Well well well, look who is back on the blog. Surprise! It's me and Franco! Or Franco and I if you're a grammarian. Since I haven't reviewed all 201 of Franco's films just yet, I thought I should at least try to do one more. Shit, it's been 6 months since I've been up for something new from Old Jess. But here's an oldie but a goodie from the man himself. Read on, my friends, read on!
Franco Friday #58
La Muerte Silba un Blues
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Conrado San Martín, Danik Patisson, Perla Cristal, Georges Rollin, Manuela Alexandre, María Silva, and Adriano Domínguez.
Part-time musician and accidental smuggler, Castro (played by Conrado San Martín), gets busted at a checkpoint for hauling guns and ammunition which he didn’t even know about. His friend, Julius Smith (Manuel Alexandre), also unaware of their cargo, is shot and taken into custody while Castro is shot as well while attempting to flee. 15 years later, Julius Smith sees Castro's wife, Lina (Perla Cristal), in a nightclub and performs "The Roof Blues", she and Castro's favorite song. Smith is run down by a car very shortly after that, confessing all he knows to the police before he dies. This gets the ball rolling as Castro returns to get revenge on Vogel (Georges Rollin), the man who ratted him out, profited greatly from the gunrunning, and even stole Lina. Castro, whom everyone believes to be dead, can't take anymore of this bullshit.
Vogel has been living under the name Paul Radeck for the last decade and a half and pretty much owns a small seaside village. A cryptic letter from Castro saying that he not only knows Radeck is actually Vogel but he has returned to take him down with his own secrets. On the case is Inspector Fenton (Fortunio Bonanova), he uses an undercover sexy lady named Moira (Danik Patisson) to get close to Radeck but her cover is blown ridiculously fast. Now everyone seems to playing their part in Vogel’s little paranoid game as he tries to rub Castro out once and for all. But hold on! Not so fast, motherfucker. More secrets and twists will be revealed before this story is over.
La Muerte Silba un Blues is an engrossing but very relaxed noir crime film filled with equal parts melodrama and style. The music by Music by Antón García Abril is vibrant, classy, and never dull. This black and white film features some excellent, creative cinematography by Juan Mariné. The composition of the frames and the lighting are just wonderful and I can’t even count how many of his shots are my favorites in this film. The screenplay that Jess Franco wrote with Luis de Diego is a little hokey but is intriguing and nicely nuanced at the same time. All of the characters, especially Lina and Vogel, are well written and multidimensional; and the cast is just so damn good that I was very invested in their stories.
When you’ve been watching as many Jess Franco films as I have and you've been watching them out of order as I have AND you also keep half-intentionally forgetting everything you’ve ever read about the man’s work as I have, well you tend to get surprised a lot. All of a sudden, the very first Franco Friday, Kiss Me Killer, makes perfect sense. If nothing else, Franco was The Great Recycler of his own works and he returned to La Muerte Silba un Blues for a reason: it is one of his best films.
The use of Smith’s song, “The Roof Blues”, to drive Vogel bananas works great. I love the way Vogel is introduced, lounging by the pool with the wind blowing around him, trapping him in the loneliness of leisure. The life he’s built for himself is all a lie and he knows it. The character of Castro, as portrayed by Conrado San Martín, is awesome. He’s just a happy-go-lucky guy with a whole dimension to him that I won’t spoil here. He makes friends with a black fisherman named Joe (played by Joe Brown) and these two actors have great chemistry onscreen together.
Now I won’t be returning to this to rewatch La Muerte anytime soon. Heck, I may never watch this again –because it’s just not my style of film- but I’d be an idiot to leave without saying how impressive this film is and how entertaining. Granted, this was Franco’s tenth feature length film so it’s not hard to imagine that he could have his hand in something this good. Of course, there are aome quaint gaffes like jump cuts and out-of-focus moments that became Franco’s signature to nearly all of his later films but honestly, you won’t care when you sit down with this one. The only thing I could find to criticize the film for is the damn disguise that Castro chooses for the big costume ball finale of the film. It is mind-bogglingly racist. Oh well, can't win 'em all, I guess. Keep an eye out for the director himself as a saxophone player near the beginning of the film.
“A dead hero is more interesting than one hundred mediocrities alive.”