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Jess Franco (1930 - )

In a way, Roger Corman was to American cinema what Jess Franco was to European cinema. [Dec 2005]

Titles: Venus in Furs (1969) - Sadomania (1981) - Vampyros Lesbos (1971) -

Authors adapted for cinema: Marquis de Sade - Sax Rohmer - Edgar Wallace

Producers: Erwin C. Dietrich - Harry Alan Towers

Related: film - exploitation film - European exploitation - Soledad Miranda - director - Dr. Orloff - Spain - Maria Rohm - sexploitation - women in prison films

photo of Jess Franco, credit unidentified

Lina Romay, photocredit unidentified

image sourced: here.

USA advertisement for Succubus (1968) - Jess Franco


Jesus (or Jess) Franco (born May 12, 1930 as Jesús Franco Manera) is a Spanish film director, writer, cinematographer and actor. While never having found wide commercial success, Franco has nevertheless retained a small (but faithful) cult following with his sexually-charged horror movies. His output was very prolific during the 1960s through to the late 1980s, but he has slowed down since then. Some of his most popular titles are Gritos en la noche (1962), Necronomicon (1968), Vampyros Lesbos (1970), Christina, princesse de l'érotisme (1971), Les Avaleuses (1973), Frauengefängnis (1975), Die Liebesbriefe der portugiesischen Nonne (1977), and Faceless (1988).

Franco has also worked under an innumerable amount of pseudonyms, including David Khune and Clifford Brown. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Franco [Dec 2004]

Franco's themes often revolved around lesbian vampires, women in prison, and sexual exploration (including several films based on the writings of Marquis de Sade). His movies often contained lengthy scenes of nude women writhing uncontrollably on the floor or in bed, for minutes at a time, in uninterupted shots (such as in Lorna The Exorcist and La comtesse noire, among others). He has also worked in other exploitation film genres, such as cannibal films and nunsploitation. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Franco [Nov 2005]

Erwin C. Dietrich
From 1975 to 1977 Erwin C. Dietrich produced a number of European exploitation features for Jess Franco, mainly in the "women in prison" genre.

Regular collaborators:
Howard Vernon - Jack Taylor - Lina Romay - Soledad Miranda - Britt Nichols - Maria Rohm - Alice Arno - Janine Reynaud - Monica Swinn - Pamela Stanford - Luis Barboo - Katja Bienart [Dec 2005]

His Site


The Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1977) - Jess Franco

The Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1977) - Jess Franco [Amazon UK]

See also: nun - nunsploitation

Harry Alan Towers

Harry Alan Towers (born in London on October 19, 1920) is a film producer and screenwriter, who produced over a hundred feature films.

He sometimes used the pseudonym Peter Welbeck.

A number of his films and scripts have been based on the works Sax Rohmer (Fu Manchu, Sumuru) and Edgar Wallace.

He collaborated with Jesus Franco during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He is married to the actress Maria Rohm, who has appeared in many of his movies. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Alan_Towers [Nov 2005]

The Devil Came from Akasava (1971) - Jesus Franco

The Devil Came from Akasava (1971) - Jesus Franco [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

From the Back Cover
Brace yourself for an exotic trip into terror and adventure with this groovy slice of decadent '70s drive-in delights from cult director Jess Franco (Venus in Furs, Succubus). Something's amiss in the forbidding land of Akasava, where Scotland Yard sends strapping Rex Forrester (Juliet of the Spirits' Fred Williams) to investigate a renowned professor's disappearance while searching for a miraculous but lethal stone. Along with luscious Jane Morgan (Vampyros Lesbos' Soledad Miranda), Rex uncovers a perilous den of murder, deceit, lust and magic that could claim his life! Sporting a catchy and oh-so-funky music score and macabre, cliffhanging action, this slinky and stylish Eurocult gem is a devilish offer you won't be able to refuse! --via Amazon.com

see also: 1971 - Edgar Wallace - Jess Franco - film - Soledad Miranda

Eugenie - The Story of Her Journey Into Perversion (1969) - Jesus Franco

Eugenie - The Story of Her Journey Into Perversion (1970) - Jesus Franco [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Innocent young Eugenie (Marie Liljedahl, luscious star of "Inga") is taken to an island paradise where she is initiated into a world of pleasure and pain controlled by the sinister Dolmance ("Lord of the Rings'" Christopher Lee). But when she surrenders to her own forbidden fantasies, Eugenie becomes trapped in a frenzy of drugs, sadomasochism, and murder. Can a frightened girl in the grip of carnal perversion find sanctuary in the orgies of the depraved? Jess Franco, the infamous director of "Vampyros Lesbos" and "Venus in Furs," brings you this legendary erotic classic, based on the Marquis De Sade's notorious "Philosophy in the Boudoir" and co-starring Jack Taylor (Succubus) and Maria Rohm. Presented completely uncut, this rarely seen shocker remains one of the most controversial explorations of extreme sexuality in European cinema history! --amazon.com

music by Bruno Nicolai; Marquis de Sade en esp. La Philosophie dans le boudoir are quoted extensively. I guess you could say that this is the way Sade's philosophy was spread to the masses in the late 20th century.

Don Quixote (1992) - Jess Franco

Don Quixote, begun by Orson Welles but never finished; a reshaped version by Jesus Franco was released in (1992) --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Quixote [Mar 2005]




With more than 150 films to his credit -- and to the credit of Clifford Brown, James P. Johnson, Dan L. Simon, Frank Hollmann, Lennie Hayden, and other pseudonyms -- it is perhaps impossible for anyone to speak with perfect authority about the phemonenon of Jess Franco. All that could really be said with any certainty is that he has made some terrible films, some crazy films, and a number of unforgettable special films. Indeed, he has made more of the latter variety than some better known directors have made --good, bad, and indifferent -- in their entire careers. On the whole, Franco turns out to be more of artist than hack, more satirist than clown, and more philosopher than philistine. Franco was singularly responsible for wedding the thrills of cinematic sex and horror into a third frisson which could only be described as "horrotica." In Franco's universe, the viewer never encounters joyous sex; there always exists some dark element of guilt or pain or emotional dislocation, and most of the erotic acts he depicts are dramatized in concert with the spectre of death. --http://www.chaoskitty.com/t_chaos/vamp.html [Nov 2005]

Jess Franco and Marquis De Sade [...]

Just as Pasolini took a Sade novel and transposed it onto the 20th century, several films made by exploitation filmmaker Jess Franco also use Sade's novels as inspiration. Franco filmed Justine in 1968, Eugenie, The Story of Her Journey Into Perversion (an adaptation of Philosophy in the Bedroom) in 1969, Eugenie de Sade (based on Sade's short story Eugenie de Franval) in 1970, and Juliette in 1975. Unlike Pasolini's film, which used Sade to illustrate human cruelty and depravity in unflinching and highly emetic terms, Franco's brand of “Euro-trash” cinema utilises Sade to create a titillating effect. Franco updates Sade's stories to the time in which they were made, transposing Sade to the generation of “free love”. As these films are low-budget exploitation films, they revel in the representations of sex – certainly with more edge than Hollywood fare, but still slightly diluted when compared to the original text (or Salò). However, other Franco films do show a fascination with depictions of torture, sadomasochism and the use of very explicit sex, such as Female Vampire (1973), Ilsa, The Wicked Warden (1977) and Bloody Moon (1980). The sheer volume of Franco's output (the total has been approximated at 145 films since 1959) shows a compulsion for filmmaking that rivals Sade's own compulsive need to write while locked up in prison. --Lindsay Hallam, Jan 2004, http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/04/30/whips_and_bodies.html

Soledad Miranda [...]

Soledad Miranda, photo unidentifed

I am loathe to memorialize actors in print. Because they exist on film, they will live forever as well as most of us ever knew them. The fact that they are no longer making films means only that we, who love them, must set about exploring the depths of what we have been given, rather that the length of what is yet to come. But having just seen Soledad Miranda in Franco's Eugénie De Sade (1970) for the first time, I am reminded of what a singular and truly irreplaceable personality she was and reminded, furthermore, that twenty years have now passed since her tragic death in an automobile accident at the age of 27.

Born July 9, 1943 in Seville, Spain, she was christened Soledad Redon Bueno (the name curiously translates as "good solitude") by Portuguese parents. Soledad entered show business at the age of 8, performing song and dance numbers in San Fernando talent contests. At 16, she made her film debut as a ballerina in José Maria Elorrieta's La Bella Mimi ("The Beautiful Mimi", 1960). It has been widely reported that Soledad also made an early film appearance in Mariquita, la Reina del Tabarín (1961), an early Jesús Franco vehicle for singer/dancer Mikaela Wood. --Tim Lucas, http://members.aol.com/timothyp2/francofolder/miranda/darkeyes.html [oct 2004]


It's been said that any filmmaker can be taken seriously, if he or she lasts in the business long enough. This may explain why the films of Spanish director Jess Franco are beginning to look intriguing as a subject for further study.

