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X312 - Flug zur Hölle (1971)
Out-of-style Franco movie
This movie has recently been released on DVD in the US. Fortunately they used the German language version so they avoided the dreadful English synchronisation that is common for these type of movies.
Still, it's not a very good movie. It has been clearly made very fast and it seems they only had enough money to go to South America to shoot some footage (although it might also be archive footage now I come to think of it).
The story is simple and not very original: a plane crashes in the jungle and among the survivors is a bank president carrying a suitcase with stolen jewelry. As soon as the other passengers find out they start fighting while trying to survive in the Brazilian jungle.
Typical Franco elements are still there but not as numerous as they normally are; of course you'll see most of the women in this movie naked and there's a lesbian lovescene; Franco's love of zooming in and out on irrelevant details is apparent several times; and Franco regulars have small roles, I saw Paul Müller, Ewa Stroemberg, Howard Vernon, Beni Cardosi and Franco himself passing by on the screen.
Unfortunately this is not a movie to remember, and not a good place to start if you want to witness the genius of Jesus F.
Mystery Train (1989)
Typical Jarmusch movie
Marvelous movie in Jarmusch style; several storylines only touching each other slightly, bringing an ode to both Memphis-style America and Elvis Presley.
Jarmusch is a master in bringing odd characters together, including Japanese tourists, a lost Italian woman, some freaked out hotel-personnel (including Screamin' Jay Hawkins) and a couple of small-time crooks.
** minor spoilers ahead! **
Steve Buscemi plays one of those roles he's best in, a barber who's not so brave and gets shot in the leg in the end (reminded me of Buscemi being shot in the face in Fargo several years later).
Tom Waits and John Lurie (both in Down By Law) are involved in the soundtrack (well, Waits plays radio DJ and cannot be seen in this movie).
This movie is a minor masterpiece. Period.
La visita del vicio (1978)
Good example of the euro-trash genre
Larraz is one of those directors who succeed in making a picture with virtually no money (e.g. Jesus Franco). By using some unorthodox images like a naked man on a horse, and by doing some smart editing, he manages to give this film a creepy feeling that shows you don't need millions to make a decent picture.
This does not mean this is a good movie, although it had some strong scenes, including the infamous horse-with-woman-inside scene, it has a weak ending, a couple of standard middle-of-the-road sexscenes and the acting is (as always in eurotrash cinema) rather amateuristic.
I'd recommend this to anyone who has seen every Franco 70s movie available and wants to see something similar. However, Larraz made a much better picture with Vampyres which stands much higher on my all-time top eurotrash list.
Die Marquise von Sade (1976)
Is it porn? is it exploitation? Or is it Franco?
I can't help asking these questions while watching most of Franco's movies from the late seventies, early eighties. And this one is a good example of this period in his career.
If you have seen Vampyros Lesbos or Female Vampire (a.k.a. Erotikill) you basically know the story. In Vampyros Lesbos there's a stunning vampire girl (Soledad Miranda) who rather sucks the blood out of other females than out of men and in the end dies.
In Female Vampire there's the same eternally young girl this time sucking on genitalia instead of necks to keep her youth and satisfy her hunger. She also dies in the end, although she commits suicide if I remember correctly. Alternate versions of this movie have the vampire girl actually drinking blood to bypass censorship.
Doriana Grey, filmed 3 years later and again featuring the ravishing Lina Romay playing lead, basically recycles the same story but doesn't make any compromises.
Doriana Grey, an eternal youth, is living all alone up in a castle with her mute servant and keeps her youth by sucking the life out of innocent girls with the occasional man on the menu. In the end she satisfies herself and dies, floating in a small swimming pool, just as the Female Vampire dies playing with herself in a bath filled with blood.
This brings me back to my three basic questions.
Is it porn?
Sure, it is. I wouldn't call this family entertainment. You get a lot of masturbation scenes (and I mean a lot!), a couple of lesbian scenes and some man-woman action. There are extreme close-ups of female genitalia and scenes that can only be considered as hardcore porn.
On the other hand, most of the sexual partners of Miss Grey die and she is not having any fun, at least, according to the story she's not supposed to have. I'm not an expert on porno-storylines but I don't find it very erotic to see people die after having sex. So, in some way, this is hardly an erotic movie.
Is it exploitation?
Definitely. It is a prima example of seventies erotic cinema from the seventies. It might not be very erotic nowadays, but it was shot to be.
Is it Franco?
Affirmative. Although it's more explicit than earlier Franco movies, it still contains some of his trademarks:
- Out-of-focus camera work. Many scenes have Franco play with the focus, making many parts very confusing and giving it a dream-like quality.
- Zoom in - zoom out. Franco has often been critized for using the zoom lens too often. Others defend the director, saying he only did that during a short period of his career (i.e. 1968-1971). Still, in this movie there's a lot of zooming going on.
- Completely useless shots. This is one of my favorite Franco trademarks, the ability to move the camera to a completely useless part of the scenery, focusing on rain pouring down or a leaf against the dark sky. This can be explained by Franco's own words, claiming to be a voyeur. He doesn't only focus on female genitalia, he's also a voyeur of the beauty of the ordinary world.
- Storyline. I've already discussed the similarity between this movie and other Franco movies like Vampyros Lesbos and Female Vampire, but there's more. He frequently uses characters that are mute or have a speaking disability (e.g. Lina Romay plays a mute vampire in Female Vampire), in Doriana Grey the servant is a mute who used to be a protest singer (!); a girl locked in asylum, telepathically connected to someone in the outside world. This can be traced back to Murnau's Nosferatu, but it is also a recurring storyline in Franco's movies. And then there's the doctor in the asylum who goes by the name of Dr. Orlof, a name you'll find as early as 1959 (The Awful Dr. Orlof). Dr. Orlof in turn seems like a reference to Murnau's Nosferatu again (Count Orlok).
So in the end, what have I just seen? A typical Franco movie who continues to move towards pure sex movies and leaving the horror genre altogether, keeping up with the zeitgeist. Definitely a must for Franco fans but not a very good place to start.
One last word: the DVD, released by the producer Erwin C. Dietrich, has been completely restored, cleaned up and digitally mastered and looks perfect in every way. This is how they should treat all movies before transferring them to DVD.
Did I just watch a Jess Franco movie?
Apparently I did, but I shouldn't have expected a movie similar to Vampyros Lesbos. I bought this movie on DVD from a Dutch company called Japan Shock who never failed to deliver good solid trash from Asia and Italy and I was yet to be disappointed. This one comes close.
It's very hard to distinguish this as a Franco movie. I know that he made a lot of movies (182 according to the IMDb listing) and of course not all can be masterpieces, but this one is not very different from most German late '70s/early '80s softporno flicks, the ones they show late saturday night on cable television.
There were some moments that reminded me of older Franco movies. There were a couple of scenes where naked women were involved in sado-erotic performances with audiences watching - which, believe it or not, is a Franco trademark - and there is a climax (!) involving scorpions, an animal Franco seems to feel very related to.
I missed the completely useless zooms he is famous for though, and for once they'd have been completely in place.
Overall, if you like beautiful naked German girls making love, getting whipped and being tortured; if you like bad English overdubbing that goes as far as people not opening their mouth while they are talking; if you like poor editing, bad camerawork, lousy acting and the weakest plot ever, then this is the movie for you.
El secreto del Dr. Orloff (1964)
Nice gothic horror movie with early touches of Jesus Franco's style
Although made on a shoestring budget and as a sequel to The Awfull Dr. Orloff, this is a very enjoyable flick and a fine example of early Southern European horror. It's actually better than it's predecessor.
The plot is not real important (it contains a zombie-like creature, a castle and a mad scientist). What makes this movie is the mood, the often beautiful camera-angles, the art direction and the hints of later Franco movies.
For example, there's several scenes with women performing, often in erotic scenes, with men watching - which is exactly the kind of voyeuristic cinema Franco would turn to in later years (Vampyros Lesbos, Demoniac).
There's - of course - quite some nudity, which must have been considered quite risque in 1964. And there's a small cameo for the director himself, as a pianist who seems to be blind.....
Also of interest is the use of electronic devices used to make the zombie a murderous weapon, they give a strange effect to the movie and reminded me of early 50's sci-fi B-movies.
All in all, recommended for Franco fans and b/w horrormovie fans. If you've never seen a Franco I suggest starting with Vampyros Lesbos or Female Vampire.
Nice tribute, bad documentary
I'm a huge fan of Wyatt and The Soft Machine and I was thrilled to find out there was a documentary about Robert Wyatt made by two Italian blokes and that it was available on video.
