Jesús Franco  

Prolific, controversial and rebellious Spanish director of exploitation movies. He dabbled with every appropriately exploitative genre and sub-genre under the sun that suits his tastes including horror, gore, sexploitation, porn, vampires, zombies, nunsploitation, women in prison, etc. The only problem is, his movies are consistently, painfully and even inexplicably dull. Only Franco can make naked women and exploitation this boring. Despite this, he has gained a cult following, perhaps due to the sheer number of consistently exploitative, unpretentious titles in his repertoire and his odd approach of casting his own girl-friend in over 100 of his (often pornographic) movies. Some of his titles that just barely cross the border of the surreal and the odd gorier movies are reviewed here, but the vast majority of his 200-odd titles are just trashy and painfully dull exploitation. Died in 2013.

Of Some Interest

Sex Is Crazy  
Bonkers erotic comedy from Jesús Franco that is basically a series of sexual role-play scenes strung together, with the director intervening or narrating once in a while to keep the games going. The first role-play is the most bizarre and silly, with naked painted people performing a series of alien 'impregnations' that take 9 seconds from sex to child, all the while they are chanting and counting down. After that it's spy-games, torture, melodrama, a foursome wedding and marriage, exhibitionism, and even a Rosemary's Baby role-play, all flippant, energetic, whimsical, and light-hearted.


Bloody Moon  
Franco's popular take on the giallo/slasher genre is not his worst movie as far as this very tired genre goes, but that's not saying much. It's the standard pot-boiler slasher plot with a killer released from the asylum after many years, a sister, incest, a group of young horny girls, red-herrings regarding the killer, several grisly deaths, and a (not-so) surprise killer. Most of the kills are standard Friday-the-13th levels of gore with one nasty stab through the breasts, but one beheading by electric saw is so over-the-top splattery that it gave this film a bit of a reputation. Whatever...

Jesus Franco usually makes scores of mind-numbingly dull horror, sleaze and erotic movies which are much tamer than they sound, but in this case the production values were higher and the gore gets nasty. A plastic surgeon's girlfriend gets acid thrown in her face by an irate ex-patient. The doctor kidnaps numerous girls with the aid of a sadistic lady and a psychotic with an unhealthy love for chainsaws and power drills, attempting to cut off and graft the girls' faces onto his girl.

Ilsa, the Wicked Warden  
Franco's take on the Ilsa series replaces the Nazi-camp background with a women-in-prison flick where nubile women are almost always in the nude and undergo various tortures, rapes and degradations. Yet again, a dumb woman volunteers to go into the institution to gather evidence and find her sister while putting herself in harm's way. Unusually twisted by Franco's standards and more of a sadistic sleaze-fest than a gruesome shocker, but still dull as always.

Mondo Cannibale (AKA Cannibals AKA White Cannibal Queen)  
Franco's take on the Cannibal genre is a truly laughable affair. But, loyal to the genre, it is also perhaps his most splattery movie, except that it obviously doesn't come close to the levels of the Lenzi and Deodato shockers. A man finds himself in wild territory with his family and is promptly attacked by a bunch of cannibals (obvious unemployed city-men with kindergarten-color face-paint). Except that these cannibals eat their victims live on-the-spot like a bunch of zombies, with lots and lots of chewing of raw meat and intestines, screaming, and a couple of severed limbs. Fast-forward, and the man decides to go back there to save his daughter whom he had to leave behind. Except that said daughter has grown up and gone native (i.e. a sexpot made-up barbie-doll dressed up in skimpy clothes). The ending is so dumb you'll be embarrassed you saw it.

Although directed by Franco, this doesn't contain the dull sleaze and violence of his later years but is the apex of his earlier dabblings in erotic surrealism. A woman working in an S&M night-club gets confused (but not as much as we do) when fantasy and reality blend. Is she really committing those murders after seducing them in dream-logic? Who are all those people that seem to know her or want to manipulate her life? Is she really supernatural? What's with the dwarf and sugar cubes, and the moving mannequins? Unfortunately, the occasional nudity isn't enough to distract from the bad story-telling.

Vampire Junction  
With really bad Franco films, it can get so bad that it's impossible to tell whether he intended it to be 'surreal' or it's simple incoherence. This one helps us out by having the protagonist write on screen that her current experiences are surreal. Well that settles it then. Except that the surrealism here involves mere vampiric erotic dreams, disappearing vampires, and... incoherence. A reporter visits a 'old West' town called "Shit City" complete with a sheriff. A narrator tells us some confusing things about the town. The narrator somehow arrests the driving woman. There are dreams of vampires, especially a hot lesbian pair. Although it's never clear who is dreaming what and when these things occurred. While one vampire is feeding on a girl, she suddenly takes a break to shave her victim carefully, then continues feeding in x-rated glory. Why? Maybe because Franco got horny and told her to do it. Not that it makes any sense. There is a strange woman that tells the reporter more random nonsense involving a priest, and refers her to a web site for more information. And there you have it. Incoherence is not surrealism after all.

Venus in Furs (AKA Paroxismus)  
An early Franco movie bordering on the confusing and strange, and often claimed to be a surreal masterpiece but is mostly just a badly executed ghost story. A jazz trumpeter finds a murdered woman who was abused by three bizarrely sadistic people. When he sees her in a club, he abandons his current sympathetic girlfriend, obsessively trying to piece together who she is amidst a mess of flashbacks and visions of vengeful seductive women. Features trippy editing and warped cinematography (Franco's subtle way to make things dreamy), Klaus Kinski as a kinky Turk (say that three times fast), the usual dull Franco exploitative nudity, and a final twist ending.

Virgin Among the Living Dead, A  
Another plodding Franco film, this one pretending to be erotic surrealism but is merely dull confusion. A girl that likes to take her clothes off goes to visit relatives only to find that they are not what they seem. Then again, with blind lesbians, blood-suckers, a symbolic dildo, a decapitated head as a vase and other strange behaviour, what exactly are they supposed to seem like?

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