Monday, 16 December 2013

Pete Tombs remembers Colin Wilson (1931-2013)


News filtered through at the beginning of last week. The death of one of the most interesting individuals I’ve ever met and someone who in the future will, I am sure, be seen as a valuable and  much maligned thinker and writer. I’m talking about Colin Wilson. Depending on where you are in the world, that statement might seem baffling. In some countries (Japan, the US, mainland Europe) he has long been taken seriously; his books still in print and his past talks and lectures well attended. But in the UK, where he was born and lived most of his life, that was far from the case. The reasons for this say a lot about the narrowness of British intellectual life, the enduring strength of the class system and the elitism of the British literary world.

Colin was unfortunate (in retrospect, of course) in having been something of “an overnight success”. His first published book, The Outsider, which hit the shops in 1956, rocketed him to fame and, initially at least, some fortune. A recent article estimated that he earned, in today’s money, around £430,000 ($800k) in the book’s first year of publication. During that year he was everywhere and met everyone. From Marilyn Monroe to Albert Camus. He drank a lot, travelled a lot and talked a lot. The result was Wilson Overkill. So much so that when his next book, Religion and The Rebel, appeared, it was – in the UK at least – generally slated. Even those who had praised The Outsider went into print saying that they had been wrong about that first book and wanted to set the record straight by tearing the new one apart. In fact RATR is much more interesting and substantial than The Outsider. But the damage had been done.

The unfairness of it all is that Colin was only 24 when his first book was published. He was a young, working class guy who had never been to university and was in fact sleeping in a public park to save money so he could spend all his time writing. Who, in those circumstances, would not have bitten hungrily at any offered fruit when fame and fortune beckoned.

Despite his young age, he had already been married once and had a son. Without an alternative source of income, he had no other way of providing for himself and his family than by writing. And he wrote prodigiously. In the 5 years following The Outsider he published eight books, including his first novel, Ritual in the Dark. By the time of his death he had 115 full length books to his name and numerous articles, essays and introductions to other works.

His interests ranged wide, but came to centre around crime, the sexual impulse and (following the publication in 1971 of The Occult) the paranormal. The thread that connected all these was his lifelong investigation into the power and untapped potential of the human mind.  However, the perceived “lurid” aspect of such interests, alongside his prolificacy, led to a general perception of him, in the UK at least, as a “hack”.

Colin was very much aware of the brickbats being lobbed his way by the literary establishment. Being a generally optimistic individual he chose to set it aside, taking revenge via his prodigious output and comfort from the large and varied global audience that found much of interest in what he had to say, even if they didn’t (contrary to what the naysayers always assume) take everythign he wrote at face value.

I don’t wish to portray him as a saint. I only had a passing acquaintance with him, including a mammoth weekend session of interviews for a documentary film, and he could be opinionated, argumentative, naive and occasionally infuriating. But who isn’t? He was a human being, like the rest of us. He was an autodidact and exhibited all the faults of same, but also the virtues – a hunger for knowledge, a deeply held belief in the importance of thought and ideas, and a strong desire to communicate.

In both his novels and non fiction, that desire to communicate is the thing that shines most strongly. He is never less than readable and often quite compulsively so. At his best he can explain complex ideas in easy to digest forms. As one review said he can “make even a detailed account of a severe attack of clinical depression sound like something out of the last five minutes of the Choral Symphony”. At his worst, yes he can be credulous, over simplistic, and bumptious. But that’s part of the mix. In aiming at a moving target, there are always going to be lots of stray shots.

I first heard the name Colin Wilson when my parents started discussing him after a TV appearance. I was a kid, so this would have been in the 1960s. I remember my mother saying that she’d read The Outsider and it was “just a collection of quotes from other books”. The implication being that he was some sort of fake; that he’d let his readership down.

Years later, while at college, I came across some paperback reprints of his “Lovecraft” themed books, The Philosopher’s Stone and The Mind Parasites. The Wilson name rang a bell and, being a Lovecraft fan, I bought the books and was blown away by them. I thought, if this guy’s a fake, then bring on more of them. It was populist, genre fiction with a side order of mind expanding ideas. I soon discovered that whenever you start talking about Colin Wilson there’ll always be others within earshot who have their own opinions of him (for and against) and are not shy about sharing them. From one of these I learned about the “New Existentialism” and the underlying thrust of all Wilson’s work to that point.

