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!

Voodoo Black Exorcist (1974)

Voodoo Black Exorcist (1974) movie poster

director Manuel Caño
viewed: 09/15/2017

“In infinite time, what happens happens.”

Just last week, I watched American Mummy (2014) which was a bit of a misnomer since there was no re-animated mummy in it. And now Voodoo Black Exorcist, which despite its title, is actually a mummy movie! Go figure. Marketing moves in mysterious ways.

Voodoo Black Exorcist is indeed stupefying, as the poster suggests, though terrifying, not so much. It’s a Spanish production that starts out with some seriously chocolaty black-face before we get our Caribbean mummy story. Why is it every mummy story hews to the trope of awakening and looking for a doppelganger or reborn version of a lost love? Don’t mummies have other motivations?

The camerawork is kinda bizarro, in a good way, but this is cheap, bad cinema, which you have to like in order to appreciate. It’s terrible but terribly fun too if you like trash like I do.

Some of the action takes place in some really cool caves.

And the quote that kept resounding: “The best hamburgers in the world.”

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.

In the Folds of the Flesh (1970)

In the Folds of the Flesh (1970) title screen

director  Sergio Bergonzelli
viewed: 08/04/2017

Sergio Bergonzelli quotes Sigmund Freud, suggesting that the title, In the Folds of the Flesh, is straight-up Freud. And if you’re going to name drop Freud, you better be prepared to go full-on-gonzo Freud.

And Bergonzelli does not disappoint.

The film jumps out from the get-go with a decapitated head. It’s the result of incestuous rape and a handy sword hanging on the wall. And when mom helps bury dad and sends his boat off to make it look like a drowning, a local criminal catches on. Years later, blackmail will ensue on the traumatized clan, but of course, they are crazier and far more dangerous than any old criminals.

It’s bizarre and laugh out loud funny in its absurdity (and that could just be describing the outfits). Grown up brother and sister go at it like sex maniacs. Don’t even think about touching the daughter’s wig, or shooting the pet vultures. Or triggering mom’s memory of surviving a Nazi death camp(? – in the film’s most bizarre aside).

It’s lunacy. Sheer lunacy. And when the return of the repressed comes around (in plot twists that are mind-bendingly hard to fathom), well,…the film doesn’t finish as strongly as it starts.

Still, this is bizarre and fun stuff.

Pyro… The Thing Without a Face (1964)

Pyro... The Thing Without a Face (1964) movie poster

director Julio Coll
viewed: 07/08/2017

Pyro… The Thing Without a Face, no matter how it was marketed or what it looks like, is no horror film. In fact, it’s ill-served by the pretense of being one. Expectations will be sorely met. But as a cheap thriller, in the vein of Alfred Hitchcock with no budget or too much talent, it’s actually half-way decent.

Produced by Sidney W. Pink (who deserves more investigation for his interesting and odd filmography), Pyro was set and shot in Spain, and follows Barry Sullivan, an engineer inspired by Ferris wheels, who falls into an affair with Martha Hyer, the real “pyro” in the movie. She was about to commit arson when he met her. Is it little wonder when scorned after the affair ends that she sets fire to Sullivan’s house and kills his wife and child?

The film then turns to revenge and Sullivan does become a “thing without a face”, but not so monstrous as all that. He also takes up with a young Soledad Miranda as the whole thing tips toward gruesome vengeance and tragedy.

Really, not half-bad. But no horror picture.

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.

Night of the Seagulls (1975)

Night of the Seagulls (1975) movie poster

director  Amando de Ossorio
viewed: 05/02/2017

I find Amando de Ossorio’s Blind Dead films remarkably eerie. Aside from the weaknesses of The Ghost Galleon (1974), it’s a remarkable series of films. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it has echoes of the uncanny about it. Something I cannot fully comprehend or express.

If I had seen these films as a child in the 1970’s, I’m pretty sure they would have blown my mind. The slow-motion Knights Templar skeleton dudes on their ghostly horses strike me even now almost as they would have then, suggestive of weird darkness, a strangeness unspeakable and untied to much more logical, real world horrors. They pick at my imagination in ways that virtually nothing I’ve seen in recent years has begun to do.

And it’s not that the movies are themselves such works of perfection. But they transcend themselves for me.

This one, might be my favorite of the four, though I’m also not quite sure why. The Night of the Seagulls might not be the eeriest of titles, but it’s an eerie flick.

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.

Mystery on Monster Island (1981)

Mystery on Monster Island (1981) movie poster

director  Juan Piquer Simón
viewed: 01/16/2017

This is more of a kiddie matinee adventure film than any kind of real “monster movie”. Not to say that it doesn’t feature some pretty wonderfully awful monsters at times. Too few and far between for sure, but wacky. Mystery on Monster Island is an adaptation of a Jules Verne novel, Godfrey Morgan: A Californian Mystery, though apparently the monsters were added in. And probably a ton of the grimace-inducing comedy bits.

It’s true that Peter Cushing and Terence Stamp appear here, but only in the beginning and end. It’s mostly in the hands of Ian Sera and David Hattan, playing a young adventurer and his persnickety teacher. And a small chimp.

There are some strikingly stereotyped racial characters that could easily get your gall. But the film features a twist ending that calls everything into question. But this is cheap and silly junk, so bad and laughable, why question?

That said, you may need to have an appreciation for bad movies to get much out of this.