FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE...beware yon spoilers!

Dec 15, 2009

from the Final Girl Mailbag!

I enjoy getting emails from strangers, even though I usually forget to respond until 8 months have passed. Much like the comments here on the blog, it's rare that I receive any douchey messages or hate mail. Yesterday I got an email that's not nice or douchey...but it's pretty damn random. Here's the message in its entirety:
I came across your blog when I googled 'jess franco' + 'fucking sucks'. I think his fans should really, really be ashamed of themselves, and keep their dvd collection a deep dark secret.
What sayest thou, dear readers? Agree? Disagree? Are you a Jess Franco fan? Are you ashamed of it?

For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Franco's oeuvre, he's the writer/director behind such films as Vampyros Lesbos, Swedish Nympho Slaves, Lust for Frankenstein, and Lillian, the Perverted Virgin. He's made close to 200 films. Are they/is he reprehensible, or are they simply exploitation flicks? You decide!



43 comments:

knobgobbler said...

I wonder what it means that, based on the posters, those movies just look kind of boring to me... like, 'ooh look, boobies!'

The Mike said...

In general I'd agree on Franco, but I have a soft spot for his version of Count Dracula and I think The Diabolical Dr. Z is pretty awesome.

So, maybe not fucking sucks, but generally sucks.

D Hammontree said...

Hells yeah. Anyone who can turn watching Lina Romay cavort around all naked-like into a boring experience deserves his own room in hell. I am just saying.

Stacie Ponder said...

The steeple between the cleavage is a nice touch.

I'm not well-versed in Franco whatsoever. Vampyros Lesbos (I don't know, would you say that's his most popular film? One of them, at any rate) was super boring and not nearly as salacious as I was hoping! :D

Andrew Green said...

I've actually never heard of him until now....
I have queued the one Franco film available at Netflix, Killer Brbys Vs. Dracula.

B.E. Earl said...

They are a generally boring mild diversion. No reason to go to work on the homes with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch.

D Hammontree said...

Dude (and by "dude", I mean Andrew) - Netflix has about 43,000 (about 2%) of his movies. Check out "A Virgin Among The Living Dead" or "L'Exorcisme", and you shall know the true meaning of soul-crushing pain. You may be tempted by such juicy titles as "The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein" - but don't be fooled. Spare yourself my terrible fate, for all that awaits you is despair. DESPAIR!

Stacie Ponder said...

Somebody out there must love him! Where are the Francophiles? I wanted this to get ugly. :(

:P

Robson, Proprietor said...

He's also roundly despised in cinephilic circles not for his Europorn, but for his shoddy cut of Orson Welles' Don Quixote footage.

Ian W. Hill said...

Man, I have to be the one to DEFEND Franco? Yeesh.

Well, I quite like his Venus in Furs and Succubus. Kiss Me, Monster is fun. And many of the rest have flashes of . . . something. Yeah, not much of a defense I can put up here.

No, I can't say I LIKE his work, but I go back to much of it, over and over again -- mainly work from '68 to '71. I read Tim Lucas' overview/defense of the man's works in the first few issues of Video Watchdog several times, for several years, and wasn't convinced by Tim's "You haven't seen one Franco film until you've seen them all" line. Until something clicked when I saw one, and I began seeing as many as I could, until I agreed with Tim. I wound up creating a theatre piece out of fragments of his films (and films by Jean Rollin and Radley Metzger) to get them out of my system. It only mostly worked.

And actually, I really LOVE Succubus and Venus in Furs now that I think of it . . .

Bill, OLTFFA said...

Ah, Stacie, how can you combine nekked chicks and crazy languages—two of my favorite pastimes—and yet have it be all sleazy and sleazy?

So in Croatian, Ljubavna Pisma KaluÄ‘erice is Love Letters of a Nun. “Portuguese” got lost (or found) in translation.

La fille de Dracula is, fairly obviously, The Daughter of Dracula. Clearly she’s taken her breakup with Jesse James so hard that she’s swinging the other way, now.

And, last, Eine Jungfrau in den Krallen von Vampiren means A Virgin in the Claws of Vampires.