I went on to read all of Colin’s fiction and most of his non fiction. Later, while working in the publishing industry, I was involved with a new edition of one of his earliest and perhaps least typical novels – Adrift in Soho. It was during that period that I began to communicate with Colin directly and, eventually, to meet him. This was at a talk he was giving in central London to promote the publication of From Atlantis to the Sphinx. He was in the company of another Wilson fan, an American who turned out to be Gary Lachman former Blondie song writer and bass guitarist. Gary told me that he’d spent much of  his royalties moving to the UK to be able to get to know Colin and later he collaborated with him on a number of books and articles.

I remember the talk well. It was a mixed audience of wannabe hipsters, a few Wilson freaks and a scattering of those who looked as though they’d wandered in off the street because the door was open. Colin soon launched into an explanation of his theory of the mind and the power of intentionality, as usual, via a series of anecdotes. One recounted how, a few years before, he had begun to feel that he was losing his sex drive. He was on a train to London and some schoolgirls got into the carriage. He thought, “Hmmm. Let me concentrate on the legs of these schoolgirls and see if I can get an erection.” Which, to his delight, he did! A small, but memorable illustration of the power of the mind…

As the anecdote progressed, you could feel a ripple of unease pass through the audience. Over the next few minutes a fair number left and the mood chilled noticeably. But I remember thinking – here’s a guy who’s totally fearless and completely honest. And, let’s be frank, what man hasn’t at some point done what he did? But to do it as part of some existential experiment. That’s near genius.

We kept in touch and some years later, following discussions with fellow Wilson fan Paul Woods, I pitched to Colin the idea of making  a documentary film about him. With fortunate timing, this coincided with the writing of his autobiography Dreaming to Some Purpose, so he was in something of a self reflective mood. I remember we considered postponing the initial interviews as Colin had suffered a minor stroke. But he kept to his word, despite his poor health, and insisted that we go ahead. He invited us down to his house in rural Cornwall and was very disappointed when he learned that we’d booked into a hotel as he was more than happy to put us up and feed us for the entire weekend.

Over the course of the next three days he was generous almost to fault, not only with his time but with his food and wine. I’ll always remember both him and his wife Joy with great affection. Although I was certainly old enough to be long past the gushing “fan” stage, I’ll admit I was more than a little in awe of him. That didn’t stop us having a fair few disagreements and I began to take some pleasure in provoking him from time to time. I thought we’d get the best material that way.

Sadly, the documentary was never finished. We planned to do a number of follow up interviews and license some archive material, but Colin was hugely busy with his autobiography and a punishing work schedule. His large global audience and huge list of publications hadn’t translated into great wealth. He was a working writer who needed to work, and that was what he remained all his life.

Over the course of the interview we discussed the negative aspects that had been attached to him. Including the strange notion that he was some sort of crypto fascist or Satanist. I can remember him telling us with relish about an alleged quote from David Bowie (deep into his Thin White Duke phase, I guess), that he had been initiated into a satanic coven in the West Country whose eminence grise was Colin Wilson!

Much of this negative commentary comes from the use in his work of such theories as “the dominant 5%” in human evolution and the notion that most of us sleepwalk through life in a robotic state. What his critics seem to miss is that, far from praising this state of affairs, Colin’s analysis of it was centred around the notion of finding out the secrets of the dominant so that we could all share them, and thus go beyond the robot phase and live life to the full. Whatever one may think about such ideas in the first place, his goals were the very opposite of fascism and elitism.

One of the aspects of his career that we discussed was his status as a novelist and how this has increasingly been seen as secondary. Interestingly Colin mentioned that in Japan he was best known for his fiction and he suspected that any obituary there would be for “Colin Wilson author of Spider World”. My way into his writing was through the fiction and I still think a fair number of his novels bear reading (and re-reading) today. The “Lovecraft” books for sure (The Mind Parasites, The Philosopher’s Stone); and The Space Vampires, The Glass Cage, Ritual in the Dark, Necessary Doubt, The Killer, God of the Labyrinth, Spider World, all are recommended.

