Jess Franco, R.I.P.

Tim Lucas is reporting that Spanish filmmaker Jesús “Jess” Franco passed away this morning at the age of 82.

Along with Jean Rollin, who passed away recently as well, Franco was one of the major European cult film directors of the ’70s and ’80s. And like Rollin, he made a ton of cheap, shitty movies. He directed something like 200 of them since his first short in 1957, often helming four, five, six different films in a single calendar year. He was a workman, and to his credit he was directing right up until his death. According to IMDB, his final completed film is the 2012 Al Pereira vs. the Alligator Ladies. From the title, I can only imagine how terrible it is.

Yes, Franco made shitty movies, and I mean him no disrespect by saying that. When you make six movies a year, not all of them are going to be good. In fact, most won’t be. 1982’s Oasis of the Zombies, about Nazi zombies guarding a lost shipment of gold in the desert outside Tripoli, is unwatchable. 1973’s Female Vampire is nothing but a wank film with only the slightest hint of a plot involving a perpetually naked vampire, played by Franco’s wife and muse Lina Romay, who kills her victims through oral sex. You read that right. Of course, the whole movie isn’t like that. At other times, the film is more concerned with showing Romay masturbate on a bed or in a bathtub. Jess Franco, everyone.

But even the shittiest filmmakers can strike gold on occasion, and in my opinion Franco did it with two films that are surprisingly strong on atmosphere and style. One is 1973’s A Virgin Among the Living Dead. Despite its title, this is a ghost story, not a zombie movie (though additional footage was added to an alternate version of the film to turn it into a zombie movie for no good reason). The story follows Christina, who returns to her family’s castle in their remote, ancestral village for the reading of her father’s will. But her family is acting weird and performing strange rituals, and her father keeps showing up, and the specter of death is hanging around in the form of a bare-breasted (of course) woman in black. Eventually, Christina figures out that all her family members are ghosts now, and they expect her to join them in death. After a big orgy, of course, because this is still a Jess Franco flick, duh.

The other is perhaps the film Franco is best known for: 1971’s Vampyros Lesbos (pictured above), an extremely stylish and accomplished (for Franco) film with a title so embarrassing to mention to video store clerks that you’ll never be gladder for the relative anonymity of Netflix. Its lounge-jazz soundtrack may be more famous than anything that happens in the movie, as evidenced by part of it being used in the score for Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. Anyway, in this one, sexually frustrated lawyer Linda travels to a small island off the coast of Turkey to help Countess Carody with a real estate inheritance from Count Dracula (eye roll!). The Countess takes a fancy to Linda, seduces her and drinks her blood, and then releases her with no memory of what happened, except for some strange dreams. Then a local doctor figures out what’s going on teaches Linda to defend herself against the Countess, only Linda isn’t exactly sure she wants to because hubba hubba. It’s sleazy, yes, but also hallucinatory and sensual and kind of a masterpiece in its own right. It’s hard to believe Jess Franco made it.

On a side note, I got to meet Franco and Romay briefly in, I think, 2000 at a convention in Chicago. Conversation was difficult, English wasn’t a first language for either of them, but I was excited to shake their hands. After Romay passed away in February of 2012, everyone who knew them knew Franco wouldn’t last long without her. It seems they were right. Just over a year later, he’s gone to join the woman who helped define almost every aspect of his life.

Franco may have been more of a prolific filmmaker than a great one, but there’s no denying his lasting legacy on European cult cinema. And after directing 200 movies, he’s definitely earned his rest.

An Important Press Release

You guys, I’m so excited to share this with you! Please read the press release below:

 

Amazon.com to Acquire Nicholas Kaufmann

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–April 1, 2013– Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) today announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire Nicholas Kaufmann (NASDAQ: TATRTOTS) — known to his friends and family as Nick — a pudgy, middle-aged Brooklyn, NY man known for occasionally reading books and talking about them with other people.

“Amazon and Nick share a passion for many similar things, including reading, eating tater tots, and watching How I Met Your Mother, ” said Russ Grandinetti, Amazon Vice President, Kindle Content. “Most importantly, Nick has helped change how we discover and discuss books by occasionally mentioning them on his blog or in person to his circle of literally eight or nine friends. They always said you can’t buy that kind of exposure, but you can, and we did. Not only was it the right synergistic next step for Amazon, but it was also incredibly economical, as Nick agreed to be paid in tater tots.”

“I love tater tots,” said Kaufmann. “So it’s not like I was going to say no, right?”

Following the acquisition, Kaufmann will remain in Brooklyn, though a loading dock has been added to his apartment building to make the daily tater tot truck deliveries more convenient. In return, Kaufmann will continue to casually mention books to people when the mood strikes him. “Sometimes I talk about Doctor Who instead,” Kaufmann said. “Amazon is okay with that because they sell the DVDs, too.” Founded in 1969, Kaufmann now has more than 44 years under his belt as an avid reader and eater of tater tots. Over just the past 90 days, Kaufmann has read a book and a half, and eaten on average more than four tater tots per second.

“Sometimes I think being acquired by Heinz ketchup would be pretty good next step,” Kaufmann said. “My mouth is kind of dry right now.”

Subject to various closing conditions, including a rumored pre-release season 8 boxed set of How I Met Your Mother, the acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of 2013. For more details, see the post on Amazon’s blog.

 

 

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