Sunday, 15 March 2015

Weisse Haut auf schwarzen Schenkeln (1976, dir: Jess Franco) Ascot Elite / Illusions UNLTD Blu-Ray Review

The film opens up on the Mondo Erotico set. You know, the obscenely small and narrow black room with the white fluffy bed. It's here we meet Marga, an exotic erotic dancer played by Diotta Fatou (DIE SKLAVINNEN). She's in the middle of one of her stage shows. In the audience we meet Robert, a wealthy middle-aged man played by Roman Huber (DAS FRAUENHAUS). He enjoys the show so much that when Marga has finished her little dance, he decides to take her back to somewhere private. The pair get down to business and instead of enjoying that wonderful post sex cigarette, Marga does the next best thing and throws herself out of the window. Yep, bitches be crazy! The next day Robert is arrested for the attempted murder and it's down to his wife Lola, played by Pilar Coll (MONDO EROTICO), to prove his innocence. She does this by tracking down the nightclub and meeting the owner and Marga's lover Lena, played by Kali Hansa (COUNTESS PERVERSE). Lena seduces Lola and takes her back to her place. The pair eventually make love and form a relationship. Lola hasn't given up her quest yet however? She loves and adores her pig husband. Lena finds a diary belonging to Marga and reads it to Lena. We find out about the rather depressing and troubled life of Marta, including her relationship with Victor, a sleazy and manipulative psychologist / hypnotist type played by Franco's go to hunk, Erik Falk (ILSA THE MAD BUTCHER). Will the diary hold the answer to this strange situation? Will Robert be set free? What dark secrets will be revealed?

Overall, I'm sorry to say that this was a rather dull film. Although a solid enough story, there's nothing really engaging at all with this one. There are some nice moments every now and then including a rather unnerving S&M dream sequence and a genuinely funny off-screen appearance from a man from Mars (you have to watch to truly understand). Those moments are completely overshadowed by long, drawn out attempts at eroticism and clumsy erotic dancing (you may get a laugh out of those scenes). Fatou has no onscreen presence at all and it pretty much looks like she had no clue what she was doing except receiving a paycheck. The scenes involving Falk, although largely unrelated to the actual story are the highlights of the film just for the sheer absurdity. Aesthetically, this rather unimpressive. Lazy set design (clearly utilising not even a handful of locations) and horrendously out of focus cinematography make this is a visually unappealing film. Not even the female cast can make up for that because aside from Coll, there's literally no talent on show that's pleasing on the eye. Sure, that's probably a pig-headed thing to say, but even though this essentially a melodrama, Franco is still trying to titillate the audience with his signature close up shots and taste for good old-fashioned lesbianism. It misses the mark completely as a piece of erotica and drama. As much as I love Jess Franco (even for his downfalls), I really have to chalk this down as one of his worst. It's little wonder that Dietrich has now finally credited the film back to Franco.

The restoration is hit and miss. Some scenes look fantastic, but a lot the blacks in the film (especially the nightclub setting) can be very blocky with clear distortion. This is a cheap film anyway, so I won't whine too much. The sound is fairly solid throughout so that's not an issue. I would say that if you're going to pick this film up, don't be worried about HAVING to buy this on Blu-Ray because the film doesn't benefit from it too much. If you can save yourself a bit money, opt for the DVD release. On the disc itself the only language options available are a German dub (presented in both DTS-HD 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0) and English subtitles. In terms of extras you a selection of trailers including the original theatrical trailer for the film, a photo gallery, Jess Franco audio interview (Spanish with German subtitles) and the same Erik Falk featurette that appears on Mondo Erotico's release. Overall, as much as I didn't really enjoy the film, I have to give major credit to both Ascot Elite and Illusions UNLTD for presenting the die-hard Francophiles a little-seen gem that was initially credited to producer Erwin C. Dietrich. That's the only demographic I can really recommend this film and release to. Newcomers to the world of Jess Franco will be majorly unimpressed.

Weisse Haut auf schwarzen Schenkeln is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Ascot Elite Home Entertainment and Illusions UNLTD.

Friday, 13 March 2015

6 Schwedinnen hinter Gittern (1980, dir: Ann Perry) Illusions UNLTD Blu-Ray Review

 Candide Royalle (Ultra Flesh) stars as Lolita Wanamaker, a young and attractive woman recently sentenced to a few years in prison. She immediately makes a good first impression. Neither the prison guards or her fellow inmates can't take their hands off her. The inmates are a close-knit group who go by the name of 'The Beavers'. When they aren't getting it on with each other, they're having their own fun with the prison staff. Seems like it's more of a holiday camp than a prison right? Wrong! You see, the girls have to live in squalid conditions and they've had enough! They do what all disgruntled prisoners usually do and sign a petition? Unfortunately for them, Warden Blowhard, played by Ian McGregor (Undercovers) is a tight-fisted and selfish chap. When he isn't being an arrogant prick, he's getting some extra service off his lovely secretary Miss Cole, played by Lisa De Leeuw (Center Spread Girls). After having a small riot, the inmates get a chance to have their voices heard properly, by having a baseball match with the prison guards who call themselves 'The Dicks'. Will the girls get their own way? Will the warden have a change of heart? You'll have to find out for yourself!

Overall, 6 Schwedinnen hinter Gittern (known to most as Ballgame) is light-hearted Women in Prison flick with a simple premise. Aside from some of the talent on show, this is a pretty uneventful film. The comedy is hokey and feels dated for even for when the film was produced. The likes of Candid Royalle, Herschel Savage (Debbie Does Dallas) and Tawny Pearl (Taboo) are really the only memorable aspects of the film. Not even the sex really held my interest. That being said, this film does have quite possibly the hottest training montage sequences I have seen in a long time (combining squat exercises with face sitting is something I want to see more!). I do also have to give props to the selection of library music used throughout. There are some fun and genuinely great songs for those who like that sort of thing (I certainly do!). Yeah, in terms of a Women in Prison film, it doesn't really deliver. As a piece of pornography, it's pretty hit and miss. Aside from the typical lesbian scenes, you may find yourself fast forwarding a few times. The film could have been trimmed down about 10 minutes to make it a 60 minute feature. Some may appreciate the film more than I did and I certainly know a lot of people who will love this.
Unfortunately, the Blu-ray transfer isn't fantastic. The picture is quite grainy and doesn't actually look like it's a Blu-Ray you are watching. To go with that, the English language track (the version I watched) is very muddy in places and a buzzing sound can be heard quite a lot throughout. That being said, the film also comes with a much superior German language track and English subtitles so that's not a problem. This is however a much better presentation than the Caballero disc so get rid of that one and buy this if you want to see this film. In terms of special features you get a trailer for the film, a photo gallery and a selection of other trailers (some great viewing there). Overall, it's a pretty standard release, but definitely worth looking in to if you are a fan of the genre. Just take in to account that you may be better off buying the DVD version of the film. Either way, hats off to Illusions UNTLD for presenting this film in an affordable way.

6 Schwedinnen hinter Gittern is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Illusions UNLTD.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Ascot Elite Home Entertainment / Illusions UNLTD Blu-ray Review: Mondo Erotico (1976)

Mondo Erotico (In 80 Betten um die Welt)
(1976, dir: Jess Franco)

Ah, a Jess Franco Mondo film! Right off the bat I'm excited! Being a fan of efforts like Bruno Mattei's Libidomania, the idea of a sleazy Mondo film excites me and boy does uncle Jess deliver in his offering! Basically, the film is staged as a light night sex show (think Sexcetra, but miles better and hairier). Our hostess takes us around the world on a sexual journey starting in America. In New York we witness an exclusive Black Mass hosted by an overweight Siouxsie and the Banshees fan in a tiny room. Then it's a quick stop in San Fransisco to meet a prostitute awkwardly fondling and licking a flaccid dick before meeting a woman who enjoys the skin care benefits of semen (insert childish facial joke here). Once we are done with the States we travel to Copenhagen to enjoy a live sex show in the same small room clearly decorated differently. There's some audience participation done in the style of good old-fashioned bingo! Once that's over, it's time to visit Germany to meet Hamburg's most famous dominatrix. She's very open to interviews and is of course extremely modest! We get to witness one of her shows (guys may want to hold their balls for this sequence!). America and Europe is fun and all, but a change of scenery and climate is in order. Thankfully, we get treated to the golden sands of Agoa. A tropical paradise in which all the natives are pale!? Oh well, not to worry because we get to see how the locals deal with marriage. Let's just say that being a godfather has perks! Once Erik Falk (Ilsa the Mad Butcher) has his fun in the sun, we find ourselves in Amsterdam. It's time for sex education with a difference! So that's how you're supposed to masturbate! Very awkwardly! Not only that, but I know what an 'Aerodynamic Bitch' is! Once class has finished, blow up doll demonstrations and all, we finish off our journey on the Orient and experience some cosmic sexual intercourse, or is it sexual miming!?

Overall, Mondo Erotico is an odd and extremely entertaining film that is often silly and downright absurd! It's also both an intentionally and unintentionally effort. The budget was clearly tighter than the labias on show as it's clearly noticeable that both the cast and sets are used over and over. This especially entertaining with regards to the small interior set used for most of the set pieces and the Agoa sequence. Stock footage is inserted to give the impression that this is a globe-trotting effort, but you won't be fooled. The highlight for me has to be the sex education scene, I haven't been that amused in a while! If you want a trip, you're gonna love the final segment too! The film is very graphic in terms of sexual content even though it does seem that some parts are hardcore inserts shot separately, gotta love stunt cock! The film never takes itself too seriously. It's a jigsaw of elements we have come to love about Jess Franco films and the final picture is a well-rounded hardcore Mondo film that stands toe to toe with the best of them. If you are somewhat new to Jess Franco's work, this is a great example of him at his scuzziest. Don't get me wrong, it's far from 'extreme', but it's damn sleazy. That being said, there's a light-hearted tone to the film. Just a fun and enjoyable entry in to a genre that can get quite tedious (I'm looking at you Mondo Cane!).

The picture and sound quality are of a very high standard in my opinion. Of course, the nature of this production means that you are going to expect print damage, but it never detracts from the restoration. Hats off to those involved in the restoration! The film is presented in German with English subtitles. Overall, this is an extremely solid release for Francophiles and newcomers a like. In terms of extras we get a weird and wonderful featurette with Erik Falk revisiting some of his films and sharing stories as well as treating us to his philosophy on sex and sexuality. Not only that, there are plenty of trailers, a photo gallery and reversible artwork. The only downside is the Jess Franco audio interview which isn't English friendly. That being said, it's a tiny flaw which doesn't take anything away from this release at all. I have to say, of all the Ascot Elite releases, this is my favourite. A very noteworthy entry in to Jess Franco's filmography that has received a fantastic release!

Mondo Erotico is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Ascot Elite Home Entertainment and Illusions UNLTD.