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La regina dei tartari (1960)
Obscure sword and sandal classic
Great peplum with lots of charm! It's kinda like the first 10 minutes of a sword and sorcery flick, where a bunch of barbarians dressed up as Manowar pillage some village, but for 90 minutes. It even features a man in a bear costume! The tartar queen is really a kick-ass girl, who takes no crap and is a better leader than the men (ps! she's really cute too). I wouldn't go an call it feminist masterpiece, but well... it's about as feminist as the peplum genre gets (remember this is the genre where women with black hair are automatically cunning and evil). If you're a peplum fan and get the chance to see this little film, by all means do - it's one of the best of its kind!
Island of Blood (1982)
Scared Alive - even the title makes no sense...
Mindnumbing bad slasher flick about a killer who's killing off a young film crew while playing a godawful new wave track that goes something like "Boil me! Boil me! Boil me! Cut me! Cut me!" on his tape deck. It's painfully apparent that nobody, in front or behind the camera, have no clue what so ever what the hell they're doing. Incomprehensable story, dialogue that makes no sense, acting from hell, weird cuts etc. About halfway through I got the creeping suspicion that this slasher abomination was the brainchild of a bunch of really confused hippie freaks! There was just one misplaced quasi-philosophical mumbo-jumbo line, longhaired acoustic guitar player or "i'm not going to mess with a bunch of food picky drug freaks!"-line too many to pass unnoticed, especially in a god-damned teen slasher flick! Label under uniquely bad. Since it's from 1981 it was pretty enjoyable as a cheezy turkey, if it was from 2001 I would probably hate it. You won't believe the twist ending... Guaranteed to make any intelligent, sensible human being lose their lunch.
Sad and poetic minimalistic S/M drama, remains one of Franco's best!
A really, really good early 1980s Franco title which remains one of his most underestimated according to me. It's basically a remake on Eugenie, the Story of a Young Girl's Journey into Perversion (a title he would remake many times, even as a HC porno) but this is way better than the original according to me. Great atmosphere, perverse, voyeuristic and detached, and as with many of the better of his 1980s films: much more focused than most of his 60/70s output. A benefit of the ultra low budget I reckon. When you're making a movie with such a ridiculously low budget as this, you have to really make the best use of the elements you've got and you've got to keep it minimal. The cute Katja Bienert is the perfect face for innocence-to-be-corrupted and Antonio Mayans has one of his best roles as sadistic Alberto de Rosa. Anyway, if you're at all interested in Franco, make sure to catch this one, if only to see Lina Romay as a dog (!). I'd also like to add that the sandfigures is one of the best images Franco has come up with yet!
I think Franco during his career has been the filmmakers who have reached closest to the true spirit of De Sade in his work... unlike all the other sleaze merchants and bozos that have consistently missed the point.
Uneven Bollywood slapstick action
Seriously, who could resist a hero named Loafer!? The DVD almost begs to be played... Anyway, the film starts off really good which some extremely silly, but fun, slapstick of the kind you should really be ashamed you like. It's about a young, hairy good-for-nothing and his cousin (a catch-phrase mumbling idiot in rockabilly-due who gives comedians like Jimmy Il Fenomena a run for their money for the most annoying-but you can't hate them- slapstick act) and their quest for babes, steady jobs and their parents respect. Problem starts when the ruthless mayor and his henchmen starts to terrorize the town for protection money and Loafer is the only one with the shoes to stand up to him... Unfortunely the less humorous second part of the film, where Loafer gets wrongly accused for murder and runs for mayor really drags compared to the energetic first half and you can't help to get a little bored near the end. Also with a really kitschy love story and lots of song and dance numbers, of course.
Mil sexos tiene la noche (1984)
Franco at his finest - somebody get this film on DVD now!
This obscure Golden Films production got to pop the Franco-cherry on my new movie projector. It was just the right choice! Lina Romay, chubby like she just walked out of an Anders Zorn-painting, plays Irena (Female Vampire flashbacks, anybody?) who's part of a kind of hypnosis nightclub act with the magician Fábian. He's not a very nice guy and uses his hypnotic powers to use poor Irena as an instrument of vengeance, sleeping with and killing off his enemies. Or is the whole set up just part of her nightmares? An unusually good, hypnotic (in both meanings of the word) sleaze flick that really shows what Franco can achieve with extremely limited resources - some hotel rooms, a handful of actors (the same old faces that's in all films from this period), a film camera and some re-used Daniel White music. Man, I really love this stripped down Golden Films stuff when it's done right and this films is much closer in spirit to, say, Macumba Sexual than Mansion of the Living Dead. Parts of the film are almost delirious. There's a thick, intimate atmosphere and interesting experimental photography. Some scenes are almost bordering on the poetic, for example we have a beautifully shot long kiss filmed through a glass door, bathing in sunlight. Say what you want about Lina's acting capacity but here she gives all she's got, somewhat reprising her roles in Female Vampire and Doriana Gray. Even though the story itself is more similar to Nightmares Come at Night. Highly recommended!