Interestingly, although he dabbled in genre fiction, Colin was not a great fan of genre films. A number of his books were optioned for the screen and he made money from writing treatments for, among others, Dino de Laurentiis. However the only one of his books to reach the screen was Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce, based on The Space Vampires, a film I have a lot of time for. To Colin it was not just a bad film, it was “probably one of the worst films ever made”.

A friend has just pointed out to me that The Space Vampires has now been optioned anew, this time for a TV mini series. We can only hope that the long form version stays closer to the original novel and that, if it’s a success, it leads, finally, to the publication of the follow up. The elusive Metamorphosis of the Vampire, of which I’ve read a lengthy extract from what is apparently a 1500 page epic, is one of the most eagerly awaited of all Colin Wilson’s unpublished works. Its appearance now would be a worthwhile epitaph for this still controversial literary figure.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

THE SNAKE GOD has been unleashed!!

Today is the day! Piero Vivarelli's Italian soft-core psychodrama THE SNAKE GOD is now officially available from most reputable online retailers.You know you need it!

If huge, faceless corporations are your thing Amazon will meet all your Eurosleaze needs. If you're looking out for the little guy, give Diabolik DVD a chance.

Here are some advance reviews if you still not sure if this is worth a spot on your shelves:
Mondo Digital
A/V Maniacs

We'll post more reviews as they come in. Watch this space! And buy THE SNAKE GOD!!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

This is the time when we give thanks for all we have ...

Or lament the things we don't have. For the past several months we've gotten a lot of questions about titles going out of print. Well, the dust has settled and the following titles are now officially OOP.

Let's have a moment of silence for:

BOLLYWOOD HORROR (all volumes)

There are varying reasons for each going out-of-print: from rights expiring to the simple costs of keeping a title in print that has been available for years and doesn't sell all that well anymore. The basic facts are that the market for niche films like these continues to contract. We will continue to release new and interesting films from all over the world, but don't be surprised if they are released in far more limited editions than previously. The moral of the story? If want a title - don't wait: purchase it as soon as you can!

Thanks for all your support over the years, and we promise there's still lots of great stuff to come!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Coming Next Year!

Pasquale Festa Campanile's "Scacco alla regina" aka "Check to the Queen", which we will be releasing under the title THE SLAVE!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Franco's HOW TO SEDUCE A VIRGIN out today!!

Released Today – October 8th, 2013

How to Seduce a Virgin

Directed by Jess Franco

The beautiful Countess Martine de Bressac is released from the expensive asylum where she was incarcerated after castrating her former lover. She returns to her luxurious villa on the coast and goes at once down into her private underground dungeon. It’s here that she indulges herself in the perverse sexual practices that give her life meaning, surrounded by the bizarre human statues of her previous victims.
Her husband, Charles, feeds his wife’s sick fantasies, aware that she is his meal ticket to a life of luxury. He announces that he has a new game for her - they will befriend and seduce the young and virginal daughter of a rich neighbor. But things do not go exactly as planned...

Games of decadence and debauchery lead to mayhem and murder.

This one of Jess Franco’s sexiest and most subversive films. We present it here for the first time ever on official US release and in English friendly form.

Get it now while you can!

Brand new transfer from film negative
Interview with writer Alain Petit
Introduction by critic Stephen Thrower
Newly created optional subtitles
Extensive production notes
Mondo Macabro previews

How to Seduce a Virgin

UPC 843276015398

RRP $24.95

Don't just take our word that this is a great release - check out these reviews!

Mondo Digital
Rock! Shock! Pop! 
10K Bullets 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

José Ramón Larraz, 1929-2013

A couple of kind folks have just pointed out to me that with the recently announced death of José Ramón Larraz, all of the main figures that Cathal and myself wrote about in Immoral Tales are now dead. Great! Thanks, guys… Although it took a few years, we finally got the last of the bastards.

But seriously, it does make you realise that we have reached - in that much abused phrase – “the end of an era”.

What exactly that era was we leave history to define. But I guess we can say that it was, in film making terms, a period when borders were crossed, rules questioned and moulds broken.

In many ways, José Ramón was one of the most traditional of the six film makers we covered. And yet his works have a timeless – or rather “out of time” – quality that sets them apart. The flared trousers and mullet haircuts might be firmly date stamped, but with most of them set in isolated, claustrophobic locations, ringed by empty fields and eerie woods, the modern world seems curiously absent from his films.

