Archive for Howard Vernon

SINNER (1973) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Film, France, jess franco, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2014 by goregirl

With 201 credits to his name I will never see every film that Jesús Franco directed. I have however made a goal for myself to see as many of his sixties and seventies feature films as possible. At ninety some odd films from the two decades even that is a bloody big mountain to climb! The man was a movie-making machine! Sinner aka Diary of a Nymphomaniac in quite a departure from his regular fare; at least what I have seen. Despite what its title might imply Sinner is actually one of the more conservative Franco films I’ve seen. Linda, the film’s “sinner” is a sad and complicated woman; I can not think of another character quite like her in a Franco film. His eccentric, sadistic and wild female characters featured in so many of his other films are an absolute shitload of fun but they certainly don’t elicit any sympathy from the viewer; nor are they supposed to. Sinner completely took me by surprise in the most spectacular of ways! I looked Sinner up by name on IMDB and nothing came up. I ended up finding it by looking up Jesús Franco. I can not believe I have found another error on IMDB. Sinner is listed as “adult”. You can not look up films listed as “adult” on IMDB. You can find them by doing a general internet search and usually the IMDB listing is the first thing that comes up. This is now the second time I have had to mention this very same thing. Joe Sarno’s 1968 film Vibrations is also a film listed as “adult” that is not “adult”. Frankly, I have an issue with not being able to look up “adult” films on IMDB. If it is a movie database why is it excluding an entire genre of film anyway? In any case, Sinner is most definitely not an “adult” film. There is no clitoris or penis shots and no graphic entry or cum shots. The sex that is included in Sinner is cut away from at the juicy bits. Sinner is a beautiful, sad, sexy journey and is one of Jesús Franco’s best.

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Linda Vargas picks up Mr. Ortiz at the bar she works in. Linda has a lesbian act that she performs with her friend Maria. She gets Mr. Ortiz good and drunk and takes him to a hotel.

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Mr. Ortiz and Linda arrive at the hotel and it isn’t long before the liquored Ortiz passes out. Linda calls the police, slits her own throat and falls dead on top of him.

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His wife Rosa is called to the station and questioned. Her husband claims to be innocent of the crime, at least the crime of murder, he is however clearly guilty of the crime of adultery. Angry, hurt and humiliated, Rosa decides to do an investigation of her own.

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Rosa first goes to see Countess Anna de Monterey.

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The countess tells Rosa about Linda’s ugly experience when she first arrived in the city from her family’s country home. Wandering about a fair a man offers to buy her candy floss and takes her on the ferris wheel. The man rapes her while on this amusement ride. The man is unknown to Anna but because we are getting a visual recollection we know that it is Mr. Ortiz.

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Linda is then raped by an employer.

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One day Linda drops some dresses off to Anna and spies on her having sex. The Countess catches her and the two engage in a love affair. Linda was the first lesbian experience that Anna ever had and it was new and exciting. Anna in turn gave Linda her first orgasm.

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Linda is attracted to a man who Anna has been seeing named Alberto. Linda has her first mutually consensual sex with a man and falls in love with Alberto. Alberto’s wife walks in on him and Linda and Alberto gets real pathetic real quick. He literally gets on his knees and begs his rich wife to keep him. “But Angela, don’t be like this. She means nothing to me.”

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Linda meets the sensual stripper Maria. The Countess comes home after a trip to find Maria and a photographer in her home. She shouts at them to “Get out” and the next morning Linda leaves without a word.

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Linda engages in a relationship with Maria who is involved in a lot more than just stripping. Soon Linda’s life becomes a whirlwind of modelling, drugs and prostitution.

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“Might she have killed herself?” -Rosa
“It’s very possible.” -Anna
“Did she already know my husband?” -Rosa
“She knew lots of people, slept with lots of people.” -Anna
“A nymphomaniac then?” -Rosa

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Rosa goes to the club where Maria works; it is the sort of place Mrs. Ortiz is not accustomed to frequenting unlike her husband. She asks for Maria. “You know Linda Vargas?”

