Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Belated Birthday Wish For Jess Franco

Since I missed Jess Franco’s birthday yesterday (check Tim Lucas’ very nice letter to him at Video Watchblog) and since I have been neglectful on writing much on the great man here I thought I would offer up a quick listing of ten of my favorite Franco films.
Even though he is one of my favorite maverick filmmakers, I have probably only seen fifty or so Franco films which makes me pretty much a punk, but even though I still have a ways to go in his filmography my dedication to the man (whom I had the pleasure of meeting about 12 years ago)remains unwavering
So while I continue my journey to seeing as many Jess Franco films as possible, here are ten that continue to haunt my dreams and echo through my waking life. Consider this a late birthday card to one of the most uncompromising and individualistic directors in film history.

In chronological order rather than preference:

Lucky, The Inscrutable (1967): Deliciously energetic and witty spy caper is one of the most purely entertaining films in Franco’s canon and Bruno Nicolai’s score is a real favorite.

Two Undercover Angels (1969): Another trippy spy themed production this time with the unbeatable pair of Janine Reynaud and Rosanna Yanni. The two can also be seen in the equally fun Kiss Me Monster from the same year. Reynaud is of course one of the great figures in Franco’s world and I suspect I will get some well deserved flack for including this rather slight film over Succubus (1968).

Venus In Furs (1969): One of the first Franco films I ever saw and still among my favorites if just for the astonishing performance by Maria Rohm, the lovely photography by Angelo Lotti and the unbelievably great soundtrack from Mike Hugg and Manfred Mann.

Eugenie de Sade (1970): Just about my favorite Franco film. Starring the much missed supernatural Soledad Miranda, this is one of the great films of the seventies and the recent Region 1 DVD is one of the most welcome of the decade.

She Killed In Ecstasy (1971): I actually prefer this one to the incredible and better known Vampyros Lesbos (1971). Miranda continues to prove herself as one of the most hypnotic and mesmerizing presences in screen history here, and the film remains one of Franco’s most haunting.

Female Vampire (1973): Lina Romay steps into Miranda’s shoes and fills them beautifully in this amazingly erotic and powerful film. Of all the versions I prefer The Loves Of Irina version to the one out from Image.

A Virgin Among The Living Dead (1973): Strange and disturbingly beautiful meditation on love and death featuring a really special performance by the mysterious Christina von Blanc…plus that oh so beautiful Nicolai score. I love this film.

Celestine (1974): Charming sex comedy features probably my favorite performance by Lina. While not as progressive or as great as so many of the productions Jess and Lina were mounting in this period, this one remains a personal favorite.

Doriana Grey (1976): Intense and troubling film that I think is among Franco’s finest. Contains another one of Lina’s best performances and Monica Swinn proves absolutely unforgettable.

Macumba Sexual (1983): I just saw this one in the past year and it really floored me. I typically prefer Franco’s work from the late sixties to mid seventies (obviously from the list above) but this one struck me as one of his greatest and most daring films.

So, obviously ten is an impossible number in dealing with Franco as essential titles ranging from The Orloff films to The Perverse Countess to Satanic Sisters to Faceless and so on are missing in action. Still, the ten above constitute some of my favorite films. Check both Robert Monell’s essential I’m In A Jess Franco State Of Mind and of course Tim Lucas’ Video Watchdog and Video Watchblog for the most important, knowledgeable and refreshing work on the world of Jess Franco.


Steve Langton said...

I'd read Tim's letter to Jess and relished reading it. Very pleased to read your own excellent birthday wish, too. I would think I've also viewed in the region of 50 of his films, though I had to sell my Franco collection when we needed a little extra cash which saddened me. I'm going to have fun building up my collection again when times get a little easier. You made some good choices amongst your top 10. I remember Venus In Furs was the second Franco film I saw (Succubus being the first), and it is still my favourite.

colinrudge0380 said...

Great list - coincidentally I threw on She Killed In Ecstasy again last night so I might have done my own small tribute to Franco!

I think Vampyros Lesbos and She Killed In Ecstasy are my favourite Francos (though I have not seen even a quarter of his output yet!), perhaps because the Franco/Hubler/Schwab soundtracks are extremely fun and fit the films perfectly!

I wasn't as taken with Lina Romay as with Soledad Miranda but I did like Female Vampire a lot! - one of the few films where flapping you arms in your cloak works!

I've also got a soft spot for Tender And Perverse Emmanuelle (or 'Tender and Pervers' as the opening titles on my video puts it!) and the Castle/Blood Of Fu Manchu films because they were my first forays into Franco!

Rogue Spy 007 said...

I didn't realize his birthday had come. Happy Belated Birthday to Jess! I'm a huge fan of his. I've probably seen somewhere in the neighborhood of that many of his films. I'm a big fan of both Soledad Miranda and Lina Romay. I love She Killed In Ecstasy and Doriana Gray. Also Venus In Furs is awesome. This man has made so many films I love.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Steve,
Tim's letter was very nice wasn't it? I love VENUS IN FURS...what a hypnotic spell that film casts...

Thanks Colin, Good call on TENDER AND PERVERSE EMMANUELLE. Terrific film. I have only seen it via a blurry old VHS boot so I really need to get a better DVD quality copy to re-watch it.

Thanks Keith,
Glad to hear you area fellow Franco man.