Friday, September 16, 2011

Franco Friday: The End?

Franco Friday: The End?

Since the beginning of this whole Franco Friday thing, I kind of knew that I was probably the last person to be really diving into the world of Jess Franco. I have little or no tolerance for 'sex films' so it seems like I would have avoided the guy. But my ever-expanding movie queue is so tangled up with intersecting directors and actors from European genre flicks that I had no choice but see what old Franco was all about. What I found was baffling, exhilarating, and downright irritating. My goal of 52 films by one director reviewed in 52 consecutive Fridays will not be met this time. Maybe I'll do Takashi Miike Mondays! He's directed like 86 films and counting. No, I probably won't.

I will still give anything Franco directed before 1972 a chance but I am very wary about ANYTHING starring Lina Romay. Franco said to the world: 'Look at my wife! No seriously, look at her. No, I mean stare deep into her vagina.' One wonders about the nature of such a relationship. What drives a man to put his lady on display? What compels someone to direct pornos starring their dang wife? And what would motivate a woman to star in these films directed by her husband? I have a theory but I'll keep it to myself *.

For the record, I find Lina Romay attractive, very attractive, especially between the years 1972 and 1984. And I like her acting. Go figure. She has always been exactly what Franco needed: a vamp, a slut, a damsel in distress, an innocent corrupted, etc. Was she right for this role or that role? Did Franco overuse her? Frankly, it doesn't fucking matter because the films just kept getting made no matter what. If it hadn't of been her, it would have been someone else. At least she has a great rack and big beautiful eyes.

And now here's a photo of Jess Franco assaulting me:

(You can thank Nafa for this atrocity.)

I am particularly struck by Franco's ability to take a whole lot of nothing (or in some cases, less than nothing) and turning it into something magical. The man knows how to create feelings of dread and a sense of impending tragedy in both his horror films and his erotic films (and those hybrid creatures that are concoctions of both). One has to be willing to let go of any need for a cohesive story and open the senses to take in all of the accidental and always bizarre beauty that Franco throws into his work. And don't forget to open your heart because these are also some of the saddest films I've ever seen. Franco loves his damned characters and he loves to show us their last gasps of freedom and innocence.

But be wary, my friends, Franco does have a fatal flaw: sex. The man isn't anymore perverted than your average Euro-sleaze director but he is more persistent. Sometimes he will hamstring a perfectly good film with obvious erotic overtones or symbolism so frank that you'll feel stupid for giving the guy a chance. Yes, I'm talking about you, Mr. Giant Black Dildo of A Virgin Among the Living Dead. Honestly, I still feel a twinge of embarrassment whenever I post a review of a sex film on this blog. I need a break!

Here are my top 10 favorite films by Jess Franco (out of the 30+ that I have seen). These are also 10 films by this nutcase that anyone remotely interested in him should see.

10. Blue Rita

9. Dr. Orloff's Monster

8. A Virgin Among the Living Dead

7. Vampyros Lesbos

6. She Killed in Ecstasy

5. Venus in Furs

4. Rites of Frankenstein

3. Kiss Me Monster

2. Bloody Moon

1. Eugenie de Sade

Now look, I know that Franco has some interesting themes running through all of his films and he even reuses characters' names. Trust me, I like that. Lorna the Exorcist is a sequel to Succubus. Why not? But you know what? I'm so sick of this guy's schtick that I don't give a double wide fuck about it! If SOMEONE could stop doing constant closeups of VAGINAS for FIVE SECONDS maybe I wouldn't be FLIPPING THE FUCK OUT right now! Hey Franco, women's bodies are beautiful. No seriously, women's bodies are beautiful. WOMEN'S BODIES ARE BEAUTIFUL! How many of your films did I have to shut off, Mr. Sexy Franco? Hm... Do you think I'll ever review The Sexual Story of O? Or Night of a Thousand Sexes? Or Barbed Wire Dolls? Or Diary of a Gooch Princess? THINK ABOUT IT!

Here are my 5 least favorite Franco films:

5. Sadistic Baron Von Klaus

4. Count Dracula

3. Women without Innocence

2. Macumba Sexual

1. Lorna the Exorcist

So thanks to everyone who has been tuning in to these often painful reviews. There will be more Franco Fridays in the future (I am a Franco fan, after all) but I have to break the cycle (because I'm NOT a Franco kind of guy). I did not consider going 19 more films as the home stretch but rather an insurmountable thing that I was terrified of. I know it sounds ridiculous but it's true. But fear not, Franco-faces, every once in a while here at CinSom, you'll see a Franco Friday pop up out of nowhere. There are at least 5 more of his films that I want to see (and about 150 more that I don't) so keep your eyes glued to this old place.



  1. Only an hour ago I thought "Oh man, no Franco Friday today," so this post came as a nice surprise!

    To paraphrase what's been said about Nico's LP The Marble Index I'd say Macumba Sexual isn't a film, it's a hole you fall into. Just like The Sexual Story of O I don't think they are bad films, but just so damn bleak and depressing (and, yeah, a bit boring perhaps) that they're uncomfortable to watch.

    There are a few films in your Top 10 that I haven't seen yet and after a long weariness of watching Franco films (reading about them was a good substitute) I am actually looking forward again to get my hands on some of those, particularly #1 and #4.

    Some other weekly feature would be great!

  2. Good post, Richard! I enjoyed reading this and I am nowhere near anything resembling a Franco kind of guy! But I do intend to seek out some of those movies in your top ten to give the guy's movies another go.

  3. A terrific summation of Franco's strengths and failings, Richard. I very much agree with all your points.

    However, hopefully you'll eventually view 'Eugenie: The Story of Her Journey into Perversion' (perhaps as something of a positive postscript to 'Franco Friday'). It truly does deserve your time, and certainly falls within your approved period (from 1969, I think). For my money it ties with 'Virgin Among the Living Dead' and 'Eugenie de Sade' as Franco's best, although it's far more accomplished in traditional filmic terms, and easily stands alone as a terrific piece of Eurocult cinema in its own right (beyond the Franco association). No Lina Romay, no female genitalia (at least in the typically ubiquitous Franco sense), and a wonderful cast that is very well directed.

    Anyway, thanks again for your work, Richard. :)

  4. Amazing post! That picture of you and Franco will haunt me for years to come. I'll miss Franco Friday (Your sanity won't I'm sure) but I'm glad you plan to do one here and there.

  5. @MLP - You're the best. Thanks, man.

    @venoms5 - Thanks! I hope I have shed some light on Franco films worth watching.

    @Davo - Much appreciated, captain. Eugenie will be my first priority when I let Franco back into my life.

    @Prof - It's always good to hear from you, sir. And thanks!

  6. My first & still my favorite Franco films is still Attack Of The Robots. Seeing that one Saturday afternoon when I was about nine blew my mind. Great stuff. I love those mid-late 60's films of his. It makes my day on those rare occasions I come across one while flipping through the channels.