The best of them seem to take place in a kind of dream space, an inner landscape where familiar but oddly unreal characters meet, mate, part and perform in a  ritual that seems to suggest meaning, but never finally reveals its purpose. The awkward dialogue, the obscurely motivated actions, the languid pace, the shadow filled framing,  all create an ominous sense of unease, a feeling that anything could happen; but that when it does, it will be tragic and ultimately lead nowhere. Although often written off as a maker of cheap exploitation pics, Larraz is much closer to Samuel Beckett than to Derek Ford* in the way his films embrace or express the ultimate pointlessness of things, while at the same time underlining the fact that we will always keep on keeping on.

I first met him some time in the early 90s, when Cathal and myself went to see him at his home in Tunbridge Wells – “Royal Tunbridge Wells”, as he liked to remind us, with a twinkle in his eye. He was an iconoclast and an old leftie, but he was also a huge anglophile and loved the grand British traditions, or at least the idea of them. We’d driven down there with a UK producer who reckoned he could drum up enough funds to make a small exploitation movie, helmed by Larraz. In the end we talked about almost everything but that project.

We met again a few times over the years, had dinner together on his rare London visits, and I spoke to him on the phone; but the last time we met was at Sitges in 2009. I encountered Larraz walking the corridors of the Melia hotel, almost in a trance. We had a brief conversation and I was convinced he didn’t know who I was. Later he phoned to apologise, explaining that he had just received an award and had been thoroughly “zombified” by the experience. We got to talking about the script he had for Fascinatrix – the sequel to Vampyres.

In typical Larraz style it was not a sequel at all, but a film about a subject that deeply interested him – witchcraft, men’s fear of the power of women, the evils of organised religion. All classic Larraz themes and served up with a heavy dose of irony as well as dollops of sex and violence. It would have been a classic, and maybe in 1977 we could have raised the cash to make it; but in 2009? Not so easy…

What impressed me in discussing it with him was how alive the thing was in his mind. He had ingenious and thoroughly workable solutions to all the technical problems that we raised, ideas on how to cheat the couple of historical crowd scenes the script required, tricks to create the illusion of the forest of hanging witches that occurred at one point. I really do think he was the most technically adept of all the film makers we wrote about and had it in him to make a masterpiece or two. And yet, as he said himself – “If you want to make great films, important films, you have to spend time where the money is, not hang out with your friends and people you like. But I chose to spend my time with people I like.”

That can’t be a bad epitaph for anybody and it sums up the warm heart and humanity of the man. Let’s hope that the best of his work, those first six or seven films, will one day receive the quality releases they deserve.

* btw – No insult intended. I fully expect to have that comparison thoroughly challenged soon via an in-depth analysis of the mighty Ford oeuvre.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Back Catalog Spotlight: SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN!

In light of the supremely sad news that Euro-trash superstar Michel Lemoine has recently passed away, we thought it very timely indeed to run this piece by writer/blogger Jeremy Richey on our DVD of Lemoine's SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN. Many thanks to Mr. Richey for letting us publish this, and apologies to him for taking so long to put it up on the site. 

 The first thing you will notice about Les week-ends maléfiques du Comte Zaroff, one of the most bizarre and idiosyncratic European horror films of the seventies, is the wonderful sense of movement that director (and star) Michel Lemoine brings to every frame. From the unforgettable opening sequence (featuring a nude woman on foot being chased by a dog and Lemoine on horseback) to its mesmerizing closing shot, Les week-ends maléfiques du Comte Zaroff is a wonderfully propulsive film as delirious as it is distinctive.

 Michel Lemoine was in his early fifties when he wrote, directed and starred in Les week-ends maléfiques du Comte Zaroff in the mid-seventies. Better known under its English language title, Seven Women for Satan marked the sixth film Lemoine had directed but, upon its release in 1976, he was still far better known as an actor. As fascinating as Lemoine was on the screen he was also an extremely interesting filmmaker and Seven Women for Satan stands as probably his best work, along with his earlier Marianne Bouquet from 1972.

 Most of Lemoine’s directorial credits were in France’s adult industry of the seventies and eighties, so the horrors of Seven Women for Satan are a bit of an anomaly, compared to the rest of his work, but the film feels like an extremely personal odyssey rather than just a blatant commercial endeavor. Noted author and film-historian Pete Tombs would call Lemoine “one of the great faces of the commercial underground” in the essential Immoral Tales and it is a shame that his work behind the camera isn’t as well-known as his on–screen appearances.

