JESS FRANCO MONTH: Le journal intime d’une nymphomane (1973)

Linda Vargas (Montserrat Prous) works a showgirl number with Maria Toledano (Kali Hansa, The Night of the Sorcerers) before picking up Ortiz (Manuel Pereiro), seducing him, calling the cops and killing herself by slicing her own throat, which implicates him in her murder.

His wife, Rosa (Jacqueline Laurent) attempts to learn the truth and discovers from Countess Anna de Monterey (Anne Libert, The DemonsA Virgin Among the Living Dead) that her husband assaulted Linda when she was just a young girl, going from drugs to, well, the title is Sinner: The Secret Diary of a Nymphomaniac, so you can guess the rest.

Made after the death of Soledad Miranda and before Franco would fall for Lina Romay, this comes from the more serious side of Jess Franco, feeling like it was inspired by the structure of Citizen Kane, which makes sense more than the absolutely formless movies he’d make later in his career.

The worst thing is that Jacqueline Laurent was fired from her position as a drama teacher at a private high school because of this film. Her students learned that she had appeared nude in this film — made 39 years before — and the school’s administration claimed that this and other erotic thrillers made in the sixties and seventies posed a distraction.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: La maldición de Frankenstein (1973)

After the death of Victor Frankenstein (Dennis Price) at the hands of perhaps immortal mystic wizard Cagliostro (Howard Vernon) and Melissa, his blood-thirsty blind bird woman (Anne Libert), the metallic monster of Frankenstein is torn between his master’s killer and the daughter who has inherited his mantle, Dr. Vera Frankenstein (Beatriz Savon).

Shot in the same time and place as Dracula, Prisoner Of Frankenstein — Franco reminds me of the friend that invites you to help him move, offers pizza and beer, and then also asks you to install all his new appliances and oh yeah, can you fix the hot water heater and help me paint while you’re here — this is the kind of movie where the villains power their plans with the whipped bodies of the young and beautiful because, well, they’re perfectly willing to admit that along with their evil aims that they have no shame in enjoying a little bit of violence — actually a lot — with their sex.

The plan is to find a mate for the monster and the perfect person may be village mystic Madame Orloff (Britt Nichols AKA Carmen Yazalde), but the chivalrous Dr. Seward hopes to save the day. This being a Franco movie, I don’t see that happening.

So many questions, like why Frankenstein is painted silver; why Cagliostro has the polymath power sheet of being near-eternal, a mentalist, a maker of human-animal hybrids, a lover of BDSM and orgies, and hypnotism, making him the kind of supervillain that Alex Jones might believe is a real person; and if this is the movie Franco saw in his head when he watched Universal and Hammer movies, because now I can’t unsee it when I watch those movies.

You can watch this on KinoCult.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: The Demons (1973)

“Let The Exorcist beware, The Demons are here!”

One can only imagine that Jess Franco sat in a theater as Ken Russell’s The Devils ended and thought to himself, “But where’s the sex? I want more of it. I demand more of it!

After watching a witch burn, we meet two nuns in a convent, the virginal Margaret (Britt Nichols AKA Carmen Yazalde, who appears in The Erotic Rights of FrankensteinA Virgin Among the Living Dead and is sacrificed in Tombs of the Blind Dead) and her more sex-obsessed sister Kathleen (Anne Libert, House of 1000 Pleasures and Sins of the Flesh).

A rich woman named Lady De Winter (Karin Field, Target Frankie and Return of Shanghai Joe) believes that Kathleen is possessed by Satan and that the two are the daughters of that blackened witch, so she puts her top man, Thomas Renfield (Alberto Dalbés, A Quiet Place to Kill and Espionage In Tangiers) after her. Of course, he falls in love and lets her escape. And even when Inquisitor Lord Justice Jeffreys (Cihangir Gaffari, Dick Turpin and Bloodsport) gives him another chance, Renfield runs back to her and the two are soon tortured into near oblivion.

Meanwhile, Satan himself appears in the convent and assaults Margaret, replacing her innocence with an overwhelming desire to punish anyone who harmed her mother or sister, starting with Lady De Winter, often by kissing them into skeletons. You know, no one loves female revenge more than Jess Franco and he’s going all out here, with Margaret seducing her Mother Superior right into suicide and then leaving no man or woman safe from her vengeance.

