Friday, May 12, 2006

Lina Romay blew me away.

Ah, the lovely Lina Romay... don't let the the nice boobs, cute nose and willingness to get naked at the drop of a hat fool you. Lina Romay may kick ass, but her filmography is mostly filled with will roles directed by one of the world's most proilific crap-meisters, none other than Spain's aster of sleazy trash Jess "Jesus" Franco. With an output rivaled perhaps only by Italy's equally trashy - but way more lovable - Joe D'amato, Franco has earned a place in plenty of exploitation fan's hearts as a controversial film maker who's films dating back to the mid 1960's mixed artistic expressionism, violent sadistic horror, and graphic eroticisim to make exploitation cinema what it is today.

(I also have a hard-on for Me Me Lai and Laura Gemser, even if she desperately needs a sammich'. Yes, Italy had access some hot women back in the 70's, and directors knew what to do with it.)

That having been said, I don't think he was any good at it. I've seen exactly 2 Franco films, namely his wretched adaptation of The Marquis de Sade's Justine, and Female Vampire (aka Erotikill, Bare Breasted Countess, and a hundred other titles) both of which were facinating and frustrating wastes of my time. His adaptation of Justine turned the facinating philosiphy and heartless conduct of de Sade's text into a Benny Hill sketch, complete with dance numbers and pratfalls. Fans of goofy erotic 60's cinema might love it, but being a fan of the man who actually wrote Justine to some degree the film is a painful extravagance who's beautiful locations, naked women and crazy red and green gel's and needless double exposure cinematography can't change the fact that it's an absolutely dreadful adaptation of Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue. Claude Pierson's adaptation might not have been as pretty, nor did it have Klaus Kinski, but at least I get the feeling that he actually... y'know. Read it.

I should also bring up Andreas Bethmaan. For those who don't know him... you're lucky. You have far more of your money than you might otherwise. The mastermind behind the X-Rated Kult DVD label out of Germany, Bethmaan releases plenty of rare and hard to find films ranging from zombie movies to giallo thrillers to goofy Clive Barker adaptations to gory Japanese soft porn. He also sells the X-Rated DVD's in hardboxes, which are oversized clamshells that more or less resemble a cross between a hardcover cook book and an old Disney VHS clamshell box. His print runs are also notoriously limited, with some titles being limited to "several thousand", many limited to 666 units, and in a recent suprise his release of Franco's own Eugenie de Sade (re-titled DE SADE 2000... wtf?) which was hand-numbered to only 66 DVD's. X-Rated isn't the only studio he runs though; aside from secretly running several porno studios in both Germany and Austria - which he denies for legal reasons - including avoiding obscenity charges AND tax evasion, supposedly - he also "creates" one-off labels, including RELAX which he used to release just under 2,000 copies of Joe D'amato's lovely video nasty era gore clusterfuck ANTHROPOPHAGOUS: THE BEAST (a film I love dearly), and most recently, XCESS, who's logo even -looks- just like X-Rated, to once more release what is perhaps Jess Franco's most popular and beloved film, EROTIKILL: THE FEMALE VAMPIRE.

Bethmaan released Erotikill through X-Rated before. One of the cool aspects of the hardbox is that he often has anywhere from 2 to 5 limited covers, so you can pick which vintage cover - or modern photoshopped nightmare - you want to look at every time you reach for your DVD. This rocks when you order from a store which lets you choose, and can bite your nuts when you don't. (HKFlix sent me the not-Laura Gemser cover of CALIGULA 2... irony being if I'd waited another damn week I could have ordered the one I liked from Xploited. For cheaper.) Anyway, the X-Rated release of Erotikill is actually an interesting disk. I use the word "interesting" when describing Bethmaan releases, because despite his label being awesome in theory" a crazy law breaking mother fucker (who's an internet drama queen... but we'll hold that aside) who releases crazy horror, porn and psycho-weird rare movies in oversized cases you can kill a man with - in reality, the majority of X-Rated DVD's... kinda' suck.

First off, I don't ever hold the language tracks against him, TOKUGAWA 2 aside*. It's a label from Germany, though he also knows plenty of English speakers want to see smut and violence, so when he can he includes English dialogue or subtitles. He can't always... and more importantly, being cheap he basically just dub-titles the German dub, regardless of how good the original translation for that was, and then translates THAT back in to English. Badly. So sometimes you get subtitles when nobody's talking. Or translations that are pulling stuff out of the crevace of their ass. And sometimes - like in CALIGULA 2 - there's no English subtitles at all for whole scenes. Oh well. The other problem is his "Anything Goes" policy on masters. You say the film masters for Caligula 2 have been lost? No problem! I've had an uncut VHS for years now. You say the anamorphic master for JUSTINE DE SADE is too expensive? No problem: I can splice my own together from the various prints I have lying around. You say you hated the shitty NTSC-PAL tape master I used for DEATH CARRIES A CANE? Fuck, I'll release a 2 DVD set with a remastered (but cut) print later. Etc. It's this sense of both completion and... laziness, that leaves plenty of missed oppurtunities. When there literally aren't usable film masters for a movie left, I won't fault him for using an old tape. But when a remastered anamorphic print comes out 3 months later from a more responsible licensor... you see how full of crap the guy can be.

