Birthday Wishes for Jess Franco

I never made a film thinking that I’d win the Grand Prize in Cannes. Never. I always thought it would be so beautiful for my films to be shown in theaters in the suburbs and the theater is packed with people who are enjoying my films. There it is, That’s more than enough. There’s nothing else. – Jess Franco

Today one of my favorite filmmakers turns 77 and I couldn’t let the date pass without wishing him a very happy birthday wherever he may be.

Franco seems to polarize people in my own experience. There’s a good chance that if you like him, you love him and if you don’t like him, you probably can’t understand what all the fuss is about. Either way you cut it, Jess Franco is a fascinating and creative man who for good or bad, may have made more movies than any other director I personally know of.

I tend to prefer Franco’s early films, in particular the movies he made between 1962 and 1972. The body of work he produced during that period is really amazing. Franco is one of horror cinema’s greatest auteurs in my opinion, and very few filmmakers working with his limited resources have been able to match his creative passion and shear volume of work.

Out of the 40+ films he made during 1962-1972, I’ve only managed to see 22 so far. Naturally I have my favorites such as The Diabolical Doctor Z (Miss Muerte, 1966) and I tend to prefer Franco’s films when they creatively blend horror with eroticism as in Venus in Furs (Paroxismus, 1969), Succubus (Necronomicon – Geträumte Sünden, 1968) and Vampyros Lesbos (1971) over his straight up erotic films. Many of Franco’s best movies inventively mix genres, which makes them almost impossible to easily categorize.

I also really like his early spy and espionage films that often featured strong female protagonists saving the day as in Two Undercover Angels (Rote Lippen, Sadisterotica, 1969) or trying to take over the world in The Girl From Rio (The Seven Secrets of Sumuru,1969).

Franco uses music brilliantly in his movies and he’s also a great musician in his own right. Volumes could be written about the numerous nightclub scenes featured in almost every Franco film. He returns to exotic dance clubs and erotic strip joints over and over again in his work. It’s almost as if the musician in him is longing to get out, so these trips he makes to various nightclubs in his movies could be one way that his inner musician is able to express itself.

When I think about Franco’s best films a few words replay in my head such as haunting, beautiful and surreal. There is an otherworldly quality about much of his work that I find utterly entrancing and even after watching so many of Franco’s movies (30+ at last count) I’m still eager to seek out more of his films and return to my favorites over and over again.

For more on Jess Franco I highly recommend visiting one of my favorite blogs: I’m in a Jess Franco State of Mind.

You can also find a nice post about Jess Franco over at Jeremy’s terrific blog Moon In The Gutter.

Tim Lucas also wrote up a great piece about Jess Franco today over at his Video WatchBlog. Here’s hoping that Tim follows up his Mario Bava book with a book on Franco!

7 thoughts on “Birthday Wishes for Jess Franco

  1. Hi Kimberly,
    Great stuff…I just wrote a little tribute to Jess over at my blog also. I feel like I should have written more as he is one of my favorite directors and I haven’t posted too much about him yet.
    The mid sixties to mid seventies is my favorite period although I am very glad that he keeps on directing. “Venus In Furs”, the Soledad films, “Female Vampire”, “Doriana Gray”, “Celestine” and “Virgin Among The Living Dead” are probably my personal favorites.
    I met Jess and Lina once and that will definately be something I will never forget. I love the guy and really cherish how unique and visionary his films truly are.
    Another great post from you….

  2. Thanks a lot for the nice comment Jeremy! I really enjoyed your own post about Franco. I’ve just added your piece to my links. 🙂

    Doriana Gray is one Franco film I haven’t seen that I’m really curious about. If you ever decide to write about the movie I would love ro read your thoughts on it.

    I met Jess and Lina once and that will definately be something I will never forget.

    That must have been really interesting. I’ll have to look for your older post about the meeting on your blog.

  3. I only hope other directors had the same opinion about films. Instead of some the prentious crap I’ve endured. Yeah I’m looking your way Lars Von Trier

  4. Thanks for all the recent blog comments Will!

    I’m afraid I have no idea who did the Franco illu, but isn’t it fantastic?! It’s very “Shag” like and appeared on the cover of a CD.

  5. Hey Kimberly,

    Loved your page on Spanish Cinema. You’ll be happy to know that I am currently writing my doctoral dissertation on the Spanish Horror Film 1968-1977. My aim is to then turn the diss into a book publishing. So, you should have a pretty damned comprehensive canonization of this period and topic. I’m working with the Ministry of Culture in Madrid and am in consultation with the King of Spanish horror himself – Carlos Aguilar! Re-watched SUPERCHICK the other day, trying to come up with the perfect quote from it to add to your Superchick page – but I think, for now, “I’m a M-Ma-Marine Mam” will have to do! All the best.

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