Tuesday, February 6, 2024

FRANCO FEBRUARY - DAY 6! COUNTDOWN TO ESMERALDA BAY (1990) (Full Moon Features Blu-ray Review)

Day 6 of Franco February has brought Jess Franco's Countdown to Esmerelda Bay (1990), a political actioner that was a hire-for-director gig for Eurocine, while it lack's Franco's personal touch and is sleaze-free it is strangely star-studded with both George Kennedy and Robert Forster, plus an all too brief turn from Franco muse Lina Romay as a horny hotelier. This flick is available on Blu-ray as both a stand alone release from Full Moon Features and as part of the 6-film The Eurocine Collection Vol. 1. 


Label: Full Moon Features
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 95 Minutes 1 Seconds 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 with Optional English  Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Jess Franco 
Cast: George Kennedy, Robert Forster, Lina Romay, Ramon Estevez, Fernando Rey, Silvia Tortosa

Jess Franco's Countdown to Esmerelda Bay (1990) is set in the fictional war-riddled Central American country of Puerto Santo, where figurehead President Ramos (Fernando Rey, Cold Eyes of Fear) runs things finds himself under the thumb of militaristic Col. Madero (Robert Forster, Alligator). There's a band of rebels lead by Andres (Ramon Estevez, Night of the Eagles) who fight against the ruthless and corrupt military dictatorship, buying arms from a businessman named Wilson (George Kennedy, Cool Hand Luke). A bit like Downtown Heat this 90's Franco production for Eurocine is both Franco-neutered and oddly star-studded; another gun-for-hire gig for Franco who clearly is not passionate about the material or was not give much of a leash, but he does good work bringing it together well enough. The downfall is how uninspired the action is executed and how muddled the the story gets. That said, there are plenty of Franco regulars and familiar faces that pop-up including Lina Romay (Marquise de Sade) as a horny hotelier, Silvia Tortosa (The Loreley's Grasp) as Wilson's wife and Madero's lover (uh-oh), plus Craig Hill (Anguish), Brett Halsey (The Devil's Honey), and Antonio Mayans (Cecilia) as a rebel priest. It's pretty shallow stuff but it's an attractively shot political action-drama flick, though like a lot of the Eurocine stuff it lack the Franco-isms I was craving, though there plenty of zoom-ins and slow-motion footage. There's also a ton of stock-footage inserted into this one that sticks out like a sore thumb, and I mean a lot. Not great, pretty mediocre to be honest, but an interesting relic from Franco's Eurocine years just the same, and both Kennedy and Forster do good work with what they're given. 

Audio/Video: Countdown to Esmerelda Bay (1990) arrives on Blu-ray from Full Moon Features, presented in 1080p HD framed in 1.78:1 widescreen. Like most of the flicks on this set the source is in solid shape, with strong colors are strong, pleasing black levels and nice depth and clarity without any compression issues. There's also some healthy fine detail in the close-ups, and the skin tones look accurate. Audio comes by way of English 2.0 or 5.1 Dolby Digital with optional English subtitles. The English-dubbed dialogue acoustics are atrocious but sound like they're probably inherent to the source, but at least the the Luis Bacalov (The Designated Victim) score sounds decent. The only extras are a selection of Euro-cult Trailers. 

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) 

Screenshots from the Full Moon Blu-ray: