An early Jess Franco film, boasting an interesting plot and very impressive direction. Mondo Macabro US R0 release.
Franco is surely one of the most controversial cult-directors of the
20th Century, if not just for the often shocking content of his films
(that led to him beind dubbed the most dangerous filmmaker alive by the Catholic Church) then for the heated debates his films provoke among fans and detractors. For many fans The Diabolical Dr. Z ranks as one of the director's finest works.
Continuing the work of Dr. Orloff,
wheelchair bound scientist Dr. Zimmer has managed to isolate the areas
of the brain that control good and evil and by probing their
brains is able to keep wild animals passive, and enrage them.
Presenting this theory to a medical conference, he is mocked by the
three professors present and ordered to cease his project, distraught
he suffers a heart attack and dies. His daughter, Imra Zimmer, returns
to the Doctor's lab where his first subject, a convicted killer who
escaped death row is already under her control. After faking her own
death, Imra kidnaps an attractive young nightclub dancer known as Miss Death, aiming to use her to murder the three professors who she blames for the death of her father. On board a night-train, Miss Death
meets Dr. Vicars (Howard Vernon) and lures him to his death. Meanwhile,
the police have become involved and the inspector (Jess Franco
himself), along with a visiting English inspector (Daniel White),
consult Dr. Phillippe Brighthouse who knew Imra Zimmer, and was Miss Death's
lover. Meanwhile, Imra is continuing to use her two pawns to kill the
other professors, and it is up to Brighthouse and the police to
general plot of the film (co-written with experienced film writer
Jean-Claude Carrière) is hardly original - revenge storylines
like this have been doing the rounds since the dawn of cinema, and were
the basis for practically every Euro-Westen - but fortunately the film
contains sufficient unique elements to draw it away from the bulk. Nods
to Franco's early sucess come in the name droppings of Dr. Orloff,
Moroni and Radeck, while the quick and easy facial reconstruction surgery
performed on Imra Zimmer during the film would seem to spoof the failed
attempts in The Awful Dr. Orloff
(1962). The film's Dr. Vicas would later appear in Franco's Kiss Me, Monster (1969).
The script is not without problems however; the
character of Phillippe Brighthouse seems far too convenient, he
knows Imra Zimmer, was Miss Death's lover and was present at the
Dr. Zimmer died, while the film's ending is rather unimpressive.
the film is very slow paced but it rarely drags, and even the police
segments fit well with the rest of the story - all too often, police
procedurals are used as padding to fill out a film's run-time.
importantly, Jess Franco's strong direction is what lifts the film from
a standard B-movie, into an incredible viewing experience. From the
opening nighttime prison escape, to Miss Death's
surreal nightclub act, the on-train murder and a pursuit through foggy
streets, the film is full of excitingly filmed set-pieces; Franco uses
a wide range of unique camera angles and a mix of still and moving
shots while never seeming gratuitous and the use of stark black and
white photography gives the film an unsettling, almost surreal edge
throughout. Fortunatly, the production values in the film are strong,
the sequence on-board the train looking very effective and the sets all
well decorated. The music, from Daniel White, (who also appears in the
film) is strange mix of jazz, although it generally remains in the
background, and is not the core element of the film as in some of
Franco's later work.
cast is a relatively unknown mix of Spanish and French actors. Howard
Vernon is instantly recognisable to Franco fans having appeared in
several of the director's early works, and popping up again fequently until
his death in the 1990s, and although his role here is small, he plays
it well. The rest of the cast perform decently enough. Franco himself
pops up as a police inspector suffering the recent birth (to his wife)
of triplets, alongside the film's composer Daniel White as a visiting
English police officer.
The Diabolical Dr. Z was
one of the last films in Franco's black and white horror era, just
around the corner was Harry Alan Towers who would give Franco the
budget and stars that brought him world-wide fame; but despite this,
Jess was rarely able to match the talents displayed here. For those who
have given up on Franco having seen his recent DTV work, or his
unimpressive near-poronographic 1980s films, The Diabolical Dr. Z should
come as a revelation; strong direction, good photography, and not a
zoom shot in sight. Highly recommended to all euro-cult and Jess Franco
fans, and generally recommended to all film fans. Certainly not a bad
place to enter the strange and twisted world of Franco for the first
Is it a sequel?
Considered a semi-sequel to Jess Franco's The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962), but contains few references to that film.
Anyone famous in it?
Howard Vernon - a staple of Franco's output and with over a hundred Euro-cult films to his name.
Directed by anyone interesting?
Jess Franco - infamous Euro-cult director, with over 180 known film credits. From Venus in Furs(1969) to The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1972). He also has a small role as a police inspector in this film.
A few killing scenes and a little blood, although nothing especially graphic.
A skin-tight, see-through catsuit is as good as it gets.
Is it scary?
Not really. Very atmospheric.
Who is it for?
Of definite interest to Franco fans, a generally well directed film that should appeal to all.
Very odd track, mix of jazz and modern piano music - often deliberately discordant.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.77:1 anamorphic wide-screen. Black and White. The image is nearly perfect with only infrequent print damage, minimal grain.
English and French language original dubs - Dolby mono. Sounds fine for most of the run time.
English track has one short scene in French, with English subs underneath (sub track #1)
English - film only.
Feature - 1hr 23m 04s
The disc includes:
'Diabolical Jess Franco' - Section from UK documentary
on eurocinema, about Franco. Liberally illustrated with scenes from
this film, as well as various film posters. Plenty of interview clips, part-subtitled. (15m 22s)
English Titles - opening scenes with English language on-screen credits. (1m 45s)
English language original trailer - good condition, fullscreen. (1m 03s)
Poster gallery - manual scrolling gallery of posters used to advertise this film.
Stills gallery - manual scrolling gallery of still shots taken from this film.
Biographies of 3 cast and director. Short but detailed.
Easter Egg - brief
audio clip with Howard Vernon describing an incident that occurred
during filming of one scene in this film. Audio is sadly hard to make
out, and is unsubtitled - English. (2m 36s)
Standard Amaray case.
Region 0 (all players) - NTSC
The film is believed to be fully uncut, all scenes cut from English language prints are present.
The film is from the French print, so titles and credits are in French.
An impressively well directed and presented film with an interested take on an age-old take.
Near perfect presentation of
this obscure film, great looking print and some decent extras, although
documentary isn't film specific.