Sunday, September 27, 2009

Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?

This surprisingly stately clip from Jess Franco's 1972 monster rally DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN features Alberto Dalbes as Dr. Seward and Geneviève Robert as Almira, the gypsy woman who comes to his rescue. This scene brings to mind something I've always admired about Franco's, and also Mario Bava's, horror films: unlike American movies, where ugly vestiges of our country's puritan foundation lingers, their films never demonize witches, instead presenting them as serious women of intuition and arcane knowledge, who are often called upon to explain to characters who have chosen a more narrow way of living what is out of balance in their half-understood world, and just as often pointing their way to survival. Geneviève Robert is wonderful in this scene, and one regrets that she didn't make more films. Today, Robert is married to producer-director Ivan Reitman and a Reuters photo of the couple attending the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month can be found here.

Incidentally, Jess Franco and Lina Romay are currently in Austin, Texas, where they are being fêted at FantasticFest with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Here is a schedule of related events and I congratulate Jess and Lina on yet another long overdue recognition of their vast contribution to fantastic cinema.


  1. What's remarkable about the scene is that it's really just Acting and Ashes, with a little incidental music added on to seal in the flavor. Imagination and the willing suspension of disbelief do the rest. How many modern horror movies would trust this recipe?

  2. Modern horror movie watchers would have a hard time sitting still for Franco's Frankenstein films. They're just too slow.

  3. Some people might. Even most might. It doesn't invalidate the work.

    I'll give you this much, Elliot: Franco's Frankenstein films were made for Frankenstein movie fans, the ones who have already seen most of what there is to see, and it wouldn't hurt if they were also familiar with filmmakers like Godard, who played with genre tropes. It's important to grasp the references, and they need to know enough about movies, in terms of past viewing experience, to know that cinema is about pictorial composition and content, not how many edits you can cram into a minute. If a moviegoer needs speed over story, mise en scene and performance, they should find a rollercoaster.


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