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
Featurette: “The Horror of Orlof” (15 min) - one of the last on camera interviews with director Jess Franco (shot not long before his death), Interviews with former friends and collaborators discussing Franco’s legacy (broken out into several segments among these new Franco releases), ALL NEW Audio Commentary by Tim Lucas, Trailers and much more!