Strange, disturbingly surreal, and twistingly sexual cinema from Jess Franco. Severin Films USA R0 DVD.
Jess Franco fans, the Golden Films era represents a real enigma. Having
worked in relatively big budget cinema for 10 years across Europe, the
director (and his wife Lina Romay) returned to Spain and began shooting
literally dozens of films per year, often on tiny budgets and with
small casts - films that for the most part were rarely seen outside
Spain. Free of commercial influences, Franco was free to shoot some
very personal films, and he was similarly able to experiment with the
free-form/erotic cinema that he had first dabbled in during his
co-production years with Harry Alan Towers in the late 1960s.
(Lina Romay) and her husband (Antonio Mayans) are on holiday - she is
suffering from vivid, sexual dreams about a mysterious black woman
known as Tara (Ajita Wilson). A call from work comes through and she is
asked to visit a near-by island to sell a house to a Princess Obongo,
whom she soon discovers is Tara herself. Entering the kingdom of the
mysterious woman, she soon finds herself at the mercy of her
vicious slaves and forbidden lusts...
the film's opening scenes, it is clear that this is not a typical,
narrative story - instead a vivid mix of dreams, sex, fantasy and
reality combine to give the film a unique fever-dream atmosphere that
only Franco can create. The script works effectively to keep the film
moving throughout, and avoids becoming merely an episodic
collection of set-pieces, while the film's climax and conclusion are
suitably fitting. Unlike many similar productions, the sex scenes here are all a part of the
plot and never come off as gratuitous. Interestingly, there seems to be a very
twisted Dracula theme running throught many parts of the story - Alice
as an estate agent, being called to sell a house to Princess
Obongo and falling under her spell, with Tara/Obongo then seducing her
husband, plays out like a reversal of the Harker, Dracula and Mina
characters of the novel, while the character of the insane hotel manager
(played by Jess Franco himself) would be this story's Renfield.
direction is strong here, with some very nice camera-work that helps to
give the film its strange atmosphere - in particular, some wonderfully
desolate long shots and interesting use of authentic African ritual
imagery. The sex scenes are nicely directed, and although very explicit
(bordering on hardcore in a few places), never seem gratuitous or
unnecessary - in particular, the shots of Ajita Wilson's black hands on
Romay's white flesh during their sex scenes, do look very good.
Franco's soundtrack (credited, as usual, to Pablo Villa) is effective,
and the location work is spectacular, with Obongo's island truly
feeling like another world.
Romay and Antonio Mayans (who looks rather like a young Jack Palance
here) starred in most of Franco's work during the 1980s, and give
typically strong performances with some real chemistry between them.
Franco himself gives an interesting turn as the very strage Meme, but
it is the transsexual Ajita Wilson who steals the show as Princess
Obongo - she has an incredible presence (that Franco himself compares
to that of Christopher Lee!) and a slightly unsettling appearance that
give her a suitably unreal persona.
is one of Franco's best works - free of any commercial pressures, he
creates a wonderfully free-form and vivid sexual nightmare, boosted by
strong direction, production and acting. Highly recommended to Franco
fans, and of interest to fans of the more obscure end of euro-cult
and surreal cinema.
famous in it?
Lina Romay - Jess Franco's wife, and star of many of his productions from the 1970s onwards. Antonio Mayans - star of over 40 of Jess Franco's later productions.
Directed by anyone
Jess Franco - the biggest name in euro-cult cinema with over 180 films to his credit, everything from black and white horror Diabolical Dr. Z (1966) to modern surgical horror Faceless (1988)
A little blood.
Various male and female
nude scenes, with some vivid sex. Verging on hardcore in places but
suiting the film well, and never overly explicit.
Who is it for?
Highly recommended to Jess Franco fans and of interest to fans of obscure euro-cult and surreal films.
Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 widescreen. Anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
The print is very strong, with almost no print damage, and very good colours. Only a mild layer of grain.
Original Spanish audio, sounds fine, some minor hiss.
English subtitles for the Spanish audio. No problems.
The disc includes:
Voodoo Jess - Well edited and very interesting interviews with Jess Franco and Lina Romay, talking
about this film, and their careers in general, including how they met. Nicely illustrated with clips and stills. Franco speaks
accented English, Romay in Spanish. Optional subtitles are provided
(ALL) - NTSC
The film is
believed to be completely uncut. Spanish language print.
Strange, surreal, twisted and sexually charged - Franco at his best here in a very effective film. Recommended.
film looks simply amazing and the interview piece is nicely done and very interesting. A highly