Posts Tagged ‘Jess Franco’

Theatrical Viewings:

  1. SHIN GODZILLA (Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi, 2016)

Home Viewings:

  1. NEKROMANTIK (Jörg Buttgereit, 1987)
  2. NEKROMANTIK 2 ((Jörg Buttgereit, 1991)
  3. DER TODESKING: THE DEATH KING ((Jörg Buttgereit, 1990)
  4. DEATH BED: THE BED THAT EATS (George Barry, 1977)
  5. LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET (Roger Watkins, 1977)
  6. EYES WITHOUT A FACE (Georges Franju, 1960)
  7. VAMPYR (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1932)
  8. COUNTESS DRACULA (Peter Sasdy, 1971)
  9. THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE (Vicente Aranda, 1972)
  10. VAMPYRES (José Ramón Larraz, 1974)
  11. THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH (Sergio Martino, 1971)
  12. THE CASE OF THE SCORPION’S TAIL (Sergio Martino, 1971)
  13. ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK (Sergio Martino, 1972)
  14. YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY (Sergio Martino, 1972)
  15. TORSO (Sergio Martino, 1973)
  16. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? (Massimo Dallamano, 1972)
  17. SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS (Umberto Lenzi, 1972)
  18. SPASMO (Umberto Lenzi, 1974)
  19. BLOOD FEAST (Herschell Gordon Lewis, 1963)
  20. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (Fran Rubel Kuzui, 1992)
  21. CRITTERS (Stephen Herek, 1986)
  22. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (Tobe Hooper, 1986)
  23. LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III (Jeff Burr, 1990)
  24. FROM BEYOND (Stuart Gordon, 1986)
  25. A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD (Jess Franco, 1973)
  26. FEMALE VAMPIRE (Jess Franco, 1975)
  27. STRANGELAND (John Pieplow, 1998)
  28. WAXWORK (Anthony Hickox, 1988)
  29. HORROR OF DRACULA (Terence Fisher, 1958)
  30. DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (Terence Fisher, 1966)
  31. THE RETURN OF GODZILLA (Koji Hashimoto, 1984)

Television:

  1. BOB’S BURGERS, 6×13-6×19
  2. FAMILY GUY, 14×01-14×20
  3. GAME OF THRONES, 1×01-1×10, 2×01-2×10, 3×01-3×10, 4×01-4×10

Theatrical Viewings:

  1. THE PRINCESS BRIDE (Rob Reiner, 1987)
  2. THE NEON DEMON (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016)
  3. BLONDE VENUS (Josef von Sternberg, 1932)
  4. FROGS (George McCowan, 1972, 16mm)

Home Viewings:

  1. WAKING LIFE (Richard Linklater, 2001)
  2. MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (Frank Capra, 1939)
  3. RAISING CAIN (Brian De Palma, 1992)
  4. PRINCE OF DARKNESS (John Carpenter, 1987)
  5. IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (John Carpenter, 1994)
  6. LORD OF ILLUSIONS (Clive Barker, 1995)
  7. MAN FROM DEEP RIVER (Umberto Lenzi, 1972)
  8. WEREWOLF WOMAN (Rino Di Silvestro, 1976)
  9. NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT (Jess Franco, 1970)
  10. MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN (John Carpenter, 1992)
  11. VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (Wolf Rilla, 1960)
  12. GODZILLA (Ishirô Honda, 1954)
  13. GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN (Motoyoshi Oda, 1955)
  14. KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (Ishirô Honda, 1962)
  15. MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (Ishirô Honda, 1964)
  16. GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (Ishirô Honda, 1964)
  17. INVASION OF ASTRO-MONSTER (Ishirô Honda, 1965)
  18. OFFICE SPACE (Mike Judge, 1999)
  19. EBIRAH, HORROR OF THE DEEP (Jun Fukuda, 1966)
  20. DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (Ishirô Honda, 1968)
  21. INDEPENDENCE DAY (Roland Emmerich, 1996)
  22. ALL MONSTERS ATTACK (Ishirô Honda, 1969)
  23. GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (Yoshimitsu Banno, 1971)
  24. GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (Jun Fukuda, 1972)
  25. GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (Jun Fukuda, 1973)
  26. TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (Ishirô Honda, 1975)
  27. RODAN (Ishirô Honda, 1956)
  28. THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (Ishirô Honda, 1966)
  29. KING KONG ESCAPES (Ishirô Honda, 1967)
  30. GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (Kazuki Omori, 1989)

Television:

  1. FILTHY, RICH & CATFLAP, 1×01-1×06

Theatrical Viewings:

