Bloody Moon (1981)

a.k.a. - Die Säge des Todes (GER)

Olivia Pascal stars in Jess Franco's gory take on the Slasher Film. Severin R0 DVD.

The Film

A brutal murder takes place at a summer camp. Five years later, the killer that night, Miguel, is let back into the care of his sister Manuela who runs the camp, now as a language school for young women. Miguel falls for the new student Angela (Olivia Pascal) and starts to stalk her and when dead bodies start to show up around the camp, has he fallen back on murderous ways?

German exploitation producer Wolf C. Hartwig was always quick to latch onto new crazes and in the freshly popular slasher genre that exploded across the screens in the early 1980s he saw plenty of potential. Written by one of Hartwig's production staff, the storyline is a rather cliché affair - the theme of a murder being comitted at the start, leading to a flash forward several years could be lifed from any number of rival films - the summer camp setting is also rather unoriginal, although at least by making it a language class camp the script can avoid the usual trouble of explaining away the need for younger children leaving us just with the sex crazed older teens. Of course, this being a European production, sex is very high on the cards and the characters seem to talk about little else, but surprisingly for a film produced by the man who brought the world the Schoolgirl Report series there is very little actual sex or even nudity. A scene of incest between Miguel and his sister adds a rather unexpected element but seems to be there only for shock value and adds nothing to the storyline.

Like many of the earlier slasher films, Bloody Moon keeps the identity of the killer a secret and in true Giallo style gives us a number of potential suspects - this really adds to the tension in a number of the stalking scenes giving them an effectively tense and scary atmosphere and making this much more than just a vanilla slasher. Showing the inexperience of the writer the pacing is rather slow at times and in the second half the stalking scenes do become quite repetitive, but the mystery keeps the viewer interested until the dramatic (and surprisingly, logical) climax.

Jess Franco was not at his best in the early 1980s, having just completed his long run with Swiss producer Erwin C. Dietrich he was wondering around Europe making a variety of films before his "Golden Films" era making his own films in native Spain from 1982. With Bloody Moon he was limited by being forced to stick strictly to the script, but shows that even workman Jess Franco can put together a solid film because although lacking in his usual flair (there is not a hint of surrealism throughout), there is clearly a solid hand behind the camera. The only real flaw in the film comes with the gore scenes where a lack of budget leads to some almost comically fake effects. German composer Gerhard Heinz provides a solid if unmemorable score.

Olivia Pascal is cast in the lead role and gives a solid performance but rather disappointingly for her fans, remains fully clad throughout (newly married, she was trying to make a break as an actress outside of sex films). The role of Antonio would have been ideal for Joe Dallesandro but is played suitably well by Spanish actor Peter Exacoustos who strongly resembles the American. There are no familiar names in the rest of the cast (aside from Franco himself in a short cameo) but generally fine acting.

The idea of seeing Jess Franco's take on the slasher film is not quite as exciting as it could have been thanks to a rather cliché and slow script, but one that does provide some good excuses for gore and several surprisingly tense scenes. Certainly of interest to Jess Franco fans, but probably appealing more to fans of the slasher films.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Olivia Pascal - German actress who had the lead role in Vanessa (1977)
Directed by anyone interesting? Jess Franco - the biggest name in euro-cult cinema with over 180 films to his credit, from black and white horror Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962) to Faceless (1988)
Any gore or violence? Several very gory death scenes, but some rather low budget special effects lessen the impact. One very brief scene of real animal violence (a snake has its head cut off).
Any sex or nudity? A few short topless scenes.
Is it scary? Several of the stalking scenes are quite tense and could raise a scare.
Who is it for? Fans of Franco will probably want to see this, Giallo and slasher fans should check out this enjoyable if none-too original entry.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
For the most part the print is very good, with strong colours, no print damage and very little grain. Some of the gory scenes are slightly lower in quality (grainier) but not too noticably.
Audio English mono - sounds fine although the lip-sync is rather poor (the soundtrack itself is in sync).
Subtitles None.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Interview with Franco - typically outspoken and open about the film and how/why it was made. 18 min - Franco speaks in accented English, subtitles are provided.
  • English language theatrical trailer.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? Previously avaiable on a Vipco DVD in the UK with a low quality and heavily cut print. Due out on an uncut DVD in the UK in 2009 from Severin, likely to include the same features and print as this disc.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. The print used is German language.
Was cut in the UK by 1 minute 20 seconds by the BBFC, removing all of the gory scenes.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 13th January 2009.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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