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It was during my teenage years in the 1970s that I was introduced to
Jess Franco's movies: Shlocky horror, sexy babes, European locations,
poor scripting and bad acting. Many people don't care for this. As an
immature teenager I loved it. Now as a 40-something man, I consider it
a sinful pleasure. Yes, of course I still love it! Therefore, when I
came across this recent Franco production boasting exotic locations,
spies, international intrigue, and of course sexy babes, I was
expecting to be entertained! WRONG! What the hell was this?? Franco's
movies have gotten worse. Or rather, he was not able to make the
transition from film to video. That is the only way to explain the
terrible editing and choppy sound throughout this movie. A major
distraction was when voices were recorded (reading a script, blandly
and calmly) inside a sound stage while the actors are running outside.
Also, the lack of ambient noise made the viewing experience seem
"fake"; and there were cuts where other sound sources awkwardly chimed
in. I had the DVD and expected to hear the director comment about how
the sound and negatives had been damaged before the movie was released,
but they were able to re-create the movie by splicing together
different parts that had been saved. This at least would have made
Too bad! Please let me repeat, when I watch a Franco movie I expect an outrageous script and bad acting. This movie was happily full of both, and no comments are needed. But I also expected a basic standard of cinematography, which Franco was capable of 30 years ago. What went wrong? The esteemed Jess Franco should be embarrassed! A high school film making class could have produced a better product. Oh well.
Successful writer Maria Baltran (Rachel Sheppard)goes back to the South
American city she fled from as a kid on a publicity tour to promote her
book that's about how corrupt her homeland is. For some reason some
people want to kill her. hmmm, I can't imagine why, she writes of how
utterly corrupt the country is and then GOES BACK THERE ON A BOOK
TOUR!! Dumb poota. So after her best lesbian friend gets kidnapped (not
before sharing a tender moment with Maria, of course), she has to go
save her. The post-recorded dialog was immensely distracting and
annoying, and the plot is hopelessly convoluted. One of the worst
Franco films that I've seen.
My Grade: F
DVD Extras: Behind the scenes (10 minutes); deleted shots with commentary by producer Kevin Collins; Spanish language clip; and stills gallery
Eye Candy: Rachel Sheppard shows it all
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I may be wrong, but it seems to me that this has benefited from a
slightly higher budget than Jess Franco's other One Shot Productions
projects. The whole enterprise is still recorded on video, most of the
dialogue has been redubbed in post-production (occasionally in what
sounds like a rest room) and the acting is distinctly amateur.
Latter-day Franco regular Rachel Sheppard is substantially less
charismatic than co-star Tatiana Cohen (Bea), and luckily Lina Romay
(clothed throughout!) is on hand to liven things up.
And one thing this ponderous story (based on real events) needs is livening up. Boasting some beautifully scenic locations, this nevertheless has the look of one of those 1990s American day-time soap-operas like 'Days of our Lives' or 'Sunset Beach'. Maria Beltran (Sheppard) emigrates from San Hermoso to the US, where she becomes a successful author. She returns home to publicise her book, exposing San Hermosa as politically corrupt, and unsurprisingly is met with a less than friendly reception. Maria meets Tora (Romay), whose voice gives her away as one of the masked duo who her attacked her as soon as she arrived. Seemingly oblivious to the unrest that surrounds her, Maria continues to enjoy herself.
Possibly the most effective and horrific scene is when Maria's niece is wheeled into her hotel room, tied up and gagged in a wheelchair, her face spattered with blood. Other than that, this is strictly a thriller/espionage fairly free of tension but boasting more technical prowess than most other One Shot Productions I have seen (none of those very dated digital video effects that proved such a garish distraction in other offerings). It is also one of the less interesting restrained by Franco's standards, yet at least offering a coherent storyline, which actually gives Maria a happy ending with ex-husband, bland hunky Greg (Oliver Dennis). Interestingly, Steve Barrymore plays a character called Howard Vernon; Vernon was a veteran of Franco's films and died four years before the release of 'Blind Target'.
A troubled production, apparently. 'Blind Target' was originally written to star Michelle Bauer and took several years to complete, requiring Franco to return to the project again and again. There's an accompanying DVD-on-demand documentary about the making of this, called 'Antena Crminal', which gives a fascinating insight behind the scenes. It is especially evident that Lina Romay was invaluable at this time always there, always cheerful and hardworking, even consoling Franco privately when he became (understandably) frustrated about one amateur actress's inability to say a line.
Utterly peculiar Spanish director Jess Franco is famous for his horror films and his erotic takes on many unerotic subjects. In "Blind Target" he tackles the world of political intrigue by dispatching Rachel Sheppard as a nubile political writer into the Latin American country of San Hermoso. There she quickly gets involved in plots of kidnapping, torture, assassination and lesbianism. (Hey, it's a Jess Franco film, there's got to be some lesbianism.) Admittedly Franco's tired camera work does drag the proceedings down from time to time, but the story is untypically dense and complicated for him. Strangely enough, the dialog spoken by most of the characters is compelling and witty, moreso than in the usual Franco film. Perhaps this is due to the contributions of producer Kevin Collins of One Shot Productions, who reportedly tweaked Franco's script to make it into something worth filming. Linnea Quigley is especially fine as a TV reporter and Lina Romay is terrifying as the mad doctor working for the San Hermoso political regime. She'd have fit in right nicely in one of Hussein's torture chambers. For a Franco film with a flair for difference, "Blind Target" is walk on the wild side.
It is a welcome pleasure to watch Franco do with video that so many talentless hacks are incapable of. We get exotic locales, a fine story line, albeit a little confusing, but that is the Jess Franco way. In addition to all of this the lead actress is gorgeous and has a smouldering fire underneath her performance. Add to that the lovely Lina Romay who is always a joy to see before the camera and if that wasn't enough... LInnea Quigley! My favorite scream queen actually being used for her thespian skills in a magnificent role! On the DVD there are deleted scenes with commentary that at first you're like, so what? Then we get this great shot that I assumed was a crane shot. The producer explains that they stole three picnic tables from a nearby park, stacked them one on top of the other and set the camera on top of them. Of course Jess wanted to be sure that the shot was in frame and in focus so this little, old man scuttled up the top of the stack to make sure that they got the shot! This is professionalism in a medium that has never been real kind to Jess. The man deserves better and the viewing public needs to recognize his genius for what it truly is.
Director Franco's attempt at a sexy, political suspense thriller fails on most aspects. It is only marginally sexy, the politics are labored and irrelevant, and there are no suspense or thrills in evidence. The script is incoherent, the acting amateurish, and the film making of the worst, uninspired level. Unless you are being asked to review this, there is no reason to watch it whatsoever!
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