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View Full Version : My review of The Awful Dr. Orlof (1964)


Coverdale
04-14-2003, 04:50 AM
Don't think I've seen a review of this on this site, so here goes...

Anyone vaguely interested in the career of Jess Franco--or only familiar with his "classic period" (late 60s-mid 70s) would be well advised to check out this little gem from 1964, the prolific Spanish sleazemeister's first bona fide horror movie.

In 2000 Image Entertainment put out The Awful Dr. Orloff on DVD as part of their Euroshock Collection (or as I like to call it, "The Howard Vernon Collection," since it seems 90% of the titles feature Mr. Vernon in a starring role).

Story: Around the turn of the century in old Europe, beautiful women--all of them prostitutes or dancers--are disappearing left and right. Inspector Tanner is hard-pressed to solve the crime, and the trail eventually leads to a suave middle-aged man by the name of Dr. Orloff (played by Howard Vernon), who, with the help of his blind and mute assistant Morpho, is kidnapping these women to steal their skins! Why? To graft their perfect skin onto the face of his disfigured sister. Along the way, Tanner gets some unexpected help from his voluptuous girlfriend, who puts herself in harm's way to stop the madness of Dr. Orloff!

Comments: Many of the motifs found in later Jess Franco films had their genesis here--not only has Franco remade this film several times, he has used character names (like Morpho and Inspector Tanner) time and again. The sleaze factor so prevalent in later films is kept to a minimum here (hey, it was still the early '60s), but there are a couple o' tittie shots here and there. Graphic violence is also mostly implied, but Morpho's face is fairly horrifying enough. The acting and dubbing are the usual disgrace for this type of film, but obviously, that can be half the fun.

Transfer--Decent given the source material. Presented in its 1.66:1 aspect ratio, the black and white photography reminded me a bit of Black Sunday's (but with less skill than a Mario Bava could render). Still, the cinematography is adept enough, considering how Franco later became too "arty" for his own good at times.

Sound--Okay. Mono available either in English or French. I really liked the clanking, quasi-industrial soundtrack which may have been a distant precursor to some of the msuic in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre!

Extras--None to speak of on the disc itself, not even a trailer. However, the case (a snapper :cry: ) does feature excellent liner notes by film historian Tim Lucas. It's a shame he didn't do an audio commentary (anyone who's ever listened to one of his Bava commentaries will know what I mean).

Bottom line--The Awful Dr. Orlof is definitely worth owning if you are a fan of Jess Franco or the Eurohorror of the early '60s in general.

Andrew
04-14-2003, 05:35 AM
Cool. This one's down to like $7.50 most places and I've been meaning to pick it up.

maringo
04-14-2003, 02:38 PM
I was disappointed when I watched this recently, it's just a inferior version of Les Yeux Sans Visage (when's that getting a DVD release with English subs?). But it's definitely worth picking up if you're a Franco fan, especially as it's so cheap at the moment!

Andrew
04-15-2003, 02:20 AM
That's EYES WITHOUT A FACE right? When reading the description that's what immediately jumped to mind. I thought Criterion released that? Wait...no maybe that was FIEND WITHOUT A FACE?

The Chaostar
04-15-2003, 09:25 AM
Yeah. Les Yeux Sans visage is a real masterpiece, one of the best and most poetic european horror movies of all time! SOmeone MUST release this on DVD!

Coverdale
04-15-2003, 07:33 PM
According to Lucas' liner notes, Dr. Orloff is based on the Eyes/Fiend without a Face.

And yes, I forgot to note that you can get Franco's movie for cheap now. I think I got mine for like 9.99 at Media Play.

Andrew
04-16-2003, 05:41 AM
It's not necessarily Franco's movies - Image did a bunch of price drops. Some (LISA AND THE DEVIL, FLESH AND THE FIENDS, etc.) have been lowered to a $15 MSRP and others (ORLOF, ZOMBIE LAKE, FRIGHTMARE, etc.) are at $10. Sweet deals.

Also, when you say it's based on "Eyes/Fiend without a Face" do you mean both films? Because as far as I know FIEND is a monster flick with invisible baddies, while EYES is about the doctor or whoever trying to restore his daughter's(?) face.

Coverdale
04-16-2003, 07:52 PM
Originally posted by AndrewBBD
It's not necessarily Franco's movies - Image did a bunch of price drops. Some (LISA AND THE DEVIL, FLESH AND THE FIENDS, etc.) have been lowered to a $15 MSRP and others (ORLOF, ZOMBIE LAKE, FRIGHTMARE, etc.) are at $10. Sweet deals.

Also, when you say it's based on "Eyes/Fiend without a Face" do you mean both films? Because as far as I know FIEND is a monster flick with invisible baddies, while EYES is about the doctor or whoever trying to restore his daughter's(?) face.


Thanks for the info on Image in general--I may have to do some shopping this afternoon. :glasses:

As far as "eyes" and "fiend," I don't remember. I just remember at least one of those titles being mentioned in the liner notes. (I'm at work right now).

RyanPC
07-22-2004, 04:39 AM
Just got a chance to see this and liked it, although I have to say I think the transfer's terrible. Some shots looked decent, but others got on my nerves - the blacks weren't black, they were more like gray, and not only that, the black backgrounds kept "flashing" (don't know how else to describe it), making it nervewracking for me to watch. Glad I got the disc, though, because the movie's pretty good. It's a shame there aren't any extras. :(