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This was my second Jess Franco film, one of his earlier black-and-white
thrillers; often considered among his very best. Despite being an
obviously low-budget production, the film actually looks pretty slick
for all that. This seems to have been an interesting period for Franco:
his films from this era are easily the most accessible and readily
enjoyable. Still, there are definite hints of what was to come, even in
this film where the accent is on a somewhat disturbing use of violence
but also on the seductiveness of (female) sexuality.
The plot of the film is quite simple, if improbable, and Franco would apparently borrow freely from its themes and images for many years afterwards (SUCCUBUS , VAMPYROS LESBOS and SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY [both 1970]). Jean-Claude Carriere contributed to the script and while the film is closer in spirit to Franju than Bunuel, he manages a few distinctively surreal touches as when Irma Zimmer (Mabel Karr) 'tames' the rebellious Nadia/Miss Death (Estella Blain) by using a whip and a chair, as if she were a wild circus animal; or the fistfight at the climax which suddenly turns into a good old-fashioned swashbuckling routine. As a director, Franco rises to the occasion with any number of eerie and unusual compositions though the film does not entirely escape his trademark haphazard 'style'. Other visual assets here would have to be: the photography, which is smooth for a change and satisfactorily 'expressionistic'; and the production design, which maintains a good balance between 'old' (Dr. Zimmer's castle and country-house) and 'new' (Dr. Z's laboratory, full of hilariously impractical gadgets, and the cabaret where Miss Death performs her act). Daniel White's music, while not exactly imposing, provides the perfect underscoring for Franco's wild romp.
The film features several memorable sequences, often involving heart-pounding chases (Miss Death pursued in the empty theater by the hypnotized criminal Bergen; Dr. Moroni's fog-laden close encounter with both Miss Death and Irma Zimmer before he is dispatched) or graphic violence (Irma Zimmer's botched 'suicide' which leaves her facially scarred; Mrs. Moroni's death, by having her head plunged through a window-pane, ten years prior to Dario Argento's DEEP RED !; Dr. Vicas' train seduction and eventual assassination at the hands of Miss Death). Also notable, of course, is Miss Death's weird and kinky dance routine - complete with fetching outfit!
The cast was not made up of star names but they all acquit themselves nicely, particularly Mabel Karr who is quite convincing and even demands pity in her obsessive quest for revenge; Howard Vernon, the epitome of sleek villainy, though his presence is all too brief; and, above all, Estella Blain who is sumptuous throughout (aided a great deal, of course, by her character's all-important 'wardrobe').
The film contains several in-jokes and references to other films which Franco may have admired and subsequently been influenced by: during Dr. Zimmer's first appearance, the phone rings and Irma says after answering that it was Dr. Bresson calling that 'un condamne' a' mort s'est eschappe'' (a condemned man has escaped). It is an unexpected and amusing nod towards Robert Bresson (certainly among France's finest film-makers ever and one of my personal favorites) and that which is arguably his greatest film, more commonly known as A MAN ESCAPED (1956). Furthermore, Louis Feuillade's legendary seven-hour serial LES VAMPIRES (1915-16) is homaged by naming the leading character Irma (after that film's most memorable character, Irma Vep, who frequently sported sultry costumes herself) and Miss Death's dancing at a night-club recalls an early scene in Feuillade's Silent serial as well. Somehow I suspect that these references may be Carriere's doing (who could hardly fail to be aware of these two directors and their movies, especially the latter's which were highly regarded by the Surrealist movement) rather than Franco's, but I could be wrong. Franju's LES YEUX SANS VISAGE aka EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1959) an established influence on Franco's THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF (1961) is also referenced here in Irma's facial decompositions (which recall the ones suffered by Edith Scob in Franju's film), while Irma's killing of the hitch-hiker and disposing of her body in the river is strikingly similar to that film's opening sequence. Of course, the laboratory sequences in DR. Z are a loving nod towards the Universal monster films of the Thirties.
