The Jess Franco Collection (DVD Review)
Rated: 18+/Region 0 (She Killed in Ecstasy Region 4 Only)/Widescreen/Number of Discs 5
Available from Umbrella Entertainment
Directed By: Jess Franco
Starring: Maria Rohm, Marie Liljedahl, Jack Taylor, Christopher Lee
Marie Liljedahl (the luscious star of INGA) is Eugenie, an innocent young woman taken to an island paradise where she is initiated into a world of pleasure and pain controlled by the sinister Dolmance (the legendary Christopher Lee). But when she surrenders to her own forbidden fantasies, Eugenie becomes trapped in a frenzy of drugs, sadomasochism, and murder. Can a frightened girl in the grip of carnal perversion find sanctuary in the orgies of the depraved?
Jess Franco’s Eugenie is another film of his with a bit of a notorious past that is getting the five-star treatment from another cool company Umbrella Entertainment. This film has that same stuff that you expect from a Franco movie, but also comes along with the great Christopher Lee, as well as the lovely Maria Rohm and equally as lovely Marie Liljedahl. This one is a bit high on the erotic side of things, as it once did have as soft X rating attached to it. We see a shy girl get away for a weekend on an island, only to find herself in the middle of all that sleaze and smut you usually see happening in a film by this director. Of course, we do have a point to the madness, a moral to the story if you will. We take a deep look at people and a bit of how and why they do what they do. I found it a bit more fascinating as I do most films like this, but I do think it does end up going down the path most followed with this genre and this subject matter. Not that I don’t respect it, but I’m more a fan of horror than anything else and the erotic side of things always has its place, but it isn’t my favorite.
The disc looks great regardless. The setting is something that I think fits and looks the part, and it is always a good thing when you have a transfer that can help bring that part of your film alive and I’d say this one does that easily. So, even if the movie isn’t your type of movie, you will at least notice how good it looks and truth be told it probably looks better than a movie such as this has any right to really look. Bottom line is, this is a bit of a horn ball of a film. It is a bit perverted but isn’t at all badly acted. It looks great and comes with a number of good things for all you hardcore Jess Franco fans out there to enjoy. So, if you are a Franco-file, then this is another love letter to the man you’ll want to own.
99 Women (1969)
Directed By: Jess Franco
Starring: Maria Schell, Luciana Paluzzi, Mercedes McCambridge
New inmate Marie arrives at an island prison in the women’s sector and receives the number 99. The inmates are controlled For his epic shocker of caged women gone wild, legendary director Jess Franco (MARQUIS DE SADE’S JUSTINE) brought together a once-in-a-lifetime cast of International beauties including Maria Schell (THE ODESSA FILE), Luciana Paluzzi (THUNDERBALL), Rosalba Neri (LADY FRANKENSTEIN) and Maria Rohm (VENUS IN FURS). Oscar winner Mercedes McCambridge (JOHNNY GUITAR) and Herbert Lom (THE DEAD ZONE) co-star as the sadistic wardens of an island prison where abused yet luscious young lovelies surrender to their own depraved desires. Behind bars… without men… experience the unchained passion of 99 WOMEN!
So we meet again Jess Franco! Sometimes it feels like this man has made a million movies and I have probably seen about half of them. They keep getting new releases and they keep being a bit hit and miss with me. This time around we has 99 Women from 1969 on Umbrella Franco set. While I’m pretty sure this is the unrated version of the movie for us Americans, I feel I should note that this isn’t the X-rated version that is also out there from them and very limited from another company. This is a woman in prison film and comes with the shadow of a lesbian warden hanging above all the pretty women who are being tossed into this joint. The particular women we follow here just so happens to be inmate 99. So that is a pretty clever use of the name and number of the main character I guess. That all just comes together to make for women in prison movie that pack just about everything you’d expect from one, only this around we have that Jess Franco sleazy touch on top of it all making you feel even more dirty than usual when you watch one of these films. I don’t think this is either the best women in prison or Jess Franco movie I’ve seen, but it has its moments and those moments can be pretty fun.
