Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger confronts the Franco Scholars head-on. All two of them.
"Robert Foster (Macumba Sexual) co stars in this jaw-dropping saga of sex and sadism that Franco scholars have called an insane homage to the Blind Dead series."—From the back of the DVD cover
Did I read that right? "Franco scholars?" I'd love to know more about this. Is there a stately enclave of ivy-clad buildings (in Spain, perhaps) where earnest freshmen discuss the nuances of cheap special effects and simulated lesbian trysts? Do advanced Franco scholars go on to write theses on exploiting popular titles to make a quick buck, and then matriculate to managerial jobs in sleazy porn theatres?
Facts of the Case
Four exceedingly trashy women (among them Candy, played by Candy Coster, a.k.a. Lina Romay) go on vacation to a deserted beachfront hotel. They walk, walk, walk, walk, walk down sidewalks, paths, and hallways until they arrive at the front desk. The creepy desk manager gives them their keys. They walk, walk, walk, walk down hallways, patios, and stairs to their two separate rooms, where they pair off to engage in lesbian love. One of them takes a walk. She walks, walks, walks, walks, walks through dingy shrubs, forbidding trees, old ruins, and sand until she comes to a ruined monastery. She walks, walks, walks through the overgrown courtyard, through a door, and down a hallway. She is caught by freaky dudes in robes!
Meanwhile, her friends engage in lesbian love. Then one of them walks, walks, walks, walks, walks through the empty hotel. She comes upon a woman chained to her bed. They talk, talk, talk, talk, talk about stuff while another gal walks, walks, walks, walks, walks to find her lost friend. Will Trashy Girl #2 reach Trashy Girl #1 in time? Will Trashy Girl #3 engage in lesbian love with Chained Girl?
Yeah, so I've decided that Jesus Franco isn't for me. It took a surprisingly
long time to reach that decision. Eugenie provided false hope; though
plodding and inarticulate in places, had true spark in its core. 99 Women was a mixed bag, with successful scenes
and indecipherable scenes thrown together. Then came the horror of Lust For
Frankenstein / Tender Flesh, which prompted this:
Like that abomination, Mansion of the Living Dead is a Jesus Franco film starring Lina Romay and is set in a deserted hotel. Given the similarities, my fear for Mansion of the Living Dead was nearly incalculable. Thankfully, Mansion of the Living Dead is much, much better than either Lust for Frankenstein or Tender Flesh. Of course, War and Peace is better than reading income tax regulations, too.
If you read the summary in the Facts of the Case, you'll glean that an hour of Mansion of the Living Dead's 97 minutes is devoted to shots of our intrepid heroines walking or talking. Thirty minutes or so are devoted to crude simulations of fumbling sex, which leaves about seven minutes of exposition. To cap it off, the "deluxe hotel" is clearly a seaside resort in the dead of winter. You can practically see the blue, quivering lips of the actresses as they sunbathe naked on the frigid Spanish coast.
As for the central figures in the film, the shadowy Knights Templar, the less said the better. Their makeup is poorly done; their purpose unexplained. Are they men in costume? Ghosts? A local civic group?
Part of the confusion stems from a transfer that is so murky and lacking in shadow detail that I literally could not tell what was happening in some scenes. I assume it was walking or lesbian love, but knowing for sure would have been nice. Black on black is a bad choice for a color scheme. The thin, clearly dubbed soundtrack is laughable. It's obvious that the stout wind made recording dialogue impossible, and Franco opted to dub the whole film in post production.
In the included featurette, Franco has the gall to condemn Romero for having no plot and no soul in his movies. You know George Romero, right? His Night of the Living Dead is the most successful low-budget horror movie of all time, and it spawned an entire movement in horror that is going strong today. So Jess Franco rips off Romero's "___ of the Living Dead," makes a flick with no discernable plot, then kicks off his interview by trashing Romero? I already suspected that Franco lacked class; now he has proven it. If Franco had translated even a third of the plot he seems to have in his mind onto the screen, maybe he'd have a valid point. For instance, I didn't get that the Chained Woman was supposedly being tortured against her will because she was "chained" by one of those dog leashes with a thumb release catch. All she had to do was reach up and pop the thumb release, and she too could be sunbathing on the frigid rocks of the abandoned Spanish coast. Am I overthinking things?
Oh, no…I haven't become a Franco Scholar, have I?
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There is lots of female flesh on display. True, the DVD transfer's poor color rendition gives this flesh a greenish, undead hue, but there are naked women nonetheless. Jess even pulls my favorite shtick. One of the women is taller than the rest, lithe and brunette. She is clad in an aristocratic white bikini and takes her clothes off last. It is nice to have that one classy lady among the lusty pack of commoners.
The one interesting aspect to Jesus Franco's interview is that he explains the multiple moniker problem that plagues his career. He has more pseudonyms than a KGB agent, and tells us why.
When he is able to articulate the ideas he has, and show them on the screen—without using 20-minute voiceovers or stilted expository dialogue—Franco produces some interesting Eurocult movies. Sadly, I'm discovering that such gems are the exception rather than the rule.
The court will drop all charges if Franco agrees never to appear in this courtroom again.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
• The Mansion Jess Built: Interviews with Director Jess Franco and Star Lina Romay
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