A look at one of Jess Franco’s most fascinating and personal movies

It’s gratifying the level of admiration that global cinema culture now has for Spanish sleaze architect Jesus “Jess” Franco. And while it’s a shame that more of that adoration and intellectual dissection of his work didn’t thrive more prominently when he was among the living, it’s still wonderful that so many learned, passionate writers, thinkers and daring dark film lovers spend so much time talking about him.  And so they should. In the annals of film history, I cannot think of a more fascinating figure than Franco, not just because of the sheer volume of movies he made (over 200 that we know of) but because he was so driven and dictated by his obsessive need to make them. Here was a man who truly lived to make pictures, in some ways because he made pictures to live.

Continue reading “On THE SADIST OF NOTRE DAME”


A look at Jess Franco’s trailblazing 1969 women-in-prison film

Though we cannot fully credit director Jess Franco and his frequent producer Harry Alan Towers with inventing the horror/exploitation film subgenre known as the “women in prison” movie (or WIP for short), we can certainly credit them for defining the parameters of what people now expect from it. Since the dawn of cinema, Hollyweird has reveled in stories of lovely lasses crammed into confined spaces and confronted with dehumanization and worse (my favorite proto-WIP flick is 1950s tawdry and charming Caged), but Franco blended that barbarity with the sort of salaciousness audiences were hungering for in their downmarket cinema; the resulting opus was 1969’s 99 Women, a rough and tough and super-sexual trash classic that kicked into high gear our obsession with girls getting sent upstate and, despite the indignities they are subjected to, always finding time for a bit of sweaty, illicit same-sex coupling. Simply put, no 99 Women, no Orange Is the New Black.

Continue reading “On 99 WOMEN”