Sunday, December 8, 2013

R.I.P.: José Ramón Larraz, Part III (1979-1990)

1929 (Barcelona, Spain) – 3 Sept 2013 (Málaga, Spain)
Go here for José Ramón Larraz, Part I
Go here for José Ramón Larraz, Part II

The Golden Lady
(1979, dir. José Ramón Larraz)
Title Track, by The Three Degrees:

For a change, Larraz did not write the script; that was by Joshua Sinclair, who, to quote imdb, "is an eclectic personality. A medical doctor specializing in tropical diseases, he has worked in India with Mother Teresa (Calcutta) and Sister Rosa (Bombay), as well as in various parts of Africa. He is also a professor in comparative theology. Since his acquired professions are obviously 'non-profit', he has made a living as a best-selling novelist and a film and television writer, actor, producer and director."
Aside from this movie here, he also worked on such intriguing projects as Just a Gigolo (1978 / trailer) and Fassbinder's Lili Marleen (1981). For this movie here, he swiped the core ingredients of that classic bad movie with the great Tura Satana that inspired the TV series Charlie's Angels (1976-81), Ted V. Mikels's The Doll Squad (1973 / trailer).
More Disco Music from The Golden Lady — George Garvarentz's Dahlia:
The Video Vacuum says: "The main problem with The Golden Lady is that it's boring as fuck. Larraz can do lesbian vampires like it's nobody's business but he's out of his element when it comes to James Bond rip-offs. [...] There are three sex scenes; one of which features some pretty good full frontal action, but the others are pretty lame. (One is senselessly intercut with an awful disco musical number.) And while the prospect of [Miss] World having a gang of female agents at her side sounds good; they just never do anything sexy. [...] Instead they spend lots of time talking on the telephone or watching horrible disco numbers in their entirety or sitting around waiting for something to happen. Every now and then somebody will find a dead body or start fucking to keep you from falling asleep, but it's not enough to make it worthwhile."
Also in the Movie — Charles Aznavour's We Had It All:
Video Junkie complains that "Writer-producer Joshua Sinclair [...] tries to gussie up this simple premise by burying it under loads of long, occasionally surreal dialogue that will sometimes veer next to a point relevant to the plot. Occasionally. Mostly it's just long speeches that make you think that he spent the weekend reading Tom Stoppard and thought to himself "That's easy! I can do that!'." The junkie explains the plot as follows: "Allegedly sexy British mercenary Julia Hemingway (Ina Skriver* looking about as sexy and deadly as your aunt) runs the best securities firm in Europe, staffed only with deadly, sexy ladies doing the dirty work their way. When the heir to a murdered Arab oil baron offers his fields up to the highest bidder, influential British cigar-smoking, asthmatic blowhard Charlie Whitlock (Patrick Newell of A Study in Terror [1965 / trailer] and Young Sherlock Holmes [1985 / trailer]) hires Hemingway to 'take care' of the other bidders..."
A slumming Desmond Llewelyn (the original "Q" of the James Bond films) shows up to give the gals their secret weapons, and the delectable June Chadwick (of Rising Storm [1989 / trailer], Forbidden World [1982 / trailer] and The Comeback [1978 / trailer]) is also on hand as one of the female agents.
Blonde on Blonde also did a song for the movie, but this isn't it:
*The imdb says "When she made The Golden Lady, she changed her name to Christina World, just so the movie's credits could read 'starring Miss World'. In her biography, she refuses to acknowledge that Ina and Christina are the same person." Her only other film appearance of note is the Koo Stark flick Emily (1976 / 9 minutes).

El periscopio
(1979, dir. José Ramón Larraz)
Credit sequence:

