Jess Franco and THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z
In September of 2018 I decided to revisit the filmography of Jean Rollin, a directors whose work I increasingly love more as time passes… infinitely falling in love with his surreal take on poignant themes that are very much still relevant today. As I worked my way through the wonderful Kino Lorber blu rays I couldn’t help but think of Jess Franco… especially since Rollin and Franco’s careers (much like Argento and Fulci) always seemed to be so intertwined, one is usually brought up while talking about the other, as both directors spent the 60’s and 70’s pumping out dreamy, heavy themed, psychosexual art filth horror. I zipped through Rollin’s work in a week or two, and decided that I’d start diving into Franco’s MASSIVE 175+ Marquis de Sade obsessed filmography—best thing is I’d only seen a dozen or so of them, so I began hunting down whatever I could and decided 2019 would be the year of Franco for me.
So far I’ve racked up about thirty watches… the majority of them first timers, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with my reactions. I’ve always been a Franco fan, but now he’s one of my favorites… right up there with Carpenter, Argento, Fulci, and Rollin. I was originally going to make a list of five new Franco films each week, and I still might do that, but for now I figured I’d get the ball rolling this way. First up, The Diabolical Dr. Z aka Dans les griffes du maniaque aka Miss Muerte, a 1966 French/Spanish production featuring Mabal Karr, Estella Blain, and Franco regular Howard Vernon.
Coming out during transition from pre-Romero spookshow pictures to dreamy, erotically stylized macabre, and focuses Irma Zimmer (Mabal Karr) as the daughter of the visionary titular character scientist (Antonio Jiménez Escribano), whose recently developed system of mind control is turning quite a few heads amongst his disapproving peers. After the whackadoo morbid doctor dies via shaming from he’s scientific colleagues, Irma carries on her father’s research using her father’s mind control telepathy machine to turn an exotic dancer into a poisonous fingernailed instrument of death—seeking revenge on those who mocked her father’s work. One by one she begins her vengeance, but the fuzz aren’t to far behind her!
Fantastique in all the right places, fog shrouded alleyways with impeccable camera angles, a laboratory complete with spiderlike machinery of mind control, disturbing surgery, an exotic dancer spider routine, and the diabolical ms. Z pulling the strings on all her fathers naysayers.The Diabolical Dr. Z is kind of like throwing Eyes without a Face and Cronenberg into a pulpy gothic noir, psychosexual euroterror blender, and it totally blew me away in HD via the Kino Lorber blu, especially coming back to this now after venturing further in the Franco filth aeurve, it’s all here, an important blueprint things to come from him, right down to the zoom ins and a story he’d rework in varying ways again (and again). Gorgeous, atmospheric, and more violent than I remembered, I feel like I didn’t blink watching this so I wouldn’t miss a thing, especially that camerawork punctuated by light and shadows and a low key amazing score.
Top tier Franco, I can’t recommend this enough as both a macabre slice of 60’s cinema and great place to start if you’ve ever been curious about jumping down the Jess Franco rabbit hole.