From Spain With Love
Starring Olivia Pascal, Christopher Moosbrugger, Nadja Gerganhoff
Directed by Jesus Franco
The easy availability of cult films on DVD has probably been the biggest boon to Spanish director Jess Franco. In the past, before DVD, his flicks were the stuff of legend: they were these bizarre, outré movies whose plots seem to have been made up right there on the spot. When you read about a Franco film, you wanted to track it down and watch it immediately. But, unless you wanted to spend exorbitant prices via bootleggers offering badly duped tenth generation VHS copies, you were SOL. And, in the long run, that was probably a good thing.
As entertaining as they may sound, most of Franco's output is, well, pretty dang bad. But, and this is to his credit, they are always extremely watchable. No matter how bad a Franco flick gets—and they do—you never fast forward or stop the thing. You let it play out, no matter how much psychological damaged it may inflict upon you. They are dream-like train-wrecks that alternately disturb and damn the viewer for their Z-grade lunacy. Ask me another time about my battle with MARI-COOKIE AND THE KILLER TARANTULA.
BLOODY MOON, true to Franco form, is hysterically bad, meaning it's also hysterically awesome. All the trademark Franco-isms are there: the badly-staged red herrings, the wonderfully lazy camerawork, the strange edits where cuts are made right in the middle of a scene—sometimes in the middle of dialogue—and that patented Euro-idea of what they think Americans are like, from the day-glo fashions to the cheesy disco with broken English lyrics. My favorite? A 50s-ish tune with the lyrics “shake your baby, shake your baby, shake your baby, shake, shake, shake!”
Opening with a facially-scarred killer wearing what looks to be a souvenir t-shirt that a woman would buy at Mardi Gras stabbing an easy lass with a pair of scissors, the way the cutting tools jut into the badly done latex stomach let you know what type of treat you’re in store for.
After the murder, Scar-Bro is let out of the asylum into his sexy sister's care. His sister, by the way, is teaching at an all-girls’ language school, where apparently their major isn’t English as a second language, but instead stripping down by the pool and showing ample handfuls of boob—A+’s all the way around! Using simple movie mathematics, we should already know that: psycho brother + girls’ school = a string of brutal murders.
And are they ever brutal; the killings are so brutal and bloody that they got this filmed banned in England, where they make a pudding out of blood! What have we got here: a woman is stabbed in the back and the knife goes right through her right mammary! Yowza! A snake—a real snake—has his head cut off with some hedge trimmers and the camera lingers on it wiggling on the ground! Ouch!
The best though is when a woman, perhaps the stupidest woman on Earth, allows a masked man, who picked her up while hitchhiking, to tie her to a table in a sawmill, all the while giggling. But when he starts up the huge mega-saw, “This isn't funny anymore!” she cries as it slices her head clean off, with showers of grue spewing everywhere. That’s what I call Hack and Decker, am I right, guys?
Even though you got all these killings and boobs, I still got to say that the best part of BLOODY MOON is the way so much of it makes little to no sense. A woman on a train screams and her scarf is hanging out the window. Did the Scar-Bro push her out the window and kill her? No, her scarf just blew out the window and she’s sitting out of frame. A bald man eating crackers outside a window is stalking a pretty young thing, so she closes the window on him, only to hear a noise outside the door. Who is it? Why it's a young child selling knick-knacks. At 9:30 at night. In a secluded neighborhood. And before I forget, for no reason, a giant Styrofoam boulder comes rolling down a hill, almost killing our heroine. And by almost killing, I mean not at all, in any way killing. Cops drive by and instead of helping, offer to sexually molest her.
Throw in a moderately sleazy incest angle for good measure, that’s only shocking for the way it feels like filler. I can hear Franco saying: “Thees screept is only ten pages long...add sum brother-seester fucking and a group of keeds doing the tweest! Ole'!”
BLOODY MOON is Franco at his bloody best, delivering a slasher film that one-part fever dream, one-part K-Mart gift certificate and all original. Bully for you, Jess.
Starring Ursula Fellner, Al Cliver, Robert Foster
Directed by Jesus Franco
So if BLOODY MOON was Franco stab (pun intended) at the early 80s slasher pics, than DEVIL HUNTER is his answer to the Italo-cannibal craze. Also known as SEXO CANIBAL and, ahem, MANDINGO MANHUNTER, it's the typical blonde sexpot gets lost in the jungle and is held captive by a stereotypical cannibal brotha who loves that sweet white meat, both sexually and literally. But who doesn't, really?
It’s not really that great a film—it’s way too talky for it’s own good and the cannibalism, while gory, is few and far between—but luckily, Franco adds enough of his trademarked wackiness (albeit a tad toned down) to the proceedings to differentiate his cannibal entry from all the others at the time: all that bountiful early 80s female nudity (with women carrying around enough pubic wool to knit a sweater), a couple of cannibal rapes, some lame vanilla consensual sex and one big ol' black dong from a bug-eyed, bloodshot flesh-eater. How many cannibal movies you know that got big black dongs! Who says Franco doesn't know what the ladies like! (In case you’re wondering, it’s big black dongs…)
There's also a kinda boring subplot with lame white people walking around, doing stuff and talking, but that’s a mere slight inconvenience, as, can we be honest here, most white people are.
I think it was about 45-minutes into DEVIL HUNTER where it dawned on me just what kind of filmmaker Franco is: an “inappropriate” one. Not inappropriate like, you know, whipping you penis out in Sunday school, but inappropriate to the way films should and are to be made, if that makes sense. Inappropriate cuts, inappropriate background music, inappropriate dialog—everything he does is definitely something you've never seen in a film before, but I'm not too sure I can say that as a compliment. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it's fun to watch, but it's also puzzling at the same time. Kinda like a murder-mystery dinner theater. I want to chalk it up to the fact that he fancies himself an ‘artist”, but I’m willing to bet dollars to black dongs that it’s more of a financial thing—there’s a reason why, in 1980 when this film was made, he made approximately, and I’m just guesstimating here, 739 other flicks. He works fast, he’s reasonably competent and he delivers some whacked-out shit.
This said inappropriateness carries over so very well in DEVIL HUNTER. And while it never reaches those lofty standards set with BLOODY MOON, it’s an entertaining enough excursion that easily filled up a lazy hour and a half. Kinda like the way big black dongs fill up vaginas.