October 22, 2013

Horror-A-Day: Dr. Orlof's Monster

So, I seems that the cool weather is finally here to stay and I already miss my shorts. Yes, I look forward to the seasonally cool Fall weather, but that doesn't mean I can't also miss the comfort of my shorts. I guess it doesn't matter when I spend most of my time inside a climate controlled room. I guess if I want to warm up I can watch a movie with a warm setting, like A Nightmare on Elm Street's boiler room or Tatooine in Return of the Jedi. Conversely I could go for a chill with The Thing. It was none of these this night.

After watching Jess Franco's 1962 film The Awful Dr. Orlof, I decided to watch another Orlof movie only to discover I doesn't really have anything to do with its predecessor. Sure, the Netflix link said Dr. Orlof's Monster, but I found it has a bunch of their tiles as well. It can also be found as: Brides of Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Jekyll’s Mistresses, The Mistresses of Dr. Jekyll and The Secret of Dr. Orloff. Now, with all those Jekyll's you might expect to find a Hyde, but there is none. The movie itself isn't quite as good either, despite moments that feel a bit more Franco-nian.

This 1964 release tells the story of Melissa (Agnes Spaak). She goes to the country to spend the Christmas holiday with her uncle, Dr. Conrad Fisherman or Jekyll (Marcelo Arroita-Jauregui) depending on the dub, in his expansive castle. She also hopes to track down her father's killer, while simultaneously being pursued by a young man named Juan Manuel (Pepe Rubio).

Melissa is in for a shock when she uncovers the act that her uncle is a mad scientist with murderous intent. I seems he has learned the secret of reanimation from Orlof (remember Morpho in the first movie?), but that is the only connection the two movies have. Fisherman has reanimated a fellow by the name of Andros, who bears a passing resemblance to Morpho. Our evil doctor is using the silent monster to kill women working at local nightclubs. The big secret comes when Melissa is confronted by the killer Andros. I dare not give it away.

The movie really is not all that bad, but it does get pointlessly talky in some moments and just dull in others, and those shrill night club scenes were not exactly enjoyable. Still, it does have some things going for it.

Franco shows a solid directorial hand and you can see the inclusion of an abstract cinematic poetry creep in that helps it stand out from the crowd. This, combined with the slightly sleazy bent of the night club killer angle, solid chemistry newer Spaak and Rubio, and the gothic styling combine to make a watchable movie. The look here does owe a lot to German Expressionism, like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and James Whale's Frankenstein, but it is not something to hold against him. Borrow from the best, right?

I do like what Franco did here, bringing his sensibilities to a very Frankenstein like story. It may not be the best or most engrossing film, but he gives you something to look at with strong use of angles and shadows. I was also quite taken with the stoic performance of Hugo Blanco as Andros. He is blank, determined, a killer, but not necessarily evil. He as a couple of moments of surprising emotion that helps make the character one of the most human of the bunch.

Go ahead, give it a shot. I would watch The Awful Dr. Orlof first, but this is not a bad way to follow that up. It will also show you where Franco started before getting to the Eurotrash he was known for in the 1970's.


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