31 May, 2013


Goodbye to French actress Francoise Blanchard who passed away two days ago in France. No cause of death has been reported as of yet. She was 58. Her striking looks and the ability to project emotion subtly and without words is best demonstrated as the title character in Jean Rollin's 1982 rural zombie tale LA MORTE VIVANTE. She plays a young woman who rises from the dead when an earthquake causes revivifying chemicals to spill into her subterranean tomb. Her anguished cry at the end of  LA MORTE VIVANTE never fails to sends a chill up my spine while bringing tears to my eyes.  A silent, very moving performance from an actress pretty much unknown, outside of cult circles, here in the US.File:Francoise 1982.jpg

She also appeared in Rollin's THE SIDEWALKS OF BANGKOK and Jess Franco's REVENGE IN THE HOUSE OF USHER (1983).

Françoise Blanchard
Since I originally posted this I have been informed by Alain Petit that her scenes in USHER, which were shot as post [original Spanish*] production inserts, were shot by Franco himself. There had been a question about this previously. Alain posted this explanation on my FACEBOOK timeline: "Jess himself did the inserts for NEVROSE, mostly in a parisian Jazz club called "Le Caveau de la Huchette."  The original Spanish version is quite different than the French version and Francoise does not appear in it.  Thanks to Alain for this clarification. 
Francoise Blanchard as Melissa in NEVROSE aka NEUROSIS: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (USA DVD/Video title), the Eurocine alternate version of LOS CRIMENES DE USHER (1985).

 OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO lists her as the female lead in his still unreleased 1986 AIDS thriller SIDA-LA PESTE DEL SIGLO XX. She also appears as an Amazon in GOLDEN TEMPLE AMAZONS and found work in a number of 1980s Eurocine projects [OASIS OF  LOST WOMEN]. She also reportedly has a role in the Eurocine backed, unreleased CHASING BARBARA, a composite adventure film made up of footage shot by Jess Franco and Jean Rollin.

[Below] In SIDEWALKS OF BANGKOK (1984); With Marina Pierro in LA MORTE VIVANTE.

German poster for the Eurocine WIP OASIS OF THE LOST WOMEN and a more recent image of Francoise as seen in an interview on the LA MORTE VIVANTE DVD.

I sometimes wonder if she's the stand-in for Christina Von Blanc hiding behind the flowing blonde hair in the Eurocine zombie inserts directed by Rollin for the alternate 1980s era version of  Franco's A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD.

*LOS CRIMENES DE USHER was the Spanish theatrical release title for what would eventually be reworked in NEVROSE. 

30 May, 2013


Here's a screencap and the dialogue from a scene in Jess Franco's 1985 adaptation of Edgar Wallace's Sanders Come From the River.  This is a delightfully updated reboot of the director's 1966 Eurospy CARTES SUR TABLE, but this time with a Zen spin. Agent Sanders (Jose Llamas) and Howard Vernon investigate a series of attacks on international officials by zombie like assassins wearing sunglasses! No Eddie Constantine but Howard Vernon rules with his shocking white mustache and wicked cane. It's worth the price of admission to watch him smoking a pipe in a bubble bath....

SANDERS: Blimp, Daniel Blimp. He’s an English colonel.
HOTELIER: I’m sorry but the colonel’s no longer in the hotel.
SANDERS: But that’s impossible!
HOTELIER: It’s less than half an hour ago that they came to pay the colonel’s bill and take away his luggage. Here’s the voucher they signed when they removed his luggage.
SANDERS: Who signed it?
HOTELIER: Let’s see if I can read it. It says “Charles Dickens”. Never heard of him. Do you know who it is?
SANDERS: He rings a bell. Anyway, do you know the number of Marion Wentworth’s room?
HOTELIER: I’m afraid you’re out of luck, sir. Her bill’s been paid too, and her luggage’s been taken away.
SANDERS: Was it also that Charles Dickens man?
HOTELIER: That’s right, sir.
SANDERS: But how could you have possibly allowed him to take way the belongings of two customers? Couldn’t you have asked him who he was?
HOTELIER: Mr. Dickens struck me as quite a gentleman. We simply assumed the colonel and the lady were looking for some quite corner, if you know what I mean.
SANDERS: I see. Didn’t they leave an address?
HOTELIER: One never gives addresses in such cases!
[Thanks to NZOOG for the image and the dialogue translation. We might present further Jess Franco scenes like this in the future.]

