Friday, January 6, 2012
THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF (1962)
Director Jess Franco is up there among my favorite directors of cult and oddball cinema. Of course watching his movies is always a gamble since they range from amazingly strange oddball classics(like this one) to stuff that is almost non-view-able(like his newer shot-on-video stuff) to everything in-between but they almost always have that touch of sleazy, jazz-fueled madness that Franco is infamous for. The guy has made almost 200 films so there's still a ton of stuff I've never seen and probably never will have the chance to but I imagine if I ever did manage to see all his movies some great puzzle would be solved and I would finally "get it" or maybe my brain and eyeballs would just melt-away in a puddle of cinematic sewage. Either way I'm sure it would be unforgettable.
Franco had directed a few films before this one but it's his earliest flick that I've seen and the one I always think of as kicking off his long road through low-brow sleazeball cinema history. It's really just a take-off on Franjus's EYES WITHOUT A FACE which came out 2 years earlier but less artsy and with added nudity(if you watch the uncut version) and a more Universal monster movie vibe. The titular Dr. Orloff(whose name is taken from Bela Lugosi's character in THE HUMAN MONSTER) is played by Howard Vernon(who Franco would reuse in loads of similar roles) and he's naturally obsessed by the idea of grafting a new face onto his scarred daughter by using the skin of local barroom whores. Orloff is assisted by a strange cock-eyed blind man named Morpho who helps Orloff by biting his abducted victims on the neck to subdue them. He also gets to do all the heavy lifting. There's also an ex-lover of Orloff's/maid character who is the only one who treats Morpho like the sweet boy he is under that gruff monster exterior. All the weird characters that pop up add to the offbeat feeling that this movie has from a local town lunatic to a drunk that looks like Chico Marx. It all adds up to what I really think is Franco's high-point as far as telling a straight forward story before his filmography nose-dived into some very off the wall concotions and his obsessions with zoom-lens and hairy pubic areas consumed him. Mr. Jess would go on to use this same plot in at least 4 or 5 very similar movies over the years but check out his first attempt for a true Euro-horror classic complete with a KING KONG ending.
Do you like to quiver and quake?: