Jess Franco's twisted, surreal but rather unexciting take on the Blind Dead. Severin Films USA R0 DVD.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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 The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962) to DTV softcore horror Lust for Frankenstein (1998)
A little blood.
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.
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 great.
English subtitles for the Spanish audio. No problems.
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
(ALL) - NTSC
The film is
believed to be completely uncut. Spanish language print.
An interesting film that boasts a mix of strong direction and atmosphere, with some rather unnecessary humour and sex.
film looks simply amazing for such an obscure and forgotten production.
The interview section is nicely done and very interesting. A highly