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Maria takes Rosa upstairs to her room and shares some stories with her. But not before stripping down and getting comfortable.

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Maria tells Rosa about the time they were picked up with a bunch of their hippie friends for smoking dope. This is when Linda meet the doctor.

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The doctor pays her bail and asks her to come to his clinic to rest and be made clean again. The doctor ends up being yet another man in Linda’s life that shits all over her.

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Maria reads from Linda’s diary: “I finally realized that fucking is really all I like to do.”

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Rosa asks Maria if she can keep Linda’s diary.

Sinner is definitely not wild and crazy like a lot of other Franco flicks. It is a quiet, beautiful, well-made, stylish film with strong character development, an excellent story and a beguiling performance from its lead actress Montserrat Prous. All the supporting characters are watchable and memorable; especially Frano regular Howard Vernon. Vernon’s doctor seemed so genuine in his attempts to help Linda and ends up being a huge douchebag. I also enjoyed the hell out of the super sassy Kali Hansa who plays Maria, she had it going on! There were a couple of bits that gave me a chuckle that involved the manly photographer Mrs. Schwartz played by Doris Thomas. She calls Linda up to ask if she would be interested in posing for some pictures with Maria. Near the end of the conversation Mrs. Schwartz shoves the phone receiver into her stockings and starts stroking the bush. I thought she should have at least hung up the phone first! When Linda shows up to Mrs. Schwartz’s apartment Schwartz sweeps her off her feet Gone with the Wind-style and sits her on Maria’s lap. I don’t know if Mrs. Schwartz was intended to be but she was Sinner’s comedy relief. One of my favourite visual scenes was the early ferris wheel ride. Franco shoots the scene from several angles which gives it a real sense of menace. We feel Linda’s distress as the wheel seems to go round and round endlessly. She looks around desperately each time the wheel is at ground level hoping someone sees what is going on and stops the nightmarish ride. She pushes him away, the camera at times just inches from her anguished face. When the ride is over Mr. Ortiz rushes off leaving Linda sitting on the ferris wheel violated and aghast. This is Linda’s first experience in the city. We never learn why Linda doesn’t pack up her bags and leave right then and there. Linda stays on in the city even after a second violation by her new boss. It is insinuated that Linda’s homelife was unhappy. “I remember my village, my grandmother. She was the only one of my family who had any heart. The only one who understood me. Maybe I should have stayed with her. If God exists, I hope he hasn’t been as hard on her as he has on me.” Although we never learn specific details it never gets in the way of how the character evolves over the course of the film. Since Sinner begins at the end of the story, there is not a reveal for the viewer per se; although certainly Rosa Ortiz gets her closure. In Linda’s own words “I finally realized that fucking is really all I like to do.” “I want to give my body and my love to all my brothers and sisters. To all those whom life has offered only pain and misery.” Sinner as its alternative title suggests is a cinematic interpretation of the Diary of a Nymphomaniac; the story of a woman whose only pleasure in life was sex and whose abusive history led her to commit suicide at the age of twenty. Sinner has made me very excited to fill in the rest of the holes in my Franco viewing. Sinner/Diary of a Nymphomaniac gets my highest of recommendations; a perfect score.

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Jesús Franco

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

DR. JEKYLL AND HIS WOMEN (1981) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in France, movies with tags , , , , , , on August 5, 2013 by goregirl

