30 September, 2013

Master Class: Jean-Pierre Bouyxou (2013) Directed by Nicole Brenez

28 September, 2013

Today, in Paris!

I wish I could have traveled to Paris for this event.

Daniel Lesoeur/JA Lazer/Claude Plaut/AM Frank/AL Mariaux/Dan Simon en pleine Alainpetit-exploitation (merci pour cet après-midi!).
Daniel Vishwas/JA Lazer/Claude Plaut/AM Frank/AL Marian / Dan Simon in full Alainpetit-operation (thanks for this afternoon!). (Translated by Bing)
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19 September, 2013


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MONIKA SWUINE, a uniquely talented Actress,  Artist and Photographer....
She is especially memorable in such Jess Franco films as LA COMTESSE NOIRE [FEMALE VAMPIRE],  EXORCISM, BARBED WIRE DOLLS and DORIANA GRAY.  She also appears in Jean Rollin's LES DEMONAIQUES and other cult/underground/experimental films. 

Cinématon de Monika Swuine (aka Monica Swinn) réalisé par Gérard Courant en 1983

16 September, 2013

CINEMADROME - HORROR RISES FROM SPAIN - Horror Rises from Spain 3.1: Diego Arjona

CINEMADROME - HORROR RISES FROM SPAIN - Horror Rises from Spain 3.1: Diego Arjona

In the September podcast I review the Spanish DVD of  Jess Franco's final film and the recent Redemption  Blu-ray releases of  THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF, NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT and A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD. Thanks to Elena....

10 September, 2013

The Awful Dr. Orlof, the Blu-Ray: Guest Review by Mirek Lipinski

Comparison screen captures of GRITOS EN LA NOCHE/THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF from, top to bottom: 1) the Image DVD, 2) the Spanish Regia DVD, and 3) the Kino Blu-Ray, the latter courtesy of Mondo Digital (www.mondo-digital.com).  The inadequacy of the Kino version should be evident. While offering more side information and sharpness, the picture lacks the vital interplay between black and white and their various shadings, a requirement for good black and white cinematography.  Almost completely missing in the Kino capture is the white light of the candles, the left glow beyond the door, and the sensual dimensions of actress Diana Lorys' skin and dress.

The lineup is impressive: Nigel Wingrove and his Redemption label, which has for decades brought euro-horror to fans and the public, David Gregory, the premiere interviewer/supplement director for many euro-horror DVD and Blu-Ray releases, and Tim Lucas, whose credentials are impeccable.  The result of this convergence, however, is a regrettable disappointment.

Right off the bat, it must be stated that any release of GRITOS EN LA NOCHE that doesn’t include the Spanish version is already facing a serious deficit. The Spanish version is the true landmark film that Franco shot in 1961. By not showing this version, viewers are denied about 11 minutes of the original film and the appreciation of what the Spanish audio reveals, which in a couple of key scenes is an absent musical score that lets silence and natural sounds accent the tension and illuminate key scenes with the blind Morpho (Ricardo Valle). The tension is particularly heightened in the sequence where Morpho, by hearing, follows a wandering Wanda (Diana Lorys) in Orlof's castle, guided by the sound of her movement. Yes, we do get the clunky nude inserts that were mandated by Eurocine and probably, but not certainly, shot by Franco.  These two scenes would be perfectly deposited in  “extras” as they are not imperative in the body of the film where they distract.  Undoubtedly, rights to the Spanish version were either difficult and/or too expensive to acquire, so this deficit is understandable, though still persistently unfortunate.

As with the Blu-Rays of BLACK SUNDAY (the Kino and Arrow release), THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF suffers from a transfer that dilutes in many parts the black and white photography of its cinematographer, in this case Godofredo Pacheco.  At times we seem to be witnessing a peculiar solarized grey that robs a scene of impact and annoys. The dynamic power of black and white, its sleazy, shadowy invocations when dealing with horror or exploitation films, are gone. Naturally, with the high resolution, the viewer will notice visual minutia missed before:  In one scene I could see, remarkably, the abraded threads of loosened wallpaper.  While such sightings may be revelatory and impressive, much more important, I think, is seeing the chiaroscuro power of the entire film, the essential strength of black and white that, in the right hands, can be breathtaking.  Courtesy Bob Furmanek’s 3D Film Archive, I recently had the opportunity to see a 35mm trailer for the American version, and it was more dynamic and even awe-inspiring in those few minutes than any replication of this film I have ever seen. The Blu-Ray release is particularly lacking the intensity of the original film element, and, aside from the absence of a Spanish version, this is its major shortcoming.

With the Franco interview in the Kino Blu-Ray we probably have the final words of Franco on the topic of GRITOS EN LA NOCHE.  It seems, however, that the main question asked of Jess was the one to get him started: “So tell us about GRITOS?”  Franco rambles on, entertaining and mischievous and lovable as always, but offering up no significant new information.  Could not the interviewer, given what could have been surmised as the last words of Franco on the subject, have poised questions not typically asked of Franco of this film:  Did Franco shoot the nude scenes for a French version?  If yes, was he anxious in doing so, considering the Spanish government’s prohibitive stance on nudity in films?  How was it shooting at the San Martin de Valdeiglesias castle, a location Franco used before and after GRITOS?  What other locations were used in the film? Did actor Conrado San Martin offer financial assistance to the production?  None of these imperative questions are asked.  Sure, Franco could have lied his head off in response, but then his words would have been before us to evaluate.  An opportunity lost that can never be retrieved.  (The other featurette I saw—memories of the film from French cinephiles—is of more interest.)

