Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Jesús "Jess" Franco (May 12, 1930 - April 2, 2013)

Jesús Franco Manera passed away sometime after 11:00am this morning, from complications of a stroke, at a clinic in Malaga, Spain. He was 82 years old.

Word came at roughly 5:30am (US Eastern time) this morning, on Facebook's El Franconomicon fan page, when Frank Munoz -- stationed at the hospital where "Tio Jess" had been under observation since suffering a serious stroke last Wednesday -- posted this brief message:

"Estoy en el hospital. Acaba de fallecer. Se lo han llevado ahora mismo. Lo siento."

Translation: "I'm at the hospital. He has just passed away. They are taking him right now. I am sorry."

And so ends -- or begins -- the most epic story in the history of fantastic cinema. The IMDb credits Franco with directing 199 features and the list is surely incomplete, lacking some titles altogether, not to mention variant editions and unreleased titles. Very often, he was also their writer and very often their cameraman, editor, dubber and a member of the cast. No one demonstrably loved making movies more than he.

Of course, Jess has always been the Patron Saint of VIDEO WATCHDOG, the subject of our very first feature article; the way his films invited me in, the way each of his films seemed to open up worlds within worlds, made our obsessive style of coverage possible. I watched two of his films tonight, wanting to be "with" him. I had a feeling this might happen.

Jess was only one month shy of his 83rd birthday, and his final feature -- AL PEREIRA VS. THE ALLIGATOR LADIES, in which his longtime friend and associate Antonio Mayans reprised a role he had played several times -- recently had its first public screening. Of course, Jess's wife and muse Lina Romay (Rosa Maria Almirall Martinez), who became the very essence of his cinema from the time they met in 1973, passed away just over one year ago, on February 15, 2012. 

Go with our blessings, Maestro. And take with you our grateful thanks for all the complex riches you have left behind, which will keep us occupied for so many years to come.

Needless to say, more to follow once I've had a chance to absorb this news.

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