Sunday, January 16, 2011

DVD REVIEW: The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff (1973)


LABEL: InterVision Picture Corp.
RATING: Unrated
DIRECTOR: Jesus "Jess" Franco
CAST: William Berger, Mona Proust, Edmund Purdom, Lina Romay

PLOT: In this 1973 Orloff shocker, William Berger (Keoma, Five Dolls for an August Moon) stars as the diabolical doctor who unleashes a nightmare of hypnosis, violence and folk music on a crippled young woman (Montserrat Prous of Diary of a Nymphomaniac) and her depraved family. Edmund Purdom (Pieces) and Lina Romay (Female Vampire) co–star in this beloved slab of psycho–sleaze, packed with enough sadism, murder, and madness to keep Goya spinning in his crypt for the next half century.

InterVision is a new niche cult and exploitation  DVD label started by one Larry Gold, Sr. and ably assisted by his longtime domestic partner Tamarine. As legend goes Mr. Gold has a much storied 50 plus year career distributing films (over 1,300 according to the InterVision site). Gold's been retired and living in Thailand and has decided now would be an opportune time to dust off and fire up the machinery once again to release some titles that need to be seen still yet. The initial salvo of releases are the Spanish master of Eurosleaze Jess Franco's "lost" film THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. OLOFF (1973) and Franco's  just finished project, a "lesbian Jekyll and Hyde fever dream" called PAULA-PAULA (2010). Up next are two films from Ozploitation soft-core auteur pioneer John D. Lamond, the director of FELICITY (1979). We'll be seeing DVD releases of THE ABC OF LOVE AND SEX: AUSTRALIA STYLE (1978) and AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK  (1974) with brand new transfers. I've also read that InterVision has acquired the rights to David R. Bowen's serial killer character study THE SECRET LIFE: JEFFREY DAHMAER (1993), no word on the InterVision website but I'm anxious to see what else lies awaiting release in Gold's 850 plus film vault. The mind reels...

In Jess Franco's THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF (1973) Melissa Comfort (Mona Proust) is a young woman without the use of her legs since childbirth. Nightly she is haunted by nightmares of her father's mysterious death. In a recurring dream her father (played by Franco himself) stumbles to her and drips blood onto her nightgown. She awakens terrified and screaming. She lives with her conniving stepsister Martha (Loreta Tovar), her aunt Flora (Kali Hansa), a loyal butler Mathews (Jose Manuel Martin). The family calls in a psychiatrist friend of the family Dr. Orloff,  played by the steely eyed William Berger (from Mario Bava's FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON). What Melissa does not know is that Dr. Orloff and several members of her family are conspiring against her. The diabolical plans involve using drugs and hypnosis to coerce Melissa to violently murder the members of the  family. It turns out Melissa can walk but is only  able to do so under the hypnotic commands of the evil Dr. Orloff. Berger is fantastic in the role as the evil master of hypnotism, this is definitely his show and he steals nearly every scene in the film. A suspicious folk-singer neighbor alerts Inspector Crosby (Edmund Purdom, PIECES) that something just ain't right over there at the Comfort house but will it work in her favor? Well, support the upstart label InterVision and buy the fucking movie and find out.

I had to double check and be sure this was a Jess Franco films as it is mostly bloodless with only a hint of nudity. Honestly, I'm not at all familiar with the over 200 films of Jess Franco. In fact I've only seen the erotic-revenge thriller SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY (1970) starring the phenomenally beautiful Soledad Miranda. So, I'm very pleased to have been given the opportunity to check out this "lost" film that while not a psycho-sleaze classic at least is finally getting a proper DVD release from InterVision. The film is pushed along by a an overwhelming sense of psychological horror and atmosphere enhanced by a haunting score composed by Franco himself. Perhaps my  favorite scene in the film involves Mathews whisking Melissa away in the trunk of a car after overhearing the conspiracy against her only to be murdered by Melissa (under the hypnotic command of Dr. Orloff) on a misty road. That sucks but it makes for a great scene, sorry dude.

DVD: Once considered a lost film never to be seen again the fine folk at InterVision were able to unearth it from a film vault in Budapest. The DVD comes in a white DVD keep case with some mighty fine original poster art. The film is presented in 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio with a mono soundtrack. The image is not stellar by any means, it's soft, lacks detail and is a cropped fullframe presentation with quite a few blemishess, it doesn't look much better than a good looking public domain print to be honest but whatya want, this was a lost film. It's presented in mono Spanish with optional English subtitles. The only supplemental  feature is an 18 min. interview with Jess Franco in English. His accent is a bit thick and some of the dialogue is hard to make out, but tolerable. Subtitles would have been appreciated.  

- “The Sinister Origins of Dr. Orloff: Interview with Director Jess Franco” (18:25)

VERDICT: THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF (1973) is not the stuff of eursosleaze legend but it is a tasty slice of 70's Spanish psycho-sleaze featuring a mesmerizing performance from William Berger as the titular hypnotist. The mere fact that it exists and has been committed to DVD is fantastic. I applaud InterVision for rescuing this obscure title from the long forgotten dusty vaults and making it available to the Jess Franco and eurosleaze connoisseurs of the world. Here's hoping InterVision ends up right there among some of my favorite DVD labels like Arrow Video, Synapse Films, Code Red, Severin Films and Mondo Macabro releasing amazing cult and exploitation titles in the new year.  *** (3 out of 5 stars)