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.


  1. I think I'll be in the same boat you are in: Didn't care for it at first, but I'm considering giving Dr. Z another shot soon and I have a feeling I will appreciate it after having seen a number of Franco's other films since that first viewing.

  2. Just watched the original French version for the first time and quite enjoyed it, too. I don't have anything to add, really, you summed it up perfectly. I only wished Estella Blain would have made more films with Franco (whose own appearance, btw, as - who else? - Inspector Tanner is much fun)!

    There's an awesome new German 2-DVD release with apparently much better video quality (correct aspect ratio, etc. and without the PAL/NTSC issues that the Mondo Macabro version is supposed to have - don't know it myself). Unfortunately it's not an English-friendly release (French and German only), but it has a new audio commentary by TIM LUCAS (in English, obviously)!!