Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Jesús "Jess" Franco May 12, 1930 - April 2, 2013
Word came thru early this morning that Jess Franco passed away at age 82 from complications brought upon by a massive stroke which he suffered last week. Just to label him a "director" seems almost arbitrary as he served as various combinations of director, producer, scriptwriter, cameraman and actor on many of his films. IMDB lists about 200 titles to his credit, but in reality it probably far exceeds that number. He started working in film in the 1950's with his breakthrough being The Awful Dr. Orloff in 1962. Many of his films starred his companion/muse/collaborator Lina Romay who passed way last year on Feb. 15 from cancer at the way too early age of 57.
My first introduction to Jess was via the old big box Wizard videos from the 80's of his Eurocine work - Virgin Among the Living Dead , Oasis of the Zombies, Revenge in the House of Usher etc. and earlier in my life I have vague recollections of seeing his Count Dracula on late night TV (and most likely hating it). But then came that magical first issue of Video Watchdog from 1990 with the article "How To Read a Franco Film",then the trading & buying of hazy mutli/gen tapes with Greek subtitles and such and then came THE book - Obsession : The Films of Jess Franco by Lucas Balbo (still one of my most treasured film books). Now as I look on my DVD shelves (and now we even have Jess on blu !) I can see over 24 titles of his sitting there (with many more out there that I don't have).
At times in the 70's he made 12 movies in one year and was often working on four or more at a time, with his most recent film Al Pereira Vs. The Alligator Ladies having just been released in Spain and with this Jess had his first theatrical showing in almost 30 years (proving that he still had some tricks up his sleeve). He worked in every genre - horror, gothic horror, slasher, adventure, zombies, comedy, XXX..... and he's one of the few directors that I can always forgive people for hating. I like Franco and I admit he made a lot of crap in his time, but he was always a very personal & experimental filmmaker which made even his crap worth watching because you never knew what was coming next.
Years ago at a Chiller show I got the chance to see Jess & Lina as they were guests there. They seemed kind of mystified that all these people had shown up to see them and Lina told practically everyone that asked her to sign something that she had never been asked for an autograph before this time. Starting in 1972 Jess & Lina created an amazing body of work together - sometimes mystifying, sometimes beautiful, often unforgettable and more often then not you just had to say " what the.... ??" They will both be VERY missed. For an excellent Franco blog and a very nice tribute check out Tom Monell's I'm in a Jess Franco State of Mind .