Aka Malicia erótica, ...And Give Us Our Daily Sex, Zeig mir, wie man's macht and more...
An unbelievably unknown movie, considering it stars Laura Gemser in her prime as well as the somewhat less well-known cult semi-fav Bárbara Ray (of The Night of the Sorcerers [1974 / trailer] and Horror of the Zombies [1974 / trailer]), and that José Ramón Larraz's co-scriptwriter is the sleaze-monger Sergio Garrone (of Django the Bastard [1969 / full film], SS Camp 5: Women's Hell [1977 / trailer], SS Experiment Love Camp [1976 / trailer], Lover of the Monster [1974 / Italian trailer], The Hand That Feeds the Dead [1974 / trailer] and more).
Despite the participation of Sergio Garrone and the rare beaver and knob shot, the movie is soft-core and far from being as sleazy as it could be. The Good, the Bad and the Unusual is not impressed by the movie, saying "[El periscopio is] sex comedy about a young lad (Ángel Herraiz as Albert) that lives in an apartment below two young nurses and his attempts to spy on them with a homemade periscope. Uninspired, and patchy at best; only for those desperate to see more of Laura Gemser or love listening to cocktail jazz soundtracks."
Gemser has fun with her sugar plum:
Women in Prison Films calls the movie "mostly uninspired and often dreadfully unfunny" but also details some of the subplots: "Whilst gorgeous Gemser is getting it on with her equally luscious lover, Albert is busy putting his new science project — a periscope — to good use by spying on the lingerie-wearing lovelies. Meanwhile, Albert's mother is being even naughtier than her precious little boy, sneaking off for some extra-marital sex while her hair-obsessed husband (José Sazatornil) is at the salon, having his follicles tended to. [...] The scene in which nurse Gemser is called in to relieve a mysterious pain in Albert's nads is enjoyably daft (and also features the first unexpected close-up: a blink and you'll miss it 'nob' shot), whilst a little invention is eventually displayed in a sub-plot which sees the mother devise an ingenious scheme to bring home an expensive fur coat — paid for by money from her lover — without raising the suspicion of her husband."
Moon in the Gutter says "El Periscopio remains one of the more elusive films that Laura Gemser shot in the seventies", and is of the opinion that: "While not among his more notable films, El Periscopio, [...] remains a lightly perverse and fitfully funny film that is worth seeking out for fans of this iconic director, as well as its popular star. [...] El Periscopio is the most lightweight film Larraz ever shot, a deliberately ridiculous and goofy work centering on a teenagers obsessive peeping at two often-undressed nurses who are his neighbors. Even though it is bogged down by a series of bizarre subplots, El Periscopio ultimately succeeds as a sexy dumbed-down farce precisely because Larraz understood the type of film he was making. In other words, El Periscopio is the kind of intellectually vacant film only a very intelligent director could successfully make."

(1980, dir. José Ramón Larraz)
Full Movie:

After his softcore sex comedy with a knob shot, Larraz returned to horror with this film "adapted" by the Italian Sergio Pastore, aka "George Vidor", who among other movies, also wrote and/or directed The Crimes of the Black Cat [1972 / trailer]. Larraz makes a rare (un-credited) appearance in Stigma as one of the mourners at a funeral.
Deep Red Rum is of the opinion that "Stigma succeeds in its darkness and moodiness, which more than make up for the pace. This is a somewhat unfairly overlooked entry into the Euro horror canon. Seek it out if you think you've seen everything from the time period." Considering how easy Stigma is to find in comparison to so many of Larraz's movies, it is a bit surprising that so few people have bothered to watch it.
Over at DB Cult, Phil Hardy offers the following bare-bones plot description: "Sebastian (Christian Borromeo of Murder-Rock: Dancing Death [1984 / German trailer] and Tenebre [1982 / trailer]) discovers at puberty that he has the ability to kill people by thought-power. Initially disturbed by the rumblings in his psyche, which terrify a medium (the great and underappreciated Helga Liné of The Vampires' Night Orgy [1974 / trailer], When the Screaming Stops [1974 / trailer], Virgin Killer [1978 / Italian trailer], My Dear Killer [1972 / trailer] and So Sweet... So Perverse... [1969 / main title]) he accidentally encounters, he learns to use them and kills his brother (Emilio Gutiérrez Caba of La comunidad [2000 / trailer] and The Art of Dying [2000]) out of jealousy for his girlfriend, Ana (Alexandra Bastedo of I Hate My Body [1974 / scene]).