This is one of the more gorgeous films Franco would make — it was shot by Raul Artigot (The Ghost GalleonThe Cannibal ManThe Pyjama Girl Case) — and he makes great use of his budget. And he lives up to those dreams of a movie that somehow answers, “What if Witchfinder General was more about lesbians?”

You can watch this on KinoCult.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Tendre et perverse Emanuelle (1973)

There have been so many Emanuelle movies by so many of my favorite disreputable filmmakers, from Just Jaeckin’s original in 1974 to Joe D’Amato’s always entertaining Black Emanuelle films with Laura Gemser to science fiction takes such as Emmanuelle in Space and Emmanuelle Through Time, as  well as two by Franco, this one and Emmanuelle Exposed.

The original film was so popular — even in the U.S. where the tagline said “X was never like this” and it was sold as a highbrow movie — that a theater on the Champs-Elysees in Paris played it for 13 years.

So how wild that this Franco movie uses Emanuelle in the title a year before Jaeckin made his adaption of the 1959 of the Emmanuelle Arsan book (born Marayat Bibidh, there’s a theory that her husband Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane wrote the book; nevertheless she was an adventurous woman given to affairs much like the story she may have written and she and Louis-Jacques eventually settled down to a retirement home named Chantelouve d’Emmanuelle in a triad relationship with his former secretary Nitya Phenkun for nearly twenty years).

Of course, the name was changed to cash in on the success of Jaeckin’s film and this is just as much a murder mystery or even a giallo compared to a softcore movie, but it’s most importantly a Jess Franco film, which means that it’s packed with the strange affectations that are so distracting at first and become so welcome the more of his movies you unspool.

Shot at the same time and in some of the same locations as A Virgin Among the Living Dead, it tells the story of Emanuelle (or Barbara), played by Norma Kastel from The Fish With the Eyes of Gold, She’s found at the bottom of a cliff and the film follows the investigation into her death, which is mourned by a series of lovers of both sexes.

That mourning includes lots (and lots) of sex between the cast members, who include Alice Arno (who would be the actress conducting the insert graveyard orgy that Franco didn’t direct in A Virgin Among the Living Dead) and, in her second Franco film, his lifelong obsession Lina Romay, who is so cool that she has a sapphic scene so volcanic that she forgets to take her glasses off, which speaks to me in a way that I don’t have words.

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1970s Collection: The Last Detail (1973)

Navy lifers Signalman First Class Billy “Badass” Buddusky (Jack Nicholson) and Gunner’s Mate First Class Richard “Mule” Mulhall (Otis Young) have been given orders they’re not happy with: escorting Seaman Larry Meadows (Randy Quaid) to Portsmouth Naval Prison so he can serve eight years in the brig for stealing $40 from a charity fund.

They have a week to get him from Virginia to Maine and if they fail, they will be kicked out of the Navy, losing all of their benefits, pay and pension.

A funny thing happens. They end up liking the kid and decide to show him a good time before giving him over to serve his sentence. What follows are several episodes in their journey, like Meadows trying to see his mother one last time, ice skating, a bar brawl, an encounter with Buddhists at a party, paying (twice) for Meadows first sexual experience and finally taking him in.

With a cast that includes Nancy Allen, Gilda Radner, Luana Anders, Clifton James (Cool Hand Luke and Sheriff J.W. Pepper in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun), Carol Kane and Michael Moriarty, I’m left wondering, did I cast this movie?

When Robert Towne wrote the script, he ended up facing a Hollywood that didn’t understand all of the profanity. Then again, there were 342 f words in the first five minutes. Once Jack Nicholson became a star, it became easier to get made, and the actor brought director Hal Ashby on board. The production stalled for a year and a half while the star made The King of Marvin Gardens, with Columbia Pictures’ Peter Guber wanting the team to move on and make it with Burt Reynolds, Jim Brown and David Cassidy. Luckily, everyone — including producer Gerry Ayres — stuck together, even when Ashby had a marijuana bust in Canada. Sadly, the script had been written for Nicholson and Rupert Crosse, who died from cancer before the movie could be made.

Still, Columbia was unhappy with how long the movie took to edit and how much profanity remained in the final cut. They wanted 26 lines to be cut and at the end, there were 65 uses of the f word, breaking records for swearing. Ashby talked Columbia into previewing the movie for a real audience to see how they would react and they loved it. And then when Nicholson won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, they finally did a limited release of the film.