Seven Women for Satan concerns the sure to be doomed Michael Zaroff a lonely man, descended from the notorious sadist Count Boris Zaroff, who lives in a gloomy mansion with his mysterious butler Karl haunted by nightmares he can’t fully grasp and a bloodlust he can never seem to quench. Seven Women for Satan is simultaneously baffling and engrossing and even at its most nonsensical it feels like the work of an artist with a real sense of purpose and a striking knack for cinematic frissson.

 While Seven Women for Satan feels completely distinct, the film actually has a lot of common ground with several other genre films and filmmakers from the seventies. Cast-wise, Lemoine himself will immediately bring the spirit of Jess Franco to mind, due to his many appearances in the great Spaniards films throughout the sixties and seventies, and with Howard Vernon appearing as Karl it is indeed a bit hard to not to think of Franco while watching Seven Women for Satan. The astonishing Joëlle Coeur’s startling appearances in the film will of course bring to mind legendary French auteur Jean Rollin and the always welcome Nathalie Zeiger draws a connection (of quite a few) to the films of Alain Robbe-Grillet, as she had appeared in both Successive Slidings of Pleasure and Playing With Fire (which Coeur had appeared in as well). Cast connections aside, Lemoine’s daring and rule-breaking cinematic styling have an absolute connection with the maverick works of Franco, Rollin and Robbe-Grillet. I was also struck by how Seven Women for Satan would make a great double feature with Joe D’Amato’s eerie ghost-story Death Smiles on a Murderer, as both works manage to capture a rare nightmarish intensity out of pure filmmaking force and will. Pete Tombs points out other connections as well, in his excellent liner notes for Mondo Macabro’s DVD, to such literary figures as Goethe and even cinematic heavyweight Luis Bunuel.

Stylistically Seven Women for Satan is quite an achievement considering its budget. Philippe T’éaudière's photography gives Lemoine’s already dreamy production an even more narcotic haze and the exciting score (credited to Guy Bonnet although some tracks sound library sourced) is excellent throughout. Best of all is the marvelous styling of Robbe-Grillet’s preferred editor Bob Wade, whose work adds immeasurably to Lemoine’s frenzied footage. That connection between Lemoine and Robbe-Grillet (that Tombs has pointed out much to the chagrin of ‘respectable’ film connoisseurs) can really be felt in Wade’s remarkable cutting that worked so well for both artists.

 The deliberately off-kilter (Tombs label of ‘subversive’ in Immoral Tales really is dead-on) Seven Women for Satan will probably prove too ‘trashy’ for art-house lovers and too ‘arty’ for horror devotees but there really is a lot to love in this strange little oddity, that had so much trouble getting released in the mid-seventies and still feels a bit ‘hidden’ to this day. To say that it is the kind of film that isn't being made anymore is an understatement, and perhaps that is reason enough to celebrate it.

Jeremy Richey created the film and music blog Moon in the Gutter in December of 2006. Since then he has also started Fascination: The Jean Rollin Experience and L'arrivée d' Sylvia Kristel. His work has also graced the pages of several books and magazines including Intellect's Directory of World Cinema series and Rue Morgue. He lives in Kentucky with his wife Kelley, their two dogs Molly and Mazie and their cat Mazzy Star.

Monday, 29 July 2013

At long last ... Jess Franco's HOW TO SEDUCE A VIRGIN!

How to Seduce a Virgin
Label: Mondo Macabro
Pre-book: 09/10/13 Streets: 10/08/13 SRP: 24.95
UPC: 843276015398 Cat: MDO153 Region 1
Run Time: 87 Minutes In French. Genre: Horror Color. 1.33:1 full frame Original Ratio.
Director: Jess Franco Stars: Robert Woods, Alice Arno, Lina Romay, Tania Busselier Production year: 1973 Rated: NR

The beautiful Countess Martine de Bressac is released from the expensive asylum where she was incarcerated after castrating her former lover. She returns to her luxurious villa on the coast and goes at once down into her private underground dungeon. It’s here that she indulges herself in the perverse sexual practices that give her life meaning, surrounded by the bizarre human statues of her previous victims. Her husband, Charles, feeds his wife’s sick fantasies, aware that she is his meal ticket to a life of luxury. He announces that he has a new game for her - they will befriend and seduce the young and virginal daughter of a rich neighbor. But things do not go exactly as planned…

Games of decadence and debauchery lead to mayhem and murder. From cult director Jess Franco. His most outrageous film. First ever US release.