Madame Olga's Pupils
(1981, writ. & dir. José Ramón Larraz)
Aka Las alumnas de madame Olga, Sex Academy, Der französische Salon der Lady O. and Les élèves de madame Olga.
The film is variously credited to director "Jose L Gil" or "Joseph L Bronstein", but it's Larraz in weak form. A soft core sex drama starring the beautiful Helge Liné (of Horror Rises from the Tomb [1973 / trailer], Horror Express [1972 / trailer / full movie], Exorcism's Daughter [1971 / trailer] and Nightmare Castle [1965 / trailer / full movie]) looking hot (when naked) but looking oddly trans-gendered (when dressed) as Olga, the owner of a high class and successful London bordello.
Euro Trash Cinema says of Sex Academy: "Obscure José Larraz film starring the statuesque Helga Line! She plays Madame Olga, a piano instructor who also just so happens to run a brothel on the side, using her piano students as prostitutes! They don't seem to mind. Lots of nudity and interesting plot twists make this a must see." The main plot twist involves a man, Rafa (George Gonce), who, upon the death of his girlfriend Tina (Eva Lyberten), one of Olga's working girls, begins to ask questions. Olga believes him to be out to blackmail, so she uses her charms to placate him. Quickly recovering from the loss of Tina, he ends up falling for one her girls, a supposed virgin — which doesn't stop him from bonking her mother, some of her friends and, of course, Olga, before finally resolving the situation by (to use a euphemism) "forcing himself upon her"...

The National Mummy
(1981, dir. José Ramón Larraz)

Short Scene in Spanish:
Aka La momia nacional. Written by Juan José Alonso Millán, the scriptwriter of Marta (1971 / scene) and Historia de una traición (1971 / opening credits), among others. One of Larraz' purely Spanish projects, this costume horror comedy features a lot of possibly well-known-in-Spain Spanish comedians and female nudity, female nudity and more female nudity.
The plot, to re-write a computer-generated translation of a Spanish-language synopsis: Saturnino (Francisco Algora of Rojo sangre [2004 / trailer] and They're Watching Us [2002 / scene]), a young archaeologist, middle-class and wealthy, lives in a luxurious mansion. He receives a visit from his old teacher, Don Felipe (Quique Camoiras of Juan Piquer Simón's Supersonic Man [1979 / trailer]), accompanied by his daughter and a monumental female mummy that Felipe has just discovered at one of his excavations in the upper Nile. The mummy, a former princess, was mummified under a spell that breaks; awakening, she is dedicated to pursuing and raping all the men who find their way on her bands... er, hands.
Over at Fantastic Movies Musings and Ramblings, Dave Sindelar, who doesn't speak Spanish but watched a Spanish video of the movie, cuts to the mustard when he says: "Nitwits encounter monsters. Comic mayhem ensues." According to him, "[...] the movie features a great deal of nudity. On top of the mummy in the title, we also have a bunch of vampires, a werewolf, and axe murderess to contend with in the horror department. Most of the humor seems to involve sex. The oddest moment has a man working with a midget to kill a vampire. The man holds up with the obligatory cross; the vampire counters with a hammer and sickle, and the midget counters back with a swastika..."
Lots of Nudity in Spanish Edited Together:


Los ritos sexuales del diablo
(1982, writ. & dir. José Ramón Larraz as "Joseph Braunstein")

Over at DB Cult, Phil Hardy puts this film in perspective: "With the relaxation of censorship following General Franco's death, a number of almost-Adult movies such as this one were manufactured and released in Spain with a special 'S' classification."
Aka Naked Dreams, Black Candles and Hot Fantasies, more than one online source claims that Larraz was less than fond of this movie... and neither is the Worldwide Celluloid Massacre, which say that "The Sexual Rites of the Devil" (to translate the original title) is "A bad rip-off of Rosemary's Baby (1968 / trailer) complete with a married couple, a traitorous husband, Satanic neighbours, rituals and Satanic brides, only this one is soft-core porn and happens to include rape, sex with a goat and sodomy with a sword." Yep, you read right: sex with a goat. Thus, the following immortal exchange between characters:

"You better stop that or you'll get him too excited."
Robert (Mauro Rivera)
"Exactly what I want to do! I'm sure you've never seen a billy goat mounting a woman and cumming inside her."
Georgiana (Carmen Carrión)

