Death Avenger

I’m very happy to announce that on the heels of my book, the forthcoming Sex, Sadism and Spain: The Spanish Horror Film (Scarecrow Press).  I’m also contributing a chapter to an edited volume on the Films of Jess Franco – edited by Ian Olney and Antonio Lázaro-Reboll.

Here’s their vision for the book:

Jesús “Jess” Franco (1930-2013) is one of the most prolific and madly inventive filmmakers in the history of cinema. His remarkable career spanned more than half a century and produced almost two hundred films shot in Spain and across Europe. He is best known as the director of jazzy, erotically-charged horror movies featuring mad scientists, lesbian vampires, and women in prison, but dabbled in a multitude of genres from comedy to science-fiction to pornography. Although he made his career in the ghetto of low-budget exploitation cinema, he managed to create a body of work that is deeply personal, frequently political, and surprisingly poetic. Franco’s offbeat films command a devoted cult following; they have even developed a mainstream audience in recent years, thanks to their release on DVD and Blu-Ray. To date, however, they have received relatively little scholarly attention. The Films of Jess Franco seeks to address this neglect by bringing together original essays on Franco and his movies written from a variety of different theoretical perspectives by noted scholars around the world. Ultimately, its aim is to encourage a reassessment of this critically undervalued director and his significant contributions to popular European cinema.

And here’s the abstract for my chapter:

“HALLO, DIS SIND JESS FRANCO’S KRIMIS!”

Cinema radical Jess Franco’s lengthy and prodigious career as a filmmaker experienced predictable cycles of creative highs and disappointing lows; this is an inevitability when any endeavor is pursued year after year and decade upon decade. Unequivocally, the late 1960s and early 1970s marked one of Franco’s artistic, financial and critical high-points. Among Franco’s many obsessions, his admiration for Sax Rohmer and Edgar Wallace is conspicuous during this period, manifesting in numerous productions.

Jess Franco’s two Edgar Wallace kriminalfilms (or“krimis”), Der Teufel kam aus Akasava (The Devil Came from Akasava, 1971) and Der Todesrächer von Soho (The Death Avenger of Soho/The Corpse Packs his Bag, 1972), both West German-Spanish co-productions, have received little to no critical attention or appraisal. This is partially because Rialto Studios is thought of as the home for Wallace’s krimi series. The Rialto years characterize a well-defined production cycle/era informed by West German perceptions of Wallace’s work and England writ large. Franco’s krimis, however, arrive at the end of the German Wallace phenomenon (the early 1970s) and were made by Artur Brauner’s CCC (Central Cinema Company). Moreover, Franco’s continued marginalization as a filmmaker, which this edited volume proposes to redress, is also a considerable factor in explaining the relative obscurity of these two films. Even among Franco-philes, these two titles are not often name-checked as favorites. Der Teufel kam aus Akasava has achieved some degree of notoriety simply because of its stunning and tragic star, Soledad Miranda and Der Todesrächer von Soho (which lacks a region one release, helping to explain its rarity) is an eccentric, fun, and almost farcical approach to the subject that showcases Franco’s sense of humor and is therefore a suitable coda to the cycle.

Additionally, this historical analysis benefits from the recollections and insights of veteran German character actor Dan Van Husen, who has agreed to be interviewed for this chapter. Van Husen, who starred in Der Todesrächer von Soho, has worked with directors such as Tinto Brass, Federico Fellini, Werner Herzog, Mark Robson, Sam Wanamaker and, of course, Jess Franco.

The best way to close a chapter on a book… is to begin another.