For their inaugural release, the indie DVD label Intervision Picture Corp. have done what few would dare to do: expose the entire semi-civilized world to a couple of mind-numbingly deranged psychological b-thrillers from Spain’s one and only Jesús “Jess” Franco. Although the titles — The Sinister Eyes Of Dr. Orloff (1973) and Paula-Paula (2010) — represent two entirely different periods from the director’s 50-year-plus career, they may not necessarily characterize the finest examples of the eccentric Spaniard’s filmmaking style which has earned him a large cult following around the world. But, then again, these two flicks very well may be Franco at his best — since even the most diehard of bad movie lovers run and hide at the very mention of his name!
Our journey into the most remote of Euro-sleaze oddities begins with The Sinister Eyes Of Dr. Orloff, one of many sequels to Franco’s hit The Awful Dr. Orlof(f) from 1961 (yes, he had a hit). The film also serves as a remake of Franco’s own Nightmares Come At Night (1970) — but, no matter how you slice this one, it’s still a turkey.
Here, William Berger takes over the role of Dr. Orloff from the great Howard Vernon (who is sorely missed), presenting the character as a psychiatrist this time ‘round as opposed to a deranged surgeon (the character was almost always different in whichever movie he was in). Orloff gets called in to examine a poor young lass named Melissa, who may or may not be loco. Throughout the entire movie, Melissa has a lot of nasty visions (or are they real?), and the few audience members that are brave enough to try to comprehend this ball of confusion will probably try to pull their eyes out.
Speaking of pulling your eyes out, try focusing your orbs on the Jesús’ 2010 erotic mess-terpiece, Paula-Paula. Sub-titled “An Audiovisual Experience,” Franco’s newest contribution to the world of cheese ‘n’ sleaze centers (?) on a stripper named Paula, who is institutionalized for the murder of another girl named Paula (once Franco thinks of a name for one female character, he uses it for all of his female characters).
Utilizing special effects that even the most whacked-out of aging hippies would shake their head in shame over, Paula-Paula takes its viewers on a baffling journey into the world of sordidness, boobies, and Franco’s typical “plot-be-damned!” method of storytelling. Basically, the movies serves as another excuse for Franco to show us some lesbian sex (note: I’m not complaining), and hardcore (heh) Francophiles will enjoy seeing Jesús’ long-time partner/muse Lina Romay onscreen once again (although I doubt either party will ever really “retire” so long as the other’s alive and kicking’).
Other than that, Paula-Paula is probably just about as interesting as The Sinister Eyes Of Dr. Orloff — and, as I said before, this could either be Franco at his unqualified best or his absolute worst. You can be the judge on that one, kids.
The Sinister Eyes Of Dr. Orloff is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio, with one of the most unintentionally-memorable transfers in recent memory. The print — which was culled from a video source (the only one available, reportedly) — is rather blurry, grainy, and very much akin to an old VHS transfer. While it may displease some of the perfectionists out there, some Franco fans may actually feel like they’ve stepped back in time and picked up a new release from the now-cult label of Wizard Video (Intervision Picture Corp. even has a delightful logo that is made to look like it’s from an old videocassette). Paula-Paula, on the other hand, boasts a far better print. The digital video transfer displays the film in an anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen ratio and is a marked improvement over the former title.
Both titles feature Spanish-language audio tracks only, with English subtitles accompanying. Occasionally, you may feel that the effects of Franco’s filmmaking are taking their toll on you, and that you have lost the ability to comprehend the already-complex world of the English language. Rest assured that, at least 99% of the time, you will actually be noticing that Intervision’s subtitles contain their fair share of grammatical errors; while the other 1% of the time, you probably are experiencing the symptoms of a Franco flick.
While it would have been very easy for Intervision to press two movies onto disc and leave it at that, the company’s founder, Mr. Larry Gold, Sr., is a pal of Señor Franco. And so, Larry has included several, newly-recorded exclusive featurettes with the aging 2009 Honorary Goya Award winning director, who is now in his late ‘70s and still smoking like he’s a teenager. The Sinister Eyes Of Dr. Orloff contains a lengthy 18-minute interview with Franco entitled “The Sinister Origins Of Dr. Orloff,” wherein he vividly recollects the entire project. For Paula-Paula Gold and Intervision have included an intro with Franco, as well as two additional extras: “Jess Franco On Contemporary Filmmaking,” and “Jess Franco On Paula-Paula.”
And so, while Intervision Picture Corp.’s first two releases may have many of his loyal followers jumping up and down with joy, the rest of the world will no doubt wonder “What did we do to deserve a double-dose of Jesús Franco?” Well, kids, it matters not — because they’re here just the same.
Enjoy. If you dare (or can).