Stigmatophilia says "Black Candles [...] really has to be seen to be believed. The film in essence is an 82-minute-long softcore / sexploitation film masquerading under the guise of a satanic horror which features more 80s bush and boobs than you can shake a stick at [...]. Directed by José Ramon Larraz, who is better known for his brooding erotic horror Vampyres, really went to town in this film with a plot serving as a vehicle to have the cast cavorting around in various stages of nakedness (normally full) and conducting orgies with wild abandon at the drop of a hat in a fairly graphic manner while not leaving very much to the imagination. [...] As scene after scene launches into yet another woman stripping off and mounting some leering bloke while she starts screaming and moaning in ecstasy, in fake porn overdub style, it all gets a bit wearing and slightly sad. [...] As well as the sex scenes, man on girl, girl on girl, masturbation, voyeurism, buggery and orgies, there are a few 'shock' factors added in which come in the form of some bestiality with a 'horny' goat, which gets fluffed by a crow-faced hag in the barn before he comes on to do his money shot (he actually lasts a lot longer than some of the human males amongst this ramshackle cast). There is also a moment when a bloated-bellied pornstached man gets sodomised with a ceremonial sword and while this wasn't particularly unpleasant, providing a brief moment of gore, I would ask was it really necessary to have a lingering close up shot of his sweating hairy buttocks prior to the insertion."
As Front Row Posters notes, "The film, which featured all kinds of bizarre nastiness [...], was so controversial and just plain bad that even Larraz disowned it after it had been made. The film's title Black Candles was changed to Hot Fantasies for its U.K. release to make it more appealing to audiences of the late-night sex film variety, to whom the film was eventually targeted. The artwork for this rare quad [below] is by Tom Chantrell [...]."
And before we forget, the plot of a film Shocking Images says is "an excellent mix of spooky and sleazy; the kind you could only find at a grindhouse", an opinion more-or-less shared by Hell Broke Luce, which holds Black Candles as its favorite Larraz film and claims the movie "is European satanic sexploitation at its finest ": "Following the sudden death of her brother, Carol (Vanessa Hidalgo) and her boyfriend Robert (Mauro Rivera of Jesús Franco's Night of 1,000 Sexes aka Mil sexos tiene la noche [1984 / full NSFW Spanish movie] and Paul Naschy's La bestia y la espada mágica [1983 / Spanish trailer] and Night of the Werewolf [1981 / trailer]) travel to England to spend some time at her sister in law Fiona's (Helga Liné of The Dracula Saga [1973 / trailer], The Blancheville Monster (1963 / full movie) and Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon [1964 / trailer / full movie]) country home. Almost immediately after arriving however Carol begins to feel some very strange vibes from Fiona, the house and Fiona's group of friends whom she's been introduced too. Her suspicious are not without warrant, as Fiona and her friends happen to belong to a satanic cult who are not only responsible for the death of Carol's brother, but have managed to seduce Robert into their ways, and they've got their sights set on Carol." (Why? Duh — you never see Rosemary's Baby?)

Polvos mágicos
(1983, writ. & dir. José Ramón Larraz)

Co-scripted with Mauro Ivaldi, this horror comedy (aka Lady Lucifera and Zwei Kuckuckseier im Gruselnest) doesn't seem to have made it past Spain, Italy and Germany, all countries known for their intelligent humor. 
We were unable to find an English-language review of the film anywhere, but be cobbling together various computer-generated translations of short Italian and Spanish blurbs — one of which say the movie is "in theory it is an erotic movie" — it would seem Polvos mágicos is about the following: Two idiots Arthur (Alfredo Landa) and Paco (Vincenzo Crocitti, who plays a delivery man in Torso [1973]) see the chance of hitting the jackpot in the rich and beautiful daughter of a dead aristocrat. When the two arrive at the castle for Paco to marry Sulfurina (Carmen Villani), who is called "Lucifer" in the Italian dub, they discover that she is a witch.
Not a Larraz Movie, but Here's the Trailer to Torso (1973):

While someone in Italy finds the movie "worth watching in the company of friends and with alcoholic beverages," the Größte Filmlexikon der Welt @ the German website 2001 says that Zwei Kuckuckseier im Gruselnest, which also features gnomes and the undead, fails as a horror parody and that "the silly plot, filled with male adolescent  jokes, bawdy dialog and sex scenes, produces one thing above all: boredom".
Scriptwriter Mauro Ivaldi, by the way, was (and still is) married to the female lead Carmen Villani, a formerly successful Italian singer of the 60s and 70s who went into sex comedies after her singing career petered out. One of her comedies is Lettomania (1976), costarring no one less than Harry Reems.
Carmen Villani sings Bada Caterina:

Juana la Loca... de vez en cuando
(1983, dir José Ramón Larraz)

