“If I must just choose the method of my demise, I choose…
Death By Cinema!” -Britt Rhuart
Day 22 – Dr. Orloff’s Monster
So, last year, I did a review of Jess Franco’s The Awful Dr. Orlof. Franco was a Spanish director who, through the weird production laws that were Generalissimo Fransisco Franco’s Spain, ended up making quite a few films in France (BTW, I am aware that Generalissimo Fransisco Franco is still dead). This was because Franco made exploitation films that exploited sex and violence.
As for The Awful Dr. Orlof, I really enjoyed it. It’s nowhere near a perfect film, but I would say it is at least good. For the second day in a row, I’m going to do the douche-y thing and quote my own review from last year, “The film is creepy, atmospheric, and pays tribute to many masters of cinema. While this is by no means the best film I’ve ever seen, or even the best exploitation film I’ve ever seen, it’s been a very nice surprise. I look forward to watching more by Franco. I don’t know if they’ll be anywhere near as good, but I’m curious. He doesn’t touch the masters in terms of overall quality, but pays enough of a tribute to be extremely pleasant. Like watching an art student’s copy of Monet’s Water Lilies, it doesn’t come close to the touch of the master, nor does it add anything to the original, it still provides a pretty picture.”
That being said, I know Franco (and a couple other directors) continued the Orlof(f) series. I’ll be looking at the second of the Orloff films, Dr. Orloff’s Monster. This one is also directed by Franco and actually does not feature the Awful doctor. Instead, it focuses on his follower, Dr. Jekyll (no relation), building a new monster. Some alternate titles of this film include The Secret of Dr. Orloff and The Mistresses of Dr. Jekyll. I don’t know if I have high hopes for this film, but I do have some hopes, so let’s check it out!
Random Thoughts While Watching the Film:
This film, like the one last year is in glorious black and white. Good, it leant to the atmosphere of the first one.
We open on a man lying diagonally on a bed, his head facing us, from above. It’s a cool shot, though it leads to a jump-cut. I dig the slow pull in and the shadows of the montage of people’s faces. Very creepy, though I think it goes on a couple shots too long and ends too abruptly.
In the credits, Franco is called Jess Frank. I guess this being a French film, they had to give him a more Franco name and… wait a minute.
We begin by seeing Dr. Orloff on his deathbed leaving Jekyll the Frankenstein-like monster they created. I guess Orloff is in this film, though I don’t know if it’s supposed to be the actual doctor, as in the rest of the films, he is played by Howard Vernon, plus the fact that Orloff is clearly alive through the rest of the films and much younger. So maybe this is supposed to take place at the end of the series? I dunno. BTW, in the French language version, he is just called Professor, so I don’t know that Franco intended this to be apart of the Orloff canon, nor do I think he thought much about the Orloff canon.But… aw, hell. I’ve done introduced him enough.
I’m gonna just watch the French version with subtitles, so I can see it how Franco actually intended it. For instance, the monster in French is called a robot.
I love the extreme close ups on Jekyll and Orloff during this scene. It’s very creepy, especially Orloff.
It’s kinda obscene seeing an old Gothic castle with power lines behind it.
Can I just say any time there’s silence in a film, so much so that we can hear the static of the original film stock, that kinda bugs me?
Here’s the Monster, looking very French in his black turtleneck. Seriously, they did a good job of putting him together. He only has a few scars around the jawline.
Here’s a girl doing a striptease in a French cafe. Jekyll uses a button to control the Monster (I guess he is robotic) to strangle her. Maybe it’s just because of the films I’ve seen this month, but I’ve seen way too many girls take their tops off lately… what am I saying?!? I will say this girl’s better looking then most of the others I’ve seen so far this month.
This tracking shot by the taxi is unusual for an exploitation film in that it’s decent cinematography. Really, there’s a good amount of solid cinematography in this flick thus far.
So this taxi driver, who’s hitting on Jekyll’s niece, offers to drive her to her uncle’s over 100 km away, which is… *has to look up this info on a metric converter, because American public schools suck*… about 62 miles! Who hits on a girl and offers to drive her 62 miles? What girl takes a guy up on that offer? I’m surprised this cab driver’s not pulling a Pepe LePew.
Actual translated quote: “I figured you’d go for a gloomy castle the way I go for Sophia Loren.” I know Sophia Loren is still a beautiful woman, but that really dates this film.
