Friday, March 8, 2013

Franco Friday #37 - The Devil Came From Akasava

Franco Friday #37 - The Devil Came from Akasava

I forgot how hard it is to write. No seriously. The moment you break the habit of blogging, it feels impossible to get back into it. Bloggin' ain't dead, yo. Thankfully, Jess Franco made my job super easy this week. I totally forgot about this title and I'm glad I did. This was a real surprise and I am so friggin' grateful that I hadn't already gotten to this one until now.

The Devil Came from Akasava
AKA Der Teufel kam aus Akasava
1971
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Fred Williams, Soledad Miranda, Horst Tappert, Ewa Stromberg, Sigfried Schurenberg
84 minutes

When an ancient, mysterious, strange, and also deadly stone is discovered in a cave in Akasava, all heck breaks loose. The stone is stolen and Dr. Forrester (played by Angel Menendez), a world-famous mineralogist, has disappeared (and is presumed dead. Sir Philip (Siegfried Schurenberg) contacts Miss Jane Morgan (Soledad Miranda), a secret agent posing as a stripper and/or hooker. He informs Jane that aside from it's evil death rays, the magical stone is also said to be able to turn lead into gold or whatever. Knowing what would happen if this precious item got into the wrong hands, Jane takes the case.

On her way to Akasava, Jane meets Rex Forrester (played by Fred Williams), the son of the missing Dr. Forrester. He is traveling to Akasava with his friend(?) Tino (Jess Franco) to find out what happened to his dad. At the hotel, Jane teams up with Irving Lambert (played by Alberto Dalbes), another secret agent. They pose as husband and wife but Jane also does a striptease at a local nightclub. You know, just to keep a low profile and shit.

Jane and Irving's main suspects are Dr. Thorrsem (played by Horst Tappert) and his wife Ingrid (Ewa Stromberg), who run a clinic in Akasava treating an outbreak of narcolepsy affecting the local indigenous population. This part was really confusing. Anyway, Irving is killed and Jane ends up in the arms of Rex Forrester. Honestly, I could go on all day with this freakin' plot. All you need to know is that there are double crosses and nonsensical reveals as Jane and Rex find out who is really behind the stone snatching and what really happened to Dr. Forrester.

While not quite as fun as Kiss Me Monster, this film comes pretty damn close. You really can't go wrong when there's a Philosopher's Stone thingie that looks like weapons-grade quartz in your plot. It's more of a McMuffin than a MacGuffin. Just when you think things are flying by too fast and the dialog is all balderdash, the plot takes a bong hit and everything just downshifts into super-chill mode for a few minutes, and then it picks back up again. Good times!

I did one of those "Commom Cast/Crew Between Two Titles" searches on IMDB. I know, I'm a cheat! Deal with it. Eleven names were in common between this film and Vampyros Lesbos. Then I plugged in the same search comparing this with She Killed in Ecstasy and thirteen names came up! You know what I should do? Research! It's called "Franco Friday", okay? Not "Respect Filmmakers Friday"! Seriously though, this is a Who's Who of Franco regulars like Ewa Stromberg, Paul Muller, and Howard Vernon (who has a scene where he jumps out a third story window like it was stepping over a curb). Just FYI: I think this is the first film that I actually liked Fred Williams. Sigi Schwab provides the swingin' score full of sitars and jangly guitars to keep your toes tapping.

The Devil Came from Akasava is prime Jess Franco, folks. This is a wild spy caper with way more imagination than budget. The script is often childlike and utterly ludicrous. The story was apparently adapted from Edgar Wallace but after the second "But I'm a secret agent too!" revelation, all I could do was stare in wonder at the screen. My only complaint: After a fairly satisfying wrap-up, the film has a final coda that is utter nonsense. It is just a baffling and unnecessary moment that makes me feel like there's footage missing.

My friend Brad made a good point about this movie when he mentioned to me that he thought this was one of Soledad Miranda's best roles. Sure, she has a couple of ubiquitous strip numbers (non-dancing in a shredded garbage bag this time) but she plays an actual character here. She has a chance to show real range in Akasava despite how silly this movie is. I too noticed just how many expressions she pulls in this film and I saw sides to her acting ability that a film like Vampyros Lesbos just didn't give her the opportunity to show off. Despite the bewildering plot elements of this bizarre little romp, Miranda just kills it.

"I hate hair gel."

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