It would seem that director Jess Franco has flourished over the past few years since he began associating with the American production company One Shot Productions. They have attempted to tighten his film productions without taming his unusual flair for crackpot cinema. In "Broken Dolls" Franco has his characters populating a one-time island paradise that is being slowly decayed by encroaching civilization (personified rather simply as approaching oil tankers). The island's clan is headed by doddy old Don Martin (Paul Lapidus in a wonderful performance) who once was a vaudeville performer and who may or may not have buried a treasure somewhere on the island. With their days on the island obviously numbered, Martin's slapdash family tries to race against his onsetting insanity to find the treasure and perhaps escape from paradise to someplace that at least has TV reception.
Actress Lina Romay names "Broken Dolls" as her favorite film performance and credits One Shot and producer Kevin Collins for bringing this film to life. "Broken Dolls" is one of Jess Franco's very best films ever and certainly a film to be recommended to Franco's fans and to his detractors as well - it might change everybody's mind about him.
As a movie-lover, I carry with Jess Franco a kind of longtime and ongoing "love'n'hate" relationship, in the sense that I "love" to search for his movies; when I can put my hands on one I haven't seen yet, I watch it right away and, usually, I begin to "hate" him... immediately after-wards! For one thing however I have to give him credit. He understands "entertainment" and, in spite of having worked (almost) ever on "shoe-string budgets", he has (almost) always delivered what his audience was looking for: sexploitation, S&M, erotica, horror, porn, satanism, zombie, cannibals, vampires, nuns...you name it. He jumped enthusiastically on almost every "bandwagon" on the horizon, crafting low-budget movies in his original style. He is one of the few directors who has dared to challenge himself by transferring on screen Marquise De Sade's philosophy (quite a challenge), with more then respectable results in several cases. He delivers best creating dramatic situations, in which he injects generous doses of T&A. and a "bit more"...which is his special and personal trademark. "Broken Dolls" was for me actually a pleasant surprise. Yes, he still wanders endlessly with his zoom lens (quite dusty, perhaps on purpose to create a dreamlike atmosphere!?!) over tree-tops, beaches, ocean waves, birds and objects which, apparently, have no relation to the story or to the movie. The cinematography is at times shaky, the movie seems being shot with a hand-held 16 mm. camera and the sound has a lot of flaws. The copy I watched was English dubbed, apparently, by the very same actors. Unfortunately, they don't manage too well this language and carry a (very) heavy Spanish accent. Particularly Lina Romay lines were sometimes almost incomprehensible and made the viewing, to a certain extent, an involuntary hilarious and, sometimes, excruciating experience. In spite of all the above, he crafted an original little movie, which I could not stop watching till the end. He manages to bring across a couple of messages, the story, if not completely plausible, is at least interesting, the location is beautiful and so are the ladies bodies, which are generously revealed in highly erotic contexts. The acting is surprisingly good. Paul Lapidus is an amazingly colorful "Nut". Only problem is that he has such a sympathy charge emanating from all his (fat) pores, that it is kind of difficult to take him seriously, when he pokes holes and slices-up, with profusion of blood, the bodies of the two lowers "caught in the act". Lina Romay decides to be a serious actress, wisely leaving the "clothes dropping" to her much younger and fresher supporting actresses and delivers a compelling portrait of an angry, sad and disillusioned middle-age woman which, at the end, looses all hopes for salvation. A pleasant soundtrack underlines the action on screen. "Broken Dolls" is a "must see" for all Franco's fans. I give it an 8 out of 10.
Oh, I wanted to like this. i really really wanted to enjoy another Lina Romay performance in a Jesus Franco film.
Sure, there would be sexploitation and weirdness, but it sill would be good. Or, so I thought.
The cinematography was excellent and the music really added to the atmosphere, but the present of the actors detracted from that.
Sure, there are plenty of breasts and a bushy vadge or two, along with sex and masturbation, but that is not why I watch a film. I also want some semblance of a story, and I just could not find one.
A crazy old man (Paul Lapidus) lives with a half dozen others on a remote island, where supplies are boated in. he supposedly has treasure hidden on the island, and others want to find it before he goes completely crazy.