*Tokugawa 2: Inferno of Torture, an amazingly cool pinku film from Ishii Teruo, was released in German with Japanese dialogue only for the scenes previously cut from the German theatrical version. It was a sub-license, and god only knows what masters he had to work with, but Bethmaan HAD the Japanese dialogue. He just got lazy. He also said that he got Caligula 2 directly from the producers. Yeah, that explains why the first dream sequence is a bad NTSC-PAL conversion. He also said he found a scope version of A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN, which is most definately crap, since nothing gets cut off when the film is framed at 1.85:1... *Cough* A-nyway...

That having been said, nobody else is lobbying to release stuff like Maladoloscenza, Caligula 2, Emanuelle's Revenge, Ghost House or Phantom of Death. Shitty releases or no, I love -any- man who's mission statement clearly states "release every single Joe D'amato erotic film possible". No matter how wretched they may have been.

"But Kentai", my dear readers are probably thinking, "Female Vampire is available in the US! Why would you blow money on a Bethmaan DVD of a shitty erotic film you don't even like if it's available on the cheap in the US?"

Because, dear readers, the history of Les Avaleuses, as it was known in 1970, is a convoluted one I'll share with you now. Initially concieved as an erotic film about a vampiress who fed on the sexual energy of her victims, Franco figured he'd have better luck shooting 2 versions of the film: one with the typical fangs and blood nonsense we've been doing since Christopher Lee put on that cool bat Bowtie in the 50's, and one where she sucks her men (and women) dry... uh... the other way. The way I like better. Though she still kills them. Damn. Anyway, 2 years later German distributors liked the movie, but wanted to market it as a hardcore XXX porno. Kinda' hard to do that when there's no XXX footage. So Franco, being the money loving wacko so many people love grabbed Lina Romay and her then-husband and some random slut, and shot a minute or two's worth of hardcore vampire cock sucking and pussy licking. This may well be the first time that a cinematic blowjob ended in death, thus entering the modern realm of ponro horror... a genre which, sadly, NEVER delivers outside of soul burning guro manga and animation which make you want to simultaneously masturbate and vomit all over yourself.

Though the film has been released under well over half a dozen titles, "Erotikill" was the 'horror' cut, "Bare Breasted Countess" and "Female Vampire" were the 'soft' cuts, and the title "Les Avaleuses" can refer to either the soft OR hardcore cuts. The US video release Female Vampire - which came in one of those over sized porno boxes in the mid 80's - was the softcore cut with a very brief insert of Romay doing that thing. That you do. With your mouth. You know the one. When the US DVD from Image Entertainment was released, fans were (mostly) happy to see that they used Franco's "Director's Cut", ie the softcore version. There have been a handfull of DVD releases around the world, and all of them are basically either the Image DVD (without an English dub), or the "horror" version. This brings me to one of the things I like about Bethmaan: he's a sucker for including alternate cuts of films. In the case of Anthropophagous (released as "Man-Eater" in Germany), not 1, not 2, but 3 separate cuts are on the German release. In the case of Justine de Sade and The Nude Vampire (a lovely film by Jean Rollins), the edited German dubbed version - taken from a shoddy looking sourse and badly compressed, at that - is selectable as an option as a "Nostalgia". And so, we get to why I bought Bethmaan's release of Franco's EROTIKILL...

It includes both the softcore director's cut, and the hardcore edit as an extra.

Before I get too excited over the thought of seeing Lina Romay going aaaaaaall the way down, I should note a few things: this footage is crap. It doesn't match up to the film proper, with problems ranging from fake plastic fingernails during the cunnilingus footage to Romay's husband not looking a thing like the dude who's supposed to be feeding her. It's so painfully cheap it actually uses the head shot (heh) TWICE with supposedly different characters! Good god, Franco was a cheap, cheesy sum'bitch. It's also frustrating but notable that while the Director's Cut version is taken from a gorgeous film source... the uncut version is taken from a shoddy, probably VHS natured master. Yuck. Still, this is (literally) the best looking copy of the Erotikill hardcore footage that's ever surfaced, and there's nothing stopping a clever bastard like me from just splicing the hard footage back in place on the better looking edition. Neither of these version offer any English dubbing or subtitles, and the extras include alternate openings and endings, a deleted scene, and 3 trailers (English, French and German). All in all it beats the crap out of the Image DVD, assuming you speak French or German. The X-Rated release may or may not be anamorphic: Bethmaan's pretty vague about technical details (and even reading German often won't make heads or tails of what those extras are supposed to be... "Producer's Vintage Opening?" Wha...?), but anyone buying this DVD is doing so because they want to see Romay doin' the almost nasty, not to show off a new Sony Wega 1080p LCD. Promise.

So, with all this information at my disposal, it becomes clear... I will buy this DVD, create the perfect "hard" cut of EROTIKILL, and attempt to make a killing on eBay! God only knows how I'll be able to tell people what's in here without the eBay Nazi's kicking my ass... but at the end of the day, what matters is this: I design the keepcase. And I can add the following tagline;

"She's un-SUCKING believable!"

Even if I got banned permenantly, you can't tell me that alone wouldn't make it worth it.

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