  1. 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE (Hal Ashby, 1986)
  2. DINOSAURUS! (Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr., 1960, 16mm)
  3. THE WITCH (Robert Eggers, 2015)
  4. HAIL, CAESAR! (The Coen Brothers, 2016)
  5. ROOM (Lenny Abrahamson, 2015)
  6. BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (Zack Snyder, 2016)

Home Viewings:

  1. STRIKE COMMANDO (Bruno Mattei, 1987)
  2. DOUBLE TARGET (Bruno Mattei, 1987)
  3. ROBOWAR (Bruno Mattei, 1988)
  4. SHOCKING DARK (Bruno Mattei, 1989)
  5. CRUEL JAWS (Bruno Mattei, 1995)
  6. 99 WOMEN (Jess Franco, 1969)
  7. LOVE LETTERS OF A PORTUGUESE NUN (Jess Franco, 1977)
  8. IILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE SS (Don Edmonds, 1975)
  9. MOON (Duncan Jones, 2009)
  10. SS EXPERIMENT CAMP (Sergio Garrone, 1976)
  11. FRAULEIN KITTY (Patrice Rhomm, 1977)
  12. THE GESTAPO’S LAST ORGY (Cesare Canevari, 1977)
  13. THE RED NIGHTS OF THE GESTAPO (Fabio De Agostini, 1977)
  14. SS CAMP 5: WOMEN’S HELL (Sergio Garrone, 1977)
  15. SS HELL CAMP (Luigi Batzella, 1977)
  16. DEATH SMILES AT A MURDERER (Joe D’Amato, 1973)
  17. DRAGONBALL: CURSE OF THE BLOOD RUBIES (Daisuke Nishio, 1986)
  18. DRAGONBALL: SLEEPING PRINCESS IN DEVIL’S CASTLE (Daisuke Nishio, 1987)
  19. DRAGONBALL: MYSTICAL ADVENTURE (Kazuhisa Takenouchi, 1988)
  20. DRAGONBALL: THE PATH TO POWER (Shigeyasu Yamauchi, 1996)
  21. THE ISLAND (Michael Bay, 2005)
  22. THE NINTH GATE (Roman Polanski, 1999)

Television:

  1. BETTER CALL SAUL, 2×03-2×06
  2. THE TWILIGHT ZONE, 1×01-1×06

 

Theatrical Viewings:

  1. ZOOLANDER 2 (Ben Stiller, 2016)
  2. SISTERS (Brian de Palma, 1973, 16mm)
  3. JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS (Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfront, 2001)

Home Viewings:

  1. THE PLAGUE DOGS (Martin Rosen, 1982)
  2. SUCCUBUS (Jess Franco, 1969)
  3. COUNT DRACULA (Jess Franco, 1970)
  4. THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (Jess Franco, 1972)
  5. EXORCISM (Jess Franco, 1975)
  6. CANNIBALS (Jess Franco, 1980)
  7. BLOODY MOON (Jess Franco, 1981)
  8. PERVERSION STORY (Lucio Fulci, 1969)
  9. THE EROTICIST (Lucio Fulci, 1972)
  10. THE PSYCHIC (Lucio Fulci, 1977)
  11. WARRIORS OF THE YEAR 2072 (Lucio Fulci, 1984)
  12. HANDS OF STEEL (Sergio Martino, 1986)
  13. ENDGAME (Joe D’Amato, 1983)
  14. YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE (Antonio Margheriti, 1983)
  15. SS GIRLS (Bruno Mattei, 1977)
  16. HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (Bruno Mattei, 1980)
  17. THE OTHER HELL (Bruno Mattei, 1981)
  18. THE SEVEN MAGNIFICENT GLADIATORS (Bruno Mattei, 1983)
  19. RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR (Bruno Mattei, 1984)

Television:

  1. THE X-FILES, 10×03-10×06
  2. BETTER CALL SAUL, 1×01-1×10, 2×01-2×02

 

Theatrical Viewings:

  1. KNOCK KNOCK (2015) – directed by Eli Roth
  2. THE FINAL GIRLS (2015) – directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson
  3. GINGER SNAPS (2000) – directed by John Fawcett
  4. SYNCHRONICITY (2015) – directed by Jacob Gentry

Home Viewings:

  1. THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE (1997) – directed by Taylor Hackford
  2. THE SPANISH PRISONER (1997) – directed by David Mamet
  3. PAUL MCCARTNEY REALLY IS DEAD: THE LAST TESTAMENT OF GEORGE HARRISON (2010) – directed by Joel Gilbert
  4. THE BRAIN (1988) – directed by Edward Hunt
  5. THE GATE (1987) – directed by Tibor Takacs
  6. THE HOWLING II: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF (1985) – directed by Philippe Mora
  7. THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989) – directed by Ron Clements & John Husker
  8. MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE (1966) – directed by Harold P. Warren
  9. SCANNERS (1981) – directed by David Cronenberg
  10. DRESSED TO KILL (1980) – directed by Brian de Palma
  11. SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY (1971) – directed by Jess Franco
  12. THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1991) – directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
  13. THE CANNIBAL MAN (1972) – directed by Eloy de la Iglesia
  14. 28 DAYS LATER (2002) – directed by Danny Boyle