A comedy scripted by Juan José Alonso Millán, with whom Larraz had previously worked together on The National Mummy (1981). Among other movies, Millán also wrote the thriller La muerte ronda a Mónica (1976 / naked lesbians). Juana La Loca seems never to have gotten past the Spanish border.
Scene in Spanish:
To translate Miguel Ángel Díaz González's Spanish-language synopsis found at imdb: "The Catholic monarchs are concerned by Torquemada's obsession to prosecute everyone. Cisneros has senile amnesia, the Infanta Isabel has become Republican, and Juana is in love. A comic and unique vision of the Court of the Catholic Kings."
Scene in Spanish:
Also at imdb, Miguel Angel Diaz Gonzalez continues to say that "This film should be only for Spanish viewers. If you're not Spanish, then you'll probably think it's trash. But it's not. It's very funny. It's a film released in 1983, and it has lots of references to political aspects of Spain in the 80s. In fact, it's just another forward critic of Spain (both past and actual), in the same mood of many other Spanish films of the decade. As in Airplane! (1980 / trailer), nobody is safe from satire. The acid comments and the past-present mixture reminds me Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975 / trailer). It's almost the same kind of film, but with Spanish characters and references. I really love Lola Flores as the Queen Isabel I. She's not a great actress, but she's tremendously charismatic. José Luis López Vázquez and Jaime Morey are also splendid."
Scene in Spanish:


Rest in Pieces
(1987, dir José Ramón Larraz as "Joseph Braunstein")

Aka Descanse en piezas (Spain), Repose en paix (French), Efialtis dihos telos (Greece) and Ruhe in Frieden (West Germany). Tagline: "Their dream house brought them together...Their neighbors are tearing them apart!" Written by Santiago Moncada, who, aside from working with Jess Franco on three films (Dirty Game in Casablanca [1985], Las últimas de Filipinas [1986] and La esclava blanca [1985]), also helped bring to the world a variety of other fun Spanish trash, including Voodoo Black Exorcist (1974 / full movie), The Swamp of the Ravens (1974 / 3.5 minutes) [Writer], Bell from Hell (1973 / full film) [Writer], All the Colors of the Dark (1972 / trailer / music), Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970) and ... and ... and ...
Trailer to Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970):
The Ghoul Basement thinks that Rest in Pieces "is a huge pile of shit. It starts off well enough but quickly dissolves into a series of confusing plot holes. The 'big' twist involving the woman's husband near the conclusion invalidates everything prior (I've probably devoted far too much thought trying to get it) and then the film really derails into an absolutely jumbled mess of contrived scenes until mercifully the credits roll. It's fucking awful and deserves to be forgotten. The best parts are the ample breasts of Lorin Vail [...]."
The plot? Well, this is how it is explained on the back cover the the VHS release: "A nightmare of unrelenting terror is in store for a beautiful young woman when she inherits an eerie Spanish estate from her eccentric aunt (Dorothy Malone from TV's Peyton Place) But is aunt Catherine really dead? ...and who are the creepy neighbors? As Helen and her boyfriend Bob explore the mansion, macabre and horrifying things happen. Old cars start on their own ... strange music is heard ... and the servants perform a grisly human sacrifice on an unsuspecting string quartet. And all through this terrifying ordeal, the image of Aunt Catherine keeps haunting Helen! Is she going crazy? Does her boyfriend* have something to do with this insanity? Murder, madness and the bloodthirst of the living dead reveal the mystery!"
Bloody Pit of Horror, like most, doesn't like the movie: "So is this supposed to be a comedy? I mean, the title sure makes it sound like a campy zombie comedy, doesn't it? As far as I could tell, no. [...] Soon after moving in, Helen (Lorin Jean Vail of Arizona Heat [1988 / Italian trailer]) realizes the home is haunted. [...] After getting some heavy breathing phone calls and almost being drowned in the bathtub by a reanimated shower curtain, Helen finally wants to leave but her husband (Scott Thompson Baker of Open House [1987 / German trailer]) insists they stay because there's a rumored eight million dollars in cash hidden somewhere on the grounds. The film then seems to completely drop the haunting aspect and focuses instead on the sinister neighbors, who are harboring a secret that involves mass suicide, a mental asylum and reincarnation. It's all confusing, half-assed and doesn't really make much sense. [...] Leading lady Vail, a dark-eye-browed blonde, has a very grating and whiny voice but goes topless on at least five different occasions. This movie certainly would have been a little better with a more capable actress playing the part. Otherwise the film is surprisingly well cast. The actors playing the neighbors are all quite good in their roles and the film is at its best when focusing on them. [...] Still, what in the hell are these people? Ghosts? Zombies? Reincarnated humans? Hell if I could figure it all out."
A rare voice of praise comes from the dude at In It for the Kills: "I found to my delight that Rest in Pieces did not disappoint. [...] Heaven help me, I really dug this movie. It's like Dead and Buried (1981 / trailer) with Lisa and the Devil (1974 / trailer) for dessert. People say it's hard to understand, but the plot made perfect sense to me. The aunt wanted to keep her niece forever, so she has her minions try to convince her to kill herself. The evil doctor (Jeffrey Segal) must be using the murder victims to keep everyone undead. The ending means that Helen thought she escaped, but didn't. Standard nightmare crap." Nevertheless, In It for the Kills agrees there are flaws: "The only problem I have [...] is that the lead actress was the worst thespian I’ve seen in awhile, and because of her acting I am now stupider. [...] Those of you who own penises that point at women won't care about her acting, however, because she spends so much screen time nude. I think that's where the budget went. I'm sure Ms. Vail’s a lovely person with nice boobies, but her voice reminds me of the older sister from Sixteen Candles (1984 / trailer), and that ain’t right."
Full movie:


