Daughter of Dracula (1972)

Daughter of Dracula (1972) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 05/02/2018

Daughter of Dracula is a little confusebslls but what good Jesús Franco flick isn’t? It does, however, feature a more substantial acting role for Jess than in a lot of other films of his.

What is it about Jesús Franco that makes him compelling? Not simply that he cranked out movies prodigiously more than competently. Per IMDb, Daughter of Dracula is one of nine films he directed in 1972 alone. He displays sometimes amateurish skills, heightened by passion and aesthetics, often incoherent but sometimes cohesive yet still inconsistent. 

A lot of people seem to see Daughter of Dracula as more giallo than horror. True, it’s got a detective working a series of killings. It’s also got a girl turned vampire upon her mother’s deathbed confession relating a family history and then, yes, Dracula (Franco stalwart Howard Vernon). And lesbian sex scenes.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Franco. I just can’t articulate why exactly.

Nightmares Come at Night (1972)

Nightmares Come at Night (1972)

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 03/26/2018

The nonsensical montage that runs through the title sequence of Nightmares Come at Night is quite the preview of the nonsense to come in the film.

It’s psychedelia-cum-psychosis-cum-psych-out. A psychotic break as art film and artsy nudity. And Jess Franco at his most narratively challenged and still primed on LSD?

Amazingly awful English dub, both in words and acting rounds this one out.

“Life is all shit”

Indeed.

Succubus (1968)

Succubus (1968) movie poster

director Jesús Franco
viewed: 12/29/2017

It’s worth noting that it was LSD that opened Federico Fellini to his embrace of surreal fantasy.

Janine Reynaud, who would go onto star in Jess Franco’s Sadist Erotica and Kiss Me Monster, leads here in Succubus, Franco’s great leap from Spanish cinematic censorship into pop avant-garde. That and tapping deeply into his own obsessions and eccentricities.

S&M theater, the most Jess Franco of Jess Franco scenarios opens this picture which blues into slightly trippy surrealism and free association nonsense. Quite evocative if also kind of tedious, Succubus isn’t so much Franco’s 8 1/2, but might be quite formative in his rapacious cinematic outpouring.

Oasis of the Zombies (1982)

Oasis of the Zombies (1982) movie poster

director  Jesús Franco
viewed: 11/27/2017

I sincerely prefer the living dead Nazis of cinema to actual living Nazis in the world today. But enough about me.

Oasis of the Zombies has a lot of actors, big props, and explosions in the battle sequence.  Jesús Franco must have had a decent budget on this.

Franco never seems too invested in FX or make-up design so it’s not surprising his zombie movies tend to phone that shit in.

Though slow and not a little dull, Oasis of the Zombies does get sporadically atmospheric once finally rolling.

And yes, it is probably four or five times better than Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake (1981).

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.