Groovy & Wild Films from Around the World

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Immoral Tales Interruptis

I was seriously, seriously intending to write the For-Real next installment of the Immoral Tales series (concentrating on another Spanish filmmaker and his infamous Accion Mutante, so that's obviously been unceremoniously postponed for the next post) when the series of articles came to to a sideways skid into a roadside telephone pole after I decided to take ten days off of work to “catch up” on a few things. Ironically, one of those things was supposed to be my intake of films and books. But unfortunately, instead of Exorcism & Black Masses or Accion Mutante or even the requisite Vampyros Lesbos re-watch, my catching-up has involved the likes of Snakes on a Plane and Schwarzenegger's Red Heat. This Wednesday morning in particular I found myself with a little more time than I'd expected to have between reading the Dark Tower novels in the waiting rooms of passport offices and performing script overhauls at the local pubs, and I happened to throw on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – a good thing too, as it reminded me that I should be keeping up with my own self-imposed journalistic responsibilities, pretentious as they may be. At any rate, I can't get back to the pub right now anyway, as it's not even eleven in the A.M. yet. But I'm not going to talk about Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, obviously, this is a Jess Franco blog, and as of late I've been stretching the thematics of that nearly to the breaking point already. I did, however, have a chance to check out a couple of my own immoral tales that have been sitting by the DVD player collecting dust for the last few months, the first being the Megan Fox horror vehicle Jennifer's Body, the other one being a Shriek Show-produced in-house exploitation horror flick Wicked Lake. I thought at least this last one would be somewhat thematically linked to the main focus of this blog (Jess Franco, lest I forget) as this distribution company (Shriek Show) has has the great fortune (both good and bad) to have released Franco's most commercially accessible films, being Faceless and Killer Barbys; as well what have to be two of Franci's most perfunctory efforts ever: Diamonds of Kilimanjaro and Golden Temple Amazons, these last two being nothing more that ultra-light naked-women-romping-through-the-jungle exploitation flicks with absolutely nothing to set them apart from any other sort of mundane dreck by any other filmmaker. Honestly, they're a waste of time. However, I'm sure at some future point in time I'll be talking more about Faceless and Killer Barbys (although I'd recommend you don't spend too much time seeking out its shot-on-video sequel, The Killer Barbys vs. Dracula – you ask anyone who's seen it). Getting back to the waste of time, allow me now to save you some of that expense: Forget about Jenifer's Body (unless you're a 20-year-old East Coast hipster, in which case you might dig it) the only thing it had going for it was Megan Fox explaining how she was no longer a “back-door virgin”. Other than that, this was strictly for the Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist crowd, only drunk and possibly not quite as educated. It's a movie that wants to make fun of it's own exploitation genre, only it's not funny, clever, or very satisfying overall, as it shies away from its own all-out exploitation (I have the feeling Jennifer's Body is a film that thinks it's too good to have to stoop to that level). If you like your exploitation pretentious, then by all means... The next one on this exploitation double-feature , however, was completely free of pretension. Unfortunately, it was also free of a good script, good acting, good editing and good directing.

“Look over there... there's two women fucking a polar bear!”
“Don't tell me these things right now.”
-Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.

The one and only thing Wicked Lake did have going for it was the first forty minutes where the four leading female romp around naked. In their house, at the lake, in the lake, with each other, in an art class... but at the end of the day, it was all for naught, as Wicked Lake was ultimately boring, boring, and then boring some more. Completely unlike Shriek Show's other in-house features Flesh for the Beast, Shadow Dead Riot or Machine Girl. If you weren't going into Wicked Lake ready to compare that to these other (far more entertaining and way better) films, then I'd have to wonder how Wicked Lake ended up in your DVD player in the first place. I wanted to end this blog on a higher note, which is actually why I brought up these other Shriek Show productions, and it's my hope that the company goes back to producing these entertaining exploitation productions without dangerously sacrificing their scripts with the thought that sheer exploitation alone would make up (or cover up) for the otherwise sever lack of story planning. And as Shriek Show gets into releasing more of their titles on the Hi-Def Blu-Ray format, we can hope that some of their Franco films like Faceless makes its way to this better format. Unfortunately, the next Hi-Def release on Shriek Show's slate is their own Wicked Lake this summer. Trust me, you can skip it.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Immoral Tales 6: Immoral Women

