Friday, June 24, 2011

Franco Friday #22: The Diabolical Dr. Z

Franco Friday #22

The first time I saw The Diabolical Dr. Z, I hated it. I'm not sure exactly why but I think it had more to do with owning a Mondo Macabro DVD than it did watching Jess Franco. Whatever the case, I was disappointed beyond belief. Revisiting this film now... well, you'll see. I'm getting closer and closer to the halfway mark, people. Let's hope I don't run out of Francos. Oh wait, I can't.

The Diabolical Dr. Z
AKA Miss Muerte
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Antonio Jimenez Escribano, Guy Mairesse, Howard Vernon, Mabel Karr, Fernando Montes, Estella Blain
86 minutes

Lightning, the roar of thunder, and it begins. Hans Bergen (played by Guy Mairesse), a murderous fiend, escapes from prison the day before his execution. He manages to get as far as the home of Dr. Zimmer (Antonio Jiminez Escribano). Dr. Zimmer is ecstatic because he needs a human test subject for his mind control experiments and who better than a man the world would be better off without. The scientific community shuns Dr. Zimmer and he drops dead right there at the big sciency conference.

Dr. Zimmer's daughter Irma (Mabel Karr) vows revenge on the three scientists whom she believes are responsible for the death of her dear, beloved daddy. She carries on with his work (his dying request, of course) but not until after she fakes her own death, horribly burns her face, and practices plastic surgery on herself. Huh? Yeah, I know. Anyway, Irma uses Hans Bergen, her assistant Barbara (Ana Castor), and a beautiful exotic dancer Nadja (Estella Blain) to carry about her fiendish- no, DIABOLICAL plot.

Sometimes Franco is just Franco and sometimes Franco is on fire! I am kicking myself for not loving this movie the first time around. For some reason, it took watching 21 other Franco movies to make me appreciate The Diabolical Dr. Z which is silly because of how easy this film is to get into. Despite some corny plot holes and a bunch of nonsensical pseudoscience, this film has great pacing and cool characters. There is also razor sharp and energetic cinematography from Alejandro Ulloa, the man who shot some excellent titles like Horror Express, Companeros, and Paul Naschy's Night of the Werewolf.

The cast is excellent but I simply adore Mabel Karr. She truly gives her all in her role and is quite frightening with her tireless obsession to complete her mission of vengeance. Estella Blain is ten kinds of sexy and nails it as the reluctant (and insanely sexy) murder weapon. It is against her nature to kill but mad science makes it impossible for her to disobey. Another one of Franco's damned damsels? I love it!

I won't call this a favorite but The Diabolical Dr. Z has gone way, way up on my list of Jess Franco films that everyone should see (though I wouldn't call this a good starting point). Even with it's clunkier moments (jump-cuts, continuity issues, etc.), the film is dynamic in writing and inventive in execution. One thing I greatly appreciate about Dr. Z is the pacing; it just flies by! In the shadow of Dr. Orloff, this films packs on the weirdness, the beauty, and the fun.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Last Night's Double Feature, No Seriously

Last night, my friend Nafa and I watched two movies in a row. First, we watched Battlefield Earth and we followed it up with The Master of Disguise. I wish that I had somehow recorded this monumental event in audio form but I know you would grow tired of me screaming and cursing at his TV for 3 hours and 20 minutes. Nafa and I won't be speaking for many, many years. At least, not to each other.

Here are my notes on Battlefield Earth.

No, I did not write anything down about Master of Disguise.

Of course there's no trailer for this online.

Blow the dome!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Franco Friday #21: Jack the Ripper

Franco Friday #21

Another Friday, another Franco. Another Franco Friday! I cannot wait until the halfway mark and then I'll be all like woot woot! tiger pants take me to the challenge of the furniture fair be my poppy stilts hee hee hee haw haw terrible trouble these babushkas leopard LEOPARD LEOOOOOOPARD! Well, it may not go exactly like that but you get the idea.

Jack the Ripper
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Klaus Kinski, Josephine Chaplin, Andreas Mannkopff, Herbert Fux, Hans Gaugler, Lina Romay, Nikola Weiss
92 minutes

In the magical city known as London, a serial murderer known as Jack the Ripper has been killing and mutilating prostitutes. The killer is Dr. Dennis Orloff (played by Klaus Kinski), a seemingly kind though completely mad physician who specializes in treating the poor. Inspector Selby (Andreas Mannkopff) is on the case and is struggling with both a lack of evidence combined and moronic witnesses including a blind man (Hans Gaugler) with a great sense of smell. The inspector’s girlfriend Cynthia (Josephine Chaplin) decides to help him catch “Saucy Jack” by going undercover as a prostitute.

