Favourite Five Series: JESS FRANCO (Part One)

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I have seen Seventy Jess Franco films. I have never seen seventy films from one director. It is possible I may never see seventy films from another director other than Jess Franco. Mr. Franco made a shitload of films. IMDB lists 203 films under director but according to Wikipedia Franco made “about 160”.  I do know that at this point in my viewing it has become difficult to find titles I have not seen. I was thrilled to add Mondo Macabro’s recent Blu-ray of Night has a Thousand Desires to my collection; it marked my seventieth Franco flick. Severin will be releasing Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties (1980) August 29th; which I seen, but it was a very sketchy copy. And apparently if you order through the Severin store you will get yourself a pair of flowered panties and/or other related goodies with your film. I had to watch some pretty grungy versions of the Maestro’s resume to get those seventy stroked off my list. A few VHS rips on YouTube and XHamster were bordering on unwatchable. Some were rented from Zip before they ended the service, Bluemoon Streaming and Fandor. And some were purchased; I plan on adding as many Franco DVD and Blu-rays to my library as possible. When you watch multiple films from any one director you will notice similarities in style, technique, cast, music etc. Franco knew how to get bang for his buck and would often make more than one film on a set, using the same actors, actresses and costumes. Several actors and actresses made multiple appearances in Franco films. You could almost break down the films based on that. That is a post itself! I will be focusing on at least a few of the Franco regulars in my Goddesses of Underground Cinema posts. Franco has made films of every possible genre; horror, spy, comedy, action, documentary, etc and one thing they all have in common is sex and nudity in varying degrees. Even his early films like The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962) were controversial for their time. Franco loved a bush shot. Long, lingering shots of bush are plentiful in his post 60s stuff. Sometimes there is nothing else going on in the shot, it is just bush. Seems to me there are more long lingering shots of bush than there is tits and/or ass. A bush zoom was used to segue way into the next scene in a few films. Quite often that bush belonged to Lina Romay. Film’s greatest love story! Franco made over a hundred films with Romay and the two were together until her death in 2012. Franco himself passed away just a little over a year later in 2013.

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There were periods where Franco’s work felt a bit redundant, but when you’ve made “about 160” films you are bound to repeat yourself to some extent. I have enjoyed the hell out of a good chunk of Jess Franco’s filmography and consider him a favorite director. As long as folks like Mondo Macabro and Severin keep unearthing lost Franco films I will continue to buy and enjoy them. I love you Jess xo

I shortlisted twenty-two Franco films for THREE lists of Favorite Five Films; Here is Part One in no particular order…

SINNER/DIARY OF A NYMPHOMANIAC (1973)

Starring: Montserrat Prous, Anne Libert, Kali Hansa, Jacqueline Laurent, Howard Vernon, Manuel Pereiro, Francisco Acosta

Jess Franco made a lot of films with female revenge plots. Strong, resourceful, sexy women unapologetic about who they are and what they do. Linda Vargas is the film’s Sinner. The opening scene in a club ends with Linda calling the police, slashing her own throat and falling on top of a man. The balance of the film explains why. The lovely Montserrat Prous who plays Linda was in seven Franco films but this one, bar none was the jewel in her crown. She is picture perfect; I felt so sorry for Linda! I had more empathy for Linda then I have ever had for any character in a Franco film. Every guy she meets is a piece of shit. The cast of regulars have never been better, especially Kali Hansa who plays Maria, Linda’s best friend and lover. Although I noted the films are not in any particular order, there is no doubt about it, Sinner is definitely my number one Franco flick.

tumblr_n10wyycKCL1skwl5to2_1280Linda Kills herself at the beginning of the film and frames degenerate Mr. Ortiz (Manuel Pereiro) for her murder.

tumblr_n10wyycKCL1skwl5to5_1280Linda (Montserrat Prous) with her friend and lover Maria (Kali Hansa).

tumblr_n10wyycKCL1skwl5to8_r1_1280Rosa, Ortiz’s wife (Jacqueline Laurent) clutching Linda’s diary.

Read my full review of Sinner HERE.

FACELESS (1987)

Starring: Helmut Berger, Brigitte Lahaie, Caroline Munro, Gérard Zalcberg, Anton Diffring, Howard Vernon, Telly Savalas

Faceless is more or less an eighties version of Franco’s 1962 film The Awful Dr. Orlof. Dr. Flamand’s wife has acid thrown in her face early in the film and the good doctor aims to do something about it; namely get her a pretty new face. With the assistance of his lover Nathalie (Brigitte Lahaie) and goon Gordon (Gerard Zalcberg) there is much face ripping and re-attaching. A cameo from Howard Vernon as Dr. Orloff, Anton Diffring as a Nazi doctor, and Telly Savalas as the father to a coke-snorting,  big-haired model played by Caroline Munro; not much to dislike here! Great cast, well-paced, gory action that screams the eighties.