When a film is as enjoyable as this one, its faults thematic as well as technical are hardly worth criticizing, as these can often be pinned down to budgetary/time constraints. So, now I'll rush on to my thoughts on the DVD proper: the film is presented in French (which is what the actors are apparently mouthing) and it is a reasonably effective track, giving the whole a distinctly 'European' feel. Both the film's OAR and its running time have been the subject of controversy over the Internet these last few days. There are definite traces of overscan here, for even the menu screens are visibly cramped. The quality of the video and audio on this disc are excellent for the most part; unfortunately, the film's closing moments are marred by excessive pops and crackles on the soundtrack (these are also present on the English-dubbed version). The extras, while not plentiful, compliment the film superbly; particularly of note are the 15-minute featurette on Franco (giving a nice, if understandably skimpy, overview of his career), the informative biographies and, of course, the 'amusing' Easter Egg which shouldn't be too hard to find now! I don't quite know what to say about the 'extra' scenes featured in the 'Stills Gallery' section: these could just as well have been publicity shots, or perhaps were scrapped prior to release; it's true that the film runs for only 83 minutes when the 'original' Spanish version was somewhere between 86 and 87 minutes long, but that could be because the transfer was made in PAL mode (after all, Mondo Macabro is a UK-based company).
This film has certainly whetted my appetite for more films from this early phase of Franco's career. It seems that the only ones that are available on DVD are THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF (unfortunately, I've already missed watching the original Spanish-language version of this one which I understand to be considerably longer twice so far!), THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS (1962) and DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER (1964). Though I recall opinions on the other two as being pretty mixed, I would still like to know if they are cut as well?
I'm not quite sure which of the two Francos I prefer at this stage: while THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z is certainly the more enjoyable (and straightforward) one, EUGENIE THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION (1969) is obviously the more profound and thus mature and personal - work. That said, they have both earned their well-deserved place in my collection and, at long last, the (negative) barriers surrounding the Franco 'myth' have been dealt a blow, even if they are still a LONG way from being struck down though I don't know if I'd REALLY want to do that in the first place!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
- A more apt title for the movie might be The Daughter of the
Diabolical Doctor Z. Dr. Z doesn't make it through the first 15 minutes
of the movie before he dies of a heart attack. His daughter (also a
doctor) blames those who scoffed at her father's ideas for his death.
Continuing with her father's work, she vows revenge. Using his mind
control procedures, she creates two "slaves" to carry out her plan.
- I have dubbed this movie "My New Favorite Franco", just beating out Venus in Furs for the title. Where many of his movies seem to lose their way, The Diabolical Doctor Z has a straight forward plot and takes the time necessary to build atmosphere. Too often Franco's films seem rushed or go in so many directions that nothing seems to make much sense.
- The choice made by the daughter of the beautiful performance artist, Miss Death, as a "weapon" for her revenge is interesting. Much like a spider, Miss Death first seduces her prey before using her long nails that have been dipped in poison to kill. Miss Death's spider web nightclub dance is a must see.
- This is the second Franco film that I've seen that reminded me in some way of Franju's Eyes Without a Face. While the influence on the other Franco film, The Awful Dr. Orloff, is obvious, here it is much more subtle. The face surgery scene is eerily reminiscent of Franju's face surgery scene.
Intriguing as well as thrilling Euro-horror film stunningly shot by
recently deceased Jesus Franco or ¨Uncle Jess¨ , born Jesús Franco
Manera , a prolific Spanish film-maker who specialised in psychedelic
Gothic terror , often laced with sex and violence . The sadistic Baron
Klaus deals with a woman (Mabel Karr who married Fernando Rey) seeks to
revenge her dad's (Antonio Jimenez Escribano) death by using a stripper
(Stella Blain) , with long poisonous fingernails , to do her bidding .
As she kidnaps a local dancer and controls her mind so she can seduce
the scientific (Chris Huerta , Marcelo Arroita , Howard Vernon) who
panned and mocked him . At the end takes place a twisted surprise about
the murders . Nothing ever stripped your nerves screamingly raw like
the Diabolical Doctor Z .
