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!