So there you go. Now I feel all dirty. And not in the good way.

Arbogast said...

like, 'ooh look, boobies!'

I guess people who came of age in the age of the home computer, the Internet, cellular technology, streaming video and all that world-at-your-fingertips might not get what made Franco so exciting 30 years ago. Mind you, I didn't see any of his movies until the mid-90s, so I had 25-30 years of wondering and a few pictures/posters to feed my curiosity. That kind of thing doesn't happen anymore and may never again, nurturing your curiosity. All appetites are sated instantly in this day and age, which means nothing tastes like anything.

Franco is an acquired taste. There are some movies of his that I think are really good (Eugenie de Sade springs to mind) and some are beyond awful (most everything he's done in the last 20 years), while a while middle ground is full of interesting stuff that often has you ping-ponging between boredom and intrigue. I kind of like that vibe.

Jess Franco was a product of his time, a time when European filmmakers could jump around the Continent with a little bit of equipment and a few hardy souls to act in front of the camera and make a movie. If his movies were ragged, inconsistent or barely above the amateur level then at least they had a natural buoyancy about them, a true elan and a love of cinema as an art form, as a language (other than cinema as a tick list of stuff you can copy from other movies and put in your own) that nobody seems to have anymore. So while I have my own frustrations with Jess Franco, I have even less patience with people who can't get into him because they were born bored.

Ormsby said...

I have a love/hate relationship with Franco. I loved Count Dracula as a teen (have to pick it up and see it again, since it's been twenty years) and I hate Killer Barbys Vs Dracula. Most of the haters I think are American and don't get his films since they are very, very European.

Lars Nilsen said...

He's a poet of the camera. His work is a long epic that flirts with horror, noir, action but the fundamental basis of his work is the sexualization of looking and in the passages where he succeeds, he makes it all worth it for me. But then I have a heart and a soul. I'm sorry all the previous posters have had such an unfulfilling experience watching his movies on their ipods.

Stacie Ponder said...

Ah, there we go. I hate to get all "these damn kids today" with regards to attention spans and/or what constitutes a "boring" movie, but to an extent it's really true- these damn kids today have no attention span, because they haven't had to have one. Technology and changing tastes have made everything, as Arbo suggested, about instant gratification.

I think with my one Franco experience, I was shocked at how tame it was, given the titles of his film and his rep as a bit of a sleazemeister. Or maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it, who knows? I certainly haven't had enough exposure to his work to have an informed opinion.

As a basically irrelevant personal aside- these damn kids today are going to fucking HATE my movie. :D

Nate Y. said...

I've been meaning to write a dissection of/tribute to Jesus Franco as the ultimate in ADD filmmakers. There are few great works in his oeuvre, but there's a certain bloody-mindedness needed to love that about him. I just happen to have said bloody-mindedness. There are moments, fleeting moments, when Franco's work embodies that age-old quote about bad movies becoming sublime -- these moments are worth trawling through his films for, so long as you know exactly what you're going to get out of it. Franco was a man who loved making movies, I think, but found filmmaking boring as balls. Had he just an ounce more concentration, his might be more widely celebrated -- or possible completely forgotten.

A small defense of Franco from someone not yet old enough to tell the kids to get off his lawn.

thomwade said...

Franco...he's the guy that directed Titanic, right?

I found the few I tried to watch a bit more beyond boring...and I loved the Assassination of Jesse James... which is all about slow movement in storytelling...so I would suggest that Franco's film promise much, deliver very little.

It may simply be that I have not seen the right stuff, specifically older stuff...I have seen a few from his later years, picked specifically for the humor that the titles and plots seemed to offer... (example Virgins among the dead or something-about four none virgins attacked by zombies.)

I guess I would have to see some of his older work before deciding everything he does sucks.

Arbogast said...

The thing I loved about Vampyros Lesbos was how Franco inverted the whole Gothic aesthetic, setting everything under the bright Continental sun, using seagulls instead of bats, fishing nets instead of cobwebs. That's vision. Sparkling vampires? I'm still not sure what that is.