Born May 12, 1930, Jesus Franco Manera was 29 years old when he made his directorial debut with Tenemos Diechichio Anos ("We Are Now 18,";1959). Twenty-nine years later, having just completed Faceless [Les Predateurs de la Nuit, "Night Predators,"1988]-a distant relative of his first horror film, The Awfull Dr. Orloff [Gritos en la Noche, "Cries in the Night,"1962]-Franco is best known to American horror devotees as the director of Count Dracula (a failed attempt to film Bram Stoker's novel as written) and Succubus (1967), the first mainstream horror film to receive an X rating.

For many years, I was unable to see past the hasty surface of Franco's work and hated it. Today, in a climate of insultingly mild horror product tailored to fit the MPAA straightjacket, I can't get enough of it. Franco's defiantly uncommercial acutely revealing taboo-bursting stance is like a breath of fresh scare, even when his movies are clumsy, which is (let's be honest) most of the time. --Tim Lucas, http://users.aol.com/timothyp2/francofolder/horrotica/horrotica.html


No filmmaker was more important in ensuring my perseverance with the horror film than the Spanish director whose name unites the totems of Church and repressive state and who, in 1971, shared with Buńuel the distinction of being denounced by the Vatican as the world's most dangerous filmmaker: Jesus Franco -- Maximilian Le Cain, http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/03/27/jess_franco.html [May 2004]


  1. The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962) - Jesus Franco [Amazon US]
    Jesús Franco, Spain's crazed cult auteur, had made a couple of features before The Awful Dr. Orloff, but this infamous thriller (reportedly Spain's first horror film) gave birth to Franco's brand of erotic horror and surreal madness. The story of a mad surgeon who kidnaps and disfigures beautiful showgirls in an attempt to restore the face of his scarred daughter is right out of George Franju's Eyes Without a Face. The style, however, is a mix of foggy Universal monster movies and sexed-up Hammer horror, which Franco pushes to the limits of Spain's 1960s censorship restrictions (and beyond). Gaunt, hollowed Howard Vernon plays the sadistic surgeon Orloff (a role he revived in a number of sequels), and Ricardo Valle dons a phony but freaky mask to play his grunting, blind, bug-eyed henchman, Morpho, who has a savage habit of taking a big bite of the victims.

    It's a smooth, elegantly orchestrated thriller with handsome sets and vivid locations, and the fogbound cobblestone streets, dark alleys, and eerily empty mansions create a genuinely spooky ambiance. He also tosses in a wild, creepy, thoroughly modern experimental score. Franco went on to direct more than 150 films under a dozen pseudonyms, most of which make the brief flashes of flesh and perversity here look tame, but this trendsetting landmark is still considered one of his greatest. Image's new widescreen edition, mastered from a gorgeous French print, is reportedly restored but contains some abrupt transitions and jump cuts. --Sean Axmaker, Amazon.com

  2. Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden aka Succubus (1968) - Jesus Franco [Amazon.com]
    I must immediately make clear that the version of Succubus I watched was the American one with the shorter running time. I have absolutely no idea what has been cut and how different this is from what Jess Franco originally intended. Even so, this is a remarkable movie, and one of the most interesting Franco movies I have seen.

    The beautiful Janine Reynaud plays Lorna Green, an enigmatic erotic dancer cum performance artist who stages odd, sadomasochistic events at a nightclub. She is plagued by hallucinations (?) and begins to confuse fantasy and reality, a common Franco scenario. I have to admit by the half way point I didn't have a clue what was going on, or who was who, but I didn't mind. Plot in 'Succubus' is secondary. Atmosphere, aesthetics, babes and surreal dialogue which name-dropped everyone from Stockhausen to Spillane to Mingus to De Sade, make this movie essential viewing. Reynaud is stunning to look at, there's some tasty jazz on the soundtrack, and there's the added kick of seeing the legendary Howard Vernon, a Franco regular who also appeared in everything from Godard's 'Alphaville' to Polanski's 'The Ninth Gate'.

    Beginners should check out 'Vampyros Lesbos' first, still the most satisfying Franco I've seen, but make 'Succubus' a close second. You'll see nothing like it anywhere! --infofreak, imdb, 2002

