Sunday, February 4, 2024

FRANCO FEBRUARY - DAY 4! THE SINISTER DR. ORLOFF (1984) (Mondo Macabro Blu-ray Review)

Day 4 of Franco February bring us to a mid-80s gem, The Sinister Dr. Orloff (1984), essentially a remake of Franco's earlier The Awful Dr. Orloff, starring Franco regulars Antonio Mayans and Howard Vernon as father-son mad scientists trying to unlock the secrets of life-after-death, but to find it they're gonna have to kill a bunch of women, with the help of an eyeless henchman. Chock of of sex, death and no-budget sci-fi this is a low-budget Franco flick that makes the most of it's budget. This is a review of the 2023 Mondo Macabro Blu-ray, a label whose cult-cinema archeology regularly unearths hidden gems worthy of discovery and re-examination, of which this is one! 


label: Mondo Macabro 
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 87 Minutes 20 Seconds 
Audio: Spanish DTS-HD MA 2.0 Dual Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Antonio Mayans, Howard Vernon, Tony Skios, Rocio Freixas, Raf Smog, Juan Cozar, Teo Santander

Jess Franco's Dr. Orloff films started back in 1962 with The Awful Dr. Orloff and it was a character he would revisit many times throughout his career, offering an often absurd and macabre mixture of sex, surgery and gothic horror, and in the early 80's he revisited The Awful Dr. Orloff with this flick, what is essentially a remake of the original with slight changes, The Sinister Dr. Orloff (1984), set in the attractive coastal area of Alicante, on Spain’s Costa Blanca. 

We have Alfred Orloff (Antonio Mayans, Cannibal Terror), the son of the aging Doctor Orloff (Howard Vernon, How To Seduce a Virgin) attempting to resurrect his dead mother Melissa (RocĂ­o Freixas, Cries of Pleasure) who is frozen in what appears to be a state of suspended animation. For many years the senior Orloff had attempted to resurrect her as well, but his experiments failed, and he has given up. His son however is carrying on in his father's footsteps, his own "experiments" find  him cruising the neon-lit streets and nightclubs for prostitutes, and then having his creepy eyeless brother Andros (Rafael Cayetano) abduct them and take them back to their secret laboratory where Orloff has created an ambiguous mind transference machine meant to transplant the consciousness of the captive women into the body of his comatose mother, or some such nonsense. We get several scenes of the leather jacket and mirrored sunglass clad Andros abducting the women and carrying the unconscious usually nude prostitutes over his shoulders like a sack of potatoes up a spiral staircase to a makeshift dungeon at a seaside mansion. The disappearance of prostitutes has not gone unnoticed though, and Inspector Tanner's (Tony Skios, Night of Open Sex) investigation inches ever closer to uncovering the Orloff's secrets, but when the inspector's wife becomes the next victim can he save her before she becomes another victim to the younger Orloff's experiments?

The Sinister Dr. Orloff Franco makes terrific use of what little budget it had, we have an architecturally stylish single-location for Orloff's laboratory/mansion and cinematographer Juan Soler (Bloody Moon) brings some stylish lensing to this Orloff flick that's less a horror flick a more a kinked-up demented mad science sci-fi flick with the usual array of exploitative erotica/nudity we know Franco for. Both Mayans and Vernon give solid performances as the father and son Orloff, and I liked how the senior Orloff sets out to stop his increasingly murderous son from carrying out his experiments, and the eyeless brute Andros adds an unsettling vibe to the proceedings, even if the make-up effect to make him eyeless is atrociously bad. The body transference  experiments are pretty laughable as well, we get naked women strapped to a table, and Orloff turning knobs and throwing switches with flashing lights, and at times bodies just disappear in thin air, but I thought the end result was fairly effective for a no-budget Franco flick. It sort of brought to mind Franco's  Shining Sex (1975), particularly how Orloff's mother's corpse is coated in a crackled-glaze icing- but not as sleazy or as far-out as that film, which was a pretty high watermark in terms of Franco-freakiness. The violence is pretty toned down this time around, though we do get plenty of nudity and a potent scene of Orloff whipping a prostitute with a cat o' nine tails, and of course we get the patented Franco beaver-shot zoom ins. 

Audio/Video: The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff (1984) makes it's worldwide Blu-ray debut on region-free Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro in 1080p HD widescreen (2.35:1), advertised as being a brand new 4k transfer from film negative. The film elements look fantastic with lush, film grain is nicely resolved, the colors of the coastal seaside town are vivid, and depth and clarity are pleasing throughout. There's some quite lovely detail in close-ups nothing as well, there's to complain about here, just another banger of HD presentation from Mondo Macabro. Audio comes by way of Spanish DTS-HD MA with optional English subtitles, the  elements are well-preserved with dialogue, audio effects and the synth freakout score by Jess Franco himself are all well-balanced without any source-related age issues.  

Extras include a 27-min Interview with actor Antonio Mayans; 39-min Interview with writer Stephen Thrower; plus an Audio commentary from Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson. That's a pretty terrific line-up, not only do we get a fascinating interview with star Mayans but we also get Franco-philes Thrower, Howarth and Thompson offering their keen insights into this Franco entry. The single-disc standard release edition arrives in a standard keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork. 

Special Features:
- Brand new 4k transfer from film negative, digitally restored.
- Interview with actor Antonio Mayans (27 min) 
- Interview with writer Stephen Thrower (39 min) 
- Audio commentary from Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson

Screenshots from the Mondo Macabro Blu-ray: