When beautiful music hall entertainers begin to disappear under mysterious circumstances, Inspector Tanner is summoned to investigate. His resourceful fiancée decides to help him by going undercover as a cabaret singer, and succeeds all too well, attracting the attention of the diabolical Dr. Orlof, who, with his blind henchman Morpho, is using the skin of slain women to restore the beauty of his disfigured sister, Melissa! "The Awful Dr. Orlof" is one of the last films of the 1960s to strike a genuine chord of Gothic horror reminiscent of the great classics of Universal, and the silent masterworks of Germany's UFA. Simultaneously, it strikes an underlying harmonic of progress and innovation, heralding a new age of erotic and sado-masochistic permissiveness within the genre. Jess Franco's first majorfilm is an atmospheric, well-photographed, amazingly lurid little masterpiece that deserves serious attention from horror fans. The brilliant, cacophonicjazz score and unusual camera angles work to create a real feeling of menace, and there's rich attention paid to period detail, and eerie lighting.
Jesús Franco, Spain's crazed cult auteur, had made a couple of features before The Awful Dr. Orloff
, but this infamous thriller (reportedly Spain's first horror film) gave birth to Franco's brand of erotic horror and surreal madness. The story of a mad surgeon who kidnaps and disfigures beautiful showgirls in an attempt to restore the face of his scarred daughter is right out of George Franju's Eyes Without a Face
. The style, however, is a mix of foggy Universal monster movies and sexed-up Hammer horror, which Franco pushes to the limits of Spain's 1960s censorship restrictions (and beyond). Gaunt, hollowed Howard Vernon plays the sadistic surgeon Orloff (a role he revived in a number of sequels), and Ricardo Valle dons a phony but freaky mask to play his grunting, blind, bug-eyed henchman, Morpho, who has a savage habit of taking a big bite of the victims.
It's a smooth, elegantly orchestrated thriller with handsome sets and vivid locations, and the fogbound cobblestone streets, dark alleys, and eerily empty mansions create a genuinely spooky ambiance. He also tosses in a wild, creepy, thoroughly modern experimental score. Franco went on to direct more than 150 films under a dozen pseudonyms, most of which make the brief flashes of flesh and perversity here look tame, but this trendsetting landmark is still considered one of his greatest. Image's new widescreen edition, mastered from a gorgeous French print, is reportedly restored but contains some abrupt transitions and jump cuts. --Sean Axmaker
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.