The actor said, “I like the idea of winning at Cannes with The Last Detail, but not getting our own Academy Award hurt real bad. I did it in that movie, that was my best role.”

Through the Decades: 1970s Collection is new from Mill Creek. It also has A Walk In the Spring Rain, DollarsFun With Dick and JaneThe Owl and PussycatFor Pete’s Sake, The Anderson TapesThe HorsemenThe Stone KillerBrother John and Gumshoe. You can learn more on their site and order it from Deep Discount.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff (1973)

Melissa (Montserrat Prous) is paralyzed and has also been dealing with nightmares of a man (Franco) who may be her father. Is she going insane? Or does she just need a new doctor’s help? Well, seeing as how this movie is called The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff, I’d say that Dr. Orloff (William Berger) is the villain of this piece.

I mean, seeing as how he quickly tells Melissa that her entire family is bonkers and that he was in love with her mother — also named Melissa — and had a daughter — also also named Melissa — and that he knows that original Melissa’s dad was killed by a perfect crime, which seems like strange bedside manner.

And yet at night, Melissa can walk. And kill. And continue losing her sanity.

Franco made this movie so many times that I get confused, but you know, I kind of enjoy being dumbfounded by his movies, like how this revenge plot by Orloff is so needlessly complicated and that he goes all movie serial villain and has two long speeches where he explains what he’s going to do. And you know, that’s the mark of a bad guy who cares.

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1970s Collection: The Stone Killer (1973)

Between The Mechanic, this movie and Death Wish, Michael Winner and Charles Bronson were firing on all cylinders in the early 70s*. Based on A Complete State of Death by John Gardner — a book with a message that was, of course, made into a Michael Winner movie — there are so many car crashes at the end of the film that Hertz Rental came back in a huff to reclaim their cars, met by an angry Winner who yelled, “You should be glad we’re crashing your fucking awful cars. You’ll be able to write them off completely and get nice new ones.”

I love the reviews for this movie, that mostly say things like, “I don’t want to admit that I like a Michael Winner movie.”

Back in 1931, an event called The Night of Sicilian Vespers saw the murder of several mob leaders and Al Vescari (Martin Balsam) hasn’t forgotten. He sets up a plan to get revenge forty years or more later by killing off every Italian and Jewish leader across the country by using “stone killers,” or non-mob-affiliated hitmen. His plan? Hire Vietnam vets to do the work.

Detective Lou Torrey (Bronson) is a New York cop who figures out that a killing is an inside job after taking a witness to Los Angeles and having him killed nearly on arrival. He starts to look deeper and begins to discover exactly what’s going on, but is it too late to stop the plan?

Released in the wake of Dirty Harry, this was sold with the tagline “Take away his badge and he’d top the Ten Most Wanted list!” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I worry about the militarization of our police force and the issues of police brutality, but when it comes to movies, I’m all about cops breaking the rules and getting the job done. That said, Bronson’s character is incredibly open about the “white walls” of society and rebuking racism on the force.

This has a great supporting cast, including David Sheiner (Oscar’s accountant and poker buddy in The Odd Couple), Norman Fell (as the leader of the police force; he’d reunite with one of the younger cops in this, John Ritter, on Three’s Company), Ralph Waite (who was John Walton Sr. on The Waltons and ran against Sonny Bono once and his wife twice for a seat in the California senate), Paul Koslo (who told Shock Cinema “My first day on the set, I sat in his (Bronson’s) chair. The first joke I ever told him was “Hey, Charlie, did you hear the one about the Polish actor?” He said, “No, what?” I said, “Charles Buchinsky!” “Do you think that’s funny?!” Being Polish myself, I thought it was hilarious, but it went over like a lead balloon with Charlie. He’s really Polish, that guy!”), Stuart Margolin (The Rockford Files) and Jack Colvin (who would go on to be one of my most hated characters ever, Jack MgGee, the man who ruined Dr. David Bruce Banner’s life on The Incredible Hulk).

If you’re someone that’s only seen movies from this century and need a warning on your movies, here’s one: this is a Michael Winner movie. Go in with that knowledge.

*Before this, they’d make Chato’s Land and also made Death Wish 2 and Death Wish 3 together.

