Friday, January 4, 2013

Franco Friday #34: The Obscene Mirror

Franco Friday #34: The Obscene Mirror

In 2011, for 33 weeks in a row, I reviewed a film directed by Jess Franco every Friday (minus one guest review). I decided to stop, mainly because I was burnt out and also, I felt like I had run out of Franco films that I wanted to see. Well, two things have happened: 1) I found some more of the duder’s films that I actually want to watch and 2) I had a dream about Jess Franco. In the dream, I went to Mr. Franco’s house and I was showing him a VHS of one of his most obscure films. Instead of autographing the tape, he invited me to go monster hunting with him. And there you go. So how many more Franco Fridays can you expect to see? I really don’t know. Let’s see how many more of these I can stand- oops, I meant to say enjoy.

Please note: While trying to find a copy of The Other Side of the Mirror, I found this version of the same film called The Obscene Mirror. The films are quite different in plot and one contains porno inserts and totally unrelated characters. The film reviewed here is the dang porno version. So whenever The Other Side of the Mirror surfaces, I will review it as well.

The Obscene Mirror
Directed by Jess Franco
1973 (released in 1975)
Starring Emma Cohen, Howard Vernon, Robert Woods, Simon Andreau, Alice Arno, Lina Romay
87 minutes (porn version)

Annette (played by Emma Cohen) is about to marry her fiancée, Arthur, when her sister Marie (Lina Romay) kills herself with a sword. Annette calls off the wedding, abandons her needy father (Howard Vernon), and runs off to make a life for herself in the world. Unfortunately, Annette and her sister had some kind of an incestuous thing going on, so she is now plagued by visions of her dead sister HAVING GRAPHIC SEXUAL RELATIONS. To support herself, Annette plays piano and smokes dope in a jazz bar. She is being romanced by a creepo trumpeter named Bill (Robert Woods).

Marie (from the grave and/or evil mirror) commands Annette to kill or play with vaginas. I’m confused on that point. During a performance at the bar, Annette has a vision where she kills Bill (funny, right?). In an indescribably hilarious moment, Annette comes to and the band asks her to play something upbeat. She flops and flails around at the piano, laughing while everyone smiles and snaps their fingers. Brilliant.

Next, Annette starts dating Michel (played by Simon Andreau) AKA Mr. Corny Car Horn, a director who finds her inspiring or something. She has another vision of her sister’s body double fucking someone and then she stabs Michel to death in the theater –which is actually a surprisingly creepy scene (the stabbing not the fucking). After losing (and possibly murdering) two lovers, Annette decides to kill herself. Right after she slits her wrists, her good friend Clara (Alice Arno) shows up and calls 911 (according to the dodgy subtitles).

After she recovers from the suicide attempt, Annette and Clara go off to the seaside. It is there that she meets Pipo (played by Phillippe Lemaire), a Class 5 Midlife Crisis. Despite the fact that his wife(?) Tina (Francoise Brion) is like right there, Pipo starts putting the moves on Annette. Even though Pipo is disgusting, Annette is totally into him. WTF? They get it on and, of course, Marie is screwing someone in a vision and telling her to kill. And she totally stabs the shit out of Pipo. When she comes out of her murderous reverie, Annette flips out and takes off in a little yellow car. So here it is, the climax of the movie, and it is genitals. Big genitals on the screen.

Jess Franco, you fucking sellout. No wonder I quit reviewing this shit. I almost feel bad for Franco but the presence of Lina Romay makes me think that the alternate cut is at least partially his fault. As for the XXX inserts, they are just from some random porno flick. There is a good movie buried in all this mess but any chance of atmosphere, subtlety, and beauty is squashed out by droopy vagina lips and a big old dick. Not even the lovely and excellent Emma Cohen can save this one. Hopefully, this film will one day appear in its original form: The Other Side of the Mirror. As for The Obscene Mirror, avoid at all costs.

“Life is strange. One tries to fly but ends up falling back in the same shit.”


  1. That's disappointing. I've been meaning to watch this one because I have heard it's one of his better films. I hope I enjoy it more than you did!

  2. This version was agony to sit through but I can tell that the original version, The Other Side Of The Mirror, is probably fantastic. Hopefully, it'll turn up before too long.

  3. Ugh, I just saw this. Shame on everyone (yes even Franco) who was involved in creating this re-edit. It's so painfully obvious that this is a non-erotic drama so why put such tasteless porn in it? I'll tell you why, because producers don't have souls. I understand why A Virgin Among the Living Dead and Female Vampire were re-edited to be made more erotic but this film shows no indication of eroticism. It's a crying shame that the original version is so rare because all the serious moments really sucked me in.

  4. Richard - I love you (platonically). As a result of your original Franco Friday musings, I have become obsessed by JF, and have managed to sit through about 43 of the man's films. I'm so glad you've revived this and hope you can persevere.

    Best wishes.

    F Marsh Esq

  5. @F Marsh Esq - This is the best (platonic) news I've had in a while. 43 films, eh? We'll just have to see if I can beat that! Thanks!

  6. Okay, so, I watched this porno version of the film today and I think I liked it a little more than you did. The porn scenes were less annoying than usual for a Franco flick, but they definitely ruined the mood of the piece. I thought the music in this edit was pretty good, even though it is a completely different score than the one in the Spanish director's cut.

    My biggest problem with this film is how repetitive it was - she dates a guy, her sister commands her to kill, she does, and then she finds another guy and the cycle repeats itself. I was really started to lose interest when I realized how it was going to go.

    I decided to watch the porn edit since it was the only one I could find with subtitles, and now I am really curious about the Spanish cut. That one doesn't have subtitles so it might be a little hard to follow. I'm hoping seeing this version first will help with that, though I guess they probably changed some of the dialogue when they re-cut it. At any rate I am sure the Spanish edit is a MUCH better film.

  7. The French DVD company Artus recently released both the French softcore version and the original Spanish version of The Obscene Mirror on DVD. The quality looks amazing and the Spanish version is absolutely beautiful. The DVD doesn't have any English subtitles but someone recently made subtitles for it online. The Other Side of the Mirror works so much better in its original form and the ending gave me the chills.