Tuesday, February 7, 2017

FRANCO FEBRUARY! THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF (1973) (DVD Review)

THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF (1973)

Label: Intervision Picture Corp.
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 76 Minutes

Audio: Spanish Dolby Digital Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: Full Frame (1.33:1) 
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: William Berger, Mona Proust, Edmund Purdom, Lina Romay, Montserrat Prous 



In Jess Franco's The Sinister Eyes or. Orloff (1973) Melissa Comfort (Montserrat Prous, Diary of a Nymphomaniac) is a young woman who is without the use of her legs since childbirth. Nightly she is haunted by nightmares of her father's mysterious death years earlier. In the horrific recurring dream her father (played by Franco himself) stumbles to her and drips blood onto her nightgown, she awakens terrified and screaming. Melissa lives with her conniving step sister Martha (Loreta Tovar, The Night of the Sorcerers), her aunt Flora (Kali Hansa, Countess Perverse), a loyal butler Mathews (Jose Manuel Martin, Curse of the Devil). 

The family calls in a psychiatrist friend of the family, the titular and sinister Dr. Orloff, played by the steely eyed William Berger (from Mario Bava's Five Dolls for An August Moon). However, it turns out that Dr. Orloff and members of her family are conspiring against the wheelchair bound invalid, his diabolical plan involves using drugs and hypnosis to coerce Melissa to violently murder the other members of her family. In a weird twist Melissa is able to walk, but only under the post-hypnotic commands of Orloff. 


I think Berger is fantastic in the role as the evil master of hypnotism, this is definitely his show, he steals nearly every scene in the film in my opinion. A suspicious folk-singer neighbor alerts Inspector Crosby (Edmund Purdom, Piece) that something just ain't right over at the Comfort house, but will it work in her favor? 

I remember watching this movie the first time, I had to double check and be sure this was a legit Jess Franco film as it was a nearly bloodless affair with only a hint of nudity, not what I'd come to expect from the master of Euro sleaze at that point. However, the film is pushed along by some good psychological horror elements and atmosphere which was enhanced by a haunting score composed by Franco himself. Spoilers, my favorite scenario in the film has the butler Matthews whisking Melissa away to safety 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. 



I didn't love this one, it was my first disappointment from Franco when I first watched, but certainly not the last, they guy made over 200 films, and they vary in quality from film to film, era to era, ad from producer to producer. Orloff was a recurring character in Franco films, and sadly lovely Lina Romay (The Hot Nights of Linda) appears only briefly, which was a serious let down for me. The movie is slow paced, but it picks up towards the end, it has some decent visuals but largely lacks the visceral erotic flavorings I crave when watching a Franco film, this one is for the Franc0 lovers and completest only I think. 
Audio/Video: This was once considered a lost film that was probably never to be seen again, but the fine folk over at Intervision were able to unearth it from a film vault in Budapest - but what they found does not look great folks. The DVD comes in a white DVD keep case with some mighty fine original poster art. The film is presented in 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio with a mono soundtrack. The image is not stellar by any means, it's cropped from the original (1.66:1) framing, it's soft, smeary, and lacks detail. Honestly, it doesn't look much better than what you would find on a good looking public domain print but whataya want, this was a lost film, but hopefully a better source turns up at some point. The disc has only a Spanish Dolby Mono track with optional English subtitles. 


The only supplemental feature is an 18 minute interview with the late director Jess Franco conducted in English. His accent is a bit thick and some of the dialogue is hard to make out, but it is tolerable, I like that Franco is candid about the shortcomings of the film, it's a good watch.

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


T
he Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff (1973) is not the stuff of euro sleaze legend but it is a tasty slice of 70's Spanish psycho-sleaze featuring a mesmerizing performance from William Berger as the evil hypnotist. The mere fact that it exists and has been committed to DVD is fantastic news for Franco-philes, but this might be one for the hardcore fans only. I applaud Intervision for rescuing this obscure title from the long forgotten dusty vaults and making it available to the Jess Franco and euro sleaze connoisseurs of the world.2.5/5

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