Archive for Dorian Gray

The Goddesses of Underground Cinema: MARIA ROHM

Posted in Film, jess franco, movies, The Goddesses of Underground Cinema with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2017 by goregirl

venus_in_furs_lc_07Maria Rohm started her acting career at the age of four and worked in theatre until she auditioned for Harry Alan Towers at the age of 18. Rohm would go on to play roles in several films written by Towers including nine directed by Jess Franco. The Franco/Towers years were solid entertainment. I would argue the most coherent and aesthetically pleasing in his resume. If I was going to introduce the uninitiated to Jess Franco I would likely recommend a film from this period.  That said, I do have a special appreciation for the hysterics and sleaze of the Franco films that would follow; many of which are sure to make my Favorite Five Franco list. Maria Rohm and Harry Alan Towers were married in 1964 and remained together until Towers death in 2009. Rohm worked with directors Massimo Dallamano, Peter Collinson, Andrea Bianchi and Lindsay Shonteff among others but since this is part of my Jess Franco project I will be focusing on her Franco titles. Rohm retired from acting in 1976 but together with her husband continued to produce films. With only 27 credits listed on IMDB; this talented, beautiful and versatile actress, in my opinion, retired way too early. The sweet, sexy and stunning Maria Rohm will always be remembered as one of the Goddesses of Underground Cinema.

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In The Blood of Fu Manchu, Fu Manchu (played by Christopher Lee) discovers a poison that only affects men. He inoculates a group of women who are brainwashed into seducing Fu Manchu’s enemies; hence the film’s alternative title Kiss and Kill. It is all in the name of world domination of course! Maria Rohm plays cowgirl Ursula Wagner who along with Naylen Smith, Dr. Petrie and soldier Carl Jansen aim to foil Fu Manchu’s plans. A great female army setup is swallowed up by the less interesting subplots. It is not without some charm, but it is my least favourite of Rohm’s nine Franco flicks. No fault of hers, she is adorable in her cowgirl hat!

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In 99 Women Maria Rohm plays Marie a new arrival at an Island Prison. Torture, rape and lesbianism runs rampant thanks to a corrupt warden. 99 Women is one of the earliest in the women in prison subgenre and still one of the best. A solid cast that includes Maria Schell, Mercedes McCambridge, Rosalba Neri, Herbert Lom and of course Rohm. Rohm is the empathetic character but to be honest, Rosalba Neri sort of steals every scene she is in.

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In The Girl from Rio Maria Rohm plays Leslye, a manicurist who has sex with a rich douchebag named Jeff Sutton. Jeff is transporting a suitcase full of money to the tune of ten million dollars. Jeff and Leslye unwittingly become involved in a war between Sumuru the leader of an all female city and gangster Sir Masius. Fabulous costumes and groovy cinematography kept me watching despite inept action sequences and a seriously awkward Shirley Eaton in the lead role. The Girl from Rio will definitely not be making my favorite’s list but Maria Rohm is completely at ease as the likable Leslye.

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In Marquis de Sade’s Justine Maria Rohm plays Juliette; sister to the titular Justine. After their father’s death the sisters are forced to leave the convent where they had been living. The duo are taken in by a madame where they are expected to prostitute themselves in return for accommodation. Justine refuses and sets out on a journey where she encounters a myriad of perverts, thieves and others degenerates. She is used, abused, thrown in prison and eventually sentenced to death. Meanwhile sister Juliette has embarked on a successful life of crime. This is the meaty sort of badass roles that fit Maria Rohm like a glove. Sexy and fearless; and goddamn she looks brilliant in period piece costuming! I felt lukewarm about certain aspects of Justine on my initial watch; specifically the choice of Romina Power as Justine. Despite these feelings it did make my top 10 horror film list for 1969. On subsequent watches (I now own the DVD) I have warmed up to Power in the role. Marquis de Sade’s Justine is absolutely a contender for my favorite list.