In 1976, Jess Franco sought out to make the most historically accurate, dare I say it: factually perfect film on the Jack the Ripper case. Through tireless research, he- Naw, I’m just fucking with ya! In 1976, Jess Franco went to Switzerland and directed this sleazy and nasty film. Don’t let the terrible English dubbing fool you, this is a competently made film with great lighting, camerawork, and set design. The sleaze factor is very high, especially with Jack the Ripper acting like Jack the Raper. I enjoyed the score for the film. It has a nightmarish carnival-esque quality to it.

Klaus Kinski is okay in this movie. His character is methodical, cold, and mostly emotionless. His best moments are when he smiles and acts charming with the ladies in order to ensnare them. I really liked his insane and yet completely devoted assistant/housekeeper (played by Nikola Weisse) who likes to play with the bodies of his victims. Josephine Chaplin is cute but doesn’t get a whole lot to do. Andreas Mannkopff is pretty mediocre as the inspector but he gets very little in terms of characterization to work with. Lina Romay, playing a singing call girl, meets a particularly brutal end but it’s okay because she gets to lip sync a bawdy song. For your amusement, here are the lyrics:

If you’re feeling warm
Come and see my charm
If you’re feeling hot
Don’t talk a lot

Ba da buta buta buta buta bum
Ba da buta buta buta buta bum
We’ll do
Be do bedo bedo bebo bedo bum bink
Exactly what you think

Come feel my ears
My love-ly tits
If you have the brass
I’ll give you me ass

My skin is fine
My lips are for you
Look at my eye
I’m easy to lay

The only downsides to the film are a few shrill characters, weak writing, and some long dialog scenes while Selby goes over the facts of the case. And once again, Franco mines his previous works by borrowing most of this film's plot from his own classic, The Awful Dr. Orloff. Other than those meager gripes, I really dug the darkly entertaining Jack the Ripper. The material is not exactly what I would call uplifting but Euro-sleaze aficionados will find much to celebrate here. There are some jokes in the film but comic relief comes from the English dub. It is splendidly piss poor with all kinds of faux-Cockney garbage (just wait until you hear the hilariously effeminate cop). The gore effects are cheap but are wet and stomach churning. And for you Franco-heads in the audience, there is a nice hallucinatory moment when we get to see inside the mind of Jack the Ripper.

“Yes, it gives me a bad bellyache, this filthy fog!”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Tiffany Shepis Interview

Whoa, how did this happen? In a streak of what some people call "productivity", I have managed to land another interview. Who is on a roll? This guy. Click here to check out my freakin' interview with none other than Tiffany Shepis.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Franco Friday #20: Daughter of Dracula

Franco Friday #20

Twenty weeks ago I started something that seemed ridiculous and now I know that it is just that. Ridiculous. And I love it. Originally, the plan was to watch seven Franco movies and post a review a day for seven days. Then I foolishly decided to dedicate myself to this fucking lunatic for a year. This director has already taken this blog, my movie queue, and my poor stupefied brain places they were never meant to go. I was never meant to see this many Jess Franco movies. None of this was supposed to happen and yet, everything is my fault. Hey, hey, hey! Only 32 more to go!

Daughter of Dracula
AKA La Fille de Dracula
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Britt Nichols, Anne Libert, Alberto Dalbes, Howard Vernon, Daniel White, Jess Franco, Fernando Bilbao
79 minutes

Luisa Karlstein (played by Britt Nichols) returns to the Karlstein estate just in time to hear her mother’s dying request. Her croakin’ mom wants her to take a key, go to the family crypt, and have a look (there were no other instructions) at their undead ancestor, Count Karlstein AKA Dracula (Howard Vernon). Next thing you know someone is drinking the blood of local sexy ladies. Inspector Ptuschko (Alberto Dables) is trying to solve the murders and he enlists the help of Charlie the reporter (Fernando Bilbao) to do some extra snooping around the Karlstein place. Meanwhile, Luisa is behaving very strangely and starts up a relationship with her hot cousin Karine (Anne Libert). There is also a subplot. Maybe two. I don’t know.

This is probably the closest thing to a parody of a Jess Franco film I’ve seen so far although I’m not sure Franco knew he was parodying himself. First, the plot mirrors his only moderately interesting (that might be too kind) 1962 gothic flick, The Sadistic Baron von Klaus. Second, the cast is either misdirected, miserable, or underused but I’ll get to that later. Third, the film is pathetically staged and choppily edited (which I like). And finally, The Daughter of Dracula feels like a half-hearted attempt at making a giallo. There are several scenes where the imagery on display feels very reminiscent of the Italian whodunits so popular at the time. I wish the film had gone more for the gothic feel or the giallo bit because it doesn’t do both very well at all.

