Franco Friday #42 - Dolls for Sale
This week's lesson is this: Never underestimate the Franco. I was really dragging my feet on doing a review this week and especially watching this film. All I knew was that while I was skipping around in the movie, I saw Howard Vernon's bare ass. So yeah, this is the one with Howie V.'s naked bum. Something for the ladies! Or not. So little did I realize that I was about to fall madly in love. Not with Vernon's butt! I fell in love with this movie. Seriously, my friends, this is some top 10 Franco material right here. I Schmidt you not.
Dolls for Sale
AKA Les ebranlées
Directed by Jess Franco
Howard Vernon, Montserrat Prous, Kali Hansa, Anne Libert, Doris Thomas
Al Pereira (played by Howard Vernon) is an unscrupulous private detective who gets in way over his head when he's paid by the lovely Lina (Doris Thomas) to sneak into a dude's apartment and steal an envelope with her name on it from a dresser and bring it back to her. The dude (Manuel Pereiro) wakes up and pulls a gun but Al beats him up and leaves, his mission accomplished. Unbeknownst to Al, someone sneaks in and kills the dude and frames him for the crime.
Now totally desperate, Al turns to his special lady friend and striptease artist, Valentina (played by Montserrat Prous), for help. She uncovers that Lina works with a psycho named Leona (Kali Hansa) at a strip joint called the Flamingo, owned by a suspicious woman named Benny (Anne Libert). All of these ladies -including a sadistic beyatch named Bertha- are somehow involved in a secret sexual society that exists in a place called "The House of Vice".
Al sends Valentina to the Flamingo to get information AKA have lesbian sex with Benny. His plan both works and backfires when Leona recognizes Valentina as Al's girlfriend and kidnaps her. Leona takes Valentina to the "little red room" and tortures her with a long sword while that sadistic beyatch Bertha, Benny, and some random chick cream their jeans over it. Will Al get there in time to save Valentina and can he trust Lina to have his back?
I can't believe what I just saw. Montserrat Prous just slapped Howard Vernon's bare ass! I'm serious. This really just happened. Then they had a love scene. Howard Vernon in bed with a woman? I used to understand the world but now I feel like my blood just turned to LSD and someone handed just me a meth lollipop. Oh and this movie is pretty amazing too.
All joking aside, I love Dolls for Sale. This movie opens with Kali Hansa's naked groin gyrating on the screen and I was all like "Well, this is going to be a fucking chore. At least I finally know that she's not a dude." But then this movie just kept getting more and more weird. Vernon playing the sexy and tough noir-ish detective that only diehard lesbians can resist and no man, no matter how poorly choreographed, can defeat? I'm telling you, this shit is out there. It's your standard sexed up thriller (missing about a dozen pages of script) but it plays out so obtusely, it's like everyone in the cast and crew was on Quaaludes.
One thing that stands out is the soundtrack. For once, nobody was dipping into the library music and Daniel Janin's score is consistently cool and always dead on. Cinematographer Gérard Brisseau knows how to keep things visually interesting when things get sleazy and cheap which is pretty much this entire film. The sequence where Valentina is taken to the "little red room" and tortured plays out like a horror scene as the set is bathed in red light and everything just feels naughty and dangerous.
Two more observations before I leave. One thing that struck me as totally genius is that in the midst of all this lipstick lesbian craziness and macho bullshit fantasy overload, a male stripper hits the dance floor and owns it. I mean, this duder OWNS IT! And the funny part is, Howard Vernon can't keep his eyes off of him. Intentional? I think so. Fuck it, I know so. And the other thing that just made me leap out of my skin is this: a character is found dead and Al closes their staring, lifeless eyes with his hand. As he did, the tape rolled and VCR static covered the screen. Whatever French VHS this was sourced from was communicating to me in that moment. I think it wanted to say, "This is what happens when you die. Your tracking goes all funky."