Jess Franco has over the last few years become my favorite director of all time. Which is odd, because when I first came to his work through a VHS release of Jack the Ripper I was totally put off by it. Over the last 7-8 years I have watched over 60 of his nearly 200 film filmography, and while I cannot say I've loved every single one of his films, I have taken something away from each. Also, each film seems to add a clearer view of what Franco was trying to do with his films, and when going back or watching another film it adds another layer. Of course with that many films to his name, and not shooting on video until the last 2 decades of his career, he has a lot of films that are able to be upgraded to Blu-ray, and so fans of the director have gotten dozens of the director's films on the format over the 5 years. In December 2016 3 of the director's more obscure films have been released to the format across 2 releases 1 by Mondo Macabro and a double feature set by Dorado Films that makes the first Blu-ray release by that label overall (and hopefully not the last).
Night Has A Thousand Desires
Director– Jess Franco
Starring – Lina Romay, Daniel Katz
Country of Origin- Spain
Distributor - Mondo Macabro
Reviewer- Scott MacDonald
No one will look at the 1980's as one of Jess Franco's finer filmmaking periods, and yet in the early 1980's the director had a deal with Golden Films International. This company a small upstart film studio gave Franco the carte blanche to do pretty much whatever he would like film-wise, so long as there were exploitable elements (sex) to get the film into theaters. Franco would then turn around, and do what he does best, and make films in rapid succession for the studio, so many that they couldn't release them all in a timely manner.
The further Jess Franco got away from the 60's, at least for a while. The further he got away from the narrative conventions of cinema, and while he does try to inject a sense of plot and narrative into most of his films, his work from the late 70's onward seems to give power to the images first and foremost. That is quite the case in the film released by Mondo Macabro this month the 1984 Golden International production Night Has A Thousand Desires.
The film opens with Lina Romay as Irina being put into a trance as part of a show by her lover Fabian played by Daniel Katz. While under this trance she is able to wander the show floor, and read off objects, and transport what she sees to Fabian. After the show is over they retire to their hotel room. After this opening Irina seems to spend the next few days in and out of a lucid state having sex either in dreams or in reality, and murdering what appear to be the enemies of Fabian. Because the nature of reality is constantly in question, Irina begins to wonder where her dreams end and reality begins, and whether or not she is committing these murders?
Franco is a director who gets caught up on certain themes, and films, and I mean films in his own filmography. If you look at how many times he's made sequels and remakes to his own Awful Dr. Orloff whether or not the film was titled Orloff you'd run out of fingers. Night Has a Thousand Desires is his 2nd remake of an earlier film called Nightmares Come at Night. That film took footage from 2 films and through clever editing made them into one abstract narrative piece. That film is largely lacking, and offers room for improvement, a few years later he would remake it as Voodoo Passion. A film I also hated, so when Night Has A Thousand Desires ended up in my mailbox, I thought I'd harbor a similar dislike of this one. Apparently, the third time is the charm for this material, because Franco knocked this one out of the park.
The film was shot in quite a memorable location, that Franco uses quite well in his visuals. He manages to strike a certain dreamlike ambiance, and offers a slight use of repetition in the film that makes the film seem slightly hypnotic in its approach. The performances from the main cast including Daniel Katz and Lina Romay are fitting to the material, Romay is doing some prime work here as a woman who is losing grip with reality.
Mondo Macabro brings Night Has a Thousand Desires to Blu-ray is a startling 1080p AVC encoded 2:35:1 transfer. Everything here looks pretty sharp colors pop, blacks are deep, and detail is excellent, and aside from some minor softness and the occasional bit of source related damage the transfer as a whole is easy to recommend. The audio is presented DTS-HD MA mono with everything coming through clearly and no obvious issues. Extras includes the Eurotika! episode on Jess Franco and a half hour episode with Murderous Passions author Stephen Thrower.
The Film (4/5)
The Silence of the Tombs/The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff (Jess Franco's Forgotten Films Vol. 1)
Director– Jess Franco
Starring – Montserrat Prous, Albert Dalbes, William Berger
Country of Origin- Various
Distributor - Dorado Films
Reviewer- Scott MacDonald
Getting more Jess Franco out into the HD world is always a good thing, and Dorado Films with their initial Blu-ray offering have brought us two of the director's obscurities, the Silence of the Tombs and The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff. The Orloff film has seen a tape based DVD release from Severin Films spinoff label Intervision Pictures in the last few years. The quality of that was "alright", but having a Blu-ray from a film source will always be better, and Dorado comes out of the gate with a beauty of a package.
There was a short period in the early 1970's where Franco was between muses. Soledad Miranda had tragically died in a car accident, and he had yet to meet his life partner and soon to be leading lady, Lina Romay. During this period it would appear he would frequently use the actress Montserrat Prous in many successful collaborations including the two on this disc Silence of the Tombs, and the Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff.
Silence of the Tombs is an odd film in the sense that it's title immediately conjures up images of gothic terror, but is anything but. The film is actually Franco playing in a sandbox akin to the Italian gialli that were popular in this period, and the template set by Agatha Christie's novel 10 Little Indians. I would also say it is quite a bit odd in a way, because it shows its director in a more restrained light. Franco in the early 70's was moving away from the more typical conventions of cinema, and more toward the avant garde, and a more improvisational approach. When watching Tombs I was struck at how "structured" the whole thing felt.
The film involves a party as a mansion on an island where a famous actress (Glenda Allen) has come with her child. Prous plays Valerie the conservative sister, and caretaker of the child. Early on in the film the kid is taken, and a random note is left, soon bodies begin to pile up, and people start running. Valerie, however, begins to buckle down, and as soon as the power goes out, her power turns on, and she grabs a shotgun, and begins to stalk the house for the kidnapper in an attempt to save the child.
The film is quite a solid little thriller from Franco. I hadn't seen this one before this release, so I had no expectations aside from a giallo-esque description from a few friends, and I came out of the film quite pleased. Especially from the shotgun toting performance from Prous in the films final moments. The film shows Franco more controlled, and this might put off some fans off, but the sum total of the experience is fantastic and it's definitely recommended for fans and non-fans alike (just so long as those non-fans are familiar with Eurohorror).
Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff is a fun variation on themes that are frequently present in Franco's work, and in fact would show up in the first film in this review collection Night Has A Thousand Desires. Sinister Eyes... stars Montserrat Prous as Melissa Comfort a paralyzed young woman who lives in her families manor house, and has frequent and terrifying nightmares about her Father's murder. When she awakens her sister suggest she either find a man, or see Doctor Orloff (William Berger) about her mental state. She, of course, chooses the latter. After this meeting , her dreams begin to involve murder, and then those people start to go missing. Has Dr. Orloff been manipulating her to do his bidding? (YES!).
Like Silence of the Tombs this one shows a more restrained side of Franco, but it's another one that is a lot of fun. It has a great middle of the night gothic horror atmosphere. Performances are quite solid for the part. And Franco creates nice hypnotic ambiance that I quite enjoyed.
Silence of the Tombs is presented in a 2:35:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff is 1:33:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. Both films have DTS-HD MA 2.0 tracks in Spanish. Everything here sounds really excellent with no issues with the audio that I could perceive in my playthrough. The transfer for both films is quite solid and natural. There is some softness, as is to be expected from a Franco film, but textures are solid, detail is excellent, grain structure is natural, and colors are stable. Extras include an interview with actor Robert Woods, a script for the original Silence of the Tombs ending, and trailers for other Dorado releases. 300 Ultimate Edition buyers will also get a book of liner notes called the Manacoa Experience.
The Films (3.5/5, 4/5)