Bonus Features include:
Brand new transfer from film negative.
Interview with writer Alain Petit.
Introduction by critic Stephen Thrower.
Newly created optional subtitles.
Extensive production notes.
Mondo Macabro previews


Diabolik DVD

Monday, 22 July 2013

DON'T PANIC! (part 2)

We’re just updating our website. There’ll be a fair few changes over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, the best place to check in for info or ask any questions will be here.

Several titles will be going out of print soon as licenses expire and we will list all those in the next update.

A quick question – we’ve a number of titles that are about to run out of stock that we’d like to keep on catalog, as we get requests for them from time to time. However the sales numbers are really too low for it to be economical for us to repress them in large quantities.

We’d liked to know what you think about us offering some of these as “on demand” titles. That’s to say, burned rather than pressed. The covers, red boxes, disc labels etc would be as before, but we’d be offering these at a lower price, of course.

Before we make any decisions, we’d like to know what you think. Would you rather these titles went entirely out of print or would you prefer us to continue offering them as burns for a limited time?

We don’t have a list of titles at present, but Born of Fire and maybe the third Bollywood horror release would be among them. Right now we’d just like to know what you think. Thanks for your response!


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Mondo Macabro Back Catalogue Spotlight: Jess Franco’s Lorna The Exorcist

Almost a year ago, we got this great piece on LORNA from Rock!Shock!Pop!'s Ian Jane for use in this series. Well, time and tide tossed it aside, unfortunately, but we are fixing that up right now. It's the right time, with the painful memory of Franco's death still haunting our thoughts. Apologies to Mr. Jane for not publishing it until now.

 With the recent and tragic passing of Jess Franco’s muse, the lovely Lina Romay, it seems only appropriate to look back on her body of work and as that happens, we’re inevitably drawn to some titles more so than others. Available for ages only as a poor quality bootleg, 1974’s Lorna The Exorcist stands out as one of Romay’s finest performances, as brave, as bold and as daring as anything she made before or after and, save for maybe Female Vampire, likely her most notorious. Seeing the film in good quality turns out to be imperative to appreciating it and this is where Mondo Macabro’s DVD comes into play. Restored from three different sources, the film was saddled with a title intent on cashing in on the box office success of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist but outside of that key word, the films have little in common.

 Presented on DVD without the hardcore inserts, the film still packs a serious sexual wallop and the bulk of the credit for that goes not to Franco but to Romay who, in her role as Linda, smolders on the screen. As she travels with her parents, Marianne (Jacqueline Laurent) and Patrick (Guy Delorme), on vacation for her eighteenth birthday she becomes plagued by strange dreams of lesbianism with a mysterious blonde woman named Lorna (Pamela Stanford). As the story unfolds we learn that Patrick had a sexual encounter with Lorna eighteen years ago and that she offered him a night of pleasure and a lifetime of success in exchange for the daughter she knew his wife would provide him. Now that Linda has come of age, Lorna has come to collect on Patrick’s debt.

 While this film isn’t a high mark in terms of narrative structure or storytelling, the plot does allow for Franco to play voyeur on our behalf and to document the one way ticket to Hell that Lina’s character is handed by her father. While the movie is, on a surface level, not a whole lot more than yet another retelling of Faust, it gives Romay ample room to get into character and really show off her skill in what had to be quite a challenging role. As she did in other pictures like the aforementioned Female Vampire and Doriana Grey, here Romay finishes the film for Franco, using those incredibly expressive eyes of hers and some intense facial expressions and body language to say more to us than scripted dialogue ever could. There’s no need for special effects here, this is just solid filmmaking on the part of the cast, crew and director – something Franco’s many detractors will no doubt deny, as they are apt to do – the kind you just do not get in Hollywood.