Enjoyable and above average rendition about European terror , a habitual genre during the sixties . This very campy picture contains thrills , action , phantasmagoria , horrifying situations , and being compellingly developed . Here Franco manages to give us an appropriate ambient , an evocative production design , being rightly narrated , including a criminal plot enough to keep you intrigued throughout the flick . Interesting screenplay and adaptation by Jean-Claude Carrière , Luis Buñuel's ordinary writer . The picture was made by the time in which Franco directed nice movies such as : ¨Rififi En La Ciudad¨ , this ¨Miss Muerte¨ or ¨Diabolic Doctor Z¨ , ¨Necronomicon¨ and ¨Gritos en la Noche¨ , developing a consolidated professionalism , as his career got more and more impoverished in the following years, but his endless creativity enabled him to tackle films in all genres , from "B" horror to erotic films . Others , however, have been downright atrocious : ¨Emmanuelle Exposed¨ (1982) , ¨Red Silk¨ (1999), and his last picture ¨Al Pereira vs the Alligator Ladies¨ (2012) one of the worst films I have ever seen . ¨Miss Muerte¨ belongs to his peculiar series about ¨Doctor Orloff¨ , as he is also called ¨Doctor Klaus¨ or ¨Doctor Z¨ , the first was "The Awful Dr. Orloff" , it's followed by various sequels such as ¨El Secreto del Dr. Orloff¨ (1964) aka "The Mistresses of Dr. Jekyll" , "Orloff y el hombre invisible (1970) aka "Dr. Orloff's Invisible Monster" and finally "Faceless" (1987) . Fine acting by Mabel Karr as vengeful daughter and unforgettable Stella Blain who plays an arty/spider dance . And other notorious secondary actors in brief appearances as Howard Vernon , Cris Huerta , Jose Maria Prada , Marcelo Arroita-Jáuregui , Rafael Hernández and Guy Mairesse , some of them uncredited . And , of course , a special and sympathetic intervention by Jesús Franco , as always . Evocative and adequate cinematography in black and white by Alejandro Ulloa (Horror express) . Atmospheric original music by Daniel White (Franco's usual musician) who appears as a British Pólice detective .
The motion picture was well directed by Jesus Franco ; being professionally written , produced and often deemed among his very best . Jesus Franco was a Stajanovist director , as his filmography boasts 203 directorial credits from 1957 to 2013 , a record few can match in the era of talking pictures . Given that many Franco films exist in three or four variant versions, sometimes so radically different that alternative cuts qualify as separate movies , his overall tally might be considerably higher but embarrassing . However , here he doesn't use his trademarks , as he pulls off a traditional narration , without zooms , neither lousy pace . As the picture belongs to Franco's first period in which he made passable flicks . Franco used to utilize a lot of pseudonyms and customary marks such as zooms , nudism , foreground on objects , filmmaking in ¨do-it-yourself effort¨ style or DIY and managing to work extraordinarily quickly , realizing some fun diversions, and a lot of absolute crap . Many pictures had nice photography , full of lights and shades in Orson Welles style , in fact , Franco was direction-assistant in ¨Chimes at midnight¨ and edited ¨El Quijote¨ by Welles . He often used to introduce second , third or fourth versions , including Hardcore or Softcore inserts or sexual stocks many of them played by his muse Lina Romay . In many of the more than 200 films he's directed he has also worked as composer , writer , cinematographer and editor . His first was "We Are 18 Years Old" along with the documentary ¨El Arbol de España¨ and his subsequent picture was ¨Gritos en la Noche¨ (1962) , the best of all them . Like ¨Justine¨ , some of these films have been extraordinarily entertaining : ¨The Diabolical Dr. Z¨ (1966), ¨Vampyros Lesbos¨ (1971), ¨A Virgin Among the Living Dead¨ (1973) , ¨The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein¨ , ¨Female Vampire¨ , ¨Women Behind Bars¨ (both 1975), and ¨Bloody Moon¨ (1981). As his ¨Necronomicón¨ (1968) was nominated for the Festival of Berlin, and this event gave him an international reputation . He also directed to the great Christopher Lee in 4 films : "The Bloody Judge" , ¨Count Dracula¨, ¨The Blood of Fu Manchu¨ and ¨The castle of Fu Manchu¨ . Jesús's influence has been notable all over Europe . Many of his films have had problems in getting released, and others have been made directly for video . More than once his staunchest supporters have found his "new" films to contain much footage from one or more of his older films . He broke up with all that and got the independence he was seeking . He always went upstream in an ephemeral industry that fed opportunists and curbed the activity of many professionals . But time doesn't pass in vain, and Jesus' production has diminished since the 90s ; however he went on shooting until his recent death .
