Groovy & Wild Films from Around the World

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Erotic winter and that bloody, Bloody Moon

Man, have I ever neglected this blog – and there have actually been things to revere from Franco’s persistently released repertoire. Great things from Blue Underground, yet I’m waiting, waiting for that damned Bloody Moon release from Severin Films… The Franco slasher I’ve yet to see. Being both a Franco fan and a slasher fan, I’m trying hard to keep my expectations in check and let that first viewing experience speak for itself. Anyhow, I digress as usual, and what the hell am I bitching about, anyway, I still haven’t written about that killer Eugenie de Sade DVD Blue Underground released last spring! Now, that was some kind of treat – one of the best Euro-erotic thrillers I’ve seen, and while Faceless will probably remain Franco’s most skilled cinematic outing (Eugenie does have its raw, rough edges – and what was with the editing in the death scene?), I would certainly go so far as to say Eugenie de Sade is his best film. Yes, there, I said it. I’m comfortable with that. Eugenie de Sade is the sexiest, most classically erotic and one of the most compelling stories Franco’s put to celluloid. While some of the sexual shenanigans come off as a bit kinky (not a bad thing), the goings-ons never really reach a feeling of full-on exploitation, despite its likely otherwise intentions. It’s constructed like a thriller, if I may be so bold to say, in an atypical way as Eyes Wide Shut is also a thriller, though the ideas are more of exploring the sexual beings of the film(s). Setting the film across a winter backdrop, whether by design or by serendipitous accident (no pun intended), was probably the main advantage for the gorgeous photography. But at the end, that little bit of climactic bloodshed was honestly a few seconds of utter crap that could have easily been fixed with some minor editing. Which brought me to think about films like Female Vampire, where vampiress Lina Romay walks towards the camera in the opening shot, closer, closer, closer, until we see her physically bump into it. Why not cut that shot a few frames earlier? I have a creeping suspicion that the flaws in many of Franco’s works are editorial (not to take anything for the directorial effort, mind you), but they are things that could have been fixed, and were not. Was this a decision by director Franco? The producers? The editor? Who exactly had final cut here? Judging by the plethora of “official” versions of Vampyros Lesbos, probably nobody. It’s not to be unexpected that Franco would have speedily left his films in the dust on the word wrap, as he dashed from project to project, creating what is probably a world-record Filmography.

Check out below – a representation of the original out-of-print DVD cover released by Blue Underground (white), and the current official and inexplicably switched cover (black). Note that the black cover actually utilizes a still from the film The Devil Came from Akasava, not Eugenie de Sade. --V.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Summer Style

After much rain and record-low temperatures, it finally looks like summer’s come overdue to the city. Bright, sunny days like this, walking around and staring appreciatively up into the sky brings many pleasurable images flashing through my melding-pot mind, and of course, being the obsessive cinema maniac that I am, a lot of the pleasing images that are melding with the ocean, beaches, bikinis, beers on open patios and ex-smoker’s reminiscences, are scenes from some of my favorite films. When I was younger, I took a two-week visit to the Kaman Islands and most of the hours in my day were splashed with mental clips of Romero’s Knightriders and Argento’s Tenebre (which Argent self-described as his only “sunny” film). Today, years later, I am surprised that the images that flash through the overworked grey matter in my skull (or overcooked, depending on your disposition) were from Blade Runner and John Carpenter’s short Cigarette Burns. The latter made a little bit of sense to me, at least, as it was shot around the neighborhood where I live. The former, I suppose, came to mind as last week I’d caught a few minutes of Blade Runner on Showcase, and then was reminded of it in the opening pages of this month’s Rue Morgue magazine, and then coming across a novel-length book on the making of Blade Runner at the local Chapters yesterday, which prompted my to finally pick up the most recent “final cut” DVD, which I popped into the player last night. So, I can only surmise that this would be why such a dark and stylishly brooding post-modern film noir would be flashing crazy imagery through my brain on such a wonderfully warm and sunny nearly-summer morning.

Now, what the hell would all this have to so with Jess Franco, one would sanely be pondering; and what the hell is it doing hanging out on a Jess Franco fan blog? Well, blame it on this summer Sunday if you will, or the laid-back attitude of the West Coast, but trust me, I am getting to the point, just in a possibly annoyingly and leisurely way. As we (I) speak, the sun is still slashing through the apartment windows and I’m staring at a gorgeous view of the lush-green University property across the wavy water, so pardon me if life seems a little leisurely at the moment. However, one thing that has always reminded me of summer in this city - and as well, this city’s sunny days have reminded me of - are a few of the more funky films from Jess Franco. The sunny and kitschy She Killed in Ecstasy and Vampyros Lesbos, specifically – but also to a lesser degree Two Undercover Angels, The Devil Came from Akasava, The Girl from Rio, 99 Women and Euginie also come to mind. I remember sitting an apartment in the city a couple of summers back, blasting the sounds of the Vampyros Lesbos soundtrack (or: the Sexadelic Dance Party) through the window and over the balcony while the sun slowly descended in it’s distinctively Canadian way and the rays turned golden on the street below, reminding me vividly of the images filmed for Vampyros Lesbos, and the exquisite Solidad Miranda. In 2004, this was doubtlessly the inspiration that would become realized in the short film Sex & Death: 1977 one year later. I don’t know if it was the way the film stock looked, the raw practical daylight filming, the European locales, or the style and kitsch coupled with Miranda’s beauty that would forever cement these images as associations to summer in the city, the beaches, and the ocean -- but whatever the genesis, beer on an open patio, bikinis and Vampyros Lesbos will always have a warm and sunny place in that overworked grey matter of mine.

While Euginie de Sade still (sadly) sits unopened on my living room bookshelf and Bloody Moon awaits its release this very summer, there is more Franco for me to discover in the hot days to come. So here’s to sunny days and the Sexadelic Dance Party. (Crack beer open now)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Welcome to the Jungle

I’m constantly amazed at the quality and consistency of Blue Underground’s Franco output on affordably-priced DVDs. I’m so looking forward to next month’s release of one of the Miranda-Franco collaborations I’ve yet to see – Eugenie De Sade. But in the meantime, BU has treated us fans to a slightly oddball Franco flick. (I realize “slightly oddball” could be taken as a completely redundant understatement in reference to Franco’s catalogue raisonnĂ©, but bear with me here…)
Cannibals, a 1980 film where Franco delves into the typically-Italian horror sub-genre of jungle survival in the face of man-eating headhunting tribes, is not so much the in-your-face gorefest one would expect when seeing the names “Franco” and “Cannibals” on the same DVD box, instead, this is a surprisingly restrained and quick-paced search & rescue adventure half-baked with a lot of cheese, where a university professor leads an expedition (with the help of his lover played by Franco’s wife Lina Romay) into Cannibal territory to save his daughter who was kidnapped by the tribe several years ago and is now hailed as their White Goddess. Only problem is that when he finds her, she doesn’t want to go back with him. There are just enough charming exploitation elements to keep things interesting and the finale does boast some amusing and well-executed gore set pieces. Sabrina Siani, the actress paying the white goddess, doesn’t say much and is at times charmingly awkward, but is actually very magnetic in her role; and the whole affair, overall, comes of as a satisfactory and more-than-amusing entry in this bizarre sub-genre.
I was surprised to see that another and far more recent movie by Hollywood filmmaker Jonathan Hensleigh (The Punisher, Die Hard 3) takes the Cannibal Holocaust idea and brings it kicking and screaming into the digital age. Welcome to the Jungle (or “Cannibals”, as it’s known internationally) is an extremely well-written adventure suspensor that is, in my opinion, miles beyond what The Blair Witch Project was trying to do ten years ago. (Shit, I’m getting old). Don’t be surprised if the sight of any flesh-eating jungle tribes eludes you for the first fifty-five minutes, but clocking in at just under 80, Hensleigh’s film is extremely well-paced and the characters are impressively rounded and amiable, even when they’re at each other’s throats. Of course, the finale pulls out all the stops and there are some damned impressive effects on display.
And if jungle adventure’s your game, then I might also suggest Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn, an eye-popping story of courage, survival, and a prison break in the middle of the enemy’s jungle.
Till next time, with Eugenie