Edge of the Axe
(1988, dir. José Ramón Larraz as Joseph Braunstein)

Aka Al filo del hacha (original Spanish title), Patienten (Denmark), Sti lampsi tou tsekouriou (Greece) and Axolution - Tödliche Begegnung (West Germany). Larraz does his first slasher — bodycount: 9 — written by someone named "Pablo de Aldebarán"; as far as we can tell, Pablo has seemingly never written another film. The movie is not well regarded by most, though it does have its defenders. Still, going by Ben Frankenstein's synopsis of the film at imdb, it would seem that the movie suffers from a typically slasher non-plot: "A deranged guy in a mask kills people with an axe."
Gutmunchers has some rare words of semi-praise for the movie, which it calls "another of those 80s slasher movies that tends to blend in with the rest" but then also says that "Edge of the Axe does a bang-up job in the execution of the kills": "The story is very straightforward. You have a masked killer making short work of the locals, a police department unable to handle the situation, and several suspects in the cast. Now what I really enjoyed about Edge of the Axe is a certain plot twist that is out of nowhere, but is pulled off perfectly and works. Can't say anymore than that, but the reveal of the killer is brilliant and sets up and ending that is memorable and fun. That said I do need to warn everyone that there is a stretch in the middle of the movie that I found to be a bit slow as the kills tail off and the romance between Gerald and Lillian is taking up screen time. But once the movie gets back to the killer things get fun again. The cast is good for a slasher movie, but really not asked to do a whole lot. I didn’t really see much chemistry between Gerald (Barton Faulks) and Lillian (Christina Marie Lane), which might explain why I found the romance bit to be the worst part of the movie." A lot of people seem to hate the icky romance stuff in this movie...
Vegan Voorhees, who finds the film full of "useless subplots" and also is so PC that he complains that the guy cheating on his wife gets to survive while his wife doesn't, says "Larraz manages to create some tension from time to time but the film peaks with the opening axe 'em up at a car wash and its climax appears slightly skewered once all of the red herrings are eliminated, with a motive so contrived and unlikely — how convenient was it that all the intended victims were so local?"
Elsewhere — @ Xomba, to be exact — Pidde Andersson says "Larraz is doing his darnedest best to imitate an American slasher film of that period and I wouldn't be surprised if he fools viewers who have no idea this is a Spanish production. Looking like a glorified American TV movie, Larraz's film takes place in a small American town, where a psycho wearing a white rubber mask [...] uses an axe to kill women. The murders are pretty brutal and the cops try to find a pattern, the victims seem to have been chosen randomly. [...] I tried to guess who the killer was and I suspected a couple of characters, including one who impossibly could be the killer. However, it did turn out to be that character — and the movie ends with the cops shooting the wrong person and the 'saved' killer looks into the camera and smiles. Freeze frame, end credits — and a country & western tune!"
The full film, while it lasts:

Deadly Manor
(1990, writ. & dir. José Ramón Larraz)

