DVD companies that specialize in cult cinema can be sure of one thing: there are always more Jesus Franco films waiting to be released in a digital format. This absurdly prolific director has cranked out so many films since the 1960’s that several companies could make a career out of releasing his work alone. No one probably has deep enough pockets or the reckless streak required to do that… but several companies have released his work over the years and there’s always room for more.
The most recent company to throw their hat into the Franco-on-DVD ring is InterVision, an upstart outfit formed by film business veteran Larry Gold. In fact, the company’s first pair of releases are devoted to films from two very different eras of Franco’s career: The Sinister Eyes Of Dr. Orloff hails from his 1970’s glory days while Paula-Paula is a video-based effort that represents Franco’s current work. The results are as different as the films they contain.
The Sinister Eyes Of Dr. Orloff fares the worst in terms of visual quality: it was taken from an old 1-inch VHS master and the result is a full-frame transfer with soft detail and pale colors. Since it comes from a PAL source, there’s a certain “smeary” quality to its look whenever the camera or its subjects are moving quickly. Sound is mono: it’s a bit harsh-sounding in spots (particularly when the rock star character’s dreadful song is played) but acceptable.
Paula-Paula offers an anamorphic transfer that does well by its source material. It was shot cheaply on video and liberally doused with post-production effects but it boasts solid color representation and a decent level of detail despite the dim lighting. The sound mix is solid, particularly during the long stretches where the atmospheric Friedrich Gulda score takes center stage.
Both discs also boast interview supplements with Franco. The Sinister disc features a piece in which Franco offers a lively dissertation on all things Orloff: he discusses the amusing inspiration for the character, his memories of the shoot and the cast and how the film allowed him to build a working relationship with William Berger (who was suffering some legal troubles at the time).
Paula-Paula boasts a trio of Franco sitdowns (all taken from the same on-camera sitdown) that total about a half hour’s worth of material: there is a brief introduction (apparently filmed within hours of him finishing the film!), a piece in which he discusses the film and how Gulda’s music inspired it and finally a mini-dissertation on the state of contemporary cinema. The latter segment is the most entertaining/interesting and features Franco discussing his feelings about the state of filmmaking in Spain, how technology has broadened opportunities for filmmakers and how young filmmakers deserve as much serious consideration as the older, more experienced ones. His current films might not be the easiest things to watch but his theories and opinions will fascinate fans of oddball cinema.
In summation, the first few InterVision releases show promise despite a few A/V issues. If they developed a more standardized level of quality in their transfers, they could become a worthwhile force in the Euro-cult DVD market.