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I am most intrigued by the work of Walerian Borowczyk. I have seen just two of Borowczyk’s 43 director credits; The Beast and Dr. Jekyll and His Women. Accompanying the film were trailers for other Borowczyk offerings. Particularly intriguing were Immoral Tales and Behind Convent Walls which look like they are packed full of sex and surrealism. Borowczyk’s films range genres but all the titles I read up on all seem to have a heavy sexual vibe. Borowczyk is quoted as saying “Eroticism, sex, is one of the most moral parts of life. Eroticism does not kill, exterminate, encourage evil, lead to crime. On the contrary, it makes people gentler, brings joy, gives fulfillment, leads to selfless pleasure.” The Beast and Dr. Jekyll and His Women was enough to prod me into investigating the director; the more I read about Borowczyk the more I feel compelled to seek out his films. Unfortunately it would seem that Mr. Borowczyk’s films are hard to come by. The version of Dr. Jekyll and his Women I watched is apparently the only uncut version that exists for the film. It was dubbed and had Dutch subtitles. Even under these less than ideal conditions I thoroughly enjoyed it. There really needs to be an original French language version with English subtitles! Until then you can pick this version up from Trash Palace.

Dr. Jekyll and His Women opens with a quote from Robert-Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

“There was something strange in my sensations, indescribably new, and incredibly sweet. I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be tenfold more wicked and the thought delighted me like wine.”

-Robert-Louis Stevenson

We begin on a dark street; a little girl is being pursued by a man who eventually beats her to death. We are than whisked off to the Jekyll manor where a celebration is going on. The celebration is in honor of the engagement of Doctor Henry Jekyll to Miss Fanny Osborne. Their youngest guest performs a dance recital while Henry’s mother accompanies on piano. Afterwards the group dine together and engage in a heated discussion on the validity of Jekyll’s research into transcendental medicine. We are shown violent snippets of murderous acts among the dinner dialog. Meanwhile the young dancer seen falling asleep at the table is resting in a guest room. A scream alarms the group who discover the body of the young dancer. Panic breaks out in the house as a maniac lurks and Dr. Jekyll is nowhere to be found.

This is definitely one of the more warped versions of Stevenson’s story I have seen adapted to film. The stuffy Victorian setting is rocked by Hyde’s presence. Doctor Henry Jekyll’s alter ego Edward Hyde is a sexual sadist with a huge penis. I specifically mentioned that he has a huge penis as we are given great detail and visual evidence. During an examination of one of Hyde’s victims we are told the penis is 6 centimetres in diameter and 35 centimeters in length. “Due to the unusually pointed tip and the hardness of the shaft Miss Victoria’s belly was perforated from inside just below the stomach.” Egadz! And this is the guy Henry Jekyll trusts with his life and has left all his worldly possessions to. Of course Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde are one person. Borowczyk uses two different actors to portray the two characters. Udo Kier is Henry Jekyll and Gerard Zalcberg is Edward Hyde. Kier is studious and mild-mannered as the Jekyll character is traditionally portrayed, but Kier’s version is definitely hornier than others. Kier is a fascinating man to watch and he is a perfect choice for the serious Jekyll. I instantly recognized Zalcberg from Jess Franco’s 1987 film Faceless; which I recently watched and reviewed. In Faceless Zalcberg plays Gordon an Igor/henchman type and he is pretty damn creepy. He is an unusual looking guy whose face and sinister performance stays with you. He plays Edward Hyde, another odious character, in Dr. Jekyll and the Women just as convincingly. The General is one of the guests invited to the celebration of Henry and Fanny’s engagement. What a crazy character! The General is surly and bombastic and exhibits some rather erratic behavior. He brings arrows with poisonous tips from “The Dark Continent” as an engagement gift (they cause a bit of havoc later on). For no apparent reason whatsoever, the General attacks Fanny who pushes him away causing the General to walk off in a huff.

“Look who’s come to join us…your lovely daughter! Eager and willing….”

The General is cornered and overtaken by Hyde. He is tied up and submitted to watching his daughter have sex. The General’s daughter voluntarily bends over and exposes her bare buttocks for Hyde. After the General is untied he slaps his daughter around and then gives her bare ass a spanking with some rope. Patrick Magee is as mad as a hatter and is very watchable as the General! Howard Vernon has a memorable supporting role as the combative and arrogant Dr. Lanyon. So where does the “and His Women” part of the title come in?

