My Book: Sex, Sadism, Spain, and Cinema: The Spanish Horror Film
In 2015, Sex, Sadism, Spain, and Cinema: The Spanish Horror Film will be published by Scarecrow Press.
Sex, Sadism and Spain explores how a group of films produced, distributed and exhibited under the crumbling dictatorship of Francisco Franco’s Spain can potentially lead us to a better understanding of the political, social and cultural conditions during this contentious period in Spain’s long history. Between the years of 1968 and 1977 Spain experienced a boom in horror movie production that rivaled other sectors of production and yielded staggering statistics. This work canonizes these films in relation to their historical genesis, aesthetic characteristics and their social reception.
The book is informed and enhanced by my own personal experiences. Having had the benefit of consulting and interviewing well-known directors from this movement (Jorge Grau, Eugenio Martín), the important historian (Carlos Aguilar), and a member of the Ministry of Culture in Madrid (Margarita Lobo), my knowledge and understanding of these events was vastly broadened and my research was immeasurably enriched.
The Films of Jess Franco
“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.” My contribution to the collection focuses on Franco’s “Krimis” output:
“HALLO, DAS SIND JESS FRANCOS 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.
Mondo Mundo: Innovation and Sound Design in Mexico’s El Mundo de los Vampiros.
Within the broader sphere of Mexican fantastic cinema, Abel Salazar’s Cinematográfica ABSA produced a number of Gothically charged horror films between the years of 1957 and 1963. Among them, one of the more unique entries was 1961’s El Mundo de los Vampiros, directed by Alfonso Corona Blake. The pairing of these two major forces within the Mexican film industry, Salazar and Blake, produced an atypical entry into the Mexican horror canon.
This chapter offers analysis and context for El Mundo de los Vampiros via the arrangement of the film’s formal elements and through its placement among other notable films from that period. And in particular, this chapter examines the exploratory use of music and sound as a bridge for both diegetic and non-diegetic purposes. The film’s innovative sound design and creative deployment of music as a thematic and aesthetic device separates El Mundo de los Vampiros from many of its contemporaries.
Identity Crisis: Imperialist Vampires in Japan
This work explores the curious existence of a trio of Japanese financed, produced, directed and distributed vampire films from the early 1970s: Legacy of Dracula (Yûreiyashiki no kyôfu: Chi o suu ningyô [ Japanese title], 1970), Lake of Dracula (Noroi no yakata: Chi o sû me [Japanese title], 1971) and Evil of Dracula (Chi o suu bara [ Japanese title], 1974), also known as the Toho Dracula Trilogy. Under the aegis of legendary genre film studio Toho, these three films, all directed by Michio Yamamoto and written by Ei Ogawa, Hiroshi Nagano, and Masaru Takesue, are marked with an odd aesthetic that has motivated me to structure a formal inquiry into the raison d’être behind their inception and creation. This chapter examines how these three texts draw upon a Western gothic aesthetic (which many critics viewed pejoratively) as an aesthetic device. This device, along with specific thematic developments, allow for manifestations of Japanese national identity to be revealed in the subtext of these films. One of the key ways in which this identity is located is by defining what Japanese identity is and what it is not.