Wednesday, January 25, 2012
The Bloody Judge (1970)
It's hard to beat a classic like The Witchfinder General, and maybe somewhere The BloodyJudge was planned to be a rip-off of Michael Reeves near perfect classic, but in the end it's a very different movie that focuses more on the politics and characters around the actually witch-hunt and comes out as a fairly interesting drama with a few scenes here and there of graphic nudity. It's a serious Franco, maybe too serious for some, but I kinda liked it.
Most of the story tells us about "The Bloody Judge" himself, Judge Jeffries (Christopher Lee) who's clearly a coward. He judges innocent men and women to torture and death but never witnesses the violence himself. Instead he acts like the hand of god and being the perfect puppet master of the stupid peasants around him. After ordering the execution of Alicia Gray (Margaret Lee) Jeffries more or less signs his faith, because her sister Mary (Maria Rohm) has no plans to let Jeffries go free and he must stop her before she becomes to much trouble...
The Bloody Judge is a slow movie, slow for being Franco - which means it's extra slow. I would say it's even to long for it's own good, and it would have been a much more powerful movie if it lost 20 or so minutes of talking and walking. I'm not saying it's a bad movie, it's actually very well-made and presents a whole bunch of interesting characters, specially Jeffries, but never live up to the directors legendary sleazy-factor. Sure, there's nudity and blood and a good battle scene with some nice stunts and pyrotechnics, but too much of the time is spent with talking heads and "suggestive eye movements" (to quote that famous religious movie site).
In a few scenes the true Franco comes alive, most notably the short sequences when Mary stands looking at the forest, hears the battle in the distance and sees the smoke slowly coming at her through the trees. It's a quite moment and once again shows the visual poetry Franco loves to treats us viewers. He surely know how to put the camera, and the whole movie look gorgeous and is very stylish. It reminds me of a Hammer-drama with less budget and more nudity.
For the you have problems with slow movies, the cast is well worth watching the movie for. Sir Lee is of course great, but watch out for the wonderful trio of Maria Rohm, Margaret Lee and Maria Schell, all excellent. Howard Vernon drops his suits and good manner and gives us a wonderful, almost cartoonish, hangman with a huge belt and a black hood. Leo Genn has an advanced supporting part and also do a nice job.
The Bloody Judge is a good movie with slow pacing. Franco is a pro and gives the best movie I could have directed during these circumstances, but it's also a movie far away from his favourite themes and lacking his usual acting ensemble. But it's worth watching, just don't expect something out of the ordinary.