Let’s talk about the cast. I feel bad about Howard Vernon* even being in this movie but he does have the easiest job. He’s all done up in the Dracula makeup and he sits up, flashes the fangs, and then lays down again. He does this two or three times in the film, gets a stake in the head (very original) and that’s it. Britt Nichols kind of does the same thing except she gets to walk around. While she pulls some awesome faces and delivers one of the most ludicrous bitch-slaps I’ve ever seen, Nichols is still pretty out of it in this movie and just really dull.

Alberto Dalbes plays the inspector character very well, getting surly, sarcastic, and generally fed up with all the losers he has to put up with. Fernando Bilbao is rather annoying as Charlie, the goofy journalist. Oddly enough, Jess Franco is pretty decent in this as Cyril Jefferson, a side character that is actually pretty interesting. He is a well-read and tortured individual who believes wholeheartedly in the occult. He makes a potentially bland cameo into something memorable and interesting.

Of course, there is a show stealer in the bunch. Anne Libert! This chick friggin’ rules The Daughter of Dracula. I’m not sure how to put it into words exactly. There is just something special about this actress. She is adorable and one of the only members of the cast who seems to be having a good time. There, I put it into words. Her character is the sad victim in all of this craziness and it is impossible not to pity her cruel fate.

While it fails on almost every level, I have to say that Daughter of Dracula was not a waste of my time at all. The melodrama and the inept silliness go together perfectly. The gothic overtones, creaky library music, cryptic dialog, and the beautiful locations also help save the day. My biggest complaint is about the overlong sex scenes. I know I complain about these all the time in Franco films but the awkward lovin’ between Nichols and Libert are especially bad and they spend a lot of time going nowhere. It’s not about my prudishness (for a change), there is just no chemistry between these two ladies. But like I was saying, I still enjoyed Daughter of Dracula, it is completely accidentally entertaining because Franco was just so unbelievably off his game. File under moderately interesting/unessential. Ugh, I'm going to stop saying "File under..." from now on. Whose schtick is that anyway?

*Duh, I just remembered that Howard Vernon was as still as a freakin' statue in Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein. I guess that is method acting or something.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Skull Can Beat Up Your Skull

How freakin' psyched am I? Pretty psyched. I got to interview Joe and Dan from the one and only Bleeding Skull site. Here are the results. Check it the fuck out. Don't be scared. Don't.

In an unrelated note, the new Battles album came out yesterday.

Celebrate good times, yeah, come on.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Franco Friday: Two Undercover Angels

Franco Friday #19

I’m riding a wave of vanilla Franco. Things may be a little naughty but I’m in a safe place once again. Why challenge myself when I can just slip into something less comfortable and more restrictive and safely observe Miss Reynaud and Miss Yanni in skimpy clothes? Thank you, Mr. Franco. I’m a freak now.

Two Undercover Angels
AKA Sadist Erotica
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Janine Reynaud, Rosanna Yanni, Chris Howland, Alexander Engel, Marcelo Arroita-Jauregui, Manolo Atero
76 minutes

For the past 2 years, 8 beautiful women have disappeared and each case has too many coincidences not to be related. This looks like a job for Diana and Regina (Janine Reynaud and Rosanna Yanni), the Red Lips detective agency. In pursuit of the killer, the two run into all kinds of seedy and strange characters. Their chief suspect is an artist named Thiller whose paintings and sculptures resemble the victims. The closer the girls get to solving the case, the more people are trying to kill them with machine guns, hairy-handed henchmen, and exploding vases of flowers. Some people call it danger, Diana and Regina call it Tuesday.

The last thing in the world I expected from the horrifying and oversexed brain of Jess Franco is a flair for comedic films. Two Undercover Angels is very amusing on purpose and when the intentional laughs fail, the goofy and accidentally brilliant passages holding everything together just make the film even more delightful. The only complaint I have is that this film is so thinly plotted that when it ended, I realized that almost nothing had happened at all. But who cares? Personally, I got lost in the gags and the jiggling bobbins.

One thing that makes these European delights so entertaining is the way they are dubbed. There are scenes where the jokes and naughty double entendres are delivered with lots of attitude and perfect timing. Other times, the same actors have a huge paragraph to read and they robotically and speedily spout off completely trite and unnecessary bullshit further adding to the hilarity of the film. Throw in some swingin’ jazz music and I couldn’t be happier aurally.

There are times when I wish there had been 100 Red Lips detective movies but I also have a feeling that the two films might be more than enough. Janine Reynaud and Rosanna Yanni are just as vivacious, charming, and funny as they were in Kiss Me Monster (the better of the two films). As for how far out Franco gets, Rosanna Yanni even gets a scene when her character talks directly to the cameraman. Frickin’ brilliant and totally bizarre! Though it is as far from the typical Jess Franco fare (does such a thing exist?), Two Undercover Angels is perfect for when you need some brainless and groovy Euro-fun and just a little kink.

“Oh such a dirty deal! And I was just at the hairdresser!”