Review Date: October 30, 2006
Released by: Severin
Release date: 9/31/2006
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
Ever wonder what it would be like to be gang raped by the Knights Templar? Jess Franco has. For every year of false starts and producer interference that stops the great genre filmmakers from making their contributions to the art form, Jess Franco makes five movies in their place. The most prolific of all directors, Franco’s brand of horror and porn has lived a surprisingly prolific life. Like the living dead, releases for his plethora of porn seem to come out of nowhere, with companies constantly boasting they’ve unearthed one of his classics. This time around it’s Severin films with the one-two punch of Mansion of the Living Dead
and Macumba Sexual
. With the promise of the Blind Dead mixed in with lesbian love-ins, I naturally made Mansion my first viewing. How many times did I have to bathe afterwards to rid myself of the sleazy Franco filth? Read on to find out.
Four dykes decide to take the weekend off and enjoy some sunbathing on the beach. All are topless servers at a Spanish restaurant, so have no problem in baring all as they sunbathe on the Spanish coast. Their travel agent sets them up in what looks to be a fabulous weekend getaway, with beautiful modern architecture and sandy beaches. Upon arriving though, the resort seems all but deserted, with only a gruff hotel manager in proximity. Despite the massive hotel (the Mansion of the title, natch) seeming all but empty, the manager contests that all the rooms are full, and that the women will have to split into twos and bed on separate sides of the hotel. This is no bother to them though, since sixtynining is more of a paired off activity, anyway.
After the chesty nymphs grow tired of flirtatious rug munching in their flats, they decide to venture out to the sure-to-be-packed beach. No dice. All that is on the beach is a garbage can (which Franco isolates in one of those laborious zooms of his) and a horny gardener. They decide to tan their breasts, but before Franco’s wife starts to get anything close to resembling a tan, someone throws a hatchet into the sand beside them. They run off and lap each others vaginas some more instead. One of them wanders off to take pictures, which gives Franco a little pretense to setup the scares that are sure to follow.
Another, who was to meet up with the manager for some rare heterosexual activity, ends up in a basement where the blind dead walk. Naturally, the decaying templar knights all rape her and stab her vagina with a crucifix. In a surprising bit of humility on Franco’s part, the woman does not orgasm after being Regan’d by the cross. Apparently the hotel is where the knights used to dorm during the inquisition, and their spirits still haunt the near-abandonned complex. Franco’s wife, Candy (Lina Romay
), will also have a run-in with those knights with a bone for female flesh, but not before finding a woman, Eva Leon, chained to a wall like an animal. The chained woman has been reduced to fixating on sex and food, sometimes intermingled, but Candy would rather ride the religious undead. Her lusty pursuit for sex may be the only thing that can rid the island of its curse. If not, she’ll at least make herself a future candidate for the Houston 500.
If Jess Franco wasn’t so horny, he might actually be a good filmmaker. I enjoyed the jazzy delights of Venus in Furs
, and there are some moments of genuinely aesthetic cinematography in Mansion of the Living Dead
. With an acute appreciation for Spanish architecture visible in the opening frames, one expects, hopes even, that Franco will stop getting himself off and make something with a point. In the aforementioned zoom to a rusted garbage can, one can almost sense Franco’s wheels turning with an attempted critique on the existential void brought out by Spain’s corrupted religious system. His critique of the establishment though, becomes decidedly less subtle as he has each and every member rape one of the frivolous females in the film.
Never has a filmmaker made as much of B-roll as Jess Franco, intersplicing whatever shot of a building he hasn’t used along with austere sounds of wind flowing to generate atmosphere. Sometimes it works, but when the next scene is of two women lapping each other’s labia, it is tough to sustain atmosphere. Whether it be Erotic Nights of the Living Dead
, Emanuelle in America
or this, it’s become evident that porn and horror just aren’t cohesive together. Having a little nudity in a horror film is one thing, but having a scene of hardcore sexual activity followed by the walking dead is a whole other affair. One does not know whether Franco wants you to get off or get under the covers in fright. What we get instead is a series of start and stops, with the pleasures of fear and temptation satiated but never fully achieved as Franco cuts without motivation from one genre to the other. But hey, if you want to see a rotting templar knight grunt his way to orgasm, I can’t think of a better film.
Severin gives the film a much better transfer than it deserves, preserving the 2.35:1 compositions in stunning 16x9 enhancement. It is amazing that, even by 1982, Franco was still shooting on 35mm and in scope no less, and all those establishing shots of architecture really come off with great colors. The blue skies burst off the screen, and the greens of the palm trees are as deep as the cavity’s they are intercut with. There is grain evident throughout, where some of the darker scenes can become a wee bit distracting by the dancing bits of light, but for the most part it is very clean. There aren’t many blemishes to report, and the print looks in excellent shape. It’s a solid looking transfer that looks much better than Tombs of the Blind Dead, and that’s a disheartening thought.
Mansion of the Living Dead
is presented in Spanish mono only with optional English subtitles. Considering how frivolous the dialogue, you may as well not even turn on the subtitles in the oft chance a line of dialogue may block out a nipple shot. As any post-dubbed European audio track sounds, the dialogue comes through clear if a little synthetic, and the sounds are downmixed so as to not overwhelm any talky talky. Again, good work here by Severin.
Jess Franco gets off on the wrong foot on the DVD’s only supplement, “The Mansion that Jess Built” featurette, where he begins by saying “I don’t like George Romero”. He calls Romero “too primitive”, saying he never “enters into the heart of the story”. I guess if entering into the heart of your story means entering the nude body of your female protagonist, then yeah, Romero’s frigid in that respect. Franco is amusingly pompous in this interview, citing how zombies and their automatonic qualities bore him and that with Mansion he created bad guys with heart. His wife, she with the platinum wig in the film, Lina Romay, is also on-hand for some interviews, as she recounts more on the actors and anecdotes from the film. Franco fans will no doubt enjoy this nicely produced little interview.
Although there may not be a mansion in the film, Mansion of the Living Dead
has plenty of zombies and lesbian sex to satiate anyone who has wondered what it would be like to channel surf between The Horror Channel and PenthouseTV. Shot in glorious 2.35:1 and with a stunning transfer by Severin films, this piece of sleazy trash looks much better than it has right to. Severin has bundled a nice little interview with Jess Franco as well, so this is a must for anyone who cites Erotic Nights of the Living Dead
in their horror top twenty. Anyone else, and I’m hoping this is the majority, should steer well clear.
Movie - D
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B
Supplements - B-
- Running Time - 1 hour 33 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- Spanish mono
- English subtitles
- "The Mansion Jess Built" featurette