    Va-va-voomish Janine Reynaud (Kiss Me Monster) plays Lorna, the star of an underground nightclub's Grand Guignol theater who harbors a dark, haunting secret. She performs elaborate S/M fantasies nightly with a bound naked couple before she pretends to kill them, but she's losing her grip on reality. Dreams, flashbacks, and erotic fantasies blur with her waking world and pretty soon she's murdering her sexual partners for real... or is she? The answer may have something to do with a furtive stranger on the fringes of her consciousness and a plot to drive her insane, but it's hard to tell for sure. Sexploitation master Jess Franco creates an alienated but gorgeous vision of the decadent grotesque-chic world of European high society with oblique camera angles, distorted images, and disorienting editing, turning a kinky erotic thriller into a heady (if abstract) psychological fantasy. If it's ultimately too obscure to make sense, it's nonetheless an ambitious, intoxicatingly dreamy piece of Eurotrash cinema. German leading men Howard Vernon and Adrian Hoven lend their aristocratic bearings in costarring roles. --Sean Axmaker, Amazon.com

  3. Kiss Me Monster (1969) - Jesus Franco [Amazon.com]
    It's hard to tell whether Spanish exploitation legend Jess Franco actually planned to make a surreal spy movie, but Kiss Me Monster (originally titled Besame Monstrou) plays like a psychedelic parody of secret-agent thrillers and Hitchcock mysteries. A pair of stripteasing artist roommates, who bunk in a groovy little bungalow practically lost in deep shag carpets, turn freelance detectives when they stumble upon a secret message hidden in the strains of a song. Before you know it they've tracked the source to a Caribbean island where an ancient castle hides a mad scientist experimenting on (usually naked female) captives in his bid to create a strain of supermen. It's almost impossible to follow this incoherent mix of horror, sexploitation, and science fiction-a-go-go, but the absurdist dialogue (seemingly translated by someone who speaks English as a third or fourth language) and simply ridiculous situations are only enhanced by the overripe acting and clumsy dubbing. Flashy editing, garish sets, a terrific score that runs the gamut from lounge to big band to Latin to rock instrumentals, and enthusiastically awful performances by Janine Reynaud and Rossana Yanni help raise this entertaining mess to the level of guilty pleasure. Also stars German romance idol Adrian Hoven, who coproduced the film. Reynaud also appears in Franco's equally surreal but altogether more serious Succubus. --Sean Axmaker, Amazon.com

  4. Virgin Report (1971) - Jesus Franco [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Take a tantalizing tour around the world through the bedrooms of history! Shot in exotic locales with a stunningly beautiful and sexy international cast, Virgin Report is one of the finest and wildest of the successful "Sex Report" films made in Europe during the 1970s. Experience the expression of love from the age of gods and demons to our own modern era, with stops along the way to peer at medieval convents, exotic wedding night rituals, adolescent experimentation, and much, much more! Featuring the luscious Britt Nichols (Tombs of the Blind Dead), Christina von Blanc (A Virgin among the Living Dead), Eva Garden (Swinging Wives), and horror favorite Howard Vernon (The Awful Dr. Orlof), this delicious dish of delights rips away the chaste clothing of civilized society to expose the naked, unbridled truth of love and lust! From fearless cult director Jess Franco, the man who brought you Vampyros Lesbos, Count Dracula, Barbed Wire Dolls, The Bloody Judge and Venus in Furs.

  5. Justine (1969) - Jesus Franco [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Young, nubile, and virginal Justine (Romina Power, Tyrone Power's 18-year-old daughter) is cast out of a French orphanage and thrust into a depraved world of prostitution, predatory lesbians, a fugitive murderess (Mercedes McCambridge), bondage, branding, and one supremely sadistic monk (an outrageous performance by Jack Palance). It's a twisted tale of strange desires, perverse pleasures, and the ultimate corruption of innocence as told by the Marquis de Sade. One of the most lavish and bizarre erotic shockers ever made by the notorious Jess Franco, "Justine" is bursting with wanton nudity, sexual perversion, and an all-star cast including Akim Tamiroff (Touch of Evil), Maria Rohm (Venus in Furs), and Klaus Kinski (Nosferatu) as the Marquis de Sade. Originally released with over 30 minutes cut, this infamous film is presented here fully restored and completely uncensored for the first time! --amazon.com

  6. Vampyros Lesbos (1970) - Jess Franco [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Countess Nadine Carody, a vampire with an insatiable thirst for female blood, lures women to her isolated island to love and then kill her victims! Linda Westinghouse comes to the island and falls under the vampire's seductive spell, only to find a living nightmare she may never be able to escape. A tripped out mixture of nudity, soft-core lesbianism, vampires, outrageous sets and a world famous soundtrack, Vampyros Lesbos is now available for the first time ever on home video in the United States. Recently resurfacing as a cult classic after almost thirty years, Vampyros Lesbos has restarted a dance craze phenomenon across the globe with its psychedelic musical score! So, be sure to watch Jess Franco's Vampyros Lesbos today for Countess Carody just might SUCK YOU DRY!! --amazon.com


