Blue Rita / Das Frauenhaus (Jess Franco, 1977)

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Strippers led by Blue Rita (Martine Fléty) seduce and abduct government officials following a show at a Parisian nightclub. The nude men end up chained, thrown into small cages and doused in bright-green liquid which makes them extremely horny. The female wardens then proceed to tease the ecstatic victims until those give up their government secrets or sign over their money to Blue Rita in exchange for sexual relief.

This spy/erotic comic book film opens with a flashing blue sign “Blue Rita” which is easy to mistake for a title card. The original title of this Erwin C. Dietrich production, Das Frauenhaus (“The House of Women”) comes up later during the colourful opening credits sequence.

The story here is a thin one, punctuated with lengthy striptease performances. The plot twists in the final minutes of the film don’t make any sense to me  even after having seen Blue Rita about five times. According to Pamela Stanford, Blue Rita was actually two separate films edited together, which may explain the lack of plot coherence (but then again, many Franco films were shot from unfinished or half-written scripts).
Male actors (Olivier Mathot – Cannibals, Eric Falk – Mad Foxes, Guy Delorme – Nachtblende) overact like there’s no tomorrow. Their sexual frustration scenes are just hilarious. Bad dubbing (in both German and English versions) further adds to the fun.
Blue Rita‘s cinematic style totally opposite to today’s commercial filmmaking. No attempt is made at creating a character we can identify with, there is no message and no attempt at building up any sort of suspense or intrigue. We’re just allowed to watch the proceedings that develop in a slow, dreamy manner until the rushed, confusing climax.Jess Franco holds each shot for an unbelievably long time without cutting (sort of like in early Fassbinder films). The director chooses to film each scene in a master shot whenever possible, either covering the action from a wide angle (like in the most nightclub scenes) or in a tracking shot (Eric Falk coming out of the club, a female traitor spy being pursued through the Paris streets by Pamela Stanford’s Citroën ).
Each beautifully composed shot is allowed to play out to the full, with shots linked via very rudimentary editing. The editing becomes faster (often to a disorienting effect) during the few brief action scenes (Eric Falk’s nocturnal fight with his bodyguards outside the bar, the final shootout). The stylized striptease scenes are among the most lethargic and unerotic in Franco’s massive filmography, with actresses often barely moving. This lack of passion is compensated through extremely well-executed candy-coloured lighting in the interior scenes. Blue Rita is easily the most visually accomplished of all Jess Franco / Erwin C. Dietrich collaborations. The vivid colours reminded me of Andre Hunebelle’s Fantômas, Fassbinder’s Lola or such Edgar Wallace films as Die Gorilla von Soho. The daytime Paris exteriors, on the contrary, are filmed in natural light. These scenes (presumably filmed by Jess himself and not by Rudolf Kuettel) are grainier and feature the director’s typical use of the zoom and unbalanced framing.
Jess Franco isn’t known to be a perfectionist. You may remember a random fly that lands on Paul Muller’s forehead in She Killed in Ecstasy, Lina Romay bumping her face on the camera lens in Female Vampire.
In Blue Rita Jess often depicts his male actors’ physique in merciless closeup, such as grey-haired Olivier Mathot’s tooth fillings as he’s writhing in ecstasy. Typically of Jess Franco films from the era (see Sexy SistersDie Teuflischen Schwester) male nudity is nearly as frequent as female, so you see not only the ladies unshaven armpits but also the guys sagging bellies and floppy cocks (whereas in most similar Italian genre films of the time male nudity was taboo).
Blue Rita offers us a strange cocktail of weak storytelling, beautiful visuals, a naive, fairy-tale atmosphere mixed with comic book torture scenes…
Blue Rita was one of the very first Jess Franco DVD’s I’ve watched around 2006 and I was happy to recently revisit the film on Blu-ray.
 
The region-free Blu-ray from Ascot Elite (part of the Jess Franco – Golden Goya collection) is the best way to enjoy Blue Rita. The colours and sharpness are very impressive, and high level of detail reveals how shoddy the sets  are more clearly than in the older DVD version.
For example, the walls of the cages in which male prisoners are kept clearly wobble and the sharp spikes on top of the cages are seemingly made of cardboard and wrapped in tin  foil. Jess Franco’s imaginative framing combined with his love for comic book exaggeration easily compensate for these budget shortcomings.
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“I Made A Film With George Peppard, you know!” The Extremely Grumpy UMBERTO LENZI Interview

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It was 20 years ago (and then some), in May 1997 that the boy Freudstein interviewed Umberto Lenzi. I’d been avidly anticipating our encounter and surely all those warnings about what a hard-ass he was were, for the most part, hyperbole? Read on and weep…

Signor Lenzi, I was speaking to Sage Stallone and his partner Bob Murawski recently, about their definitive laser disc release of Cannibal Ferox… are you surprised that these films still have a large international cult following, so many years after their release?

In the case of Cannibal Ferox, yes, because for me that one is a very minor movie. I don’t like it so much… in my opinion, I made other movies that were much better. I like Paranoia very much, with Carroll Baker, and also some of the action movies that I made were better movies, like Violent Naples and Roma A Mano Armata……

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Jess Franco’s Forgotten Films: Vol. 1

EL FRANCONOMICON / I'M IN A JESS FRANCO STATE OF MIND

This HD double bill, JESS FRANCO’S FORGOTTEN FILMS: Vol. 1 from Dorado Films, is another welcome addition to the growing list of Blu-ray releases of the the films of the prolific director. This set contains two of his first MANACOA FILMS productions, LOS OJOS DEL DOCTOR ORLOFF/THE SINISTER EYES OF DOCTOR ORLOFF (1973) and UN SILENCIO DE TUMBA (1972).img_3341968679648.jpeg

This is a review of The Ultimate Edition of this Dorado Films release, which contains 4k scans from 35mm elements of both features. Also included in the edition is THE MANACOA EXPERIENCE, a 14 page history of Films Manacoa P.C., the production company which Franco founded in late 1972. The Manacoa company lasted until the very end of his career, including his last two features, AL PEREIRA VS THE ALLIGATOR LADIES and REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES (2012 and 2015, respectively). One of my favorite Franco films LOS BLUES DE LAS…

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