Original Title: Die Säges des Todes
Directed by: Jesus Franco
West Germany, 1981
Distributed by: European Shock DVD
Once again one of “Franco’s finest movies” finds it’s way onto my screen after being neglected for the last ten-fifteen years. Possibly it’s all part of the build up to receiving and watching the latest creation, Paula-Paula just released, or perhaps it’s just part of that phenomenon that is Franco. When you watch one of his films, you get the urge to watch a second, and then a third and so on… But for a change this one is more than just that recurrent DVD artwork quote, and is actually pretty darned good and still holds up for some light non-complicated entertainment. Bloody Moon is a fine example of how the US slasher films, once inspired by Euro thrillers come full circle and end up being made in the same places and directors that inspired them to start with.
During the end of the seventies and early eighties American slasher movies dominated the horror scene. It was all about masked murderers stalking and slaying young boys and girls as they explored the boundaries of innocence. If you smoked dope, had sex or engaged in drinking with your mates, there was bound to be a serial killer with some agenda rooted in his (or her) childhood lurking in the shadows just waiting for the right moment to leap out and kill them with a varied assortment of sharp objects. With it’s roots in the real life crimes of US serial killers like Ed Gein (as you know the inspiration for Robert Bloch’s Psycho later turned into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock), and war atrocities seen in the news reporting’s out of Vietnam movies like Tobe Hooper’s Texas ChainSaw Massacre 1974 and Bob Clark’s Black Christmas 1975, started using realistic violence and a raw, in your face psychology to bring an edge to the youths in peril. Later movies like John Carpenter’s Halloween 1978 and Sean Cunningham’s Friday the 13th 1979 refined the genre and set the traits of the genre upon solid ground. It should be noted that the slasher genre also is heavily indebted to the Italian Giallo, a fact that many of the directors acknowledge, even if US genre historians prefer to think they invented the genre, just like they think they invented Punk. Anyhow, the traits used in generic mainstream slasher flicks are still to this day the same as the movies that defined the genre thirty years ago.
Needless to say where there’s a buck to be made, producers will go, and getting in on the latest craze several European movie companies went with the flow. Producer Wolf C. Hartwig possibly best know for the Schulmädchen-Report films had at the time the fascinating director Jesus Franco on his pay roll. Franco had already directed a number of movies for Hartwig’s company – as I’ve pointed out earlier, Franco in his love for making movies frequently set up shop with a wide range of producers and production companies end churned out a number of flicks for each company before moving on to new exhilarating ventures with new companies and ambitious producers. Among the movies Franco produced for Lisa Film you find Mondo Cannibale and Sexo Canibal both 1980 and Sadomania, Linda and Bloody Moon all 1981.
Wanting to get in on the action producer Hartwig assigned Franco with Bloody Moon (the only movie they worked on together) a movie written by Erich Tomek (as Rayo Casablanca) who also co-wrote the screenplay to Luigi Cozzi’s Contamination 1979 (with Cozzi using his pseudonym Lewis Coates) and later Franco’s sexy comedy thriller Linda 1981. Bringing some of his trade marks to the mixed bag, Franco set out to make one of his most infamous movies, and that’s not a DVD box quote, but a fact. Bloody Moon which contains graphic murders, a sinister plot, a small tad of eroticism, well more nudity than eroticism to be honest, and above all one scene of real animal death was slammed by the UK censors and nailed by the balls to the infamous Video Nasty list. And anything that is on that list has been seen by the fans and has a cult following.
In a nutshell Bloody Moon works as a mix of the good old tale of fortune and deception – nothing is as strong a motivator as greed, even when it comes to murder - and the most notorious of the US slasher flicks - Halloween and Friday the 13th.
The opening scene takes place at a school of sorts; chicks shake their asses, dude’s flirt with them and pick up random lovers as the disco beat of Gerard Heinz blares out over the area. In the shadows misfit Miguel [Alexander Waechter – Miguel the Spanish name for Michael, wink, wink] lurks. Miguel dons a giant facial scar, which obviously makes him completely repulsive to the girls at the pool. But after hiding his face behind a Mickey Mouse mask, giving cinematographer Juan Soler a chance to use the classic P.O.V. through the mask shot of Halloween, Miguel manages to pick up one of the dancers who mistakes him for some other don Juan. But as soon as they hit the sack and she delivers some really take me take me tacky dialogue the mask comes off and as she screams with repulsion and fear, Miguel snaps and stabs her repeatedly in the gut with a pair of scissors.
Five years later Miguel is released from a mental institute, the Doctor played by Franco, into the custody of his sister Manuela [Nadja Gerganoff who is a bleak substitute for a part that I feel should have been played by Lina Romay every time I see this film. But Gerganoff get’s the job done and she was probably connected to the producer who wanted her in the flick. It’s happened before and it will happen again]. The two of them take the train to the estate owned by their Aunt, Countess Maria [Maria Rubio], a Franco trait – as he loves putting Countesses in valuable key positions. On the way there the leading lady of the film Angela [Olivia Pascal – who had a small part in Valerian Borowczyk’s nunploitation epic Behind Convent Walls 1978 and several other German soft-core productions] is introduced and the first indicator that Miguel may not be completely over his urge to murder gorgeous young women is planted. The estate - obviously the one from the pre-title sequence – has been reopened to serve as a language school for young women, and to run the project Manuela’s boyfriend Alvaro [Christoph Moosbrugger] has been put in charge. There’s an obvious grudge between Manuela and the Countess, who later confides to suave Alvaro that Manuela is only after her fortune, and holds no interest in the school at all.
After a quick montage of the school in action, i.e. chicks repeating what they hear on tapes while they learn Spanish under the guidance of Alvaro, the supporting cast is introduced. The girl gang consisting of Eva [Ann-Beate Engelke], Laura [Corina Gillwald] and Inga [Jasmine Losensky] all go to classes and in between classes spend their time sunbathing semi nude and flirting with the tennis teacher and all round janitor of the school Antonio [Peter Exacoustos].
Angela finally arrives at the school and tells the rest of the gang about her encounter on the train, to which Inga tells them the scary tale of the terrible murder that took place at the school some years ago - Yes the threads start to come together here, as she’s obviously referring to Miguel’s murder of that disco chic in the opening. While Inga tells her spooky tale, Miguel obviously lingers in the background. Minutes later the girls have all changed their clothes, and put on their best disco clubbing kits and head off over to the late night dance parlour located on the premises. Once again there’s some crappy dancing to Gerard Heinz disco version of the lead theme, the internal intrigue between the girls all trying to bed Antonio get’s wound up and finally Angela takes off for an early night in bed. Pretty soon there’s a knock at her door, and in comes Eva who wants’ to borrow a sweater so that she can stay warm on the boat ride she’s going to take with some lads she’s met at the disco after Angela left. Later in the film the minimal clothes budget is apparent when Inga wears the same sweater that Inga rejects – it’s a small detail, but repeated viewing of these movies ends up with you spotting the finer details. As Inga undresses the figure that has been lurking in the dark of Angela’s room steps forth and rams a knife through her back leaving the blade protruding out of her nipple. Now that’s something you don’t see every day! Angela screams bloody murder and flees the scene. Obviously there’s no trace of the body and no one believes her tale of death and murder.
With the initial kill behind us the movie takes off as the girls are one by one stalked and murdered, with the masked murderer – who I see more to be influenced by the killer in Sergio Martino’s Torso 1973, than the US slashers – staying one step ahead of the audience and hidden away in the safety of the off screen space, only coming into shot with the weapons of choice. And the weapons and murders come in all shapes and sizes. The marble saw decapitation is still a very gruesome scene and one of the most memorable set pieces of the film. Last year I was working on a show where we where planning a segment on children in horror and my producer claimed that only Tim Burton ever showed children dying on screen – I obviously objected and referred to EuroHorror of the eighties. But I wish that I had remembered Bloody Moon at the time, because the child who tries to save Eva from the gigantic industrial saw, suffers a terrible punishment for interfering.
As the movie closes in on climax time, shit has hit the fan, the killer has been exposed, surprisingly not the one that all the deceptive editing has insinuated, and the great final moment twist – the one that explains the motifs and double crossing of the murder plot – have done their part, its safe to say that Franco actually pulled this one off. And that’s without me even mentioning the incestuous relationship between Miguel and Manuela. It is an excellent movie, that plays right out of the slasher mould, without getting entangled in a complicated plot. An excellent genre piece that always manages to entertain. I think it’s fair to say that this one together with Faceless 1987 – a more typical Franco fare – are among the better straight forward horror flicks that Franco directed during the eighties.
I don’t mean to criticize Gerard Heinz scores to the movie, because it is quite interesting to tell the truth. It has a very wide variety of styles that make up the soundtrack, ranging from the Ennio Morricone-esque tunes to a very Dave Gilmore-Pink Floydish guitar track to the vibrant dance pop track that is way to over used in the film much like in Franco’s Faceless where Romano Musumarra’s George Michael soundalike popsong is heard when you least expect it. Otherwise the score is fitting, and a great complement to the movie’s tone, just like the tracks Heinz supplied for all the soft-core comedies he scored previously. Although the pop part of the soundtrack is what has aged the most and these scenes do have an almost stale flavour to them.
Once again it’s a satisfying encounter with the wild, wild world of the great Jesus Franco as Bloody Moon returns to it’s place in the box labelled EURO HORROR – SPAIN in my bookshelves, and it’s hard not to dip my hand in and try a pot luck gamble to see what other Franco movie I pull out. It’s always fond reunion with a director, who may not have made the best movies of the world, but he loves making them, and we love watching them.
All I want to do is take a few days of work and wait for the sound that the post makes when it slips through the mail slot, falls to the hall floor and then the silence of anticipation as I pick up the Paula-Paula disc, gently pry open the sealed envelope, delicately cut the plastic wrap and snap that disc out of the case and place it on the tray of my DVD player, and then sit down as Jesus Franco’s latest piece of wild and crazy cinema unfolds before my eyes.
Full frame presentation 4:3
Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0. English Dub with optional Dutch subtitles
I hate when films I like are released with a few squirts just chucked in to fill out the disc. It’s the same kind of disappointment I used to get when I listen to the later Frank Zappa albums, too much filler and not enough killer. There’s so many of us out here on the net that are writing about these movies, and even fifteen years ago when DVD started to hit the market, there was a wide range of writers covering these movies. Why not just contact one or more of us and fill out that disc with out insight and writings on the film? It would be cheap, and wouldn’t take any space worth complaining about on the disc. Anyhow, European Shock have only added the trailers for Bloody Moon and Linda, and a cheesy slide show set to that terrible disco track again.