Television:

n/a


Part of the fun of exploring a filmmaker’s work in chronological order is the shock to the system that comes when watching a film that represents a radical departure from a director’s style that you’ve come to associate him/her with. I know audiences who’ve sometimes experienced that when they watch my films in order and how the gulf between the Lynchian surrealism of PANDORA’S PARADOX and the “artsploitation” sado-erotic horror of SHE WAS ASKING FOR IT was a wide one for them indeed. After coming off of watching the Universal/Hammer-esque THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF, the Gothic Giallo THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS and the exquisitely shot, proto-female revenge masterpiece, THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z, a film like VENUS IN FURS certainly qualifies as the aforementioned “shock to the system.”

Yet at the same time, we find ourselves entering familiar territory with this film. Familiar in the sense that when one thinks of Jess Franco, images of sex, nudity and surrealism set in an exotic locale with a jazz score immediately spring to mind. And in that respect, VENUS IN FURS is a film that embodies all of that and then some.

It’s important to note that your interest in seeing this film for the first time may have more to do with your hope that Franco has brought his unique sensibility to capturing kinky sex on film to this timeless sadomasochistic literary masterpiece. I know that’s what attracted me to VENUS IN FURS the first time I saw it. However, the title is the only thing that has any relation to the novel. Forced by producers to use a title that would draw audiences, Franco had to rename his film, which ironically had to turn people off in the end once they realized this “adaptation” was about as faithful as James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN or Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING.

If you can forgive the blatantly deceptive marketing ploy, you’re in for a real treat as VENUS IN FURS is one of Franco’s stronger films from his experimental period of the ’70s. Now that’s not to say the film is perfect or his masterpiece as some critics are wont to decree. The film has a rather sloppy look to it, particularly in comparison to the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography of films like THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z as well as a disappointing twist ending that takes away from the otherwise engaging and original “supernatural rape-and-revenge” motif of the picture, but there’s also a lot of interesting aspects of the film that makes this worth investigating.

As previously mentioned, VENUS IN FURS can best be described as a “supernatural rape-and-revenge” film insofar as the plot centers on a young woman who is tortured and raped by a band of sophisticates and returns from the grave years later to get her revenge. This is done by aligning herself with a jazz musician who witnessed the crime and finds himself performing in clubs and parties that the sophisticates attend on a regular basis. The jazz musician is at first, naturally confused as to how she could be alive and well, but then realizing he’s in a Franco film where logic is about as welcome as a poor man in Mitt Romney’s home, thinks nothing of it and accepts her for what she is and even falls in love with her to boot.

What’s rather spectacular about this plot are the sequences in which the young woman actually gets her revenge. She first targets Dennis Price’s character by seducing him so successfully that he dies of a heart attack from “over-stimulation.” The music, editing and performances of the actors involved really sell this scene and make it rank among the very best that Franco has ever directed. She then moves on to the woman involved in her demise and seduces her. As they’re about to make love down by the fire, the young woman turns into the corpse that the sophisticates left behind in their wake causing the other woman to slit her wrists in a bathtub while delivering a rather poignant monologue. And finally, Klaus Kinski himself gets the best treatment for last. He plays a millionaire playboy who fantasizes about switching societal roles with a “peasant girl” and having her dominate him. Needless to say, the young woman is only too happy to oblige.

There’s also the presence of surrealism that makes this film truly stand apart from his work in the ’60s. While the films made in that period were very much rooted in the real world with straightforward plots driven by cause-and-effect, VENUS IN FURS operates on a more dreamlike basis where the lines between reality and fantasy are constantly being blurred. So much so that it doesn’t come off as strange that when the jazz musician talks about the night he met the young woman at a party that every one except the woman, himself and the sophisticates are moving and the other party attendees are frozen in place. It’s a very effective visual that’s quite chilling and powerful in its simplicity.

And then of course there’s the soundtrack. Whether you’re a fan of Jess Franco or not, one thing everyone usually admits is how fantastic the music is. While the score to VAMPYROS LESBOS is usually referred to as Franco’s greatest, I actually prefer the one here in VENUS IN FURS. It’s beautiful when it needs to be for scenes of sensuality and it’s also foreboding for scenes in which the young woman is seducing a man to death in one of the revenge sequences. Then there’s the VENUS IN FURS title track which always plays after she has successfully claimed another victim. It may sound a little jarring at first, but you’ll find yourself singing, “Venus in Furs will be smiling” long after the film is done.