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Dr. Flamand (Helmut Berger) examines a new “patient” while Nathalie (Brigitte Lahaie) looks on.

tumblr_o2gjjfnvRU1ubf88so1_1280Brigitte Lahaie as Nathalie “assisting”.

tumblr_o2hosx2tkH1ubf88so1_1280A gory face removal.

Read my full review of Faceless HERE.

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND DESIRES (1984)

Starring: Lina Romay, Daniel Katz, Carmen Carrión, Albino Graziani, José Llamas, Alicia Príncipe, Mari Carmen Nieto

Irina and her lover Fabian tour nightclubs with their psychic act. Irina is plagued with terrible nightmares that she believes to be real. Fabian played by Daniel Katz is one of Franco’s all time biggest dick characters. He even looked like a weasel. That weaselly hair and those douchy clothes. I hated him. But I loved hating him. Lina Romay on the other hand plays one her most likable characters and gives a really solid performance; one of her best I think. Fabulous locations and set pieces and an intriguing story with lots of groovy surreal imagery.  Night has a Thousand Desires has everything I enjoy about Franco films and more.

tumblr_ojcajfdP1R1skwl5to1_1280A hysterical Irina (Lina Romay) in one of the film’s many trippy moments.

tumblr_ojc9iiLING1skwl5to1_1280Lorna (Carmen Carrión) kisses the forehead of Irina in another trippy scene.

tumblr_ojjklxBCS61skwl5to1_1280Irina (Lina Romay) finds blood on her hands and cannot remember how it got there.

Read my full review of Night has a Thousand Desires HERE.

VAMPYROS LESBOS (1971)

Starring: Soledad Miranda, Dennis Price, Paul Muller, Ewa Strömberg, Heidrun Kussin, José Martínez Blanco, Andrea Montchal

One of the first Franco films I ever seen and 70 films later it is still a favorite. Franco throws out the rules of vampire lore for this salacious outing. Linda (Ewa Strömberg) travels to a remote island to settle an estate with a wealthy Countess. The lonely, blood-thirsty Countess has other plans for Linda. Symbolism runs rampant in this sexy, psychedelic and surreal vampire love story.  Fabulous sets, beautiful cinematography and a badass soundtrack. Soledad Miranda as Countess Carody and Ewa Strömberg as Linda Westinghouse have fabulous chemistry; both are superb in their roles. Truly a shame that the talented Soledad Miranda died so young.

tumblr_n10x4b4Uaf1skwl5to6_1280Countess Nadine Carody’s (Soledad Miranda) performance at a club at the beginning of the film.

tumblr_nwhgaaWhRC1qzpdnho6_r1_1280Countess Nadine Carody (Soledad Miranda) working on her tan.

tumblr_nonniyKvv71qayb8no2_1280Linda Westinghouse (Ewa Strömberg) splashed with blood.

Read my full review of Vampyros Lesbos HERE.

EUGENIE… THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION (1970)

Starring: Maria Rohm, Marie Liljedahl, Jack Taylor, Paul Muller, Christopher Lee

Based on the work of Marquis De Sade, the title really says it all. The fresh faced Eugenie (Marie Liljedahl) is a guest at the palatial manor of Madame Saint Ange (Maria Rohm) where her daisy like virtue is plucked petal by petal. Madame and step brother Mirvel (Jack Taylor) waste no time corrupting the young woman who by the story’s end is stripped bare both physically and emotionally. This is worth watching for Maria Rohm’s performance alone. A gorgeous, confident, classy and well-dressed degenerate of highest rank. Who wouldn’t do whatever the hell she asked? Certainly not Eugenie’s father; who sold his daughter for the opportunity to fuck Madame. I can’t imagine anyone better than Rohm in this role; in the Franco fold or otherwise. She is perfection. Marie Liljedahl still looks like a bloody teenager and fits well here as does the Lego-coiffed Jack Taylor. Amazing sets and costumes, a fabulous soundtrack and just an overall slick-looking film. Franco’s masterpiece.

tumblr_novupnUcGc1skwl5to2_1280Madame Saint Ange (Maria Rohm) helps Eugenie (Marie Liljedahl) with the suntan lotion.

tumblr_novupnUcGc1skwl5to8_1280Mirvel (Jack Taylor) taking care of business.

tumblr_novupnUcGc1skwl5to9_1280An epiphany for Eugenie (Marie Liljedahl).

2 Responses to “Favourite Five Series: JESS FRANCO (Part One)”

  1. GREAT post! I read the Franco may be the most prolific Director in history – hard to know for sure, but I have begun to collect his films and have seen 15 or so – “Eugenie” was hilarious in that Christopher Lee had no idea what other content was going into the film! – Here is a story I posted about it – https://johnrieber.com/2016/01/22/perversion-s-m-legendary-actor-christopher-lee-eugenie-shocks-a-movie-legend/

  2. Great stuff! I like to think of Franco’s use of certain shots as a reminder that waxing and such wasn’t trendy for ages. That and it reminds me of art school nude drawing classes… er, with a lot more murder and revenge…

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