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July 21, 2015

House of 1,000 Dolls

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Jeremy Summers - 1967
KL Studio Classics BD Region A

What would Jesus do? Had Jesus "Jess" Franco directed House of 1,000 Dolls, maybe this film would have truly been the sleaze-fest alleged by various detractors. What we have are a dozen reasonably attractive young women running around in their underwear, plus one whipping of one of those women. Not family viewing as commonly understood, but mildly transgressive by most standards. That the film was shot in Spain, from a producer would be associated with Franco, Harry Alan Towers, makes me wonder what might have happened had this film been made a year or so later.

Towers wrote the screenplay, with the lurid premise of a magician and his assistant making unsuspecting young women disappear on stage, on for them to wake up as captives of a white slavery ring for a very exclusive house of ill-repute in Tangiers. The real slaves were stars Vincent Price and Martha Hyer, both in the film to fulfill contractual obligations. More screen time is given to George Nader, at the time a very popular star in Germany, important for a film that was a Spanish-German co-production. Mrs. Towers, better known as Maria Rohm, wakes up screaming in the opening minutes.

This was the last of three films Jeremy Summers did for Towers. The only other work I've seen was Ferry Cross the Mersey, essential produced as consolation for the various musical acts managed by Brian Epstein who were not The Beatles. The only thing I recall is Gerry Marsden, of Gerry and the Pacemakers, looking visibly excited as the camera tilts up, while he is playing his guitar. I am not sure if there is any significant meaning, but Summers does have something of a visual style here, filming several of the action scenes with shots partially obscured by window frames, fences, or what every he can use as a momentary framing device. There are several shots making use of the reflections of mirrors, with a shot of Yelena Samarina, reflected in Price's sunglasses, used in some of the posters. There is also one beautifully lit shot of a man coming out of the shadows to threaten Price. What ever one might say about the story, or the questionable Orientalism presented here, there can be no question regarding Summers' craftsmanship.

The Blu-ray comes with a commentary track by two Davids, DeCoteau and Del Valle. Somehow, the only Double Ds that are part of a movie about sexually exploited women are the voices of two men. David DeCoteau is a film director with a slew of titles primarily made for the home video market. Del Valle, who's commentary for The Crimson Cult was mentioned a couple of weeks ago, shares his knowledge of genre films and filmmakers. Aside from explaining the how this film evolved from one of Tower's unrealized projects, there are stories about the producer, whose life was often more colorful than some of the films he produced. We are assured by the Davids that this is the most complete version of the film, which was abridged in its initial theatrical release in the U.S., and may well have had some more explicit nudity in versions for other markets.

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Posted by peter at July 21, 2015 07:06 AM