Jess Franco's Stripped Dead
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(Dec 07, 2010)
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4 films from legendary filmmaker Jess Franco! INCUBUS - Lady Luck comes in many disguises. For ill-fated artist Johan Harker she took the form of Lorna, a beautiful woman with unearthly desires. VAMPIRE BLUES - A pretty American teenager from New Jersey
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Then there are the DVD's, the quality of the newer ones are better than the older ones. But why are they all in full screen (4:3)? What's the point of a wide screen TV when you have to watch movies with your parents tv format? Well does this review help anyone? Probably not. Why do I keep watching Jess Franco movies? I like the stories he's trying to tell, but maybe because of budget or he's not that great of a film maker they rarely turn out to be the movie I'm hoping to see
INCUBUS (2002) - Friends, let's face it. After making over 180 films (some state that it's closer to 230), the odds of Jess Franco accidentally stumbling onto a good film are clearly in his favor. The Laws of Probability practically dictate that he would have had that accident by now, even if he tried hard not to. One would think, given his experience and the fact that he's worked under Orson Welles and Jean-Luc Goddard, one good apple would have fallen from the cart after five decades of holding a camera. Astonishingly enough, I'm not certain this has ever happened, leading one to believe he is a cursed man. Don't get me wrong, I have a weakness for most of his 60's and 70's output, even a high tolerance for the bad ones. Occasionally, he does get moments of lucidity and strikes a resonant chord of cult exploitation entertainment value that has built a rabid fanbase for his films the world over. Franco, despite the cult that has arose around him, is a sleaze director, and this is not a criticism. I have seen (or suffered through, depending on perspective) around 100 of his flicks, and still can't stop (it's a character flaw, I know). However, in recent years, Franco has not made even a decent bad film. Though the devoted Francophiles will chastise me for this remark, as they will always find merit in his trash and insist the rest of us idiots just don't 'get' it, and refuse to acknowledge his genius. Oh, I get it alright ...
This time out, Franco's remaking his own 70's film, 'Lorna, the Exorcist', with disastrous results. Not a surprise, as this is the case with most all of the recent Franco/ One Shot productions.
Twenty years earlier, Johan Harker, a painter and new father, made a Faustian pact with an Incubus named Lorna, a strange beauty with unearthly desires. In exchange for fame and fortune beyond his wildest dreams, he uses his infant daughter Lucy as collateral until her 20th birthday. Now, time has come and the Incubus wants payment and Johan wants to keep his daughter, though she's no longer daddy's little girl, she's a spawn of Satan. The original was one of Jess's better Eurohorror offerings from his oeuvre, but this is cinematic sewer-trolling. Get the original now that it's finally seen a proper release from Mondo Macabro, and avoid this one if at all possible.
SNAKEWOMAN (2005) - This is another One Shot Production film that's actually a cut above most of their Franco collaborations. It's a very loose remake of Franco's own 'Vampyros Lesbos' with the vampire woman being replaced by the title character. A female reporter (Fata Morgana) goes off to research an 87-year-old woman (Carmen Montes) who was believed to be a 'snakewoman'. When the reporter arrives, she finds the woman to be much younger than possible and soon the elder woman has the reporter involved in a lesbian tryst. (These are both mandatory and welcome in Jess's works). The silver screen temptress is not only still youthful and beautiful, but also some sort of succubus. (There's no sign of a 'snakewoman' except for a tattoo). This might easily be Franco's best film in over a decade and his most erotic since 'The Inconfessable Orgies of Emmanuelle'. But I'm not going to stick my neck out and state it's a good film - in spite of the great entertainment value displayed in a handful of his works, I'm not certain he's ever made a good film in a traditional sense of the word. Thankfully, Franco avoided all the lurid, disturbing sexual acts and goes for purely erotic scenes and for the most part succeeds. There's almost an actual story and the cast isn't too bad either. Lina Romay has been moved to a supporting, non-sexual, role that allows her acting to come through without any protracted sex scenes. But at 96-minutes the film runs too long. This certainly isn't the flick for Franco neophytes to start, but it's certainly a good return to form for Franco devotees. There are a couple hardcore scenes as well, which is never objectionable to his core audience or men in general
BROKEN DOLLS (1999) - A crazy old man (Paul Lapidus) lives with a half dozen others on a remote tropical island, where supplies are boated in. He supposedly has treasure hidden on the island, and the island's other inhabitants want to find it before he loses what little faculties he has left. It appears a bit late for that... as well as the hopes for a coherent story and movie. Franco's hand-held camera wanders endlessly with his dirty, dusty zoom lens over beaches, tree-tops, ocean waves, tourists, birds and other objects that have no relationship to the film. (The same can be said of all the films of this era, they're like watching bad vacation videos shot by someone's senile grandparents). I know, I know, I'm expecting way too much from Franco at this point in his career, but maybe if he tried working with a written script once in a while... and a clean camera lens...
The post-recorded dialogue was considerably distracting and annoying. The English was dubbed and, unfortunately, the voiceovers were done by folks who carried a heavy Spanish accent, so some of the dialogue was incomprehensible. It paired nicely with the plot though; as usual for a Franco film of this period, it was hopelessly convoluted.
At these prices, it's a good value for four films, but are they four films that will make you want to rip your eyes from their sockets? You'll have to decide for your self based on these disclosures. As for me, Jess has already left me 'Stripped Dead'...