 There are technical flaws to be sure, no Franco film would be complete (or as interesting as they tend to be) without them, but as a showcase for the talents of the movie’s director and leading lady Lorna The Exorcist is a pretty indispensable entry in their collective catalogue. Truly transgressive and equally searing, the film is set to a score as disturbing as it is evocative and which only serves to darken an already bleak psychosexual journey into the shadows of the id. An explicit morality tale if ever there was one, Lorna The Exorcist isn’t ever going to gain mainstream acceptance, nor should it, but for those daring enough to explore the bizarre places that Franco has strived over the years to take us, it is essential.

Ian lives in New York City with his remarkably tolerant wife where he runs Rock! Shock! Pop! and writes for DVD Talk. In the past he has contributed extensively to AV Maniacs and X-Critic and written liner notes for Mondo Macabro, Synapse Films and Media Blasters. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud. 

Monday, 8 April 2013


 Ploughing through the internet looking for Franco obituaries, I thought of the painting The Fall of Icarus and the Auden poem about it. In the painting, the momentous event happens on the far horizon, hardly noticed, while in the foreground a man happily ploughs a field, oblivious to the tragedy occurring behind him. Franco is dead, but life goes on; The gossip, the trivia, the big deals made, the small deals collapsing. Lindsay Lohan isn’t pregnant; or is she? Nicolas Cage denies he’s an actual vampire. R-Patz has gone on a bender. The movie business rolls on. Yet in a way, cinema died with Franco. Of course films will continue to be made. Thousands of them, every year. But the kind of films that Franco represented in his prime, strange perverse little artefacts, seen by chance in malodorous backstreet cinemas, praised by no-one, here today, gone tomorrow - that world has vanished forever. Vanished along with the celluloid on which the films themselves were printed, now no longer to be manufactured. That “commercial underground” from which his films emerged (or escaped…) exists no more. Nowadays every film has to be an “event”. Raising even modest capital to make a movie is a task more difficult almost than making the film itself. And so the publicity, the marketing, the hype are in gear months before the film is released, months before it is even shot. What chance now for the serendipitous discovery, that rare gem stumbled across in the dark? That’s what Franco represented for me and he was maybe the best example ever of an artist happily toiling away in the shadows, embracing obscurity, even revelling in the freedom it gave. And now he’s gone.

 One of the most interesting Franco related items I’ve seen recently is a short by a Spanish film maker who took the “behind the scenes” sections of Pere Portabella’s Cuadecuc, vampir and set them beside the actual scenes from Count Dracula, on the set of which the Portabella film was shot. Franco at work is always fascinating and seeing him helming what was for him a big budget production is a revelation. For the other extreme, Franco on a micro budget project, Brian Horrorwitz’s Antenna Criminal is an essential watch. From these one gets the feeling that the real Franco only ever existed there, behind the camera, marshalling his tiny army and leading them off into battle. Even whilst working on one film, he was planning, and maybe even shooting, the next two or three.

 I first met Franco at the beginning of the 1990s. Our friend Simon Birrell had moved to Spain and Cathal and me had set him the task of “finding Franco”. One day, at work, I got a call from him.

 “Do you want to meet Jess?”

 Amazingly, our mystery man was in London. Simon gave me the address of a hotel in Paddington and told me to be there at seven. I arrived early. Sitting alone in the dimly lit basement bar of the run down Edwardian flophouse, I began to wonder if it was some sort of set up. This was in the days before mobile phones (or at least, before I had one) and so there was no choice but to sit and wait. Eventually the door opened and in walked Antonio Mayans. His was a face I recognised from so many Franco films. He introduced himself and was the model of politeness, speaking perfect English, learned in his days studying the dramatic arts at RADA. He told me Jess was on his way. I was nervous, to say the least. What the hell was I going to talk about?

Back then, to me at least, Franco was an almost mythic figure, a wild man of cinema, a provocateur, probably capable of anything. Would he be on drugs… drunk? In a fighting mood? Maybe all of those. I’d brought my tape recorder as we were in the midst of work on Immoral Tales and even snippets of info would have been invaluable, there being so little in English about him.

 I was talking to Mayans about West End theatre when I suddenly saw Franco had arrived, he had shuffled silently in and was standing right beside us. He sat down, lit up a cigarette and, without him even asking for it, the ancient, white-coated barman bought him a double espresso. They exchanged a few words in what sounded like Portuguese.