After watching it I was not impressed. The film more or less focusses on the music from Shleep - Wyatt's latest album (at time of writing) and almost half of it contains pictures of trees, subways, people walking in the street with Wyatt-music backing and filmed in black & white. I'd say: typical first-year-of-filmschool moviemaking.
It is editted with shots of old and new friends who either tell an anekdote about their times with Wyatt or praise the guy for whatever they feel like praising him for.
These shots are not chronological and it is most of the time not explained which album or time they are talking about, so for the non-initiated it's a lot of bogus crap on a stick.
The whole docu is shot in b&w, even old footage that used to be in colour! So, yes, you get to watch the Shipbuilding videoclip, but only in grays.....
There are very few archive footage shots in the whole movie anyway. There must be more filmed material of Wyatt I'd say.
Robert Wyatt deserves a good solid documentary and this is clearly not the one.
Conclusion: only buy this if you are a big fan and don't expect too much.
A must own for any European Gainsbourg fan
Gainsbourg is most famous for "Je t'aime... moi non plus", the sleazy duet he sang with his then girlfriend Jane Birkin and the only song ever forbidden by the Pope.
In France he was more of a superstar. He also wrote "Poupée de cire, poupée de son", sung by France Gall who won the Eurovision Songfestival with it. In 1968 he had a short but controversial relationship with Brigitte Bardot, then considered one of the most beautiful women on earth. He set the lyrics of the French national anthem to reggae in 1979. He sang a duet with his daughter Charlotte (then 15) called "Lemon Incest" - you translate it....
This 2 DVD set collects an enormous amount of clips, interviews and live-recordings by Gainsbourg. In fact, I don't think there's anything left out except for his appearances in movies.
There are several highlights on the discs: there's the live interview on French TV where he asks Whitney Houston to f*** him (he was never to appear live on TV again); a live duet with Jane Birkin singing "Comic Strip"; an alternate version of "Je Suis Venu te Dire Que j'en vais"; and many more.
This DVD has been released only in France and it's a region 2 PAL DVD, so it won't be of much use for fans living in the US. Furthermore it is not subtitled and completely in French.
When I got this DVD I watch it from beginning to end in a day - four hours of material - and I recommended it to every Gainsbourg fan that does not already own it.
Down by Law (1986)
Another great movie by Jim Jarmusch
I've seen a couple of Jarmusch movies and except for Dead Man (which I thought was an incredible bore), they were all great.
Down By Law is probably one his best known flicks and is a very good low budget movie. It features Tom Waits, who's not only a fine musician but proves to be a decent actor as well; John Lurie, who also wrote the excellent soundtrack (Waits delivered the opening and end-credits track btw); Roberto Benigni, who nowadays is most famous for directing the Oscar-winning Italian film "La Vita E Bella".
The movie deals about three guys who meet in prison and escape. It reminded me of "O Brother Where Are Thou?" and, perhaps because of it being filmed in black and white, of old 40's movies about escaping prisoners (can't think of a good example, but you get the picture).
Three things I liked very much about this movie:
1. It's incredibly funny, especially Benigni made me laugh every time he opened his mouth - He irritated me highly in "La Vita E Bella" so that must mean something....
2. The frame of the camera is very well used. Look at the scene where Lurie counts the money and a hooker is laying behind him on the bed and the scene after that. Another example is when Benigni is dancing with a lady and the other two guys are continuing their breakfast in the back.
3. It's very hard to pinpoint when the story takes place; it's timeless in more than one way, obviously helped by the lack of color.
All in all, this one comes highly recommended.
Not the Fulci I hoped for
I got hooked on Fulci thanks to Zombi 2, New York Ripper and The Beyond, after which I started collecting Fulci DVDs. Although I'm still in progress, this movie convinced me that Fulci lost most of his "touch of death" after 1982.
Touch of Death was originally conceived for Italian TV, and if you consider that, it's a pretty gory movie. If you just watch it as a normal movie it is quite boring. Although it contains some good gore - that's why you watch Fulci, right? - it is a long way from The Beyond and not nearly as scary.
This movie was released on DVD by EC Entertainment in Europe. It seems to be taken from a very bad copy. Nonetheless, we should be grateful that EC took the time and effort to release it, because it will probably sell badly.