Mansion of the Living Dead (1982)

a.k.a. - La Mansión de los muertos vivientes
Jess Franco's twisted, surreal but rather unexciting take on the Blind Dead. Severin Films USA R0 DVD.

The Film

In the 1980s, Jess Franco returned to the Spain from which abject censorship had driven the aspiring film-maker 30 years previously. With the General Franco reign now ended, censorship was lax, and the opportunity for shooting films without restrictions was finally presenting itself. In the 1980, Franco shot dozens of productions, mostly for Golden Films International, generally writing, scoring, editing and directing the films entirely himself.

Four young waitresses from Germany head to the Canary Islands for their first holiday in years. Yet when they arrive, they discover the hotel is completely deserted with only a manager for company. Trying to make the best of their holiday, the girls head to the beach, but find it deserted too. The next day, Lea decides to take some photographs near to an old monastery, and after some screams, she is never seen again. Later, another of the girls takes a ride with the hotel manager (who we discover keeps a naked woman chained up in a remote room) but after teasing her with sexual hints, he takes off, and as she chases him, she finds herself in a room of robed monks who seize her and announce a death sentence. At the hotel, Candy (Lina Romay) finds the disappearance of her friends puzzling, and sets out to discover what is going on.

Written by Franco himself (with the idea credited to a fictional novel by non-existant writer D. Khunne), Mansion of the Living Dead is a strange fusion of themes and ideas, with a very liberal helping of sex and nudity. After the title sequences play out over some shots of the monks (more on them later), we get what seems like a Carry On film sequence as the girls arrive at the hotel and draw lots to decide on who would share each room - fortunately the two sets of lesbian lovers each get drawn together (and simultaneously decry the other two girls for being so prudish), and although this light comedy vein is largely forgotten, it does awkwardly pop up a few times later on and damages the film's atmosphere. Meanwhile, the most interesting theme in the film begins to develop - the lonely isolation of the hotel, the eccentric receptionist and the very surreal atmosphere that stars to pervade the picture. Ultimately, the monks themselves (who only emerge half way into the picture) are rather a disappointment: they are very creepy visually (and a couple of scenes might prove scary), but once they begin to talk, it becomes clear that at best they are highly confused, sacrificing women to their satanic master, yet praying for forgiveness while they sin (surely an essential part of any black ceremony?). The film's climax is simply bizarre and non-sensical (the idea that Candy and the receptionist could fall in love, having known each other for mere minutes, is quite absurd). Fortunately, the film's desolate atmosphere helps to create a distinctively Franco-style dream-like ambience that makes most of these logical flaws seem irrelevant, but unfortunately, it does nothing to stop the film from dragging in many scenes, and the almost non-existant characterisation means that we hardly care for any of the cast.

Although the monks here are often compared to the Templar Knights of de Ossirio's Blind Dead quartet, the links seem to stop with their hooded appearance, as the directors use them in very different ways and create different backgrounds and motives. Similarly to the earlier films, however, there does appear to be an underlying political/social commentary - here Franco seems to be criticising the hypocritical and outdated manners of the recent deposed Spanish government under General Franco, comparing them to the Spanish Inquisition. Unfortunately, most of this message is lost behind the inexplicable devil worship, and the gratuitous sex. Some hints are also made to Sadism, a key staple of many of Franco's productions, although this is rather lightly brushed over and certainly not as developed as it was elsewhere in his oeuvre, and comes off as rather unnecessary to the storyline.

Fortunately, despite the sometimes poorly written storyline, Franco's direction is very strong here - the lonely hotel corridors, the creepy monestary and the general other-worldly isolation of the whole film are very effectively realised, with some very modern hand-held camera-work in many scenes. Unfortunately, the various sex scene are directed with little flair and are often quite dull (especially compared with the more understated erotica of the Harry Alan Towers era or the Soledad Miranda productions). Franco's soundtrack (credited as Pablo Villa) has a very impressive theme, with some distorted chanting, that helps to make the scenes with the monks particularly effective - although it is notably absent in many of the other scenes. The film sadly suffers from some rather poorly designed effects (the monk's make-up looks very cheap) although sets/locations are nicely used throughout.
Lina Romay (Mrs. Franco, credited here as Candy Coster) plays the lead role, and like most of the female cast, spends more time with her clothes off than on. Fortunately, the female cast do look far more "real" than many of the modern 'porn stars', with not a hint of 'fake' design, although their acting is not up to much (and on the soundtrack, they seem to get confused between sexual moans, and moans of fear). The three men in the film perform decently, with frequent Franco star Antonio Mayans (credited as Robert Foster) giving a very good performance as the twisted receptionist.

Ultimately, Mansion of the Living Dead is a mixed bag - the very nicely directed and written, isolated and surreal feeling to the production is let down by a rather mixed up plot and some unexciting sex scenes. Fans of Jess Franco might well be interested by this interesting look into his little known 1980s works, although it is not as interesting as the earlier Macumba Sexual (1981), and is not recommended to Franco newcomers.

In Brief

Anyone 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 interesting? Jess Franco - the biggest name in euro-cult cinema with over 180 films to his credit, everything from black and white horror The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962) to DTV softcore horror Lust for Frankenstein (1998)
Any gore? A little blood.
Any sex? Lots of topless and nude scenes, with some softcore lesbian sex and a mild rape scene.
Who is it for?
Of interest to Jess Franco fans - a good sampler of his 1980's productions.


Visuals Original 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.
Audio Original Spanish audio, sounds great.
Subtitles English subtitles for the Spanish audio. No problems.
Extras The disc includes:
  • The Mansion that Jess built - interview with Jess Franco and Lina Romay. A well edited and very interesting interview with Franco as he talks about this film, with some interesting details on his career in general. Nicely illustrated with clips and stills. Franco speaks accented English, Romay in Spanish. Optional subtitles are provided throughout. (19m)
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? None known.
Cuts? The film is believed to be completely uncut. Spanish language print.



Return to main menu.

All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 28th October 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

Please contact: