Jess Franco's final film was not completed by him, nor was it "completed" by co-director/star Antonio Mayans, but REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES nevertheless comes to DVD courtesy of Spanish boutique label Vial of Delicatessens.
His machismo eroded by his previous encounter with the lustful Alligator Ladies (PAULA-PAULA's Paula Davis, SNAKEWOMAN's Carmen Montes, and Irene Verdú), former detective Al Pereira (Mayans, REVENGE IN THE HOUSE OF USHER) now lives under the thumb of his daughter and granddaughter Yolanda (Vanessa Rivas) who threaten to throw him out if he makes another filthy movie for Jess Franco called "Culitos en la Noche" (Little Butts in the Night)" – a play on the Spanish title of THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF – not even to sing the theme song. Franco is displeased (to say the least) when Pereira turns down the film but makes the request (through Yolanda) that Pereira travel to Germany and fetch him actress Katja Bienert, star of a handful of early 1980s Franco erotic pics like EROTISMO, THE STORY OF LINDA, and LILIAN: THE PERVERTED VIRGIN (all featuring Mayans and the latter with him as a Pereira-like P.I.). Pereira is reluctant to carry out even this request until he discovers his daughter in bed with his own protégé Victor (Victor Olid) and a musician (Adán Latonda). The righteous Al Pereira reasserts himself and travels to Germany in search of Bienert only to run afoul of Turkish gangsters – taking advantage of an anti-Turkish immigration rally as a backdrop for one scene – when he assumes them responsible for the actress' death which he realizes did not happen at all.
Disjointed both as the work of multiple filmmakers but also deliberately in terms of narrative- the closing credits cite the film as "una no-pelicula de Jess Franco no completada por Antonio Mayans" – one is not quite sure when we leave the documentary of the prologue and enter the filmic universe, when Jess Franco the director becomes a character in Mayan's film, and when Antonio Mayans becomes Al Pereira. Mayans never makes it back to the set to meet Franco, Bienert never shows up, and we never get to see what the two lesbians Mayans has discovered do with twelve meringues. Intermittently interesting as Pereira/Mayans runs around Germany and succumbs to paranoia, the film stops to a crawl during the Franco sequences of the writhing Alligator Ladies (less mesmerizing than in some of this other works but not without interest). The score consists of new tracks from "Ludo, Antoine, and Thomas", some jazzy tracks from Franco's archive as well as some jangly "Pablo Villa" cues from OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES. Parts of the film were shot by Franco, Olid, Fernando Barranquero, and Naxo Fiol (a bit of throwaway dialogue mentions the unavailability of Franco's DTV-era DP Emilio Schargorodsky). The cast also includes appearances from Franco historians Francesco Cesari, Uwe Huber, and Álex Mendíbil, German DTV filmmaker Andreas Bethmann – whose films ROSSO VENEZIA and ANGEL OF DEATH II featured Franco and Lina Romay, and whose DVD company X-Rated Kult Video released the earliest DVD edition of A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD among other Franco titles – and German actor Carsten Frank who starred in Franco's INCUBUS and KILLER BARBYS VERSUS DRACULA during a stopover in Berlin during the "Back to Berlin" 2012 Franco film festival during which forty of his films were exhibited and he signed autographs.
REVENGE OF THE ALLIGATOR LADIES was shot by different cameras and different operators at different times, with Franco's own 1080i50 tripod-mounted videography looking the best in terms of sharpness and color stability. The more mobile photography of Mayans' scenes finds the zoom used in an un-Franco-like manner to get coverage on location without locals noticing rather than picking out architectural features. The anamorphic Region 2 PAL DVD looks good overall, but this will not be remembered as one of Franco's more imaginatively visual DTV films. The Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo boasts clear dialogue amidst the on-location sound while the music has varying degrees of stereo width and depth depending on the material. Optional subtitles are provided in both English and German.
Unfortunately, the extras are not subtitled, but they are not without interest even to those who do not speak Spanish. Mayans provides a Spanish-language audio commentary that is sadly untranslated and may have shed some more light on how far the structure of the film deviates from the original (if Mayans really was unavailable for the beginning of the shoot or if he was always meant to be part of a separate narrative strand). Mayans provides a short introduction (0:38) while Olid provides a more boisterous one shot at a Cotxeres de Sants film festival (1:03). Jess Franco's unfinished assembly of the film (48:20 versus the main feature's 86:39) consists almost entirely of the alligator ladies dancing for the camera, groping each other, and taunting Pereira who only appears in a few shots being instructed by Franco to pose like James Bond. The alternate scenes (11:22) consists of alternate edits of two of Mayan's sequences: Pereira propositioning protégé Victor to musical accompaniment and Pereira sitting in on Latonda's editing session.
In addition to the film's trailer (1:27), the disc also includes five short films. Enric Chabert's and Frenando Herranz's "AKA Robert Foster" (28:18) is a documentary on Mayan's most prolific period as an actor – primarily in Franco's films – during which he was credited as Robert Foster onscreen and Mayans as behind the camera (although he had appeared in films for nearly twenty years before that under his own name). Javier Pueyo's short "Intimate Diary of an Actress" (9:46) is a somewhat fancifully stylized documentary on one of Franco's more underrated onscreen muses: Montserrat Prous (sister of occasional Franco cameraman Alberto Prous) who starred in Franco's SILENCE OF THE TOMB, SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF, and SINNER and had smaller roles in a couple other films like his pair of MACISTE films. In "Reptilarium" (9:14), Mayans plays a sinister man who leads actor/director Joan Vall Karsunke to a disused zoo and locks him in an animal cage. "Jarjacha vs Pistachu" (7:47) is an "infamía" from Olid while "Susi" (5:18) – the only short with English subtitles – is a comic philosophical piece in which the siting of an Iberian Lynx leads a man to compare masturbation to the self-sufficiency of a cat. The disc can be ordered directly from Vial of Delicatessens web store for under ten Euros (not including shipping). (Eric Cotenas)
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