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In Venus in Furs Maria Rohm plays Wanda Reed. At the beginning of the film Wanda’s dead body is found on the beach by musician Jimmy Logan; flashbacks take the story full circle. Venus in Furs is a trippy, sexy, supernatural thriller; one of Franco’s most attractive films. Practically perfect despite the sketchy casting of James Darren as Jimmy Logan. Seems to me that there are actors and actresses that just are not comfortable in the Franco fold. Rohm has major screentime in this one and is definitely the star attraction. Sexy and sassy but also sweet and full of sadness. She gets solid support from Barbara McNair, Margaret Lee, Klaus Kinski and Dennis Price. Venus in Furs is another favorite list contender.

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Corrupt and power-hungry Judge Jeffreys is a 17th century chief justice (Christopher Lee) known for his harsh verdicts. The Bloody Judge is infamous for condemning women as witches which his lackey dogs torture confessions from. Maria Rohm plays Mary Gray whose sister Alicia is accused of witchcraft. She pleads her sister’s case to no avail but does get the unwanted attentions of the judge who is determined to have her or ruin her. The judge however has other things to worry about, specifically the overthrow of the government that continues to give him too much authority. While Maria Rohm is simply engaging and perfect The Bloody Judge belongs to Mr. Lee. Definitely Christopher Lee’s best Franco appearance and a solid one in general among his 200+ filmography. Good stuff, but not favorite list good.

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In exchange for a role in the hay with Madame Saint Ange, Mistival agrees to send his daughter Eugenie to spend a weekend at the woman’s secluded island home. Eugenie, as the titles suggests, takes a journey into perversion and beyond. Eugenie… The Story of her Journey into Perversion is a naughty, delicious, twisted, psychedelic, sexy and sadistic treat. The lovely Marie Liljedahl, no stranger to sleazy cinema joins Franco regulars Maria Rohm, Jack Taylor and Paul Muller and is well-suited for the role with her baby face and starry eyes. Paul Muller is fun as douchy dad Mistival, I love Jack Taylor, he can do no wrong and Christopher Lee makes a brief but memorable appearance. But this one is all about Maria Rohm who spanks this baby and puts it to bed as Madame Saint Ange. Completely at ease with her savagery and perversion she wears it like a technicolor fucking dreamcoat. A stunning film visually with an arresting soundtrack and a fabulous plot twist; in fact, more than one plot twist! Spoiler; Eugenie… The Story of her Journey into Perversion  is guaranteed entry on my favorite Franco list.

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Franco directs his version of the Bram Stoker story and keeps it pretty true. Count Dracula has a fantastic cast with Christopher Lee as Dracula, Klaus Kinski as Renfield, Herbert Lom as Van Helsing, Soledad Miranda as Lucy Westenra and Maria Rohm as Mina Harker. As you can see from the above image, Rohm is a striking Mina Harker. Everyone is perfectly cast. I love this version! Count Dracula is definitely a contender for my favorite five.

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Sneaking in this one non- Franco Title. Maria Rohm has a small but memorable role as Alice Campbell in Massimo Dallamano 1970 film Dorian Gray. In this scene she is seduced by Helmut Berger’s Dorian Gray character. Seeing a naked Helmut Berger is probably one of the top 3 best possible things I could see after putting on my glasses!

Maria Rohm’s Filmography

Annie (1976)
Closed Up-Tight (1975)
The Killer is Not Alone (1975)
Ten Little Indians (1974)
The Call of the Wild (1972)
Treasure Island (1972)
Sex Charade (1972)
Black Beauty (1971)
Dorian Gray (1970)
Count Dracula (1970)
Eugenie (1970)
The Bloody Judge (1970)
Venus in Furs (1969)
Marquis de Sade’s Justine (1969)
Rio 70 (1969)
99 Women (1969)
The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968)
Eve (1968)
House of 1,000 Dolls (1967)
Five Golden Dragons (1967)
The Vengeance of Fu Manchu (1967)
The Million Eyes of Sumuru (1967)
Bang! Bang! You’re Dead! (1966)
City of Fear (1965)
24 Hours to Kill (1965)
Teufel im Fleisch (1964)
Mozambique (1964)