My main complaint about the film is the twist ending. Now on one hand you can argue that it works and that what we’ve just seen was one big dream sequence by an individual in a state of limbo contemplating the recent events of their life. On the other hand, it’s a deliberate and misguided attempt to add a level of “deeper meaning” to the film that only angers an audience who’ve spent 90 minutes of their lives emotionally invested in what they were watching. I suppose I fall into the latter category as until that moment, VENUS IN FURS really hooked me and I was well on my way to ranking it high up there with Franco’s best work. Unfortunately I’m forced to acknowledge the greatness of a few key moments but also to point out that the journey you’re taken on isn’t one that pays off in a satisfactory way in the end.

VENUS IN FURS may be smiling, but I sure wasn’t after watching this.


If there was ever a film in Jess Franco’s body of work you could use to justify ranking the man among the very best Euro-Horror has to offer, it would be THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z. Granted, you could always mention the film that is generally regarded to be his masterpiece, VAMPYROS LESBOS (1970), but for my money, that was a film with a lot of great ideas but not a particularly engaging film from a narrative standpoint. THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z on the other hand truly has it all. A great revenge plot that’ll hook even the most jaded of horror fans, some of the most gorgeous women to ever grace the silver screen, an absolutely exquisite look to the film that evokes the film noir cinematography of THE THIRD MAN, the surreal night-club scene portrayed in countless David Lynch films and a sublime mix of the Gothic and the sensual. This may very well be my favorite Jess Franco film and certainly his masterpiece at least in the domain of his coherent narratives.

The plot centers on Dr. Zimmer who has created a mind control device that can enhance or eliminate one’s tendency for good or evil. When he reveals his work to his academic peers he is rejected and declared mad. This rejection causes him to suffer a fatal heart attack on the spot. His daughter vows to continue his work and does so in the grand tradition of revenge films – by making a list of the doctors who spurned her father and knocking them off one by one using his mind control device to brainwash a sexy go-go dancer to do the deed for her.

When I first saw THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z, I was absolutely floored. The visual aesthetics of the film captivated me like no other horror film ever did. I was particularly enthralled by the famous night-club scene in which our go-go dancer turned deadly killing machine performs a surreal and sexy artistic number by crawling around on a spider-web pinned to the floor, making her way to a man seated on a chair. I was so inspired by this scene, that I paid homage to it in one of my films, DARK LOTUS (2009).

Watching this film again, I was also struck by how once again Jess Franco was ahead of his time and a true innovator of horror. This film was made almost a decade before the rape-and-revenge craze of the ’70s, and while there’s no rape in this film per se, the concept of the “hell hath no fury as a woman scorned” revenge theme is certainly present and was a revolutionary one at that. So for those keeping track not only did Jess Franco direct the first giallo with THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS, he may very well have directed the first female revenge film with THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z.

THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z represents Jess Franco at the height of his career. The ’70s would see Franco move away from his Gothic/Film Noir hybrid horror pictures to a more experimental approach to filmmaking. It would be this departure from traditional narrative moviemaking that would spark the debate over whether Franco was an auteur experimenting with genre or simply a deviant masquerading as an artist in order to indulge his sexual thrills in the name of “making art.”

When you watch what I like to call his “Gothic Trilogy” of THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF, THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS and THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z, I don’t know how any critic can claim with a straight face, that Jess Franco was a no-talent hack. These three films, with the last one in particular are beautifully shot, incredibly well made and above all else, unbelievably innovative in their approach to genre filmmaking. The one thing that has always categorized Franco for me was that all his best films were the ones that played with the conventions of genre and the audience’s expectations of it. While it can be argued that some of his work in the ’70s may have gone a little too far in its experimentation to the point where cinematic semantics and plot incoherence alienated audiences expecting films living up to the promise of lurid titles like VAMPYROS LESBOS, A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD and FEMALE VAMPIRE, the fact that Franco was consciously trying new things and not just churning out another cheap exploitation flick to make a buck (given the meager budgets he would soon be working with, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t make any money at all) would certainly indicate the temperament of an artist.

At any rate, THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z comes highly recommended and is a must-see in order to properly place Jess Franco’s work in context. It’s important to see where Franco came from before delving into the seedy underbelly of his sexually and experimentally provocative work of the ’70s and understand that Franco was more than capable of creating strong narratives with gorgeous, eye-popping visuals to match. Much like it’s important to see films like ERASERHEAD, BLUE VELVET, TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME, LOST HIGHWAY and MULHOLLAND DR. before you see David Lynch’s INLAND EMPIRE. If your introduction to a filmmaker’s work is through his most obtuse picture, you’re bound to write the rest off as equally inaccessible and that’s not fair or right.