October 21, 2013

Horror-A-Day: The Awful Dr. Orlof

Well, it's been a few days. My horror a day run got slightly derailed this past weekend. However, on the plus side the weather finally seems to be on the cooling trend. I wonder how long it will take until the snow hits? I kid, I kid. Fortunately, indoors there are still tons of movies waiting to be watched. The movies will never leave me behind and will never leave me with a desire for something new. With that said, I found another first timer to cross my eyes. Also, fortunately, it was actually pretty good.

The movie in question is called The Awful Dr. Orlof. Ever hear of it? I swear I have heard the title before, but I cannot say where or by who. For all I know I have created an entirely fictional movie in my head and given it a conveniently and thought made up name. Nope, no suck luck. Perhaps bad luck because if I did make it all p in my head I would not have seen this movie.

The movie is notable for being the movie to launching Jess Franco's career. Now, I am not terribly well versed in Franco's filmography and they are definitely not all winners, but the prolific Euro-director is one that fans of sleaze should definitely be familiar with. The Awful Dr. Orlof is a very interesting film as it feels like a costs between low budget sleaze and Hammer gothic, perhaps with a touch of German expressionism.

As the movie opens we see a drunk woman dancing and stumbling along cobblestone streets. She makes her way clumsily home, just in time to be greeted by a bug eyed creep in a cape who bites her, kills her and carries her body off into the night. The few brave souls to peek out there windows get a brief glimpse, just enough to give the police inspector an impression of the bad guy.

Let's back up just a bit. This unnamed town has been stricken with disappearances. Five women have disappeared with no trace and it is up to Inspector Tanner (Conrado San Martin) and his fiancée, Wanda (Diana Lorys), to get to the bottom of it before it is too late.

This movie is not a mystery, it is a horror movie, so we need not wait long to be introduced to our titular villain. Dr. Orlof (Howard Vernon) is a former prison doctor who has now dedicated his life and experiments to repairing his daughter's burned face. To that end, he uses Morpho (Ricardo Valle), the bug eyed blind lackey to round up and kill young woman. He uses these women to harvest skin. Pretty creepy, no?

This tale of surgical horror is built on atmosphere. Sure, there is a certain degree of silliness and a distinct lack of overall seriousness, but it doesn't lessen the overall effect. We watch the doctor as he goes about his deeds, using Morpho, who hunts by sound, to do much of his dirty work. Tanner, meanwhile is trying to find out who the doctor is and his fiancée even offers to help, to the point of becoming one of Orlof's targets.

From the little I know of Franco, this does not feel like typical Franco. Of course, this is also an early release for him and he was likely still looking for us voice. Still, it has the surreal horror and a little sleaze in the form of gratuitous nudity that was certainly Franco. It feels a little like The Black Sleep and Eyes Without a Face. I liked the style, the use of shadows and music, and the goofy, yet scary, Morpho. This is certainly taking a look back at.


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