Thursday, February 1, 2024

FRANCO FEBRUARY - DAY 1! ANGEL OF DEATH (1987) (Full Moon Features Blu-ray Review with Screenshots)

We're kicking of Franco February 2024, a celebration of prolific Euro-sleaze titan Jess Franco, with a look back at the Jess Franco & Andrea Bianchi directed late-80s Nazisploitation mind-boggler Angel of Death (1987). Look for more Franco-tastic spotlights throughout the month, including new reviews for Voodoo Passion (1977), Blue Rita (1977), Downtown Heat (1990) and Countdown to Esmerelda Bay (1994), plus a few other surprises. 


Label: Full Moon Features
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 97 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.67:1) 
Director:  Jess Franco, Andrea Bianchi
Cast: Jack Taylor, Christopher Mitchum, Fernando Rey, Howard Vernon, Dora Doll

Written and co-directed by Jess Franco (Barbed Wire Dolls) Angel of Death (1987) (aka Commando Mengele) is a slightly daft nazisploitaion entry that riffs on The Boys From Brazil (1978) with Nazis hiding in South America plotting their return while indulging in some horrific science experiments. In it Nazi hunters Aaron Horner (Jack Taylor, Pieces) and Marc Logan (Antonio Mayans, Devil Hunter) are in Uruguay on the hunt for the escaped Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele (Howard Vernon, Countess Perverse) who has set-up shop down in sunny South America. 

Since the fall of The Third Reich Mengele has kept himself busy, continuing his horrific human experimentation with the help of his Arian-bitch assistant Gertrud (Shirley Knight, White Cannibal Queen), working on the next step in human evolution... a human-chimp hybrid with a unibrow? Anyway, he has also been rebranding the Nazi party as The Fourth Reich (there are 4R logos all over the place) - very clever - and building an army of mercenaries trained by a fascist-loving crippled American Vietnam vet named Wolfgang von Backey (Christopher Mitchum, Murder In A Blue World - the son of Hollywood icon Robert Mitchum). The Nazi hunters are aided by Eva (Suzanne Andrews, Mania Killer) who is a mole working inside Mengele's base of operation, but when she is discovered to be a traitor she is beaten and thrown into his experiment Hell hole by Mengele who subjects her to... well, I am not too sure to be honest, but she has a band aid on her cheek so it must have been awful. The final leg of the film features the Nazi hunters storming the lair of Mengele. 

The demented action flick doesn't quite feel like a true Jess Franco production, his heart doesn't seem in it, especially for something he wrote. The sleaze-factor is non-existent with no nudity and we don't get the usual wild lensing either. While Franco wrote the screenplay under the name D. Khunn and directed some of the film, at some point Italian trash legend Andrea Bianchi (Naughty Teen) was brought in to snazz things up, with the directing credit  being credited to "Frank Drew White". Legend tells that the notorious directors were apparently too nervous to take credit for making it because of the subject matter, mmm hmm. I think the truth is probably that they were both embarrassed by it, as it didn't live up to either of their reputations as far as WTF-ery, for better or worse. 

It's very a very low-stakes watch but not without it's share of demented fun with Nazi hunters storming the Fourth Reich's castle lair with lots of explosion, gunshots and crossbow bolts flying, plus some silly kung-fu shenanigans. It's got a deep cast of euro-cult stars and never-weres, including Fernando Rey (Companeros) who literally phones in a cameo as an off-site Nazi hunter. I'll tell you, it's be a deadly drinking game if you took a shot every time you saw someone on a phone in this flick, you'd be dead forty-minutes into it. While we don't get the wild Franco cinematography what we do get is a painful amount of slow-motion action, especially during the finale. 

Angel of Death is a cheaply made straight-to-video bit of Nazisploitation with a terrible synth score, shit acting and even shittier action, alongside plaintive cinematography that is credited to Roger Fellous (White Fire) and Juan Soler (Cries of Pleasure), but somehow it all comes together in a euro-cult mélange of mayhem and destruction that is sure to please fans of trash cinema and glorious VHS-era crap-ola. 

Audio/Video: Angel of Death (`1987) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Full Moon Features as part of The Eurocine Collection in 1080p HD and framed in 1.66:1 widescreen with a "Commando Mengele "Angel of death" title card. This is advertised as "a beautiful, uncut master culled from the original 35mm camera negative" and the flick actually looks quite good in HD. Grain levels are solid, colors are vibrant and there's a nice depth and clarity to the image throughout with some occasional softness, but overall this is a quite pleasing Blu-ray image. 

Audio comes by way of lossy (c'mon Full Moon, you can do better!) English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround without subtitles of any kind. I preferred the stereo, but both are clean and free of distortion, and English seems to be the original language spoken during the film. The score is a half-hearted series of repeating synth-blurbs credited to Norbert Verrone, it's pretty awful and doesn't sound great but somehow it perfectly suits the cheesy action flick. 

The only extras on the disc is the same set of euro-cult trailers that have accompanied most of The Eurocine Collection releases from Full Moon. The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a single sided sleeve of artwork featuring the illustrated VHS artwork which is excerpted on the Blu-ray disc as well. 

Special Features:
- Euro-Cult Trailers: Naked Girl Murdered in the Park (2 min), Barbed Wire Dolls (1 min), Love Letters To A Portuguese Nun (3 min), Satanic Sisters (1 min), Voodoo Passion (1 min), Women In Cell Block 9 (1 min) 

Angel of Death (1987) is a mind-boggling daft slice of Nazisploitation with an array of euro-cult talent both behind and in front of the camera. If you're already a fan of Jess Franco and Andrea Bianchi, or just a fan of cheaply made but action-packed exploitation, it's worth a watch. Kudos to Full Moon for the pleasing HD image, now if they could just commit to compressed audio and some extras I think we'd all be even more grateful.

Angel of Death is available as either a stand alone Blu-ray or as part of the 6-film Eurocine Collection Vol. 1 box set from Full Moon Features, 

Screenshots from the Full Moon Blu-ray: 

Purchase the Angel of Death (1987) Blu-ray through our Amazon Affiliate link, Commissions Earned: - it also available as part of the 6-film Eurocine Collection Vol. 1 Blu-ray box set: