.”

I’m guessing Two Undercover Angels and Kiss Me Monster were made in quick succession because it’s hard to imagine the success of the first led to the second.

A.k.a Sadist Erotica, Two Undercover Angels is a slightly more conventional spy spoof sex comedy starring Janine Reynard and Rosanna Yanni in the hands of Jess Franco.

I preferred the sequel because it’s far loopier and nonsensical. Here the Red Lips girls are on the track of abducted models and a killer artist who likes to paint horrendous murder in the act with the help of his hirsute henchman.

There are some wonderfully dead line readings by the voice-over cast.

Kiss Me Monster (1969)

Kiss Me Monster (1969) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 09/01/2017

“I just don’t understand what’s going on!”
“You don’t need to know”

————-

I had a terrible dream. I was taken prisoner by a group of queer virgins and was put in a cage. One of them worked me over with a whip. Then they let me out again and they gave me a funny kind of a whistle or something as a farewell present.”

————–

Kiss Me Monster is an apparent sequel to Jesús Franco’s Sadist Erotica/Two Undercover Angels, starring  Janine Reynaud and Rosanna Yanni as the Red Lips, a cabaret/burlesque act/spy buster duo. As noted by others, it’s Franco with a budget and a studio behind him, so the production values are sky high compared to other works.

The continuity and coherence are pure Franco.

The intentional comedy is maybe a little less funny than the unintentional, but you’d be hard pressed to figure out what’s going on either way around. It’s certainly entertaining, with a secret society clad in super-tall black klan hats to the really cool windmills to I don’t really know all what else.

Fun stuff.

She Killed in Ecstasy (1971)

She Killed in Ecstasy (1971) movie poster

director  Jesús Franco
viewed: 07/06/2017

As many Jesús Franco movies as I’ve seen (I think this makes 9), I’m still intimidated trying to draw bigger conclusions. I think I’ve only got 190 features to go to have seen them all.

But here is what it seems to me: She Killed in Ecstasy (1971) comes from Franco’s middle period, having left the Spanish studio system where in enjoyed nice production values in black-and-white fare, and started making more purely Jesús Franco movies.  Some of his best movies come from this period, and several of them star the beautiful Soledad Miranda who died tragically at 27 in a car accident in Portugal, even before She Killed in Ecsatsy was released.

Is it possible that her death posed another shift in Franco’s filmwork? I’m not sure when he started making hardcore pornographic films and endless variants of film versions from pornographic, soft-core, and mish-mash remixes. But at some point, not long after the start of the 1970’s he started releasing up towards 10 films a year, and the production values and quality control swung wildly around like a long, gold chain at a period orgy.

She Killed in Ecstasy is a revenge picture, in which Miranda is seducing and killing the doctors who had ruined her husband’s career, for his ethical violations in medical experiments. What we see of these experiments is little, and frankly, certainly questionable. But she loves him and keeps his corpse around while she takes revenge. And interestingly, this surreal picture has quite a heart to it. The emotion is there, for lost love and tragedy.

Sadly the real tragedy was that of Soledad Miranda. And the legacy? I’m still working on that.

The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962)

The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962) French movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 04/16/2017

If you produce films by the hundreds, perhaps it’s not unusual that style and content may diverge from one film to another. Having only seen a fraction of Jesús Franco’s output, I’m a little loath to draw any broad sweeping conclusions, but based on The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962) and now The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus, it seems that his earlier films were made with greater production values, with more full studio production, and gorgeous black-and-white aesthetics.

By the late Sixties he was much more his own man, producing his own films and weaving his weird world of Eurotrash cinema. But these early 1960’s films would look good next to works by Georges Franju or Mario Bava. They are good-looking movies, bristling with a not yet fully unleashed perversity.

The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus is a sort of horror film and has been cited as a pre-giallo, which is most apt. As good-looking as it is, it’s also a bit slow-going, especially at first. Girls are being murdered in a countryside haunted by tales of a long-dead murderous Baron Von Klaus, and a reporter is dispatched and the police are on the scene, while things develop.

It’s not until the end when the torture scene cuts loose that Franco’s passion for perversity flashes to the fore. For 1962, this sexual sadomasochism seems rather pronounced. It’s vivid and surprising, especially given the rest of the film.

The ending, too, is beautifully-shot. It’s amazing what Franco could achieve with the right production staff. One might be tempted to suggest that these aesthetic qualities came more from the crew than from Franco himself since he abandoned lush aesthetics pretty quickly.