The taxi driver then offers to stay at a hotel in the area so he can call the girl and maybe ask her out. Okay, maybe my radar’s off, but ladies, creepy or romantic?
The low, tracking perspective shot of the castle as Jekyll’s niece is entering looks very nice. It’s quickly followed by a very nice high overhead shot inside the castle.
I looked it up on IMDb, but the niece’s name is Melissa, the taxi driver is Juan Manuel, the Monster is Andros, and Dr. Jekyll’s first name is Conrad. Really, Conrad? Forgive me for thinking it might be Henry.
Additionally, Jekyll has a sickly wife and a mistress. I guess the alternate title is accurate.
Through flashback audio, it’s shown Jekyll’s wife also had an affair, causing Jekyll to go a bit mad. I’m guessing he’s also the reason she’s sickly. The idea to tell that part of the story in audio while we see a shot of Jekyll driving head on is very cool.
I’m not judge of French songs, but this singer in the club ain’t bad.
Now that’s an interesting shot. We see the silhouette of two characters, though it’s just that they are unlit, in front of an image of Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp.
One thing I notice about Franco’s work is that he makes great use of negative space, at least in his early work.
So, it turns out Andros was the former lover of Jekyll’s wife.
Even though all the characters speak French in this, the film is supposed to take place in Austria. Also, on IMDb, it shows most of the actors (and Franco himself) are Spanish. A real European affair.
Great use of light, shadow, camera movement, and space as Melissa first sees Andros. Very reminiscent of a Universal horror film.
Here we see a woman bathing. Andros creeps on in, causing her to… faint?… as he goes down the stairs, hits her boyfriend… killing?… him. I dunno, this scene could have been told better.
The singer’s back and singing a pretty cool song about a woman who’s so sexy she’s horrifying. Unfortunately, the subtitles can’t translate all of it.
Aw, man, Andros just killed the singer! The young die good. I know what I said. The camera movements in following Andros and the singer are pretty decent.
This police inspector is a real douche. He’s insinuating pretty much everyone he talks to is the killer of the singer and being real goddamn pompous about it.
There are so many small aspects of French acting I’d like to mention in some of these performances, but I wouldn’t know how because the are small, subtle, numerous, and some are kinda weird.
The family, except Jekyll, are singing a Christmas carol who’s words seem to only include the words “Happy night, Christmas, Merry Christmas” over and over. No wonder Jekyll just left the room pissed.
I’ll tell you, I feel like I’m losing parts of the plot from time to time and I think it’s because I am watching it in French with subtitles. Plus there are a good amount of characters and subplots, most of which I’m not even commenting on.
So, the one Jekyll’s wife cheated on him with was his own brother, Michelle’s father, who Jekyll then killed with a scalpel. So, I guess Andros is Michelle’s father, who sees the resemblance of her mother in her.
Here’s a weird scene where Jekyll, his mistress, and others are tripping on… I guess opium? Maybe pot? I dunno.
Okay, so apparently all the women Andros is killing for Jekyll are Jekyll’s mistresses. There have been 3 deaths thus far. How much does this guy sleep around?
Andros comes in and scares Jekyll’s wife to death. I knew she was sickly, but dang…
Jekyll tries to kill Michelle, because she knows of the murder of her father. She is saved by Andros, who fights with Jekyll, eventually strangling him to death. Juan Manuel tries to shoot Andros, but gets a strangling for his trouble. Luckily, Michelle saves him.
The cops show up and chase Andros. He gets away and they convince Michelle to act as bait for him. Once again, the cinematography and use of light and shadows are fairly good.
They finally kill Andros by shooting him (it’s weird it hasn’t worked before…) and he dies, asking “Why?”
Overall, I liked this movie. I think I prefer The Awful Dr. Orloff, as it had a better story to it and wasn’t as confusing. However, I could easily have just been confused by the subtitles, which weren’t the best. The plot itself kind falls apart 2/3 of the way through, only picking up again in the last 5 minutes or so. There were also a couple too many subplots for my liking in an exploitation flick. That being said, the acting is pretty decent from Jekyll and Michelle particularly. The singer has a great voice. But once again, the star of this film is Franco himself as the cinematography and lighting are all top notch, at least for an exploitation film. Like I said, he’s not a master, but he knew how to mirror the masters well enough to make a solid film. And this absolutely was solid. Not great, but very watchable. I may try to watch one more Franco film before the month is out, likely one of his later films to see if he kept up the quality of his films.
Tomorrow, I’ll review Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound.