Groovy & Wild Films from Around the World

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2. The Die Nonnen von Clichy Xrated Nunsploitation Series #5 (Spine 90)

“Die Nonnen von Clichy”
(or: Jess Franco’s “Les Demons”)

Well, the back of the box for this X-Rated Kult DVD release promised a German dialog track with English Subtitles, or an alternate Spanish track. What I got, very much to my chagrin, when I popped the DVD into the player was one German dialog track with NO subtitles and one French track with GERMAN subtitles. Ach! No Englisch Untertitel! After realizing the reality of my situation, I proceeded with the film nonetheless, intending to simply fast-forward to the sexy bits, and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that some of the more artistic aspects of the film caught my eye and kept my finger off of the FF button. Indeed, this is without a doubt Mr. Franco’s undisputed nunsploitation EPIC. Running in at just a few minutes shy of a full-on two hours, I was witness to a lengthy plot (if only by my eyes, as my ears are not formally trained in German and my French is a tenth-grade failure at best – and that was well over 20 years ago) concerning a high-society man/woman couple who arrive at a convent equipped with a sprawling torture dungeon used by the Spanish Inquisition. In this dungeon, there is a brunette female prisoner who manages to escape and find sanctuary in the arms of a high-society artist, who paints portraits of nude models. The brunette is discovered and re-captured and brought back to the torture dungeon where the high-society man becomes seduced by her. Meanwhile, the high-society woman (who had spent her days wallowing in the voyeurism of the torture sessions) is seduced by another high-society girl, only this girl used to be a nun until she was fucked by an intruder in her bedroom and visited by, and then possessed by, the ghost of a condemned witch who had been burned at the stake at the beginning of the movie. Contrary to X-Rated Kult DVD’s nunsploitation classification of this Jess Franco gem, the nunsploitation element is abruptly dropped halfway through when one of the sisters dives off the convent balcony. But you hardly notice the transition from true nunsploitation to sumptuous period-piece sexploitation in the midst of all the sexually-demonic, Spanish Inquisition goings-on. Amusingly, Franco-regular Howard Vernon (The Awful Dr. Orloff) has a role here too, though I can’t comment on the import of this role as I was unable to understand any of his German-dubbed dialog. Still, Les Demons was seriously fun, if a little too un-gory at the most inopportune times. But hell, it’s Franco, right? If you’ve seen Vampyros Lesbos you’ll expect nothing less, and truthfully, you’ll probably get a little more.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Jess Franco Marathon part 9: final words.

I can’t believe it took two months to run and review The Jess Franco Marathon; I was off to such a rollicking start I though this would be a single-week session, and over before I knew it. But before I could say “Exorcism and Black Masses” one week turned into two, and soon I was sure all I’d need was three weeks, tops. Then three and a half. By the time December rolled around, I got a fire under my Franco-loving ass and figured, well, five and a half weeks ain’t so bad…

Needless to say now, it’s all done up eight weeks later and I finally got some closure on the box set in review, and here it is only a technical decade after I’d started the damned project. I’m stilling reeling a little over the fact that it’s 2010. In the meantime, the last eight weeks has shown me that this self-proclaimed cinefile can’t survive on Jess Franco alone, just as I’d love to be able to survive on nothing but beer, it ain’t gonna happen. I do have a healthier respect for Franco’s repertoire, and the massive injection of his films has nicely counterpointed the other cinematic fair I’ve alternately ingested, both foreign and domestic, both recently produced and those with solidified cult stature, and also those in-betweens that may or may not be waiting to achieve such cult status. In the midst of discovering Martyrs, Timecrimes, and the hard-to-find semi-cult achiever Massacre at Central High, Hollywood’s The Perfect Getaway and Tony Scott’s Taking of Pelham 123 remake, the classical Last Year at Marienbad, and my most recent and highly pleasing re-discovery of Richard Stanley’s awesome freshman film Hardware (and all the while trying to FORCE myself into liking Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds*), I have found Franco’s input into cinematic culture more important than I’d previously imagined, along with the likes of Jean Rollin and Alex “Day of the Beast” De La Iglesia. As usual, I completely digress, so now I’ll interlude with a recount; super-quick-like:

