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Robert Walker Jr.,
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O.K., it's no Witchfinder General (but then again, what is?), but Jess Franco's The Bloody Judge is a well-written, well-acted, well-made historical-horror hybrid in the tradition of it's obvious model, Rowland V. Lee's The Tower of London. Franco stalwart Howard Vernon delivers a delicious homage to Karloff's Mord the Executioner from that film, and Christopher Lee is excellent, if somewhat insecurely emphatic and earnest, as the cruel, narrow, and hypocritical Judge Jeffries. The score, by Bruno Nicolai, is majestic and memorable, and the film as a whole is vividly entertaining. Having seen this film over 25 years ago, on television, heavily edited, under the title Night of the Blood Monster, I was amazed at how much of it had lain dormant in my memory, ready to be jostled into consciousness. Whole scenes played out in my mind as I re-watched them on my wide screen TV.
There are a few people, including the otherwise estimable Glenn Erickson, of the hugely insightful and informative DVD Savant site, who have claimed, based on the evidence of this film, that Jess Franco could not have "directed" the legendary Battle of Shrewsbury in Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight. First, lets get a few facts straight. It is well documented that Franco shot the second unit on Chimes at Midnight, which included much of the battle scene. This means that Franco shot a lot of coverage of the battle, working from a general outline given by Welles. Later, Welles took the miles of footage into the editing room and, many months later, emerged with the shattering sequence that appears in his picture. Franco, obviously, had nothing to do with this editing process, and, as far as I can tell, has never claimed otherwise. To compare the battle scene in The Bloody Judge with Welles' magnificent achievement is grotesquely unfair, as I am sure that Franco was allowed minutes rather than months to assemble The Bloody Judge for exhibition. Given the strictures under which he was working, Franco, his cast, and his collaborators should be commended for having produced a film with such a high level of professionalism. Welles, that most populist of auteurs, who once stated that he would rather watch paint dry than sit through an Antonioni film, and who responded to energy, verve, iconoclasm, and enthusiasm, had seen and appreciated those qualities an early Franco effort, which eventually led to the offer to work on Chimes. If Franco was good enough for Welles, he should be good enough for us. The two are closer than you think...
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