Monday, January 23, 2012

The Diabolical Dr. Z (1966)

Me watching a Jess Franco movie often ends in a huge amount of superlatives. I always seen Franco has a master storyteller and depending on the budget the visual style of the movie differs from century to century. The sixties was a fantastic period on Franco's career. He churned out semi-gothic classics, kitchy spy adventures and sleazy dramas like there was no tomorrow. The Diabolical Dr. Z very effectively follows his adventures with Dr Orloff and Baron Von Klaus, feels like a spin-off to Orloff - the character is mentioned and his scientific work as a surgeon is used in one of the twists.  But Franco pulls off a great and original twist, worthy of Hitch - and beware of spoilers - Dr Z is just a MacGuffin, it's his daughter that we should focus on.

Yes, the Diabolical Doctor Zimmerman (Antonio Jiménez Escribano in a deliciously over-the-top yet sensitive performance) dies quite fast, just after showing us one brutal human experiment. His daughter Irma (Mabel Karr) decides to take revenge on the people responsible for his death and fakes her death and uses his technology to take control over her maid and a serial killer the good doctor earlier took control of. But the final masterpiece is Miss Muerte (Estella Blain), an exotic dancer with long sharp nails who can lure the stupid men into Irma's trap!!!

There's absolutely nothing bad with this movie. I've said it before, way too many times, but when Franco had the resources he created something very similar to perfection, without getting pretentious and boring like Kubrick. He mixed his favourite exploitation themes (female revenge, surgery gone bad, Orloff) with a stunningly beautiful and arty thriller. The set-pieces is nothing short of spectacular and the kills are similar to what the Italians did in the seventies, but not as gory of course. Shadows and light, rapid editing and a clever use of music makes this one stand out from the rest of the bunch. The most impressive sequence is the fist-fight between Philippe (Fernando Montes) and Hans Bergen (Guy Mairesse), which stats in the basement in a fantastic one-take fight through a long corridor, and then cuts and goes up into the mansion. If I ever make a movie again I will steal that idea, and it will make be rich sooner or later.

I often hear complains about the acting talent of Franco. As usual, because I'm Fred and I'm Ninja Dixon at the same time, I can't agree on this. Here Franco has a quite big part, as one of the polices trying to solve the murders and makes a great team together with composer Daniel White as Inspector Green. Boy, they seem to have a lot of fun and it shows - both on them and the resulting movie and wonderful jazzy score.

Masterpiece is a word I use all to often, and I'm gonna use it again here. Because The Diabolical Dr. Z IS a masterpiece, (another) one of Franco's fantastic movies from the years that some people claim was his best. I can't agree on that either - that the sixties was his best - but this is a masterpiece.

See, I used "masterpiece" no less than three times in that last paragraph. It's worth it, believe me.


Anonymous said...

For someone who never seen any Mr Franco´s films....which ones should I start with..?

Ninja Dixon said...

Everyone has different opinions about this, but I would say:

The Diabolical Dr Z
Venus in Furs
Vampyros Lesbos
She Killed in Ecstasy
The Girl from Rio

All these are quite slick and stylish, but still has a lot of Franco's trademarks. But he's directed SO many movies, no one knows for sure :)

Anonymous said...

Thank for the list...yeah I know....he was very productive.