This is one of the best, creepiest and most stylish from the Godfather of Eurosleaze. "The Diabolical Dr. Z" is a semi-sequel to the classic "The Horrible Dr. Orlof" (1961). Dr. Zimmer, who calls himself a disciple of Dr. Dr. Orlof, dabbles in mind control with the help of a weird spiderlike metal contraption which injects electric needles into victims brains. After other doctors laugh at him and his experiments, he suffers a stroke but before he dies his daughter promises to continue the experiment. She visits a nightclub where an exotic dancer, Miss Muerte, perform a "show". Miss Muerte then becomes a zombie-like killermachine for Dr. Zimmer's daughter and goes after the doctors who ridiculed him. The film is loaded with sinister atmosphere, beautifully shot - a masterpiece of the macabre!
Probably a good starting point to explore your Franco. This is a well written and smoothly running yarn of obsession and revenge, with handsome and solid cast, hypnotic soundtrack and first class camera work. There's the ethereal Estella Blain, a beauty who is changed into a killing machine, with powers to mesmerize men. Knowing that in real life she ended her life with a shotgun adds to the morbid fascination of seeing her. The scene of her seducing one of her victims on a train, in sudden silence and almost complete darkness as the train enters a tunnel, is so weirdly beautiful that one is compelled to watch it several times. My second viewing of this film was in a rather tired company, and I witnessed a drunkard - well, an intoxicated young gentlemen - wake up from his slumber just because of the dreamlike soundtrack and becoming glued to the screen. These are the moments that make film the greatest of art forms. Otherwise I'm not a great fan of Mr Franco. A man who directs about 200 films can't hit a bullseye every time. But this time he really has. A piece de resistance for every eurotrash lover. How lucky you are if you haven't seen this film yet and are planning a viewing!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dr. Z. senior, as he's marvelously depicted on the DVD-cover with an outrageous hair-style and funky goggles, has the chance to act mildly diabolical for exactly 15 minutes and then he banally dies from an ordinary heart-attack. Why picture HIS mug on all the posters and even more importantly - why refer to the lethal titular character Miss Death as HIS creation when he's nothing more than a supportive character? I usually loath movies with misleading titles and inappropriate pictures on the cover, but I'll gladly make an exception for Jess Franco's finest cinematic achievement, as this movie is honestly too good to get upset about small details. Besides, the title more or less remains apt because Dr. Z's daughter reprises the diabolical family business. Irma Zimmer helplessly witnessed how her father's intelligent, albeit unethical research got condemned by an opinionated committee of eminent doctors, resulting in the poor man's fatal heart-attack. She swears to avenge her father's death as well as to continue his work, which involves the control and direction of man's hostile behavior through spinal injections. She develops a fiendish plan to fake her own death and subsequently kidnaps a sexy nightclub dancer who'll serve as her mindless killing instrument. The ravishing Nadja is sent to seduce the naughty doctors responsible for Dr. Z Senior's death and then murder them with her poisonous fingernails. Arguably a kind of sequel to "The Awful Dr. Orloff", this is unquestionably Jess Franco's best accomplishment to date, with a coherent script (for a change) and a genuinely sinister atmosphere throughout. Without losing control over the pacing once, Franco brings forward a series of bright ideas and merges them all together in a plausible & effective fashion. There's the recruitment of an escaped maniacal killer from death row, the elaboration of Irma's insane disappearance plot, a love-story, the slow-moving police investigation and the versatile murders of three doctors. Franco's direction doesn't feel rushed at all, the filming locations and scenery are exquisite and the use of black & white cinematography makes the wholesome even more staggering. Unlike the majority of titles on Franco's repertoire, "The Diabolical Dr. Z" is a stylish and truly unsettling masterpiece! Sure, certain (sub) plots and the ambiance may be derived from the French classic "Les Yeux Sans Visage", but so many contemporary films were influenced by that one and at least Franco's style is straightforward and unpretentious. Bearing in mind the era and budget limitations, the film features surprisingly shocking visual & make-up effects. Especially the images of Irma's horribly burned face are eerie and nightmarish. The acting performances are far above average as well. Franco-regular and friend Howard Vernon stars in a small role as Dr. Vicar and our beloved director himself briefly appears in a glorious role as police detective. Bravo Jess, you're my hero.
Despite some hefty competition, I consider this to be the legendary and
prolific Jesus Franco's best film. In fact, it ranks up there with
"Eyes Without a Face" as one of the best Euro-horror films there are! I
have seen few b-films as well made as this one, filled with stunning
camera-work and considerably interesting characters. The atmosphere
just drips off the screen onto you.
