Video WatchBlog is now well into its sixth month of activity, but until today, I don't think the name of Jess Franco has ever arisen here. This is strange because, as everyone knows, Franco is a central figure to VIDEO WATCHDOG; he was the subject of VW's first in-depth feature article ("How To Read a Franco Film") and VW has always striven to stay on top of his mercurial filmography, which amounts to more than 180 titles as a director, not counting numerous variants.
Today I must invoke Franco's name because (bring out the trombones!) it's the great man's 76th birthday, according to most references. He claims to be somewhat younger, but Franco revels in self-mythification and knows full well that most of his claims are preposterous. He's not just full of it; his claim that several of his films were based on novels he published under the name of David Khune, none of which have ever surfaced, has been reasoned as a tip of the hat to one of his favorite authors, H.P. Lovecraft, himself fond of window-dressing his horror stories with citations of various faux- and meta-fiction. It's this sort of delicious, costs-nothing patina that Franco and his knowing fans see as production value.
I was once one of many American critics who disregarded Franco's work at first glance, but somehow his work clicked with me when I first saw THE LOVES OF IRINA (now known as FEMALE VAMPIRE on domestic DVD) , VENUS IN FURS, and VAMPYROS LESBOS. I subsequently became the first American critic to write extensively and seriously about Franco's work, and one of the co-authors of OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO, the long-out-of-print and most-hotly-collectable book on the subject. Certainly my own search for elusive and definitive cuts of Franco's work helped to fuel my imagination in the direction of THROAT SPROCKETS, and I think most people-in-the-know can see that Sadilsa was my fictional projection of Franco, while that novel's Dark Lady was a similar projection of Soledad Miranda.
Most people have difficulty "getting into" Franco, as I did, and I'm not altogether sure why this barrier exists. I suspect it has something to do with challenging traditional precepts of how films "should" be made, but I know that watching a Franco film properly requires more from a viewer than receptive passivity. This is why I admittedly go through periods when I find myself absolutely obsessed with Franco's work and times when I don't feel up to the task of meeting it head-on. But there is no time when I am not an ardent Franco collector. In defense of this claim, here's a silly little impulse poem I wrote last December, after adding some new Franco titles to my collection, and posted at the Latarnia: Fantastique International forums:
I LOVE MY FRANCO DVD'S
When I count my blessings at Christmas time
I reflect on many things sublime
I'm a lucky sort of son of a gun
But when it comes to passions, I have one...
I've gotta lotta stuff, as much as you please
I've got my bread, my wine, my cheese
I've got my health, got no disease
All the horror fanzines I could seize
I've got CD shelves as tall as some trees
My widescreen set is the bee's knees
I'm having too much fun to catch any Z's
The books I've collected make me cry "Jeez!"
I like 'em all as much as you please
But I LOVE my Franco DVDs.
I was organizing to save some space
Wanted to have all my Francos in one place
But I couldn't fit 'em all in the same banker's box
It took two or three, stacked up like blocks
My collection is nothing at which to sneeze
There's close to a hundred, stacked twos and threes
They come from here and overseas
I've got Spanish and German and Japanese
I've written about 'em with expertise
I could hug 'em all till we turned Siamese
When I get a new one, my smile wants to freeze
My friends wanna be my estate's trustees
How those "Newstand Only" titles tease...
'Cause I LOVE my Franco DVDs.
One of these Mondays, I'm going to surprise you all by announcing an all-Jess Franco week here at Video WatchBlog. I can't do it this week or next, or the one after, because I'm busy with book projects at least through the end of the month, but someday. That's a promise.
In the meantime -- Happy Birthday, Tio Jess, wherever you are! Sus obsesiones son mis obsesiones... and I can't imagine my life or the world of film without them. I wish you long life and an even longer filmography!