Through the Decades: 1970s Collection is new from Mill Creek. It also has A Walk In the Spring Rain, DollarsFun With Dick and JaneThe Owl and PussycatFor Pete’s Sake, The Anderson TapesThe Horsemen, Brother John, Gumshoe and The Last Detail. You can learn more on their site and order it from Deep Discount.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973)

Originally filmed as La nuit des étoiles filantes (The Night of the Shooting Stars), Jess Franco felt that this movie was one of his favorites and he even appears as Basilio, a man who wanders the movie speaking to a chicken’s head, and his wife Nicole Guettard is also on hand as a nurse.

But then, remixes started happening that had nothing to do with the original work Franco created.

It was released twice — as Christina, Princess of Eroticism in 1973 and in Italy in 1978 as The Erotic Dreams of Christine, both versions cwith  porn inserts directed by Pierre Querut — before Jean Rollin was hired to shoot zombie footage, the porn inserts removed and a new title A Virgin Among the Living Dead.

Christina von Blanc (The Dead Are Alive) is Christina Benson, who has come to Europe for the reading of her father’s (Paul Muller, a Franco regular) will. Soon learning that her relatives — like Howard Vernon as Uncle Howard — are all the living dead, she sees them as a way to avoid her loneliness and invites them to stay. But her father committed suicide, so the Queen of the Night (Anne Libert, The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein) owns his soul forever unless she can save him.

You know how Lisa and the Devil has another world that takes over our own? Franco does that here but, being Franco, it’s filled with zooms, nudity and a gigantic phallus that all live in their own world, a place where things like logic, pace and common sense are cast aside much like the clothing of his actresses.

We should all commit to the joys of walking into the ghostly swamp.

You can watch this on Kino Cult.

A Virgin Among the Living Dead is also on the ARROW PLAYER. Head over to ARROW to start your 30-day free trial. Subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly. ARROW is available in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices, Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.

Golgo 13 (1973)

Filmed almost entirely in the Imperial State of Iran, with an almost entirely Persian supporting cast, the first live action adventure of Duke Togo — Golgo 13 — stars Ken Takakura, considered the Clint Eastwood of Japanese film.

The world’s best killer, Golgo 13 has been recruited to kill Max Boa, who leads a worldwide crime syndicate responsible for most of the drugs, weapons and human trafficking everywhere. This takes him to the Middle East and as you may — or may not — know, Golgo 13 never fails an assignment. He also has a samurai code about his assignments, only meeting clients once and only doing one job for them. They must also be honest about why they’ve hired him and no double-crosses will be forgotten or forgiven.

As for his name, it supposedly was his nickname in a West German workcamp that references Golgotha, the skull place on which Jesus Christ was crucified as well as the thirteenth disciple, Judas. His logo has a skeleton wearing a crown of thorns, so that seems to make sense.

For as wild as the series gets, this movie is pretty basic. I mean, it’s solid, but I expect more lunacy out of Golgo 13. Luckily, the anime movies get it exactly right.

CURTIS HARRINGTON WEEK: The Killing Kind (1973)

Terry (John Savage, The Deer Hunter) was forced to participate in a gang assault and served two years in prison, losing his sanity. His mother Thelma (Ann Sothern, so many roles, but also the titular voice of My Mother the Car) runs a boarding house for old women who all gossip about the strange nature of their relationship; if you didn’t know the truth, you would think they were a married couple, not a son and his mother.

Thelma wishes that the victim of the assault, Tina (Sue Bernard, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) was dead. So Terry runs her off the road. He hears how his attorney Rhea Benson (Ruth Roman, whose slate of movies in the early 70s was absolutely wild between this, The Baby and Impulse) didn’t protect him enough, so he kills her too. He even kills new tenant Lori (Cindy Williams, who was commuting between the set of this film and The Conversation) and they move the body out in full view of their suspicious neighbor Lori (Luana Anders, Night Tide).

Speaking of that librarian next door, that same character shows up in 1980s The Attic, which was also written by Tony Crechales and George Edwards.

Also, to those that worry about cat murder, yes — a cat does die in this. It was a real cat in that scene, but it was sedated by a vet. The one in the dumpster is an actual euthanized cat, but it was not killed for this production.

Sadly, this movie had poor distribution and was lost for a few years. How exciting is it that we live in a world where films get found and we can find them ourselves so easily?

You can watch this on Tubi.