Things do have a few twists and turns along the way. Our lead and her pals do the typical thing and try to escape. That causes much more grindhouse film samples to acquire. And things even hit a whole other level of perverted and sleazy when make prisoners are tossed into the plot with our women. We have gorgeous female characters here, we have a plot we’ve seen many times before, but we also have a very stellar DVD transfer of the film. Umbrella always makes these things look awesome and that continues here. I know this isn’t a Blu-ray, but I didn’t think it looked at all bad either and the look fits the film. If you love Jess Franco then you’ll love this film. If you are a little mixed on him then I don’t expect this movie to change your mind but it isn’t a bad watch either.
– Jess’ Women (Interview with Jess Franco)
– Deleted and Alternate Scenes
Venus in Furs (1969)
Directed By: Jess Franco
Starring: James Darren, Barbara McNair, Maria Rohm
In Istanbul, a jazz trumpeter pulls the murdered body of a young woman from the surf. He remembers her from the night before when he saw her at a millionaire playboy’s party and then later watched as she was assaulted by the party’s host and two of his friends. In confusion, Jimmy, the musician, leaves for Rio where he finds the sympathetic ear of Rita, a singer who invites him to live with her and helps him recover his equilibrium and his musical ability. Then, into the room walks a woman who looks like Wanda, the murder victim. Jimmy pursues her, not caring if she’s alive or dead. What’s going on?
We got some more Franco with a bit of a sleazy take on things. But this is also a movie with a bit more mystery behind it than you might expect. While you can point to the same number of things in this movie that you tend to see in a lot of Jess’ films, this one has a pretty solid story to tie it all together and that is something I can say that I really appreciate. This is also one of perhaps the more trippy effects you’ll see by the director and I hope to one day see this one sparkle in the light of a cool HD transfer. Until then, however, Umbrella gives this one a cool disc as the screenshots I’ve attached to this review will clearly show. I also think the soundtrack of this one will be one that goes down to all that hear it as one of the better musical numbers you’ll find in one of Franco’s movies. I don’t think this is his best work, but it might be the one with the most going on for it, even if it does take a seat back to some of the movies we’ve yet to talk about in this overall review.
You’ll notice in Jess Franco movies the better ones always seem to be the ones that come complete with a solid and well-paced narrative. We have that here and it helps a great deal. I don’t have a thing against T and A in films, but if I just wanted to see that I’d sit up late at night and watch Showtime movies. When I toss in a movie I want a little more and this is one of the Franco movies that seem to give us that little more it needs to take things over the hump. We got sex, story, and a nice pace here. I think that makes for a very watchable movie and one that some call his best, but I might have to argue with that in the reviews for the next two movies in this set below.
– Poster & Stills Gallery
Vampyros Lesbos (1971)
Directed By: Jess Franco
Starring: Soledad Miranda, Dennis Price, Paul Muller
From Jess Franco, the filmmaker The Vatican called the most dangerous director in the world, comes the most celebrated movie of his legendary career: Stunning Soledad Miranda stars as a vixen vampire who lures women to a Mediterranean island to satisfy her insatiable lust for female flesh and blood. It s a mind-bending odyssey of surreal erotica and 70s EuroHorror, featuring the psycho-sexadelic soundtrack that remains a global phenomenon. Ewa Strömberg (SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY), Dennis Price (VENUS IN FURS), Paul Muller (NIGHTMARE CASTLE) and Franco himself co-star in this landmark cult classic.