Bill Walsh said...

Sign me up with the "get off my lawn, you damn punk kids," group. In my day, we had to WORK to find a picture of a naked woman! Nowadays, they're all downloading interracial midget orgy porn in middle school. Jaded little punks. I think I'll be moving my kids somewhere without electricity or cell-phone reception. What's FG's telex address, Stacie?

(Yes, TELEX! You punk kids! I actually once SAW a working Telex machine! I mean, it didn't really do much, as this was the fax era, but STILL! I was working in the same office as it's silent, but-still-plugged-in obsolesence!)

Will Errickson said...

Arbogast you nailed what I loved about Vampyros Lesbos: all the vampire trappings are turned inside-out. Why, the first time we see Soledad Miranda, she's sunbathing! So much for the creaky old coffin. I also had a similar experience in that I discovered this movie in an old vampire movie book in the late '80s, nearly two decades before I saw it. I mooned over the stills and posters, and have to say the movie was worth the wait. I also enjoyed Venus in Furs but not his Count Dracula.

Theron said...

Lesbian vampires!
Anyone that popularized that combination...well...umm, I got off task here.

Anyway, yeah, you kids with the interwebnet and its "nudity and sex on demand" feature, well, you're just spoiled. It's the simple pleasures in life that make it worth living, like a baby's laugh, a sunny spring day and, yes, lesbian vampires. But I digress...

Jeff McMahon said...

"But then I have a heart and a soul. I'm sorry all the previous posters have had such an unfulfilling experience watching his movies on their ipods."

Soo awesomely condescending! Thanks for that.

I've never seen a Franco movie that I thought was better than mediocre, but then I've only seen a tiny portion of them. The Awful Dr. Orlof was the only one I didn't think was super-boring.

D Hammontree said...

All this talk of fine European sensibilities and subverting genre conventions - in reference to an incredibly incompetent hack like Franco - has really started my day off with a much-needed dose of surreal humor.

"The Other", "The Innocents", and "Session 9" are slow and moody. Franco's crap is just stultifyingly dull. Franco is not the second coming of Francois Truffaut. Hell, he's not even Jose Larraz (or even Bob Guccione, for that matter). Some of you need to settle in with some nice Christina Lindberg flicks until that cartoon light-bulb appears over your head, complete with "ding!" sound effect.

Chicken Wire, the Harbinger of Heavenly Annotation said...

The few films I've seen sucked, sure, but I wouldn't go so far as to label him/them (or both) reprehensible.

John Seal said...

I've actually been watching all the Region 1 Franco DVDs in chronological order, but I'm only up to Justine (1969). The early horrors are well-made but predictable, I don't particularly care for the Red Lips or Fu Manchu films, The Girl from Rio is a pop art delight, and I ADORE Venus in Furs. As for Justine, I fell asleep before it was over...but maybe I was just really tired.

Arbogast said...

"The Other", "The Innocents", and "Session 9" are slow and moody. Franco's crap is just stultifyingly dull.

And I could just as easily find a blog that claims The Innocents and The Other (did you mean The Others) are stultifyingly dull as well. So ultimately using "exciting" and "dull" as talking points in a discussion is kind of pointless.

I should have stated earlier that you don't have to be ADD-challenged to dislike Franco. But it helps.

I also liked 99 Women and listened to the soundtrack the day my daughter was born (for obvious reasons, if you know the soundtrack).

Stacie Ponder said...

As a mostly irrelevant aside, I couldn't make it through The Other. I bought the book (though I've yet to read it) in the hopes that afterward, I'd be excited to try to finish the movie. Everyone seems to like it but me. :(

D Hammontree said...

@Abrogast - I'm sure you could find a blog claiming the Earth is flat, too. Go you!

Watch "The Other" sometime. Uta Hagen's performance inverts no genre somethingorother pretentious film-school hipster nonsenses, but gee, it sure is no "Orgy Of The Dead", so how good can it be, right?

D Hammontree said...

...and @Stacie - to each her own. I don't think you have to be "ADD-challenged" (?) not to like The Other.

