Operation: Jess Franco

The (in)famous Spanish director Jesús “Jess” Franco died on April 2, 2013. I found out about his passing on April 3, as soon as I got home from a funeral. Immediately I checked the B-Masters’ site, to see if any of my colleagues had heard the news and posted something on the subject. That’s when I first noticed the B-Masters’ site had gone down. Just when you think a day couldn’t get any worse…

Naturally, on hearing of Franco’s death my instinct was to sit down and watch one of his movies. That turned out to be impossible: April 2013 just got worse for everybody the longer it dragged on. Eventually things calmed down a little. But by the time I finally got a chance to sit down and savor a few Franco flicks, I really couldn’t decide which film or films made the best memorial. Oasis of the Zombies? Female Vampire? Lust for Frankenstein? (OH GOD PLEASE NO!)

Suddenly it hit me: Tim Lucas has always insisted that to understand Franco properly, you had to see all of his films. So why not watch everything of his I could get my hands on? The idea made a surprising amount of sense. If I forced myself to watch as much of his filmography as I could stand get my hands on, in chronological order, I might finally come to terms with the whole Jess Franco phenomenon. I would get a better idea about his creative choices, his treatment of his material, his thematic concerns… and I could finally figure out exactly how I felt about him. Franco has always been a divisive figure in film history, so I guess it’s no wonder he’s divisive even in my own brain: half of me loves him, half of me thinks he’s a total fraud. Perhaps it was time to find out which half had the strongest argument.

So that’s what I intend to do. And I’m going to post my thoughts here, as I go over Jess Franco’s output year by year, from Mariquita to Mari-Cookie, from Doctor Orlof to Doctor Wong.

Now, let me be clear: I don’t intent to review everything he ever did, or even directed… some of his movies are lost, others were left unfinished, and some — honestly — I just don’t feel like tracking down. This is particularly true of his porn films: I’ve suffered through Lulu’s Talking Asshole; I don’t feel I need to see Lulu’s Lollipop too. I’ll watch A Crack for Two if I must, but is A Cock for Three really necessary? I’m also not going to torture myself by trying to track down every version of the movies I do watch. Most of Franco’s films exist in multiple versions, some prepared by the man himself, others done without his knowledge or permission. Keeping them all straight is a nightmare. I’m not trying to make a definitive statement, à la Lucas or Pete Tombs; I’m just trying to come up with my own suitable memorial for a man who — whether I like the idea or not — has been an important part of my movie-going life since I was a child.

The tip of the iceberg.

The Tally So Far:

Tenemos 18 Años

Labios Rojos — not reviewed (lost?)
La Reina del Tabarín

Vampiresas 1930
Gritos en la Noche/The Awful Dr. Orlof

La Muerte Silba un Blues
La Mano de un Hombre Muerto/The Sadistic Baron von Klaus

El llanero
Rififí en la Ciudad

El Segreto del Dr. Orloff

Miss Muerte/The Diabolical Dr. Z

Cartes sur table/Attack of the Robots
Residencia para Espías/Golden Horn

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Will Laughlin

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