Barbed Wire Dolls **1/2
Blue Rita ***
Ilsa the Wicked Warden ***1/2 (and the undisputed masterpiece of this collection)
Jack the Ripper ***
Love Camp **
Love Letters from a Portuguese Nun **1/2 (reminding us why the Catholic Church might’ve been so freaked about Franco the filmmaker)
Sexy Sisters **1/2
Voodoo Passion (pretty damned entertaining but no further scoring applied by this guy)

As for the rest of 2010, I might be inclined to review the likes of a Killer Barbys double-feature, and perhaps a rediscovering of 99 Women could be in order. But for the first year of this millennium’s second decade, I’m particularly excited to see which Franco classic might be the first to make its way into the hi-def world via the blu-ray format. Time will tell…

(*Still hasn’t happened)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Jess Franco Marathon, 8 of 8

“Voodoo Passion”

I had just finished watching the Mila Jovovich/ Steve Zahn thriller The Perfect Getaway prior to throwing in this Franco cult item, unwittingly subjecting myself to a double-feature of exotically-located mayhem. The Perfect Getaway was surprisingly not too shabby. And, neither was Voodoo Passion; though other than being set on a beach in the heat of the summer, the two films were obviously as artistically far apart from each other as one could get. While I felt slightly disappointed at the “artistically” obscured nudity of The Perfect Getaway, Franco’s own artistic romp down exploitation alley more than made up for that.

Voodoo Passion kicks off with a four-minute naked voodoo ritual dance on an open beach (supposedly in Haiti) under the morning sun and over a scorching jazz score. In fact, throughout the whole film I think this is one of the best Franco scores laid down. After the enjoyable jazz/voodoo dance intro, we see a couple of white girls (or ladies), one of them dressed deliciously in super-high cut-off short-shorts. Being a Franco film one is comfortable with the assumption that the short-shorts would sooner or later give way to bare flesh. Sure as shizzles, that happened almost immediately. Girl 1 arrives at house where girl 2 lies naked in bed. Girl 1 is waiting for her boyfriend, but before he arrives, Girl 1 and girl 2 have already taken a bath together. After Boyfriend arrives, girl 1 and boyfriend fuck while girl 2 watches and masturbates with a champagne bottle. There’s a lot of fucking going on. Which is why I was slightly confused as to why girl 1 would need to be led through the jungle by girl 3 (also naked) into a daylight naked voodoo ritual that apparently was intended to make girl 1 even hornier than she already was. Everything, after we see girl 1 arriving at the house on the edge of the jungle/beach at the beginning of the movie, happens completely in the buff. (That is, save for one brief dinner scene that occurs about forty-two minutes in) I’ve honestly never, ever witnessed a legit feature film play out almost entirely in the nude by every man and woman in the cast. Save for the high heel shoes that girl 1 wears in nearly every scene, even while she’s sleeping in her bed under the covers as well as when she’s later sleepwalking naked through the jungle. Girl 3, who meets her in the jungle prior to the voodoo ritual, is also naked but for wearing high heels. Guess that’s the way they roll in the Haitian jungles.

If you haven’t gathered yet, if you like naked people, you will dig this movie. This Franco flick actually had the feeling of some of those Italian “Mondo” documentary-style films of the sixties, and mixed with the killer jazz score, somehow this unfortunately made me think this could be some fantasy voodoo-exploitation opening sequence to The Cosby Show in a crazy alternate universe.

72 minutes into Voodoo Passion’s 80-minute running time, Franco throws us a curveball through the plot concerning some kind of British Special Ops double-cross… but seriously, if you’ve made it this far already, it isn’t for the wanting of a deeper plot point.

While I definitely can’t bring myself to score this feature on its merits as a legitimate foreign film release, I can say that the exploitative elements (i.e. the whole thing) made it one of the most compulsively watchable Franco flick I’ve reviewed. I wonder, also, is it coincidence that this appeared to be the highest-quality DVD transfer in the whole set of films from this collection? Hmm…