But I think my main point is that discussing Franco's films without mentioning how dull and unerotic they are is like discussing chocolate chip cookies without ever mentioning their crunchy deliciousness. Of which there is plenty, is what I'm saying.

Arbogast said...

At some point in the arc of your interest in films, either professionally or just as an extension of your aesthetic, you have to deal with the questions "Is something good just because I like it?" and "Is something bad just because I don't like it." One of the things I appreciate about your reviews, Stacie, is their unapologetic diffidence when you just don't know how you feel. I've been in that territory a lot with Franco. One the one hand, I really enjoy how he throws narrative out the window in favor of a pure cinematic experience; on the other hand, if you're not on the same page as he is, it sure can be agonizing viewing. But the fact that I have been agonized in the past doesn't make me want to write him off as an artist. Is the ultimate worth of any work of art what's there in front of you while you're watching it? Or can some measure of worth be attributed to what you take away and think about later? Because I've spent as much time thinking about the mood and Ban de Soleil thanatos of Vampiros Lesbos as I have the Gothic ennui of The Haunting. In their own wildly different approaches to what we call story, they are both successful. To me, anyway. And not being able to answer any of these questions I've just posed definitively makes cinema such a good use of time.

Tasha said...

I wanna know why this mystery emailer is googling someone they despise! What were they hoping to discover? Or are they just the kind of person who likes to whip themselves into a rage-frenzy?

Arbogast said...

I wanna know why this mystery emailer is googling someone they despise!

The person wasn't just Googling Jess Franco but "Jess Franco" + "fucking sucks," meaning he or she was looking for other people who not only think the same way that he or she does but express themselves in a similar idiom.

Stacie Ponder said...

I just Googled it myself to see exactly what FG entry came up...it was the Sept 2009 archive- I posted a Jess Franco poster. I have no idea what post "fucking sucks" came from, although knowing my OWN oeuvre, it could be from one of hundreds.

The good news is, my site is now the #1 Google search for "'Jess Franco' + 'fucking sucks'", so the next person searching for it will drive my traffic through the cyber roof!

D Hammontree said...

In all seriousness, I just can't agree that "making a lasting impression" is sufficient to qualify someone as an "artist", much less a worthwhile or interesting artist. That allowance has been responsible for more pretentious, emperor's-new-clothes BS to be foisted on the world than is good for it.

By extension, I also can't agree that subjectivity is unlimited and unbounded by any aspect of reality. I certainly don't believe my own personal likes and dislikes are strictly determinitive of quality (as my love of trashy cinema and McDonald's cheeseburgers, and my visceral aversion to opera demonstrate). But a world where it can't be claimed with any degree of certainty whatsoever that Mozart was more talented than Paris Hilton is a world where everything is essentially meaningless.

I'm not going to say that no one can get anything out of Franco's work. Used chewing gum that you find on the floor at the mall probably still has some flavor in it, and you can invent all kinds of ways to interpret the experience, if you choose to. Saying that that validates the process is silly, and that's something that I wish more "art critics" understood. Me, I've seen every morsel of Lina Romay's gorgeous body, and I thank Franco for that. But even that blessing doesn't fool me into thinking he has any actual talent.

thomwade said...

Something that makes me chuckle in this debate is tat one of the big defenses of Franco-more so than his skill as a film maker it seems-is "It used to be hard to get to see naked girls!"

Not making judgement, merely made me smile. :)

Arbogast said...

And you used to have to poop in a wooden shed in the backyard and draw water from a pump! Strange but true.

Arbogast said...

Seriously (although everything I just wrote is true), the comment about the former rarity of readily available nudity and sexually adventurous material wasn't presented as a defense of Jess Franco, more of a contextualization. For a lot of us who came to Franco 20-30 years ago, it was a different world than those curious about his work today. It makes a difference.

Arbogast said...

And finally (I mean, for this sitting)...

I just can't agree that "making a lasting impression" is sufficient to qualify someone as an "artist"...

I'd be curious to hear your definition of artist.

That allowance has been responsible for more pretentious, emperor's-new-clothes BS to be foisted on the world than is good for it.

