Image Entertainment presents
The Devil Came from Akasava (Der Teufel kam aus Akasava) (1970)
"I am sorry you had to come here, but you have to admit this bordello is an excellent cover."- Jane Morgan (Soledad Miranda)
Stars: Fred Williams, Soledad Miranda, Ewa Stromberg, Howard Vernon
Other Stars: Paul Müller, Horst Tappert, Walter Rilla, Blandine Ebinger, Jess Franco
Director: Jess Franco
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, violence)
Run Time: 01h:23m:46s
Release Date: 2003-08-12
DVD ReviewThe prolific Spanish director, Jess Franco, has worked in many different genres and nearly as many different countries. In this German-made film, Franco turns his hand to the Edgar Wallace-style crime and espionage field that was hugely popular in Germany in the 1960s. It's also notable as the last Franco film completed by the entrancing Soledad Miranda (billed as Susann Korda) before her untimely death in a car wreck.
In the jungle nation of Akasava, geologist Professor Forrester has vanished, his assistant has been killed, and a man has been murdered in his office 6000 miles away. British secret service agent Jane Morgan (Miranda) heads for Akasava to find out what's happening, as does Forrester's nephew Rex (Fred Williams). The story continues with a bewildering assortment of double-crosses and weirdness, all centering on a deadly philosopher's stone that can transmute metal to gold but also emits a deadly radiation.
As best one can make through the German dubbing, Miranda does a fine job with a thankless role that calls for her secret agent to pose first as a prostitute and then as an exotic dancer. On the positive side, this gives Franco ample reason to have Miranda disrobe, which she does repeatedly. Franco's camera is obsessed with Miranda's striking beauty, and it frequently lingers on her far longer than is necessary for the story. It's hard to blame him, though, since she is tremendously photogenic and has a smoldering sensuality that burns right through the screen.
That's about all that can be said positively about this, though. The other actors mostly sleepwalk through the film, with frequent Franco collaborator Howard Vernon wasted in a tiny role as a valet. There are some amusing moments, however, most notably involving Siegfried Schürenberg as Sir Philip, an elderly Scotland Yard detective uncomfortable at Jane's methods. But funniest is the bit Franco reserves for himself, as Italian agent Tino Celli. He continually comes on to Miranda's character, until she finally dismisses the pudgy and greasy Franco with a sneering and contemptuous, "I hate pomade."
The plot makes little sense, and things particularly fall apart in the finale as numerous loose ends are left. It's clear what impact Franco intends to make in the climax, but it's rather botched with only a few dimly-suggestive shots followed by an explosion that hardly seems connected to what went before. That may not entirely be Franco's fault, however, since Miranda may have been killed prior to the ending being filmed, which would explain why she suddenly vanishes from the story. It's understandably tough to have to suddenly improvise a satisfactory finale without your lead. In all, really only for Soledad Miranda fans.
Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||no|
Image Transfer Review: The film is presented in 1.33:1 ratio that may be mildly cropped from 1.66:1. Framing often feels rather tight, though with Franco's moving and sometimes trembling camera it's difficult to know for certain. It might also be an open matte transfer, since it plays passably well when blown up to 16:9. The transfer is in any event astonishing. Fine detail is impeccably rendered, as is the substantial grain. Color is very lifelike, with excellent black levels and nice textures. It's hard to believe that a Jess Franco film could look this good. The downgrading from a solid A is solely because this doesn't appear to be the original aspect ratio.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The sole audio track is a 2.0 German mono. Hiss and noise are minimal for the most part, and the dialogue is quite clear. The excellent jazzy score by Manfred Hübler and Siegfried Schwab has very good presence, with an excellent range and surprisingly punchy bass. There's very little to complain about here.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Extras Review: There are no extras, beyond removable English subtitles. Chaptering is acceptable.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsA somewhat inept spy adventure with a good score and featuring the entrancing Soledad Miranda in one of her last roles. The transfer is beautiful, though, so if you're interested this is the Akasava to own.
Mark Zimmer 2003-10-01