No filmmaker could ever dream of matching, let alone surpassing, the extraordinary prolific output of Spain’s Jess Franco. From his directing debut in 1959 with “Tenemos 18 Años” to the recently completed “Killer Barbies,” the 71-year-old director/producer/writer/cinematographer/editor/actor Franco has created more than 175 feature films…and he shows no signs of stopping.
Any fan of low-budget, high-imagination films will celebrate Franco, who created such underground classics as “The Awful Dr. Orloff” (1964), “Attack of the Robots” (1966), “The Blood of Fu Manchu” (1968), “Justine” (1969), “Vampyros Lesbos” (1970), and “Barbed Wire Dolls” (1975). Yet keeping track of Jess Franco’s work has been something of a challenge. For starters, many of his films carry pseudonymous credits, so a complete filmography runs the risk of missing a title or two. Also, many of his films carry a multitude of titles: consider the 1973 “Les Avaleuses,” which has been released in the Anglophonic world as “Bare Breasted Countess,” “Erotic Kill,” “Female Vampire,” “Insatiable Lust,” “The Last Thrill,” “The Loves of Irina,” “Sicarius–The Midnight Party” and “Yacula.” This obviously takes recycling to a whole new ecological level.
Furthermore, many of Franco’s films have been out of circulation for too long. Disruptions in theatrical exhibition channels killed off the drive-in/grindhouse circuits which featured his work during the 1960s and 1970s, and television channels often refuse to consider his work due to the extremity of its contents. Fortunately, several of his most recent features which never had a U.S. release before–“Blind Target,” “Jess Franco’s Incubus”, “Vampire Blues” and “Mari-Cookie and the Killer Tarantula” (also known as “Eight Legs to Love You”)–are enjoying U.S. home video distribution courtesy of Sub Rosa Studios (www.b-movie.com).
While universally beloved for his forays into horror, science fiction and erotica, Franco also enjoys a unique place in the world of art films as the second unit director for Orson Welles on the 1967 masterpiece “Chimes at Midnight.” Franco was also responsible for tracking down the long-lost footage of Welles’ unfinished film version of “Don Quixote” and, following the great filmmaker’s surviving notes, assembling the feature to meet Welles’ plans. The resulting “Don Quixote de Orson Welles” is (sadly) still not available for theatrical release, although it has played in festivals and museum retrospectives to the delight and surprise of Welles’ fans…and Franco’s fans, too.
Film Threat caught up with Franco in Madrid to discuss his remarkable career. As anyone familiar with his films can attest, Franco’s conversation is a wonderful mirror of his cinematic output: lean, on-target and to-the-point…
Get the interview in part two of JEss FRANCO: UNVANQUISHED AUTEUR>>>