    Vampyros Lesbos Sexadelic Dance Party (1971) - Manfred Hubler, Siegfried Schwab [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    1. Droge CX 9
    2. The Lions And The Cucumber
    3. There's No Satisfaction
    4. Dedicated To Love
    5. People's Playground Version A
    6. We Don't Care
    7. People's Playground Version B
    8. The Ballad Of A Fair Singer
    9. Necronomania
    10. Kamasutra
    11. The Message
    12. Shindai Lovers
    13. The Six Wisdoms Of Aspasia
    14. Countdown To Nowhere

    For diehard fans of low-budget cult cinema, Jess Franco is among the great directors--his style somewhere between European versions of Roger Corman's Mondo sexploitation and Andy Warhol's hardcore improv. His films Vampyros Lesbos, The Devil Came from Akasava, and Mrs. Hyde, She Kills in Ecstasy--all made in 1970 and starring Franco's doomed Spanish seductress Soledad Miranda--perfected "horrotica," Franco's melange of B-grade horror and twisted erotica. Collecting original music from the films' soundtracks, Vampyros Lesbos: Sexadelic Dance Party pays tribute to Franco, Miranda (who died in a 1971 car crash), and the films they made together.

    German composers Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab (recording as Vampires' Sound Incorporation) created music sufficiently groovy and go-go to accompany Franco's freaked-out vision. Their crazy sounds are a speed-hopped swinger's bash of blaring trumpet, booming trombone, slinky organ, and spacy sitar, with a beefy foundation of mod guitar, bass, and drums. Eccentrically titled instrumentals like "The Lions and the Cucumber," "Droge CX 9," and "The Six Wisdoms of Aspasia" manage to be psychedelic in the way of both the Doors' haunting rock and the Fifth Dimension's up-up-and-away pop. Music ripe for revival, Sexadelic Dance Party falls somewhere between the glorious lounge orchestrations of Esquivel and the cheap Casio-funk porn music championed by bands like the Beastie Boys. It's just one more nugget mined from the overflowing heaps of past decades' trash culture. --Roni Sarig for Amazon.com

  • Greta - Haus ohne Männer /Ilsa - The Wicked Warden (1977) - Jesus Franco [Amazon.com]
    Prolific Spanish sexploitation legend Jess Franco's entry into the Ilsa sweepstakes is actually a knock-off called Greta, the Mad Butcher. A red-tressed Dyanne Thorne is the (what else?) sadistic warden of a Latin American political prison posing as an institution for sexually disturbed women, but despite the name change she's still the arch, statuesque Joan Crawfordesque dominatrix with big hair, a bigger bust, and a Nazi growl. Franco muse Lina Romay is Greta's smoldering, often naked sex slave, a willing masochist who falls in love with a new prisoner (who just happens to be an undercover agent searching for her missing sister) and finally turns on Greta in a ferocious cannibalistic revolt. In between are the usual women-in-prison tropes (catfights, long showers, floggings, and electroshock interrogations) and a few new twists, including a perverted game of pincushion sex and a violent gang rape organized in the spirit of "experimental therapy." It doesn't quite reach the threshold of violent sadism established by Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, but it's no Girl Scout picnic either. Franco brings his unique sensibility to the Ilsa genre and provides a modicum of craft to the film, making it by default the most accomplished of the otherwise bluntly directed series. --Sean Axmaker for Amazon.com

  • Sadomania - Hölle der Lust (1981) - Jesus Franco [Amazon.com]
    Franco's Sadomania , which stars the late transsexual actress Ajita Wilson as the sadistic lesbian wardress of an island women's prison. The box promises 88m, but the [censored] tape delivers only 69 of them-retaining nudity while rendering incoherent abusive scenes that gave the film its original title. Franco delivers one of his kinkiest cameos ever as a gay white slave trader, introduced while being sodomized by a native boy! --Tim Lucas, Horrotica

    In the scene where Lucas is seen having sex with a young man, the role of the young man is actually played by lead actress Ajita Wilson, minus her wig and wearing a fake mustache. --http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0083019/ [Oct 2004]

    Frauengefängnis (1975) - Jess Franco

    Frauengefängnis (1975) - Jess Franco
    aka Barbed Wire Dolls (USA), Caged Women (UK)
    image sourced here.

    "Barbed Wire Dolls" is a 1975 "women in prison" movie. It is Franco's first film for Swiss producer Erwin C.Dietrich. It stars Lina Romay as prisoner in penitentiary run by lesbian warden Monica Swinn. Maria is accused of murdering her father (played by Jesus Franco). For fans of European exploitation.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073017/combined [Dec 2005]

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