La rose de fer (1973)
A horror film about getting lost
A very odd film from Jean Rollin, a horror film completely without traditional horror elements and threats - it's about getting lost! A young couple gets lost at a country churchyard one night and lots of panic, statues and typical Rollin-doomed romanticism follows. It's a sympathetic, sometimes beautiful films with an interesting idea that still could have been executed a lot better. Lack of pacing was to be expected but the bad actors are the biggest problem. Usually Rollin's use of non-professionals is greatly to his advantage - bored-looking non-actors delivering pretentious dialogue in a very stiff way is part of his aesthetic style, but here the actors actually tries to act and it doesn't really work. Still, a pretty good film with some memorable scenes (the lovemaking in the tomb with spinning cameras was great!). A film for friends of Rollin.
Missione finale (1988)
Italian Rambo kills Nazis in North Korea?
OK little italo action time-waster, the film's history is probably more interesting than the film itself since it was shot in north Korea with the blessing of Kim Il-sung! It's about an evil drug dealer/nazi who uses "deer-serum" (!) to create a race of übermensch and of course a good guy blowing lots of stuff up. In the tradition of Andrea Bianchi's similar Megele: Angel of Death we get to see very little of these nazi experiments, but more of screaming men with machine guns and huts blowing up. We also get to see two of Italys worst actors, Mark Greogry and Sabrina Siani, together at last (though Sabrina is so fine you don't care if she can't act and Mark Gregory is at least cool as Trash and Thunder in better Italian 80s action flicks... but completely free of charm here). If only Conrad Nichols would have shown up the circle of Italian loser actors would have been complete.
¿Cuánto cobra un espía? (1984)
For those who enjoy Miss Romay's comic abilities
If you think that Lina Romay taking really fast in her whining, high pitch "comic" voice mode ("mi queridooo... miiii queridooo!!!) is the height of comedy, then this is the film for you. Lina and her dorky new husband are on their honeymoon at a Spanish resort and unfortunately pick up two hitchhikers, who are really spies that hide secret microfilm in their car. And then of course lots of different parties are trying to get their hands on the microfilm, with lots of silly slapstick situations as result. Hardly any nudity, just slapstick, slapstick and more slapstick. I really tried to fight it, but halfway through I found myself starting to enjoy this at least a little bit, clearly a sign that the end is near for me.
Family drama, Franco style
One of the most obscure Franco's i've had the privilege to see. Or rather see the first hour of because after that the frame just freezes on my (very murky) copy, leaving the confused viewer to wonder what the hell happened. OK, I admit it, I didn't understand a thing but it seems to be some kind of perverse, kinky, black comedy/ironic family-drama/soft porno? Only in the mind of Jess Franco... A family is living together on an isolated island and the family idyll is sometimes disrupted by PC stuff like the daughter masturbating in front of her father (i'd say a good third of the film consists of Lina jacking off), the mother forcing her children to take part in S/M games or Lina giving her retarded sister a handjob. "We're a happy family, we're a happy family hey mum and daddy", as the Ramones song goes. There's a lot of lot of seemingly misplaced, mindless chattering (which I didn't understand of course) during all the weird and sick stuff going-ons, so I would guess the film is wittier and more intelligent than first seems (much like The Inconfessionable Orgies of Emmanuelle I guess, in which the dry, sarcastic tone got lost completely in the language barrier until the subtitled DVD release revealed a much better film than thought at first). But all in all it's safe to say that this no budget wonder is for francophiliacs only. I don't know whether I should consult a film buff or a psychiatrist, but why the hell did this film somehow remind me of a perverted Douglas Sirk?
George Lazenby kicks ass!
George Lazenby has a moustache and is Stoner (!), an angry Australian antidrug-cop who takes on the Chinese mafia who tries to push a new drug that makes women super-horny! He also says "Hmm..." a lot, wears pimp suits and kicks ass. A lot of ass, using his own special "kung fu" technique. Basically he's just waving his arms around like a madman while the villains fall like bricks. More Cüneyt Arkin than Bruce Lee if you catch my drift... The real kung fu (and eye-candy) comes from his female sidekick Angela Mao who really got some moves! To sum it up, this is a cheezy but highly entertaining kung fu-burger full of 1970s charms. A new martial arts favorite of mine! Blink and you'll miss a young Samo Hung getting his ass beaten to shreds by George Lazenby (the humiliation!)