Dirty Game in Casablanca / Juego sucio en Casablanca ( Jess Franco,1985)

Dirty game in Casablanca (1985) Analia Ivars hot

A surprisingly linear (one could even say restrained) thriller from the notoriously erratic Jess Franco, Juego sucio en Casablanca stars William Berger as an alcoholic american novelist Dean Baker. His family life wrecked, himself toying with suicide, Baker starts an affair with Jill (Analia Ivars), a young girl he meets at a disco. The depressed scribe soon regains his lust for life as five strangers hunt him through the streets of Casablanca.

Dirty game in Casablanca (1985) English subs Jess FrancoDirty game in Casablanca (1985) English subs. William Berger

One could easily mistake Juego sucio en Casablanca for an 80’s TV movie. The cinematography is serviceable, without much experimentation. Jess Franco’s many unflattering closeups  (Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun, Day of the Cobra) show William Berger looking very run-down. There are some occasional visual flourishes which remind us we’re watching a Jess Franco film, such as the sequence at the harbour, with the setting sun shining right down the lens, creating that dreamy look Franco was so adept at capturing.

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Juego sucio en Casablanca is a conventional, somewhat melodramatic thriller, sticking closely to  the screenplay by Santiago Moncada (Hatchet for the Honeymoon), which was previously filmed by Tulio Demicheli (Dracula Versus Frankenstein / Monstruos del Terror) as Ace of Hearts/Juego sucio en Panamá (1975).

It’s very strange seeing Jess Franco attempt such a low-key Hitchcockian thriller during his busy softcore period. With not much in the way of originality, today Juego sucio en Casablanca is chiefly interesting  not for the elaborate yet implausible plot, but for how Jess Franco adapts his meagre resources to bring this pulpy story to life. The characters keep talking about big money and New York city while stuck in humble hotel rooms doing nothing much but smoking. Jess Franco generates the right ambience with generous helpings of stock footage, an ‘ethnic’ score and some suitably exotic Costa del Sol locations (familiar from Mil Sexos Tiene La Noche).

Analia Ivars looks great as Berger’s love interest, while  Antonio Mayans and Ricardo Palacios are not given enough screen time. Lina Romay can be spotted in a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo as one of Dean Baker’s fans. 70s bit-part baddie Luis Barboo plays of the gamblers, but his character turns up dead too soon.

With nothing much to make it stand out among the more daring and playful films of the period, Juego sucio en Casablanca remains an oddly tame entry in the Jess Franco canon.

State of Regression / Estado de Regresión (Álex Mendíbil, 2013)

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With it’s intriguing premise – possibility of erasing a person’s identity and implanting new memories, a compact cast of three principal characters and a narrative that develops backwards, Estado de Regresión is one of the most accomplished truly independent productions to come out of Europe in recent years. The intro, unfolding entirely without dialogue, is a showcase of Álex Mendíbil’s skill at mounting the tension and getting the viewer hooked. We follow the three members of an unnamed secret organisation who are to organise a terror attack in Madrid’s business district. In between drawing up plans and making bombs the suicidal trio, aptly portrayed by Marta Suárez, Antonio Villa and Jesús Calvo, are busy sleeping around and poking at each other’s emotional wounds. Tensions rise as the cell is placed at risk of exposure.

Estado de Regresión is a thrilling ride packed with provocative imagery and some great ideas. The few stylistic inconsistencies can be easily overlooked in the face of such assured storytelling. Made over the course of just a few days, Estado de Regresión is a triumph of guerilla filmmaking. It’s a shame the team behind this independent gem hasn’t made more films since.