I need to read up more on him so I won’t be as speculative. These early films are visually pleasing, but it seems Franco preferred freedom to quality.

Exorcism (1975)

Exorcism (1974) blu-ray cover

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 11/03/2016

After watching Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), I decided to make a double feature of it, throwing on Exorcism (1975) from Jesús Franco.

Right off the bat, I’m recognizing stuff from a prior Franco film I’d seen, Demoniac.  But then I began wondering if I wasn’t seeing stuff from multiple Franco films or what exactly?

With Franco, who has nearly 300 movies attributed to him, with variations of some, like this one, made with a hardcore and softcore versions, I don’t know what.   I’m still trying to figure out what was different here, which version is which, what did I just see?

Fandor has Demoniac at 69 minutes and Exorcism at 98.  How do they differ?  I’m not sure.  It was over a year ago I watched Demoniac so I stand confused.

Franco stars with his wife Lina Romay.  Triggered from a staged black mass, a crazy defrocked priest (Franco) starts exorcising people by torture and death despite them not needing any such treatment.  There is a lot of nudity, but this is still a softcore enterprise.  I do think that the longer version is better.

Bloody Moon (1981)

Bloody Moon (1981) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 11/13/2015

Inept as perhaps any movie committed to film with more red herrings than murders. This Jesús Franco flick seems more like a pseudo-slasher than a true slasher (with a little giallo thrown in), with more plot holes than plot.   It somewhat makes up for it in the final 15 minutes with a ga-ga gore and shock finale.  But it’s still a pretty terrible film.

Gotta like that they ran down the little kid, though.

 

The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1972)

The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1972)  movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 08/03/2015

It was actually the addition of Jesús Franco’s The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein to Fandor that primed me for a little Jesús Franco double feature.  I’ve been sporadically watching his films but have kind of keened into him more recently.  This home-made double feature, which began with The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962) turned out to be some prime viewing and a pretty decent pairing.

Both films feature actor Howard Vernon (who was The Awful Dr. Orloff himself), who plays here a strange mystical character Cagliostro who travels around with a nude, caped, blind bird woman (one of the film’s weirdest of the weird elements).  He’s up against Dr. Frankenstein’s daughter, who seeks to reanimate both her father and his silver-skinned monster for….orgies?  Torture orgies?

Apparently shot in Portugal, Franco gets a lot out of his locations and pumps lots of feverish nonsense into an acid-trippy conflagration of ideas and characters.  This film leans more toward the less-polished and outlandish of Franco’s work, but in many ways actually it’s the camp badness that makes the film really interesting.  There are some funny moments, like when splashing acid on someone causes them to lose their limbs.  Or actually almost any scene with the blind bird lady.

I may be still getting my head around Franco and developing my overall opinion, but these two films, quite significantly different in their charms, actually have both added to my interest in the schlockmeister.

The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962)

The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 08/03/2015

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.

Demoniac (1975)

Demoniac (1975) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 07/13/2015

What did I just watch?  Demoniac, from Jess Franco, seems to be a particular version of a film also released as Exorcism, though that version was both X-rated and somewhat longer.  My internet research, which I usually don’t delve into with great depth nor need, raises inconsistent information about this movie.

I watched it on Fandor, and since I’d just watched Demoniacs (1974) (by Jean Rollin), it seemed one of these reasonable double features to watch Demoniac (as it is titled at Fandor) right with it.

For years, I knew little of either Franco or Rollin, other than their films were distributed in late VHS and early DVD years by Redemption films here in the states, a company whose goth logo seemed to suggest a target audience for the movies.  This assumption, right or wrong regarding Redemption’s marketing, led me to know nothing of the two film-makers other than association by distribution, parallels in their careers in time, and occasional other seeming parallels like this Demoniac/Demoniacs one or the Oasis of the Zombies (1982)/Zombie Lake (1981) one.

Franco actually stars in this odd flick.  He’s the serial killer exorcist making this weird thriller even weirder.  But it’s also a pretty bad thriller.  In fact, it’s quite bad.

My first interactions with Franco were positive.  His films Venus in Furs (1969) and Vampyros lesbos (1971) were both pretty interesting.  But whereas Jean Rollin has consistently interested me and risen in my estimation, Franco is more elusive still.  He was massively prolific and possibly (probably) a bit more of a hack.  I’ll continue to investigate him for a while, but I’ll be a little less optimistic with my next ventures.