“Immoral Women” is actually not one of my favorites of Walerian Borowczyk's erotic cinematic repertoire – though it does the job well enough, it is definitely erotic and his retains that cutesie-amusing way Borowczyk has about his films. Immoral Women is actually an anthology, and while the fairy-tale style of the medieval erotic stories have been copied by American low-budget film producer Charles Band for his own erotic anthology (Fairy Tales) the result is pretty low-brow, a little more sleazy (while simultaneously being less explicit!) and not nearly as charming as Borowczyk's sure-handed and lighthearted style, and the way he handles the beauty, nudity, naughtiness (sometimes extreme naughtiness) and erotic qualities with verisimilitude. It's these qualities that actually make a Borowczyk film worth watching.

(Okay, how many times can you say “erotic” in one paragraph, right? I think we all get the idea)My favorite of Borowczyk's films is without a doubt “The Beast” (La Bete), and small-time distribution company Cult Epics releases such a great edition a few years ago, a three-disc spectacular packaged in a black box with awesome front-cover artwork, this was the first Borowczyk film I'd ever seen at all – which brings me around to another observation (/opinion):

I believe that as good as Borowczyk's sex-shenanigan films are, it's really the first one you see that's going to stick with you (if you have a place in your mind – or perhaps somewhere else – for his films). All his films are of upper-quality production value, which makes it seem even more like your watching a piece of erotic cinema, not just a low budget T&A flick (see the Charles Band film if that's more your slant). This juxtaposes severely with the type of eroticism seen in Jess Franco's films, in my opinion. In Franco's films, the sex and nudity appear to be there simply because it's the central visual themes for his film, they're there because they're there, and without it there would be no film at all. Borowczyk's films are far more lush, and I'm not entirely convinced it's merely because he might have had bigger budgets to work with (although judging by the look of his films, that may well be the case), however, Borowczyk's films, or rather the eroticism within his films, appear to have much more of an artistic purpose for being committed to celluloid, which is actually sort of funny because we all know damn well there's as much artistic purpose behind it as Franco's intentions with his sex films. But when it comes down to it, Franco's sex films (or the sexual scenes in his films, however you want to look at it) seem stuck on some perfunctory level of film-making. The sex is there, well, because it is, and that's it. Borowczyk seems much more interested in showing us something genuinely erotic, something that will illicit some sort of response with his audience, which will forever elevate his cinematic erotica above the rest of the crowd, making everyone else's erotica seem like cheap exploitation.

Not that cheap exploitation is a bad thing.

Funny, I really was going into this blog to yak about the “Immoral Women” film – I suppose I got away from myself there talking about the director. Anyway, check it out, check out all of his films, and enjoy.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Immoral Tales 5: Kiss Me Monster!