21 May, 2013


So you know how we said we'd never seen a more tarnished element as the HOUSE ON STRAW HILL neg? Well that's nothing compared to the minefield that is the assembly of the long-awaited disc debut of the rare masterpiece THE HOT NIGHTS OF LINDA. But we're working all hours to deliver both this summer. LINDA has some incredible extras too including Jess and Lina together discussing the film a couple of years ago. An incredible movie, particularly for Franco-philes. Anyone seen it?
Yes, I have seen it, and it's an under appreciated gem from 1973, a very busy year for Jess Franco, in which he directed a dozen feature films! This is a rather mind bending genre mix of eroticism, murder mystery, comedy and family melodrama. Kind of like Douglas Sirk meets the Marquis De Sade. I've seen at least four different variants, from hard to soft core, French to English language versions. All fascinating. Great music and terrific performances from Alice Arno, Lina Romay and the always reliable Paul Muller. 

Totally unique and 100 percent Jess Franco. I've been waiting for this for over 20 years.....

18 May, 2013

Coming in August 2013 from REDEMPTION!

A Virgin Among the Living Dead Blu-ray

Christina, princesse de l'érotisme / Among the Living Dead / Christine, Princess of Eroticism / Une vierge chez les morts vivants Redemption | 1973 | 79 min | Not rated | Aug 20, 2013 

 I'm really looking forward to this BD presentation of a very special Jess Franco film. One of the director's most personal and experimental journeys into an alternate dimension beyond life and death. Had a chat recently with David Gregory, the producer of the bonus material, about the complicated history of the numerous alternate versions of this key Jess Franco title. This will feature the Director's Cut and the alternate "Zombie" version: "Two complete different versions of the film (Christina: Princess of Eroticism (Franco's Director's Cut) AND the more commonly known A Virgin Among the Living Dead which featured zombie footage shot by Jean Rollin), Featurette: ''Mysterious Dreams'' - one of the last on camera interviews with director Jess Franco (shot not long before his death), Interviews with former friends and collaborators discussing Franco's legacy (broken out into several segments among these new Franco releases), Deleted Scenes, ALL NEW Audio Commentary by Tim Lucas, Trailers and more...."

11 May, 2013

PAROXISMUS... The alternate version of VENUS IN FURS: [continued]


In the previous blog about his curious Italian version of VENUS IN FURS I wanted to express my own personal reactions to this cut. Rather than a VIDEO WATCHDOG style comparison between this Italian version and the VIF we all know I plan do a series of shorter blogs on various aspects of both cuts, with some specific comparisons to come. First, the music.

The link at top left leads to a fascinating interview with Mike Hugg about his memories of composing and producing the music track for the original VENUS IN FURS.
 Maria Rohm as the object of desire in PAROXISMUS... PUO UNA MORTA RIVIVERE PER AMORE?

First and foremost BLACK ANGEL, as Jess envisioned it, was a love story steeped in the realm of jazz. Directly inspired by Chet Baker's observation that his own playing often transported him into a transcendent place. That element remains central in both versions.

Hugg states that he wrote the songs and the instrumentals were composed by him and Manfred Mann. But a lot of the music in the American cut came from other places, and there is still other music in the Italian version.

The film has always struck me as a unique musical-horror-fantasy on the themes of love and death. In a way all Jess Franco's films could be considered musicals, and he has described himself as a musician who makes films.
Manfred Mann, the popular Rock group which had a number of hit records in the mid 1960s before working on the soundtrack for VENUS IN FURS....

Stay tuned for further information and commentary on PAROXISMUS... the Italian version of VENUS IN FURS.

(c) Robert Monell 2013

02 May, 2013

Jess Franco: Surrealist?

Rene Magritte's THE LOVERS vs Jess Franco's 99 WOMEN. Thanks to Howard S. Berger for leading me in the right direction... again! Coincidence... or how one artist influences another? This is one for the ARTS & IDEAS blog.... but I also thought it would be apropos here. Dali is the most famous Spanish Surrealist painter and Jess Franco has used imagery of his but this comparison illustrates other possible influences. Jess Franco is most definitely a Surrealist, a true Surrealist in the classic sense of applying the principles of that discipline to an underlying visual realism (cf the films of Luis Bunuel, who collaborated with Dali on UN CHIEN ANDALOU and L'AGE D'OR and also incorporates Magritte and other Surrealism imagery into his cinema).
The above image is part of Maria Rohm's back story flashback in 99 WOMEN, which is my favorite scene in the film.

Other excursions into Surrealism would appear in the Franco filmography. The 1967 game-changer for the director was NECRONOMICON aka Succubus, stuffed with surreal imagery,  erotic fantasies, S&M stage performances, a non linear construction and the indelible presences of Janine Reynaud, Michel Lemoine as the puppet and puppet master in a metaphysical puzzle.

A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD was another significant detour into the territory of Surrealism, featuring another female protagonist lost in a sinister netherworld of familial phantoms which lead her into madness and death. 
We'll be illustrating some more Jess Franco Surrealist adventures in future blogs.

(c) Robert Monell 2013