Monday, September 12, 2005

It Came from Netflix! The Diabolical Dr. Z

I’ve never gotten into (continental) Euro Horror, mostly because I’m generally adverse to gore and cruelty in my movies, and the Euro stuff tends to wear the Sleaze label rather proudly. In any case, I am thus by no means an aficionado of director Jess Franco, who has made something like 150 plus movies. The fact that the atrocious Oasis of the Zombies is fairly representative of his work (from what I can tell from an admittedly restricted experience pool) is pretty much all that I need to know.

Diabolical Dr. Z, which I watched with fellow schlock maven Joe Bannerman, did prove to be shockingly well directly by Franco standards. First, he actually composed shots, and even moved the camera around and shot from different angles. Later, Franco legendarily fell in love with the zoom lens, which I attribute to his preference not to waste time by relocating the camera during a scene. Instead, the camera generally stayed static but tended to constantly, and generally pointlessly, zoom in and out of whatever was in its field of vision.

So the movie is decently directed—if not more than that—but betrays other signs of being a Franco film. It mixes ‘sex’ and violence (albeit in an early ‘60s sort of way—compared to his later explicit sex and gore, the film is indeed nearly quaint), the inevitable Howard Vernon is in the cast, and the movie makes not an ounce of sense.

Dr. Zimmer is an old coot in a wheelchair who wants to experiment on convicted criminals for the good of Mankind. He is verbally attacked by, you know, THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY (including Vernon), and so cheesed off that he expires on the spot. Irma, his busty daughter, vows revenge. This involves using some sort of half-ass mind control regimen on the family maid; an exotic dancer known as “Miss Death” (who performs a hilarious ‘artistic’ dance number that climaxes with her donning a mask that we the movie audience can see, but which her ‘real’ audience in the movie would not be able to); and best of all, an overly convenient escaped murderer who while on the lam literally shows up on her doorstep.

Irma primarily employs the ‘ironically’ named Miss Death (get it?), who comes equipped with highly unergonomic sharpened Howard Hughes fingernails that Irma naturally coats with poison. Then elaborate death traps are set up, the sort of thing that Anton Phibes might have come up with in his movies had he remained as energetic but was also significantly dumber.

At one point Irma nearly burns her face off while faking her own death, but later merely cuts off the scar tissue and basically looks fine for the rest of the movie. So…whatever. A definite highlight is a Mad Scientist lab table that in place of the normal straps and shackles secures Irma’s victims with a pair of gut-busting, obviously unworkable mechanical arms. To the extent these things work at all, it's in severe slow-motion, and thus every time these things are called upon it’s Comedy Ahoy!

I hope I haven’t made this film sound all that exciting, because it's actually a bit of a slog. Sure, it’s no true boredom fest on the order that Oasis was, but that leaves a lot of room for sucking. Joe, meanwhile, who is as mystified as myself by the fact that Franco has this large pool of dedicated fans, noted that Diabolical Dr. Z was considered by many of them to be “Franco’s best film” (quite possible) and “a great movie” (way, waaay off).

The DVD is by Mondo Macabre, so for what it’s worth, the disc itself is a nice product.


At 2:00 PM, Blogger baby copernicus said...

I can say in all honesty that this film was better than a kick to the throat.

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

Yes...which *is* more than can be said for Oasis of the Zombies.

At 4:42 PM, Blogger Marty McKee said...

I have never understood the cult of Jesus Franco. He may very well be the world's worst genre director. I sort of understand the popularity of directors like Jerry Warren, Al Adamson and Larry Buchanan, who are also terrible filmmakers, but have a sort of so-bad-they're-good following. But Francophiles swear that their boy is really a good director, which he clearly is not.

At 1:07 PM, Blogger Cullen M. M. Waters said...

Better than... a kick... in the throat...

Darn it! Not another one! What's wrong with me?!


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