Image Entertainment presents
Dr. Orloff's Monster (Les Maitresses du Dr. Jekyll; El Secreto del Dr. Orloff) (1964)
“I’m always having stupid nightmares like this.”- Ingrid Fisherman/Jekyll (Luisa Sala)
Stars: Hugo Blanco, Agnes Spaak, Perla Cristal, Marcelo Arroita Jáuregui
Other Stars: Jose Rubio, Heriberto Pastor Serrador, Luisa Sala, Marta Reves, Jess Franco
Director: Jess Franco
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, violence, zombies, dog whistles)
Run Time: 01h:24m:34s
Release Date: 2002-01-22
DVD ReviewThe films of Jess Franco are certainly an acquired taste, but Dr. Orloff’s Monster is both surprisingly accessible and surprisingly coherent for a Franco picture. The multi-lingual aspect of its production produces a couple of headscratchers, and there are a few motivations that come out of nowhere, but the proceedings can be more or less followed, if not accepted with a carton or two of salt. The character names used here are from the English language version; the main bad guy here is Dr. Fisherman in English, but Dr. Jekyll in the French audio track. Oddly, the lip movements match for Jekyll, but there's an onscreen reference to 'Fisherman' on a gravestone that produces a bit of viewer confusion (unless this shot was inserted specifically for the English speaking version, but this is supposedly the French cut….ow, my head hurts). Anyway, it's not Dr. Orloff's monster in any event. Dr. Orloff (apparently the same Dr. Orloff as in The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962), Franco's first horror film, but not played here by Howard Vernon) shows up at the very beginning on his deathbed to inform his student, Conrad Fisherman (Marcelo Arroito-Jaregui) that he's been jealously sabotaging their Frankensteinian experiments. Yes, they've brought a creature to life, but they can't make him move. Orloff has known the secret of making it move all along, but has kept it from Fisherman till now. Some mentor. Fisherman has an obligatory old creepy castle where he conducts his experiments, despite the barbed tongue of his alcoholic wife, Ingrid (Luisa Sala). Of course, young and nubile Fisherman niece Melissa (Agnes Spaak) comes to visit on holiday, just as Conrad is getting his creation, Andros (Hugo Blanco, who had earlier played the title role in Franco’s The Sadistic Baron von Klaus) mobile. Pay no attention to the fact that the motivating factor for Andros is a transmitter in a necklace that works like a dog whistle (I am not making this up). Dr. Fisherman is using these necklaces to kill off assorted women he's involved with, most of them hookers, strippers and chanteuses of one sort or another (conveniently enough, their professions require them to get naked or change costumes, which occupies much of the film's running time). Why he's doing this isn't entirely clear, unless it's got something to do with his wife's unfaithfulness. Andros inevitably runs amok, however, and nearly everyone in the cast is endangered, if not outright killed, by the end. My synopsis makes this sound somewhat goofy, but while there are some oddities, this is a surprisingly straightforward piece of Eurocult. Franco had not yet picked up the irritating habit of zooming instead of cutting, and the characters are entertaining, if not exactly realistic. Perhaps the most interesting is the zombie, Andros, who is tailored after Cesare in Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, right down to the black sweater and being kept bolt upright in a case (though here it's glass, not wood). The sequence in the cemetery where Andros wanders, as well as a fairly tender moment shared with Melissa, help make Andros much more accessible than the supposedly human characters. The camera is used to interesting effect; much of the first reel is shot in very tight closeup, such as in Passion of Joan of Arc. This technique helps pull us into the feverishly mad minds of Orloff and Fisherman. The German Expressionist feeling borrowed from Caligari is heightened in a sequence where Melissa is searching a forbidden room; in between flashes of lightning and a flickering flashlight, there are thin slivers of light that don’t quite seem to match the windows that throw them, set off at odd angles. The effect is creepy and makes one recognize why Orson Welles selected Franco to work with him on Chimes at Midnight. This is considered to be one of the last pictures in Franco’s 'classic' period, and it shows a definite growth in his ability to structure and use the camera for purposes of atmosphere.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.66:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Considering the low budgets that Franco had to work with, for the most part this looks astonishingly good. The black & white picture is crisp and highly detailed except in a few exterior segments that predictably suffer from being shot in pre-Steadicam® days. Blacks are rich and a wide grayscale is provided. A few speckles and an occasional scratch are the only visible defects.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Both of the mono tracks are highly scratchy and crackly; Daniel White's music score occasionally gets warbles in it as well. That's a pity, because at times the music is highly interesting; one of Andros' attacks seems to be scored to the sounds of piano strings being played with a guitar pick, which provides a sense of grounding while being quite bizarre indeed. However, the sound is passable considering the source materials; I can't imagine that this disc will sell in sufficient numbers to justify doing a major digital cleanup on the audio.
Audio Transfer Grade: D+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
0 Deleted Scenes
Extras Review: There's a surprising quantity of extra material here that will surely please Franco and Eurocult fans. First and foremost is 11m:21s of alternate and deleted footage. This runs silent, and mostly consists of alternate takes of stripteases and murders. These incorporate slightly more nudity than appears in the French cut here. One notable deleted scene features Andros stroking the hair of one of his victims after her death, an interesting touch that really should have stayed in the movie. Though widescreen, these scenes are not presented in anamorphic enhancement. Two trailers, in French and Italian, are included. These actually are identical, but have different voiceovers. The French trailer is also lacking the overlays for the title and actors, etc. They're in decent condition, but somewhat speckly. Why no subtitles, though, Image? Speaking of subtitles, the set provided here does a good job generally, but in one nightclub song in Spanish, the subtitler literally throws up his/her hands and just inserts "???" on the screen. I don't know why, but I found this worth a giggle, especially since it would come up again after a few comprehensible lines. Chaptering is a little bit light, and I wished there were longer liner notes.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsAn accessible place to start for those new to Jess Franco or Eurocult, in a beautiful video transfer that unfortunately lacks on the audio side. Some interesting added material rounds out the package. Fans of Eurocult will definitely want to own this, and others may consider it for a slightly saucy little horror picture without copious amounts of gore.
Mark Zimmer 2002-02-12