The Holy Grail of cult cinema they say? Well, do we mean the actual holy grail or the comedy film of the same name? Regardless, I respect Jess Franco. He is the king of smut as far as I’m concerned, but after seeing what seems like a million Jess Franco films, I think it is safe to say that if you have seen one you may have seen them all. But here comes Vampyros Lesbos. A film some call his best, a feeling going by the package that a lot of movie reviewing friends I have share. Basically, it is about a woman who can’t get another woman off her mind and that woman is a vampire and that just leads to more horror and trouble. Well, it looks like a million bucks here and to the man’s credit, it may very well be the overall best Franco film. We have lovely ladies doing awful things, but we also have a great look and feel that is capped off with some great camera work. You can always tell when Jess Franco was trying and when he wasn’t and I will admit that perhaps did bring his A-Game for this one. There are some horror parts to it and maybe for once they equal the erotic nature of things but don’t think for a second that the smut isn’t going to be accounted for in something with a title like this.
There is for sure things of a trippy nature going down with this and for the most part things don’t go underappreciated from this reviewer. You like to feel like you took acid on top of watching a story about vampires and lesbian, then you came to the right place here with Vampyros Lesbos. Like all things Franco, this won’t be for everybody. There is some horror here to it and it does have us some blood for good measure. There is a definite creepy vibe here that is a nice change of pace from the norm and the movie does pack a mood. Hardcore Franco fans will certainly call it the holy grail of Franco films because it perhaps is his best. Still, it is a Jess Franco film and does pack what people might dislike about his films as well. You get beautiful naked women, who just so happens to be vampires. It maybe ends up being a love it or hates movie, but I do appreciate it. I’m not going to say that I love it, but the actual attempts at a horror movie with just erotic stuff mixed-in sure does help a lot when watching it.
She Killed in Ecstasy (1971)
Directed By: Jess Franco
Starring: Soledad Miranda, Fred Williams, Paul Muller
For his follow-up to VAMPYROS LESBOS, writer/director Jess Franco delivered perhaps his most twisted shocker of the 70s: In what fans and critics consider to be her greatest role, the luscious Soledad Miranda in one of her final performances before her tragic death stars as the vengeful widow who seduces then murders the men and women responsible for her husband’s suicide. Howard Vernon (THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF), Paul Muller (BARBED WIRE DOLLS), Ewa Strömberg (VAMPYROS LESBOS) and Jess himself co-star in this EuroCult classic featuring another epic sexadelic lounge score by Manfred Hübler & Siegfried Schwab.
Well, well, well, not only is the last disc in this Jess Franco set from Umbrella, in very classy and cool looking form but with the last film in the set before this one, it makes for a double dose of Soledad Miranda, which is never ever a bad thing. We are leaving the vampire stuff behind here, but we have some revenge on our hands in, She Killed in Ecstasy! Here, we have the character of Mrs. Johnson (Miranda) and when an awful series of events leads to her husband’s death, she decides it is best to use her womanly ways to set out on a path of revenge and murder! So, that is exactly what she does here in a nice smutty package that only a man like Jess Franco could conjure up! It is your run of the mill Franco film, but it does have a bit better of a plot that what we are used to. Again, like Vampyros Lesbos, he’s at least making a full court effort or balance the sleaze with other actual plot elements. As a result, I think it rivals that movie in a number of ways and also packs a great soundtrack which might work at least in my eyes to make it slightly better, but that is just one man’s opinion. And, I’m not the world’s biggest Franco fan, so take that for what you will.
I guess you could say that Franco knew what he was working with as the revenge plot is driven in a great part due to the fact that our lead is very hot and uses that to her advantage (that’ll do it). That is clever in some ways and also allows the director to use the methods he knows best in films, which is none other than good ol’ fashion T and A. I’ve heard this one called an Euro art slasher and maybe that is just the way to describe it, because if you want to toss the slasher brand on it, it surely isn’t one in a traditional way, which might be the reason it appeals to some. Maybe there are parts you could pick at for not being as well put together, you can’t help but at least stay interested in what this movie has to offer here. If you love Jess Franco, you will clearly love this one as well. I’d say it is easily in his top five films and might be toe to toe with what is there for the top honors. The transfer and the release are altogether awesome, which is only made better since the movie isn’t half bad either.