There isn't much that I like that isn't called pretentious by somebody. It seems as though you're really out to establish a definitive stamp for talent but you'll waste the better part of your life arguing for one. I don't think anybody would pitch you an argument that Paris Hilton is more talented than Mozart, yet Hilton's is a face more people could pick out of a line-up. Ultimately people like what they like, however they're browbeaten for liking it.

Chris O. said...

I haven't seen any of his other work, but I got a kick out of Vampyros Lesbos. Sure, it's basically the sensationalism of vampires through lesbians' boobs, but what the hell is wrong with that? I love both vampires and boobs, so, for me at least, it's a winning combo. Plus, nudie pics from the 60s and 70s are usually more raw and trashy than even their most low-budget contemporary counterparts, so that can be fun sometimes.

Like Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS, Vampyros Lesbos can be a great guilty pleasure. (Franco's work isn't nearly as demented or fun as Don Edmonds' masterpiece of trash and sleeze, however, at least judging from this one film.)

D Hammontree said...

Without belaboring things (too late, I know)...

There's a difference between "making an impression" and "making something worthwhile". Visibility is not the same thing as meaning. Loud music is not necessarily better the louder it is. True, very few people would argue Paris Hilton's merits relative to Mozart - but some people do argue (for instance) that Jess Franco has talent outside of getting beautiful women to be naked on camera. These arguments are in the same ballpark, which is why I brought up Hilton in the first place.

I also think it's a bit simplistic to suggest that "definitive" is the same thing as "not arbitrary", which is what I'm actually arguing. I've known a few people who are products of the art school, er, process, and they usually come out of it with definitions of "art" that are so broad as to be meaningless. If everything has artistic merit, then nothing does. Sure, people could pick Paris Hilton out of a lineup - but you seem to think that that means something. Which it doesn't. At all.

Finally, I'm not browbeating you for liking Franco, but for extolling his nonexistent artistic virtues. If you like him, go to town. But you yourself said that one shouldn't confuse one's personal tastes with quality.

Nate Y. said...

I'm going to echo Arbo here and ask what your definition of artist is, D Hammontree. I can appreciate that you don't find artistic merit in Franco, but some of us do -- inconsistent though he may be in applying it. There's rare beauty in how he works with (or defies) narrative and I can name a number of moments and sequences that I've found sublime (especially in Venus in Furs and the Diabolical Dr. Z).

I'd like to hear something more than "he's not an artist because he's not."

D Hammontree said...

Nate - I'll say right up front that it's entirely possible that, by complete chance, the dozen or so Franco films I've seen have all been on the "off" end of the scale, and that cruel Fate has cleverly kept Franco's genius hidden from me.

Defining "art" is a complicated and non-trivial enterprise, and I realize that it involves a high degree of subjectivity. But that's very different than the scope of the argument that I have been making; this isn't about my definition of art, but of all possible definitions of art, and their collective boundaries. I find it very telling that Franco is described as an "artist" only within a context in which everything is described as "art". My position has only ever been that this definition of "art" is bogus; any legitimate definition of "art" has to at least include the idea that art is a defineable thing. I think that this is blatantly obvious, and that's all I'm saying.

As for Franco's films in particular, all I've ever seen are pedestrian voyeurism, very clunky mise-en-scene, and scatterbrained narrative structure, unleavened by even the delusional loopiness of someone like Ed Wood. Sure, it's possible to interpret these things to be subtle eroticism and non-linear plotting (watch "Gozu" and "Naboer" sometime and you'll see what I mean). Me, when I watch Franco's films, I'm too busy contemplating suicide and the pointlessness of human existance to extend that kind of charity.

Grey said...

I've seen really dire Franco (Killer Barbys), really incredibly dull Franco (Mansion of the Living Dead), but I give him credit for something like Macumba Sexual.

It wasn't entirely clear to me what it was trying to say, but it was clearly trying to say something, and I like that. It actually had the sense of trying to make a personal statement. I mean, it was nonsense. But it nearly verged into Outsider nonsense, which has to be a good thing.