It has to be said that The Diabolical Dr Z is a lot like Jess Franco's most famous film, The Awful Dr Orlof (in fact, said doctor even gets a mention here); but if you ask me, the superior film is this one. This time, rather than deal with facial reconstruction as Orlof did; sleaze master Franco deals with mind control. The plot, unlike many of Franco's films, is straight forward and here Franco proves that he can actually be quite a good story teller, when he doesn't get bogged down by too many sub plots and things that don't make sense. The film takes obvious influence from George Franju's masterpiece, Eyes without a Face (as many Euro horror films at the time this was made did), but Franco injects a lot more of his own stuff here than he did with Orlof. The doctor of the title doesn't appear for long, but before his death; he does provide the film with its main plot point - that being a mind control machine. When he suffers a heart attack, his daughter takes it upon herself to gain revenge - and so she takes control of the mind of a beautiful dancer calling herself 'Miss Death', who dispatches the doctors who caused Dr Z to suffer a heart attack by way of her long, poisoned, finger nails!
The main talking point where this film is concerned is, of course, the style! Franco has shot the film in beautiful black and white, which, along with the excellent use of shadows, locations and cast members ensure that the film has both a dark, gloomy atmosphere and a real sense of beauty. Jess Franco's name has become synonymous with trashy Eurocult rubbish - but if you'd only ever seen this film from him, I wager that you wouldn't know why! The Diabolical Dr Z is art, pure and simple. The locations shot are one thing - but by far my favourite aesthetic element of the film is amazingly beautiful Miss Death, played by Estella Blain. The exotic dancer enters the film in a great sequence that sees her performing her nightclub act, in which she travels across a spider's web to seduce and kill her victims. From then on, she lights up every scene she's in - especially the ones that see her wearing the suit from her act! The film isn't very gory, but the horror appears from the ideas behind the plot, and scenes such as the one that see Dr Z's daughter hideously burned are definitely very gruesome. I've got to say that I'm surprised at how great this film is - and I'll finish off this review by giving The Diabolical Dr Z the highest of recommendations!
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