JESS FRANCO MONTH: Death Whistles the Blues (1962) & Rififi in the City (1963)  

About the Author:  Sean Mitus grew up watching “Chiller Theater” & Pittsburgh UHF Channels and has been a drive-in enthusiast for the last eight years.  Sean enjoys all genres but has lately become fascinated with Italian horror, giallo and poliziotteschi films.

Want something different from Jesus “Jess” Franco’s eurosleaze/eurohorror filmography, well look no further than Severin Films’ wonderful two-in-one disc Franco Noir. The prolific career of Jess Franco, born Jesus Franco Manera, spanned seven decades from 1954 to 2013.  Franco’s early filmography fit with more traditional Spanish cinema showing an entertaining visual flair.

Shortly after he directed The Awful Dr. Orloff, Franco directed La Muerte Silba Un Blues AKA Death Whistles the Blues in 1962.  It was a spirited foray into the crime genre taking inspiration from Film Noir. Just one film later, Franco directed Rififi en la ciudad AKA Rififi in the City (connection to Jules Dassin‘s Rififi by the definition of rififi meaning trouble/violent conflict/a brutal show of force).  

Both films have the dramatic light and dark shading typical of film noir.  Death Whistles the Blues has creative camera moves in the opening scene with the death of a musician and fine tracking and crane shots throughout.  There’s also a fine action sequence with exciting staging and flashy editing.  Rififi in the City has even more use of noir dark and light contrast throughout.  Both films feature wonderful jazz scores with live performances that add flavor to the proceedings.

As for the story, all you need to know is Death Whistle the Blues deals with double-crosses and betrayals coming back to haunt some of the characters. Rififi in the City followed a dogged policeman setting out to avenge a confidential informant’s killer while those involved meet their deaths at the hands of a surprise killer.  

Do yourself a favor and check out Death Whistles the Blues and Rififi in the City for good examples of noir cinema from Jess Franco.  You won’t be disappointed!

You can get both of these movies in the Franco Noir set from Severin.


Franco Noir featurette by Stephen Thrower; Severin Blu-ray © 2021 

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