Dr. Jekyll doesn’t really have “women” he has “a woman”; that woman being the lovely Miss Fanny Osborne. The happy bride to be does a little spying on her intended. She sees Henry pour something into a running bath. Once immersed Henry thrashes about the tub and emerges as Edward Hyde. Later Fanny gets the wrong end of a poisonous arrow and also ends up bathing in Hyde juice. Fanny’s bathing transformation scene is the most superb, sexy, trippy thing and it doesn’t let up until the credits role. Celebrate with anarchy; stab your mother, drink blood, set some stuff on fire, The lovers remain in each other’s arms to the end. Marina Pierro has been featured in several of Borowczyk’s films as well as Jean Rollin’s Living Dead Girl. In Dr. Jekyll and the Woman Pierro plays the confident and comely Fanny Osborne and has a strong presence. She is also a lovely psychotic Hydess!

I can not lie, the dubbing and the subtitles are a bummer. It was distracting at times. There was also a couple of bits of editing that were sketchy. Why does the General attack Fanny? I have no idea if it was bad editing or I missed something really subtle that provoked it. I watched Dr. Jekyll and His Women twice in the last 3 weeks and it eluded me. A scene featuring Fanny and Hyde and the General’s poisonous arrows actually made me chuckle. Fanny has an arm full of arrows that she throws like a girl in Hyde’s direction and manages to hit him. Not scratch him but put an arrow right through his arm! This is followed by Fanny running down a set of stairs to stand idle as Hyde loads his arrow into his bow and shoots her. It is a mess of a scene but its a fleeting moment in what was otherwise an enthralling watch.

Dr. Jekyll and His Women offers drama, violence and sex that will probably make your mother uncomfortable; so don’t watch it with her. Borowczyk mocks the stuffy Victorian characters he focuses on and throws in an ample amount of sadism. Borowczyk’s violent, erotic, quirky and poetic Dr. Jekyll and the Women is a unique and twisted take on Stevenson’s classic story that is well worth a look. Highly recommended.

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IN CELEBRATION OF THE ENGAGEMENT OF DOCTOR HENRY JEKYLL TO MISS FANNY OSBORNE. The happy couple at a party in their honor.

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Howard Vernon plays the arrogant Dr. Lanyon.

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A dance recital is performed to entertain the guests.

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Patrick Magee plays the General. The General is one erratic and bombastic son of a bitch.

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Fanny spies on Henry and learns his heinous secret.

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Jekyll is amazed at how close a shave he got with that new straight razor.

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The General’s Daughter. “Look who’s come to join us…your lovely daughter! Eager and willing….”

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Hyde practices his archery while the General’s daughter cheers him on.

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Gerard Zalcberg plays Edward Hyde.

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Fanny Alexander played by Marina Pierro.

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Doctor Henry Jekyll played by Udo Kier.

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Burn all proof.

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Walerian Borowczyk

Starring: Udo Kier, Marina Pierro, Patrick Magee, Gerard Zalcberg, Howard Vernon, Clement Harari

FACELESS (1987) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Film, France, horror, jess franco, movies, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2013 by goregirl

This weekend I had a serious 80s fixation! It started with Faceless than I moved to the excellent White of the Eye (1987), on to the hilarious Polyester (1981), a little hardcore porn (porn of the weirdest, funniest and most surrealistic variety possible) with Night Dreams (1981) and finished up with the wonderfully wacky Dr. Caligari (1989), It was a helluva fun weekend of movie watching! I also went to two documentaries as part of my DOXA experience; Casting By and Perverts Guide to Ideology. Wine was drank. It was a good weekend.