This title always reminds me of the best nudie-cutie in the world; Peter Perry's “Kiss Me, Quick!” Truthfully, if I had to choose one of these two films to be stuck on a desert island with, it would be the latter one. Years ago, when I was first getting into Jess Franco's extensive (massive) filmography, I started out with Franco-Lite, this pair of secret-female-agent films were among the first five of Franco's films I'd seen, and I immediately took to them the quickest. Now, I think there are far better films in the Franco cannon, and definitely more entertaining ones, those it isn't for lack of trying on the parts of these film (Kiss Me Monster and it's sister-production, Sadisterotica). And back then, so many years ago, I found I'd enjoyed Sadisterotica a lot more than Kiss Me Monster, the one I'd initially found slightly more boring than the other – now, I find my opinion reversed. I actually found Kiss Me Monster (now eleven years after the initial discovery) to be a lot more fun that its predecessor, but having said that, and even with the inclusion of some bubbly cartoonish Jekyle-and-Hyde-style lab experiments, Janine Reynaud's boobies in a “naughty” peek-a-boo stage number, and some relatively harmless Pit of Bloody Horror-type sadomasochism-lite (all of which brought back thoughts of Perry's “Kiss Me Quick”) this pair of Franco flicks fails to live up to their own kitsch and go-go- sensibilities. Put another way, the idea of these cute flicks far outweigh the actual results. Re-watching these films admittedly felt somewhat like a waste of time, but it was also a somewhat amusing waste of time. Again, this entry stars the two loveably sexy goofball female detectives, played by Rosanna Yanni and Janine Reynaud.

Rumor has it that Janine Reynaud was married when she did Franco's films, but slept with the financier in order to help secure the film's budget and keep him pacified during the production. Not only was she a trooper, but her husband, one of the actors in these films as well, understood that she was doing it for the sake of the film. To him, it was just good business. Those Europeans are so damned artfully minded! Puts us to shame. Reynaud was in one of Franco's best films (in my opinion, obviously), the lush 1969 slice of psychedelic cinema called Succubus, which evidently was Franco's biggest claim to fame as it was arranged for Fritz Lang to see the film at a European film festival screening, where he publicly proclaimed the film to be some kind of erotic arthouse masterpiece (you can read more about that in the Immoral Tales book under Franco's chapter). And while Reynaud would act in at least a couple of dozen films in her decade-long career between the late sixties and the late seventies, her three Franco films and her stint with Sergio Martino in his Italian giallo “The Case of the Scorpion's Tale” (which came out the year before “Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key” – I love Giallo titles!) are probably the most notable genre offerings she participated in. There is something about this statuesque androgynous beauty.

(Last still from “Succubus”)


Monday, May 03, 2010

Immoral Tales 4: Two Undercover Angels (aka Sadisterotica, or, “The Much Cooler Title”)

Sadisterotica is one of a pair of Franco films in which a pair of sexy female detectives give it their all to crack the hard cases. In this particular cutesie-poo flick the case concerns some stolen art and a string of models who go missing (i.e. kidnapped by some sort of wolfman who might be right at home in a sixties' Scooby-Doo episode) and wind up in an assortment of bloody photographs. The models, not the wolfman. Starring as the lead investigators are Janine Reynaud, no stranger to Franco films, and Rosanna Yanni. Oh, and also, Jess Franco himself has some artsy-fartsy art stolen from his pad, for which he calls on the police. And then Rosanna Yanni steels a sculpture herself. I can't remember exactly why, but she ends up dragging it halfway across Europe with her as they're trying to track down the model killer. That, actually, is pretty amusing. But for all this go-go murder/art heist-mystery, the film ends up, at best, as simply cute and rather inoffensive. At worst, even the quick 80-minute running time can get a little long as the humour that draws the script out is so lighthearted it's often a tad on the boring side. It may sound like I'm putting it nicely, but with this film, that's the only way to put it. The film has its moments, here and there, and there is some cool go-go dancing to be seen (and some of it naked, too) and the usual Franco-inspired kitsch d├ęcor is always good for a decent distraction, if that's what you're after. That's probably what you should be after, as the “jokes” get kinda old kinda fast. Although the lead actresses are nice to watch, too. Alas, the best part of this one is the poster art. I hate it when that happens.

One might be wondering where else they could see Rosanna Yanni (she is quite captivating – she's the blonde one), whose only other Jess Franco appearance that I'm aware of was Sadisterotica's companion film “Kiss Me Monster”, though she did also act in Paul Naschy's films and Tombs of the Blind Dead director Amando De Ossorio's “Fangs of the Living Dead”, a film which she also co-produced according to