"Peter, take it easy."
Susan (Liz Hitchler)
"Take it easy? Take it easy? There's a smashed car outside, coffins in the basement, and scalps in the closet, and you're telling me to take it easy? What's next Uncle Fester on the patio?"
Peter (Jerry Kernion)

Larraz's second slasher movie, aka La danza del diavolo  (Italy) and Savage Lust (elsewhere for a while), this time with scriptwriting help from Larry Ganem and co-producer Brian Smedley-Aston, the latter of whom years earlier had co-produced Larraz's classic, Vampyres (1974). Smedley-Aston, actually, was primarily active as a film editor, and among the better projects for which he swung scissors is the classic Jeff Lieberman horror films Squirm (1976) and Blue Sunshine (1978 / trailer), the latter of which starred Zalman King.
Trailer to Jeff Lieberman's Squirm (1976):
The Bloody Pit of Horror, which says the movie "is dumb, but surprisingly watchable", explains the basic set-up that leads up to the bodycount: "Three couples — wisecracking pothead fat guy motorcyclist Peter (Jerry Kernion of King Cobra [1999 / trailer] and They Crawl [2001 / trailer]), his girl Anne (Kathleen Patane), bad boy Tony (Greg Rhodes), his possibly psychic girlfriend Helen (Claudia Franjul) and normal guy Rod (Mark Irish of Crippled Creek [2005 / trailer]) and his sweet blonde girlfriend Susan (Liz Hitchler) — are driving through the country on their way to some lake for the weekend. They pick up a long-haired hitchhiker named Jack (Clark Tufts) who claims to know the area and offers to show them the way. After having a run-in with a nosy cop (Douglas Gowland) who shows them the penny test, everyone gets tired and decide to go somewhere to rest. Rod pulls off the road, goes deep into the woods and ends up at a large, secluded country home. The place appears to be abandoned and is strange right off the bat. In the front yard, there's a crashed car set up on an altar. The car's interior has blood stains on the seats and is decorated like a shrine, with pictures of an attractive woman everywhere. As one character aptly puts it, 'Major weird!' But certainly not 'Major weird!' enough for them to go elsewhere... and just wait till you get a load of the inside of the house! [...] After busting down a door, our not-so-bright characters take a gander inside. There, they find 1. Pictures of an angry-looking woman adorning nearly every wall. 2. Unoccupied coffins in the basement. 3. A closet full of human scalps and body parts pickled in jars 4. A photo album filled with pictures of naked corpses and 5. Yesterday's newspaper. And guess what? These boneheads still decide to spend the night!"
Surprisingly enough, no review we read picked up Larraz's obvious homage to Franju's Eyes without a Face (1960 / trailer) — the expressionless mask — but, for that, most sort of found some level of entertainment in its being as bad as it is. As Video Vacuum puts it: "Savage Lust reminds me of the kind of movie I would've rented from the video store back in the day. If I watched had it when it first came out, I don't think I would've been entertained. Now though, with the passage of time, I can appreciate the dated fashions, dopey characters, and overall cheese factor of the entire enterprise."
The music is from Cengiz Yaltkaya, someone we've never heard of but by mentioning him we have an excuse to present the screenshot below.

Sevilla Connection
(1992, dir. José Ramón Larraz)

Somehow, we find it hard to believe that anyone familiar with the name "José Ramón Larraz the Exploitation Film Director" would be tempted by this poster to see this film even with his name on it at the bottom. After his less than successful US-oriented slashers, Larraz returned to Spain to do another comedy that no one outside of Spain ever saw.
Starring the brothers César Cadaval and Jorge Cadaval, a Spanish comic duo known as 'Los Morancos de Triana', the movie was scripted by Jesús de Diego and Ramón de Diego, whom we assume might also be related in some way. Sevilla Connection was to be Larraz's last directorial effort. Jorge Cadaval married Kenneth Appledorn in May, 2007. The plot of Sevilla Connection, according to a computer-generated translation of a Spanish synopsis: "Two New York policemen are sent to Spain to solve a case of drugs."

