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Saturday, March 29, 2014

THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF (1962)

With hundreds of writing & directing credits under various names, the maddeningly prolific Jesús Franco (aka Jess Frank; David Khume; Lulu Laverne!, et al.) got his first international attention on this cheap, but effective horror pic. The main storyline is lifted out of Georges Franju’s poetic horror classic EYES WITHOUT A FACE/’60*, apt for a story that ‘lifts’ victim’s faces for grafting on a surgeon’s facially disfigured daughter. But unlike Franju’s sui generis chic dread & haunted atmosphere, Franco is something of a bargain-basement magpie stylist, bopping on classic Universal ‘30s horror, John Brahm’s 1940s Goth, the roving POV of Hammer Films and just about whatever else caught his fancy. And ‘catching his fancy’ is exactly what the mad, bad doctor is trying to do, especially when he spots a perfect match for his injured girl. Too bad this target’s beau just happens to be the lead detective on the case! Hmm. Considering all the silliness, the film boasts some striking location work, along with more box-office boosting nudity than was usual for the time. Bosoms aside, the best thing in here is the strange, blinded assistant who does Orlof’s bidding just for the pleasure of human contact as he carries his curvy quarry back to the castle’s spooky operating room. The second best thing, at least in the recent KINO-Redemption Series DVD, is the sharp, obsessively knowledgeable expert burbling away on the Commentary Track. This guy needs a life! Someone might also let him know that the biggest gag on the opera poster is listing Meyerbeer instead of Gounod as the composer of FAUST.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Dr. Orlof is played by the hard working Howard Vernon, a regular in Franco pics, who, at times, shows a striking resemblance to Jonathan Frid of DARK SHADOWS fame.

DOUBLE-BILL: *Franju’s output was a fraction of Franco’s. Really a fraction of anyone’s. But no one should miss LES YEUX SANS VISAGE.

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