I just encountered the sad news that Euro-trash filmmaker, Jesus “Jess” Franco has passed on at 83 from complications from a stroke. If you don’t know who Jess Franco is (and if you don’t, then I may need to reprimand you) please take a moment to read up on his incredible biography and familiarize yourself with his truly astonishing body of work.
Regardless of what you personally consider to be “art,” and though not all of Franco’s work falls into that category, admittedly, I think it can be argued that Franco’s output was truly mind-boggling, spanning multiple decades as well as nearly incalculable genres and sub-genres. Frankly, there are very few of us working in the arts that can really come close to the man’s achievements.
I first encountered Franco’s work by watching one of his more famous films, The Awful Doctor Orlof (or Orloff, as it’s sometimes spelled in the American-language version), though I have caught many of his other films over the years before and since, some of which I wasn’t even aware he directed. But Orlof, more than any other, stuck with me.
Orlof was, itself, influenced by the little-known French horror masterpiece Les Yeux Sans Visage (the movie, not the Billy Idol song), a 1960 French-Italian horror film adaptation of the novel by Jean Redon. From all accounts, Jess Franco fell in love with Eyes Without a Face and wanted to put his own spin on it, thus was born the cruder (but more fun) Dr. Orloff series, about a mad scientist with a propensity for abducting beautiful, busty young women from various, romantically creepy European cities and systematically torturing and degloving their faces while his robotic (and, we must assume, sexually frustrated) servant Morpho looks on, hoping for a chance to sink his teeth into those lovely ladies’ faces. He does manage to get his way in one memorable scene in the movie, bringing down upon him the wrath of his master. You see, the good doctor needs those faces in order to restore the mutilated face of his beloved daughter.
It’s not high art, by any means, but it epitomizes the true meaning of Euro-trash, which over the decades has somehow transmogrified into its own particular form of art (the filmmaking, not the biting and de-gloving).
It’s a required taste, to be sure, and the sheer, unadulterated, vile imaginings behind it all eventually led me to create my own mad scientist, Dr. Faust. So to honor Mr. Franco’s achievement in cinema horribilus, I’m offering my own humble efforts up to the masses in the hopes that somewhere, somehow, Mr. Franco is smiling down at all the trashy, un-politically correct “art” which he has unknowingly generated.
You will be missed, sensei.