Doing a commentary for GRITOS EN LA NOCHE is a thankless job, no doubt.  Whatever little information exists about this film has already been regurgitated among Francophiles, and, aside from Franco and Vernon, no interviews are readily available from its cast or crew.  Tim Lucas braves it out, but finds himself weaving too much among IMDB factoids (so-and-so was born on____;  so-and-so made his/her last film in the year____, etc.) not to suspect an over-reliance on them. Then, too, there were, surprisingly, a number of erroneous statements and highly dubious theories put forth.  I had to do a mental double-take and speed my player back to the scene a couple of times when Tim spoke of the light illuminating Orlof's face in the cabaret scene with Dany (Maria Silva) as coming from the necklace presented to her, when it's very clear that the light is coming from a reflection off the compact mirror she is looking at to admire the necklace around her neck. In referencing the Spanish version, Tim mentions that the operation on the face of the Mara Lasso character ends in a fade-to-black, but it actuality cuts to Morpho standing nearby. Tim suggests that Orlof, after accidentally stabbing Arne (Perla Cristal), considers using her skin for an operation on his daughter, when it appears clear to me that the distraught Orlof is placing the blade of the scalpel to her nose to see if any breath will appear on it. (The scene is played too quickly, to be sure, but the implication remains.)  In listing the films Maria Silva co-starred with Paul Naschy, Tim includes I HATE MY BODY, which is not a Naschy film, though its director, Leon Klimovsky, is a familiar presence in Naschy's filmography.  He states that the name of Orlof is taken from the Edgar Wallace novel, THE DARK EYES OF LONDON, when the novel doesn’t have any Orlof--or Orloff--in it. (That name would be created for the 1939 film of the book.)  He insists that Franco must have been influenced by the German film version of the novel, DIE TOTEN AUGEN VON LONDON (DEAD EYES OF LONDON), but that film was in production in the same year as GRITOS and did not have a Spanish exhibition until a few years later.

Tim also mentions that nowhere in its theatrical showings, domestic or international, was GRITOS exhibited under the name "Jess Franco," but he does mention that the Spanish release contains the directorial credit of "Jesus Franco"--Franco's real name--so I'm not sure why this is of import, unless the commentary would follow through, which it doesn’t, on when and why Franco, or his producers, began using "Jess" instead of "Jesus."

Tim toys with the intriguing possibility (implying it may be a long shot, thankfully) of the elderly flower lady seen later in the film as being Franco’s mother, but the actress, Mercedes Manera/Manero, is listed as being in other films before this one, and Franco notes in his autobiography, MEMORIAS DE TIO JESS, that his mother was small and plumpish, hardly the woman we see in the role.  In a bit of trump card playing, Tim presents toward the end of the commentary the concept that GRITOS  is “Jewish film.”  There is some validity to this. Yes, the producers were Jewish (something Tim doesn’t mention) and Franco has claimed Jewish blood, but just how Tim figures that Orlof is taken from the Polish name Orlowski is puzzling and, further, why "Orlowski" would then be a Jewish name is beyond me.  I like speculation, btw, and use it, but it has to face the evidence of facts to remain even remotely credible.  

I winced badly almost every time Tim spoke a Spanish name or a Spanish film title.  There were frequent enough occurrences of this that proved so distracting to me that I had to pause the commentary and return to it at a later time when I had calmed down.  I think it’s incumbent on anyone doing a film commentary, which demands far more preparation than, say, an interview, to make the attempt to approximate the proper pronunciation of a name or title in a foreign language.  (I could do without the attempt to mimic the Castilian lisp, though.)  Spanish is one of the easiest languages to find someone who can render phonetic help.  Certainly using in this capacity Elena Anele, for instance, whom we all know from her HORROR RISES FROM SPAIN audio blog, would have been prudent. Emailing and then Skyping with her should have solved the problem.

There are several high points in Tim’s commentary, to be sure, and Tim employs his familiar erudite and occasional poetic manner to make one appreciate his smooth intelligence and be charmed, overall, by his commentary.  But as a track of substance and value, the commentary falls short and simply bewilders at points.

The release of THE AWFUL DR ORLOF as a Blu-Ray certainly makes business sense. It’s a title that excites the Franco and euro-horror fan, and can even intrigue the Universal classic horror aficionado.  But the result, particularly as several renowned principals were involved, makes one achingly wish for something far different.  All one asks is that the film be done right by the sterling and wide-ranging possibilities of the Blu-Ray format.  Such is not the case here.

06 September, 2013

Jess Franco Blu-rays: Comments/Critiques?

I'm opening up the blog for reader's comments/critiques on the 3 recent Jess Franco Blu-rays. The ups and downsides can be mentioned in detail in the comment section. I'll publish a sample in a future post. I think it's important that this blog be more interactive and that JF enthusiasts get to air their compliments and complaints. 
For my part, I must admit, before turning to a detailed look at the VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD BD, and reconsidering the film itself, is still in need of a full restoration. I'm not sure of the availability of negative elements but some scenes are very dark, although that may be due to shooting conditions. Also, the color, contrast and sharpness need improving and the images needs a general cleaning as is done frame by frame in a restoration. 
The fact that you get another version of the film, with the Jean Rollin directed zombie inserts and the Eurocine erotic inserts, is a very good special feature. I had never seen this particular variant before. I also enjoy the additional sleazy softcore erotic "lawn orgy" featuring Alice Arno which is also included in the special features. But the image still could be improved. In terms of video quality I would rate it a C or C - at best. After repeat viewings I now have concluded the disc is still recommended for its numerous special features and this is the best it has looked on home video but that best still leaves something to be desired.

Please let me know your reactions below.