Una chica entre un millón
(1994, dir.  Álvaro Sáenz de Heredia)

Two years after Sevilla Connection, José Ramón Larraz supplied the story that director Álvaro Sáenz de Heredia converted into a screenplay and then directed. Snore.
Spanish TV trailer:
The plot of Una chica entre un millón, according to a computer-generated translation of a Spanish synopsis: "An executive, Miguel, (Juanjo Puigcorbé) uses Arabian strategies to attract the attention of a young woman, Lola, (Esperanza Campuzano) who moves in a world very different from his own." One assumes that "Arabian strategies" must be a literal translation of some Spanish idiom...
From the Movie — Manolo Tena sings Romperá tu corazón:

On Vampyres and Other Symptoms
(2011, writ. & dir. Celia Novis)

2.25 minutes of the Documentary:

Spanish_ON VAMPYRES AND OTHER SYMPTOMS from Celia Novis on Vimeo.
As far as we can tell, this documentary on José Ramón Larraz and his films is Celia Novis's first cinematic project.  On the film's website, the following synopsis is given: "'Last night I dreamt that they had returned, I have the feeling that something is about to happen.' The last horror script written by José Ramón Larraz (1928-2013), alongside some excerpts from his films, immerses us in the dreamy and mysterious world of this author, investigating the origins of his lifelong love of fear. His 2009 trip to the International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia (Sitges) to receive an honorary prize for his cult movie Vampyres and for the whole of his career as well (despite his being practically unknown in Spain), shows Larraz as a craftsman of stories, but also reveals his own to be quite the material of one of his own fictions."
Horror 101 did not like the documentary at all: "Is it a documentary? Is it an art house pic? Is it a portrait of an artist in his sunset years? Is it a commission from the Sitges Film Festival on one of their own? Is it a tribute to a relatively obscure horror director (Jose Ramon Larraz) known primarily for making one of the worthier lesbian bloodsucker pictures (Vampyres, 1975)? Does it feature shots of that film's nubile stars, Anulka Dubinska and Marianne Morris, now 35 years older, inexplicably running down hotel hallways? Does it feature stark black-and-white comic book panels depicting Larraz meeting famed director Josef von Sternberg in his youth, a chance encounter that led to the former becoming a filmmaker himself? Does it culminate with Larraz receiving a lifetime achievement award at Sitges? The answer to all of these questions is 'Yes,' and yet, perhaps because of that, the end result seems to obscure as much about its subject as it reveals. While Novis' unconventional approach deserves merit for its own sake, one cannot help but feel that the full story has been left untold or that, maybe, just maybe, a man with only two significant international credits (1974's lesser known Symptoms) wasn't much of a documentary subject."
For that Movie Morlocks thought the film was a worthy if flawed watch: "On Vampyres and Other Symptoms is the clever title of a new documentary [...] on the reclusive filmmaker, writer and artist José Ramón Larraz. [...] Celia Novis' unique documentary unfolds slowly like one of the director's films, quietly drawing you in and immersing you in Larraz' hermetic world. Unlike typical documentaries that ask talking heads to analyze their subject, Novis takes a more creative approach that's reminiscent of Larraz' own films and artistic background. [...] On Vampyres and Other Symptoms takes a look back at Larraz' early years through a series of comic book panels that Celia Novis brings to life with lighting effects and sweeping camera movements. These scenes are intermingled with footage of Larraz discussing his work while Novis shoots the aging director taking long walks through old cemeteries and twisted hotel hallways. These walks seem to trigger a flood of memories for Larraz and the ghosts of his past begin to materialize. The director quietly expresses his disappointment with the business side of filmmaking that he encountered at film festivals like Cannes where 'exhibitionism and opportunism' were rampant. But most of the conversations revolve around his thoughts about aging, his appreciation of family, regret over lost loves and the lack of critical respect for his work. He also discusses his lifelong fascination with the supernatural and the desire to find a new approach to the horror genre. The documentary limits its scope by focusing its attention on two of Larraz' most acclaimed films, [...] both wonderful representations of Larazz' unique vision and contain many of the veiled themes that have interested the director throughout his career including his obsession with codependent relationships and ominous structures that house his protagonists and their dark secrets. [...] On Vampyres and Other Symptoms might frustrate some viewers with its ambiguity, but I found the viewing experience absolutely mesmerizing and very touching at times. [...] Its evocative soundscapes, eerie visuals and inspired editing elevated the material and turned what could have easily become a conventional documentary into an expressive tone poem that evokes dusty libraries, funeral dirges and haunted landscapes. [...] For more information about upcoming screenings and future release dates please visit the film's official website: On Vampyres and Other Symptoms."

José Ramón Larraz
May He Rest In Peace on the Bosom of Death

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...