Archive for The Awful Dr Orloff

How Awful!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 19, 2008 by dcairns

One for the Jess Franco fans!

Franco first detailed the misadventures of demonic plastic surgeon Dr. Orloff in 1962, in GRITOS EN LA NICHE, better known as THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF. It’s a cheap ‘n’ nasty rip-off of Franju’s EYES WITHOUT A FACE, in which the titular mad scientist (American Swiss abroad Howard Vernon) is swiping the kissers of young girls to decorate the head-front of his mutilated daughter. Well, we’ve all done it.

Totally lacking the pop-surrealist poetry of the Franju classic, Franco’s film is nevertheless atmospherically shot in black-and-white, with noirish lighting effects, wide angle lens distortion, and nice tracking shots. It’s very different from the modernist noodling of later Franco breast-fests like VAMPYROS LESBOS. He leaves the zoom lens in the box this time.

Vernon’s mad scientist romped bloodily through numerous sequels by Franco and others, making him poor cousin to horror staples like Dracula and Frankenstein. He seems to have been treated as a copyright-free myth from the off, so that anybody can use him if they feel like it. His last outing, still played by Vernon, was in the glossy, cheesy, and appallingly nasty FACELESS, where he lurks in the background, allowing Helmut Berger to dominate the procedings, peeling one victim’s face off and SHOWING IT TO HER. Despite the always-ludicrous presence of Telly Savalas, Chris Mitchum, Anton Diffring and Caroline Munro (and Stephanie Audran! WTF?), the movie keeps slipping out of the realms of camp, into more upsetting territory. If you’re going to see it, turn the hot water on first. You’ll need it.

Anyhow, go HERE. Just when I was speculating what Victor Frankenstein might be getting up to nowadays! It makes perfect sense that Orloff, or maybe the SON OF ORLOFF, would wind up in such circs.


The Chills #6: Release the hounds

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2008 by dcairns

Major spoiler alert: This is THE END OF THE MOVIE!


Taken me AGES to get to this one, but it’s a goody! Matthew McConkey says:

Another Francophile suggestion from me, but this time an ending rather than opening: The final scene of EYES WITHOUT A FACE.

Without having some other examples of Chills to refer to I might have missed the point a little, but the first thing I thought of was chills as in a “chiller film”. Then I re-read the words “beauty” and “otherness” in your description and realised I’d misinterpreted you. But to me horror + beauty + otherness = the end of Eyes Without A Face.

Franju pretty much was the champion in exploring that ambiguity by combining “horror chills” with “beauty chills” and the serenity of Christiane stopping to release the birds amid the carnage going on always manages to raise the hairs on my neck and send a shiver down my spine.

That’s a textbook example of The Chills right there. Georges Franju’s surgical romance played at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1959, where women screamed and strong men fainted. “Now I understand why Scotsmen wear skirts,” remarked the director.

Nevertheless Franju, who had previously investigated bloody slaughter in the poetic documentary LE SANG DES BETES, served up more bodily mutilation than audiences were used to seeing at the time, and in a manner that was both clinical and beautiful. Too methodically slow to really function as a thriller, the film defies categorisation, except that which Franju himself offered:

“It’s an anguish film. It’s a quieter mood than horror, something more subjacent, more internal, more penetrating. It’s horror in homeopathic doses.”

The Face on the Cutting Room Floor

Hugely influential, the film kickstarted Jesus Franco’s career, with THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF starting a series featuring Howard Vernon’s mad plastic surgeon, and other face transplant sagas like FACE / OFF following in due course.

I was even mixed up with one myself, a feature script written by my partner Fiona, MIRROR MIRROR, which attracted European Script Fund money but then never got made, partly I think because people couldn’t understand the principle that, like Franju’s classic, it was a fairy tale.