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Christmas in Paris; a man and two women, clearly well to do, are being driven around in a limousine. The man is a doctor named Frank Flamand. Flamand is confronted in a parking garage by an unhappy customer. Quicker than you can say The Awful Dr. Orlof the angry customer is throwing acid in the face of Ingrid Flamand. Forward to the immediate future and we meet model Barbara Hallen who decides to buy her coke from the wrong sort of people. People who in fact want to remove her face and affix it to someone else’s. Clearly it is the good Dr. Frank Flamand behind the shenanigans. Flamand along with the help of his assistant and lover Nathalie are stealing women’s faces to save Ingrid’s. Problem is Dr. Flamand is not a good enough doctor to pull it off. He seeks the aid of Dr. Orlof who hooks him up with a former Nazi doctor Dr. Karl Heinz Moser. Meanwhile Barbara Hallen’s father has hired private detective Sam Morgan to find her.

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The godawful 80s theme song played during the opening credits is played multiple times throughout the film. They repeat it so goddamn many times it got to be funny after a while. I enjoyed the hell out of Faceless but I am always going to think of that theme song when I recall it. It is featured in this trailer too; check it out…

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Faceless features a cast of familiar and talented European actors and actresses that is well worth noting. I’ll also add that this is one of the more coherent Franco films. The dialog is actually not bad, although there are a couple unintentional laughs. Nathalie is pretty gleeful about her acquisition of reluctant female face donors. Nathalie is a sadistic, horny, kleptomaniac played perfectly by Brigitte Lahaie. She is all sorts of fun! Helmut Berger is serious as cancer playing the mad doctor; that Helmut Berger guy is great. Sam Morgan the private dick takes a few good beatings and really steps up to the plate to rescue the damsel; Christopher Mitchum was well cast and looks plenty defectivey. That is one really bad-ass acid scar on poor Ingrid Flamand. Ingrid is upset a lot and is getting sick and tired of all the damn surgeries. Ingrid is not the most enviable role in the film, but Christiane Jean does just fine. The doctor’s handyman Gordon is an Igor type character Franco-style. He does whatever is asked of him but sometimes takes liberties with the face donors. He is a pretty creepy dude and Gerard Zalcberg gets that. Anton Diffring harnesses his inner-Nazi beautifully as Dr. Karl Heinz Moser the former Nazi doctor. Caroline Munro does a sweet job as the big-80s-haired coke snorting kidnapped model Barbara Hallen. Her father Terry Hallen is played by Telly Savalas who has a few brief scenes in an office. And finally, I loved the little cameo where Howard Vernon plays Dr. Orlof as he did for Franco previously in the titular role of The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962).

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Faceless is 100% pure Jess Franco and is without a doubt one of my favourite post 70s offerings. It is definitely one of Franco’s most energetically paced not to mention gorier films. Violence and action appear at regular intervals ranging from acid in the face and a drill to the head to a hilarious fist fight and an axe versus fire extinguisher battle. It’s all fun and games until someone loses their face! The story is not exactly original, Franco himself directed the aforementioned The Awful Dr. Orlof with a similar premise. But rest assured, this is clearly a product of the 1980s, the huge hair, big shoulder pads, bad music and graphic gore of the decade make this film shine.

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Faceless is screamingly 80s; sleazy, violent, funny, well-cast and a real riot! Highly recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Jesus Franco

Starring: Helmut Berger, Brigitte Lahaie, Telly Savalas, Christopher Mitchum, Stéphane Audran, Caroline Munro, Christiane Jean, Anton Diffring, Tilda Thamar, Howard Vernon

DELICATESSEN (1991) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in France, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2013 by goregirl

It has been a patchy trip through 1990s horror and I am still in the early part of the decade. While there have definitely been a few gems the disproportionate amount of unwatchable nonsense has been mind-boggling. I knew this was going to be a rough trip which is part of the reason I am spreading the feature out over two months. Another reason I did this was to take the opportunity to review some of the 90s non-horror masterpieces. My first foreign film experience in a theatre (at least an original language subtitled film) was Pedro Almodóvar’s 1988 film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. It was a brand new, enlightening experience that rocked my world. I fell madly in love with foreign films and seen as many as I could get my hands on. This was a challenge as our suburban theatres did not show foreign films, you had to drive to the big city of Toronto to see them; even video stores offered very little. My exposure unfortunately was pretty sporadic for a couple years at least until I moved to Vancouver in early 1990. I loved a lot of foreign titles through the decade and two of the most brilliant and original entries were directed by two men from France named Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Caro and Jeunet’s films Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children are not only two of my favourite films of the 90s but of all time!

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Delicatessen takes place in a post-apocalyptic France where food is used as money and meat is a luxury. Delicatessen’s story focuses on a dilapidated apartment building and its tenants overseen by butcher and delicatessen owner Clapet. Clapet has posted an ad for a handyman which includes room and board in the rundown building. The job is filled by Louison, a gentle and kind man who formerly worked as a clown. He replaces the former handyman who disappeared under mysterious circumstances after just one week of employment. We soon learn that the handymen hired by Clapet become meat in his deli which the building’s tenants all share.

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A rather grim premise for a fantasy comedy, but its charming love story and array of wonderfully eccentric characters ensure the grim premise is kept light. Louison the hired handyman and former clown is such a delightful and enduring character. I fell completely in love with him! Louison keeps an optimistic and hopeful outlook about people and society; despite the fact that his monkey partner was ambushed, killed and eaten by a hungry mob. Louison is smart and charismatic and concocts all manner of clever means to complete tasks. Equally lovable is Julie Clapet the butcher’s daughter. She can not prevent herself from falling for Louison despite knowing what inevitably happens to the building’s handymen. The stern butcher Clapet is an enforcer of rules and has little if any empathy for those around him; with the exception of his daughter Julie and girlfriend Mademoiselle Plusse. “I didn’t make this world!” he shouts. The animated butcher in his mind is simply trying to keep order in a disorderly situation. Aurore Interligator hears voices and makes several hilariously failed attempts at suicide, each attempt becoming grander and more outrageous! Her husband Georges pays very little mind to his wife. Other tenants include the voluptuous and feisty Mademoiselle Plusse, toymakers Robert and Roger, Marcel and Madame Tapioca, their two mischievous sons and Madame’s elderly mother, and a peculiar older man who has flooded his apartment and lives among frogs, snails and various other aquatic life. Also popping by is an arrogant and aggressive mailman who makes no secret of his desire for Julie Clapet, and The Troglodistes, an underground organization living in the city’s sewer system who are enlisted by Julie to help save Louison.

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The film is gorgeous and gothically stylish with elaborate and impressive sets that are both dark and whimsical. Every last scene in the film is amazing, but particularly extraordinary is the frogman’s water soaked apartment. Frogs hopping about, snails affixed to surfaces and it features the great Howard Vernon no less! And my very favourite, which I do not want to divulge in detail sees Louison forced to do some serious improvising to save his ass while he and Julie are trapped in his bathroom. The film is saturated in brown and red tones giving it almost an antique look. Its strange dark details are perfectly balanced with a light airiness that is nothing short of magical. Julie Clapet playing her cello alongside Louison’s musical saw is absolutely beautiful. The love story between Julie and Louison thoroughly warmed my heart without being the least bit syrupy or overly sentimental. Every single performance is excellent and the characterizations are all wonderful, intriguing and extremely watchable. I loved every single moment of Delicatessen! It is dark, beautiful, funny, quirky and is the most uplifting post-apocalyptic film I have ever seen! Delicatessen is one of the best films of the decade and a film I have re-watched several times over the years. It is simply amazing. Highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring: Pascal Benezech, Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Karin Viard, Mademoiselle Plusse, Ticky Holgado, Anne-Marie Pisani, Boban Janevski, Mikael Todde, Edith Ker, Rufus, Jacques Mathou, Howard Vernon, Chick Ortega, Silvie Laguna