DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER (1964) Blu-ray
Director: Jess Franco
Redemption Films/Kino Lorber

Dr. Orloff is back (very briefly) in Jess Franco's third horror film DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER (or THE MISTRESS OF DR. JEKYLL) on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber and Redemption Films.

Having created a living, breathing robot from a reanimated corpse, Dr. Fisherman (Marcelo Arroita-Jáuregui, THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z) and Dr. Orloff (Javier de Rivera, NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS) are at a loss as to how to get him to move. On his deathbed, Orloff reveals to Fisherman the secret of using ultrasonic sound to train involuntary reactions in the robot to make it obey his commands. Unfortunately, the corpse is Fisherman's hated younger brother Andros (Hugo Blanco, THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS) who he murdered after discovering him with his wife Ingrid (Luisa Sala, LUCKY THE INSCRUTABLE), and he is training the robot by setting him upon various showgirls with whom he has had dalliances by gifting them necklaces with ultrasonic transmitters. When his niece Melissa (Agnes Spaak, SWEET ECSTASY) visits for the holidays, Fisherman is eager to settle her inheritance and send her on her way but she yearns to learn something about the father she never knew. She already knows better than to ask her uncle, but his alcoholic wife Ingrid cannot help but let slip tantalizing information and housekeeper Ciceron (Manuel Guitián) willing to give her access to forbidden areas of the castle. When Melissa sneaks into the locked room in which her father died and is frightened by her encounter with Andros, she resolves to do some investigating of her own with the help of Spanish suitor Jose Manuel (Pepe Rubio, GOLIATH AGAINST THE GIANTS) to find out if her father is really alive. Meanwhile, witnesses to the murder of lounge singer/prostitute Rosa (Perla Cristal, THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF) and Amira (Magda Maldonado) by Andros and an anonymous phone tip provide clues to Inspector Klein (Pastor Serrador, APACHE FURY) that steer his investigation towards the Fisherman family.

Like THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS, DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER is set in the modern era but in gothic settings from the Fisherman family castle (also seen in THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF, FANGS OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE DRACULA SAGA, CURSE OF THE VAMPYRE, FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR, and the 1990s US/Spanish softcore horror film IMMORTAL SINS) to Madrid standing in for the town of Holfen. Due to the nature of the French/Spanish co-production and Spanish censorship at the scripting stage which would not have allowed such a film to be set in Spain, the geography is confused. On the French track, the characters have German names apart from Latin lover Jose Manuel, suggesting Holfen is in Austria as in THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS, while the characters other the Fishermans have Spanish names (Inspector Klein becomes Inspector Diaz, pimp Karl Steiner becomes Carlos Serrano) on the English track suggesting Holfen is in Spain while Andros' visit to the family cemetery plot suggests France with "Famille Fisherman" (although Fisherman is called Jekyll on the French track and the French title is THE MISTRESSES OF DR. JEKYLL and the Italian title THE LOVES OF DR. JEKYLL while the Spanish title is THE SECRET OF DR. ORLOFF). The two songs heard in the nightclubs are in Spanish on both tracks. While Andros is a variation on AWFUL DR. ORLOF's Morpho character, Fisherman's victims are not used for experimentation and are stand-ins for Fisherman to enact his rage upon unfaithful wife who is now too pathetic in her drunkenness. The monochrome photography of Alfonso Nieva (SEXY CAT) is comparable in terms of noirish lighting to the work of Godofredo Pacheco on AWFUL DR. ORLOF and SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS although not quite as dazzling expressionistic as Alejandro Ulloa's work on DIABOLICAL DR. Z while the scoring of Daniel White (FEMALE VAMPIRE) is supportive but not as memorable as his later work for Franco. DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER compares poorly overall with Franco's other early 1960s horror films but is not without interest stylistically or in tracing the evolution of Franco's recurring themes and premises.

Released direct to television in the States by American International Television, DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER was MIA on home video in English because Eurocine apparently did not have an English master for the film (producer Lasoeur in a Video Watchdog interview mentioned that he would have to obtain one upon learning of the film's availability in the States from companies like Sinister Cinema and Something Weird Video). Another English-friendly version surfaced in Australia as part of the SBS station's programme of English-subtitled Italian and Spanish horror films in a version with Spanish audio and the French credits. The first legitimate (Eurocine-licensed) English-friendly home video release was through Image Entertainment as part of their Euroshock Collection in an anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen transfer with English and French tracks (and optional English subtitles). Kino Lorber's new 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen Blu-ray likely comes from the same source with more surface wear apparent thanks to the heightened resolution. As with other Eurocine Franco films, the French cut of the film differs from the Spanish version (which reportedly runs 90 minutes compared to the Image DVD's 84:34 and the Blu-ray's 84:11).

Presumably Eurocine's master was the non-erotic version of the film since the new master has part of one sequence and another in its entirety, and that Eurocine inserted these bits back into the SD master but forgot to do so for the newer HD one. The first murder sequence abruptly cuts away in this version whereas the earlier transfer showed the victim dropping out of frame with an aftermath shot of her topless and lifeless body. I am guessing that the master did not have this bit and it was inserted by either Eurocine since the reflection of the mirror reveals that the killer is not Blanco but his stand-in who is seen more clearly in the outtakes. Also missing from this version but present on the Image disc was the bathtub murder which was inserted into a rather nonsensical place before Jekyll has managed to track Andros down and get control of him again. Presumably it was either meant to substitute for another death scene or it should have been inserted at another point in the film. The nude insert of the first murder is present in the disc's outtakes section only a bit from the bathtub murder not used in the Image cut is included so Franco fans may want to hold onto the Image disc.

The only new extra is an audio commentary by Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas discussing the ways in which the film carries over ideas from THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF and SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS while originating others (with Spaak's innocent virginal girl visiting mysterious relatives anticipating the likes of A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD). He also notes Franco's indebtedness to Orson Welles and the French New Wave (pointing out how the opening sequence recalls Alain Robbe-Grillet's L'IMORTELLE and also noting its similarity to the opening of the Spanish version of SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS). He discusses the troubled nature of the budget-challenged production and the reasons why Franco was always pained to discuss it, quoting a recent interview with Blanco (who was in a relationship with Spaak during the production), and revealing that Arroita-Jáuregui was better known as a Spanish poet who acted in a handful of Franco productions until they had a falling out when the actor joined the Spanish censorship board and banned 99 WOMEN. As with DAUGHTER OF DRACULA, Lucas deconstructs some sequences, noting the abrupt editing of the first murder and noting that a close-up of Andros before the murder seems like it should have been placed at the aftermath. He does not mention the absence of bathtub murder, although presumably he thought it would be found in the outtakes reel. The aforementioned reel (11:22), however, is identical to the one on the Image disc and includes a clear shot of the poor stand-in for Blanco). The French trailer (2:06) and Italian trailer (2:05) are also included and both are subtitled. (Eric Cotenas)