The Diabolical Dr. Z is a scientist who presents his way of reforming criminals to a board of scientists from each nation. He claims that if you hit a central nerve system in the brain, you can make someone into an obedient slave, thus curing all crime. He is laughed at and mocked, causing him to die right at the meeting. However, his daughter plots revenge on those who caused his death. She kidnaps a stripper whose act consists of her in a spider web wearing a bodysuit with a spider on it. She controls her mind so she can seduce the scientists who caused the death of her father, than deploy the poison in her long fingernails to kill them.
The film is surprisingly extremely well-made. No wonder Orson Welles was impressed by Franco's film-making techniques. The camera-work is some of the best I've ever seen in a film, and the atmosphere is very film noir. As far as style goes, this feels as much like a 50s film noir as it does a 60s European horror flick. However, my personal favorite part of the film is Estella Blain. Rarely have I seen a woman more beautiful on screen. She just oozes sexuality and power over her captives. Even by today's standards, she's a hottie. Overall, the film is a must-see for any cult film fans out there. (9/10)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Proof Jess Franco can make a movie.
I shouldn't say it like that since I'm a fan, of sorts, and Franco can make a good film usually after a long run of ones that make you scream otherwise (One need look at most of his recent shot on video stuff to wonder how he keeps getting money to make movies).
Beautifully shot in black and white this is the story of a woman who wants to get revenge for the death of her father, a doctor involved with mind control experiments. Filled with odd images that never seem distracting or out of place this is a film that drifts through the surreal and has it make perfect sense. (The spider motifs). Its an odd mad scientist revenge thriller that is somehow hypnotic as the twists and turns of the plot walk the fine line between real and unreal (killer nails?). Its a very good euro-horror of the type that was being cranked out during the mid 1960's. Its also a film that perfectly fits the over used slogan "if you see one movie..." which in this case would be "If you see one movie by Jess Franco see this one." Between 6 and 7 out of 10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Those of the scientific community(mainly three in particular, doctors
Vicas, Moroni & Kallman)who berated Dr. Zimmer(Antonio Jiménez
Escribano), whose experiments concerning mind control procedures which
have the ability to cease the violent tendencies in the criminal
element(for a while Z worked on monkeys amongst other animals before an
exhausted escaped convict dumped right in his lap)they vehemently
disagreed with, cause him to ultimately die of stress when they
threaten to stop him from completing his work. Zimmer caused a major
outburst at the conference where he proposed a chance to use a convict
on death row(..a human being)as part of testing his theories before
them proving that he could change human behavior. His daughter,
Irma(Mabel Karr), goes mad from the loss of her father and hatefully
vows revenge against the main three culprits she considers the cause of
her father's death. Using a pretty actress who goes under the stage
name "Mrs. Death", with these long fingernails, named Nadia(Estella
Blain)as an instrument to possibly seduce the three doctors one at a
time, Irma has a plan in place while adopting her father's controlled
convict Hans Bergen(Guy Mairesse)as the muscle(..he is often used to
kill when Nadia fails in her part of the scheme). Irma will fake her
own death by running over a hitchhiker who resembles her, burning the
body with a specific ring she's known for wearing, in her car driving
into a pond. Meanwhile, an ally(..of sorts)of her father's work, Dr.
Phillippe Brighthouse(whom Irma sleeps with)who attended the conference
Dr. Z was ridiculed at, lends a hand to two Scotland Yard detectives
working the case of Irma's supposed death and the sequential murders of
the doctors who "killed Irma's father." Phillippe and Nadia had begun a
love affair when Irma kidnapped her, using the experiments to control
Mrs. Death's will. Will Phillippe find Nadia in time to save her before
Irma decides to dispose of her? Can the detectives and Phillippe
silence the blind rage of Irma before more people come to violent harm?
Can Phillippe stand a chance against convict Bergen?
Fantastic mad Scientist/revenge thriller, beautifully photographed in moody B&W by Alejandro Ulloa. Thankfully, this is a focused, finely paced, well crafted thriller which doesn't wander from it's story staying on course delivering the goods. I particularly like how Franco shoots Mable Karr's face in angles which show hints of the dementia thriving behind her beautifully, sweaty reconstructed face(her face had been burnt during Irma's attempt to push the flaming car into the pond containing the look-a-like hitchhiker).
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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