I have to admit, this release from Intervision Picture Corp is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it's an unreleased gem in the prolific output from the elder statesman of Eurosleaze, another addition to the Orloff series (though one entry has nothing to do with any other, but in the Franco interview included on this disc we get to find out the where and why he began using the Orloff name, along with some other interesting trivia, assuming you can understand Jess at all due to his heavy accent and the fact that he's lost all but one of his teeth, apparantly - the interview should be subtitled), and probably one of the most linear and coherent storylines I've ever come across in the vast pantheon of Franco's work. As a film, it's complete and distinctly Franco at his finest, story-wise. Shocking as it seems, it appears he was actually working with a script, albeit a short one, but I'm complementing and not complaining. For this reason I'm giving it 4 stars, though it's probably only deserving 3.
On the other hand, the print suffers from many distortions; the most difficult to bear being the wretchedly cropped full screen (?) aspect ratio, which still appears squashed to fit a widescreen TV. The film only takes up half your screen as if the left and right sides are lopped off yet the top to bottom legnth appears distorted and compressed. It's highly annoying to watch at first, but I was able to overcome this hurdle after a while, yet some cinephiles will go berserk over this annoyance. The film was commissioned only for Spanish audiences as it was financed by a Bastille business firm (another fun fact from the interview), so it seems that the English subtitles are new - no problem with that, except that there's a significant scene and a half smack dead in the middle of the flick that has no subs at all, and noteworthy plot details are lost and no where to be found. This was criminal to me seeing as my Spanish sucks. Huge bummer. As far as the print used, it's not a great one and wasn't restored at all, so there's little depth or contrast, the colors are washed out in places (e.g. the blacks become dark browns sporadically), and it has that 70's grainy grindhouse overall look to it, minus the scratches, scars and hiccups inherent in most grindhouse films.
The story's a simple soap opera concerning a wheelchair-bound young woman named Melissa (Montserrat Prous from 'Sinner: Diary of a Nymphomaniac', though here billed as Mona, and again we learn more about her work w/ Jess and various names in the interview included) whose suffering from a Freudian checklist of psychological abnormalities and is rendered housebound by her family who all have secrets and display anomalous behavior as well. So Doctor Orloff (William Berger) is called in to examine the girl in hopes of getting her institutionalized so her aunt and step-sister can control the estate and finances she inherited when her father was mysteriously murdered in the house ten years earlier, and whose killer was never brought to light. The good doctor was friends with her father (played briefly by Jess himself) and they both loved the same woman, Melissa's mother, so you can see where this one's heading. To say more would be giving it all up and ruin your potential enjoyment herein. Suffice to say that Orloff has plans to control the girl himself and exact retribution from the family he believes wronged him ages ago. A hastily forced and half-realized ending (not uncommon in films from that period) only make this all the more frustrating when coupled with the film's defects mentioned earlier.
This movie has more in common with a Italian giallo than a traditional Franco flick as far as tone, approach and melodrama is concerned; again, not a bad thing as I love gialli, but here's another petty grievance from this Francophile - there's a conspicuous absence of nudity or sleaze for a Franco flick due to the extreme censorship in Spain while under dictatorship of the other Franco known around the world. Usually, Jess's films were made to include additional scenes of abundant nudity and fetishistic sleaze for export to other European countries; but as this one was made solely for a Spanish audience and its overzealous censors at that time, it's extremely barren of the excesses we've come to love and expect from Jess Franco. There's only one pair of exposed breasts in the entire movie! Come on, man, what's a Franco flick without the elevated sleaze quotient??? It's a celluloid day without the sordid sunshine, that's what. Another bummer.
In summary, this one's worth watching despite its multiple drawbacks, especially now that you've been prepared for the shortcomings, you can adjust your expectations and enjoy what's remaining as this is a decent film in Jess's catalog, and almost proves he could produce a coherent film now and again despite his detractor's claims otherwise. It's always cool to see a film of his that wasn't available before, even if we suspect it will suck - such is the perverse power of the enigma that is Jess Franco. If you're in the mood for a gratifying, recently released Franco film with the many gratuitous excesses we all love in his work, try 'Sinner' or 'Lorna the Exorcist' from Mondo Macabro - they're highly regarded in our Franco community and guaranteed not to disappoint. But don't let your 'sinister eyes' ignore this one entirely either. Sooner or later, it's time to see the Doctor...