 Franco chuckled and told me that he always stayed in this hotel. He had discovered it when working for Harry Alan Towers, who lived just round the corner. I got the impression that Franco might have been the only person who ever stayed in this hotel.

 “So, what can we say?” he asked, lighting up cigarette number two.

 My mind went a blank. Antonio Mayans glanced at his watch. I could see this great opportunity slipping rapidly away from me.

 “I really like your films…” I blurted out.

 Franco looked at me like I’d just farted.

 “What?” he asked, with what seemed genuine astonishment. “I don’t.”

 There was a moment’s pregnant silence. Mayans watched attentively, his eyes flicking from my face to Franco’s. And then Franco started to bubble over with laughter. I joined in and soon we were off. We talked for about an hour, on every subject EXCEPT his films. I'd forgotten to turn on the tape recorder so it was just as well. Art, music, comic books, architecture, food, the changing face of London… He seemed to have instant recall for faces, places and facts. He said he would give me Daniel White’s address and phone number in Paris and I was expecting him to look them up, but instead he just reeled them out off the top of his head, along with the address of Montparnasse 2000, the great library music label that had released so many of Daniel White's recordings, including one made with Franco himself.

 He told me he was here to meet a producer and to talk to Troma (yes, THAT Troma) about making films together. It seemed an unlikely combination. But before I could say that, our hour was done and he was up and off. I guess punctuality was one of the habits he acquired from decades of making films in a few weeks. 

We met again a number of times over the years and I was very happy to have been involved with a film about Franco that played on UK TV. But in a way I’ll always associate him with that first chance encounter and that now long gone hotel bar that seemed lost in some sort of 1970’s time warp.

 His star was not exactly in the ascendant at the time. The international fanzine fury that elevated him to the canon had not quite kicked in, but even so I suspect that Franco remained pretty impervious to the ministrations of fans and their attempts to fix him in aspic. Typical were his comments on receiving a prestigious Goya Award from the Spanish film industry in 2009. “I don’t deserve this. I’m just a man in love with cinema who wanted to make films,” he said. And there was not a single note of false modesty in his words. He wasn’t that sort of person. He lived to film and he filmed to live. His body is gone now, but I think his soul is still here, flitting about, from scene to scene, from cut to cut, like a shimmering ghost, within that vast edifice of the work he left behind. Jess Franco is dead… Long live Jess Franco!

- Pete Tombs,  April 2013

Monday, 18 February 2013

ARG… GGGHHHHHH! Or, Business is Business

Things move fast in the wonderful world of “cult” movies.

One week you have an email confirming that your offer for a film has been accepted, the deal is on, and the paperwork is on its way, the next you hear that the deal has been cancelled, with all sorts of nefarious reasons given.

Which is a long winded and slightly  bitter way of announcing that the “Rights Holders” – so we were told – have now at the  11th hour cancelled the deal for all of  the Robbe Grillet titles.

Obviously we’re pissed off. We think we would have done a good job on them and, let’s be honest, we were championing these films for years in the face of general indifference so feel that we’ve helped to create whatever market might have existed for them.

But we’re big boys and we’ll get over it. And hopefully any of you out there who wanted to buy these won’t suffer too much as we’re sure they will be released at some future time in the US. Just not by us. Seems like we were gazumped by someone with deeper pockets.

Annoying, but like we said above, business is business. Profuse apologies to all for this hiccup. We move on…

- Pete Tombs

Thursday, 24 January 2013

More Robbe-Grillet coming in 2013!

Mondo Macabro is proud to present, for the first time ever on official DVD, 5 classic Alain Robbe-Grillet films!

Coming later this year will be TRANS EUROPE EXPRESS, THE MAN WHO LIES, EDEN AND AFTER (along with its rare alternate version N TAKES THE DICE) and SLOW SLIDINGS OF PLEASURE! These astounding and transgressive arthouse/exploitation hybrids have all been painstakingly remastered in HD. In fact, they look so nice that a BD or two may be a real possibility. No promises, but the option is there! Stay tuned for more details as they come in!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Don't Panic!

If you haven’t been able to buy Mondo Macabro DVDs of late, do not despair. They are not going out of print and MM is not going out of business. Changes in distribution have recently been made, causing a gap in availability with most retailers. The situation will improve, we promise!