Friday, February 22, 2013

Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff (1973)

"Ah yes, I remember," says William Berger.  "I had very little time to make this one.  All my scenes were done in a row, in a very short period of time, three days or so.  I haven't seen the movie."  (1)

"I worked intensively with Jess," says Edmund Purdom.  "It was very stimulating.  He was such an incredibly prolific mind; it seems to be going in several directions at once.  I never saw [THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF].  In fact, I've never seen any of Jess's movies.  All I can tell you is the way he worked, which was very impressive indeed."  (2)

Despite the fact that its two leading actors have never seen the film, Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff (1973), I have seen the film.  It was given a DVD release a couple of years ago by Intervision Picture Corp.  The disc had been collecting dust in some nook of my room, and I had an itch to watch some Franco, so I gave it a spin.

Like most Jess Franco films, Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff (1973) has a curious history.  The authors of Bizarre Sinema:  Jess Franco El sexo del horror write that subsequent to Soledad Miranda's death, Franco was searching for another actress to replace her.  (3)  Montserrat Prous was the sister of Juan A. and Alberto Prous, two cameramen who had been working for Franco.  (4)  She had had a small role in a previous Spanish comedy and was assisting her brothers during the shooting of various movies.  (5)  Franco convinced Prous that she was going to be a star, and she was going to be the lead in the first film of Franco's new production house, Manacoa.  (6)  Along with Berger, Purdom, Robert Woods, and another new recruit, Kali Hanza, the first film of this new production company was Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff.  (7)
Prous plays Melissa Comfort, and she is the ward of her uncle, Sir Henry Robert Comfort (Jaime Picas).  Her immediate care is handled by her aunt, Lady Flora Comfort (Hanza) and her sister, Martha (Loretta Tovar), as Melissa is disabled and unable to walk.  Recently, Melissa has been haunted by nightmares which she believes involve an event ten years prior when she was a child concerning her father's death.  Flora and Martha consult Dr. Orloff (Berger) to examine Melissa about her nightmares.  Dr. Orloff reveals to Melissa that he knew both her father and her mother.  He tells her that he loved her mother very much and her father was a close friend.  He agrees to treat her by giving her medicine to help her sleep.

After her first dose, Melissa awakens in a somnambulistic state and reveals that she can walk.  She enters her uncle's study and murders him.  The following morning, Melissa awakens to learn that her uncle is gone from the house to go hunting (without knowledge of her behavior the night before).  Melissa believes something is amiss.  When his body is found by the side of the road, Inspector Crosby (Purdom) is assigned to the case.  Dr. Orloff, coincidentally, performs the autopsy upon Melissa's uncle.  Hmm...
I enjoyed Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff.  It's well-paced (short, too, at about seventy-five minutes); features good performances, with Prous and Berger standing out; and Franco indulges a particularly favorite theme, subjection/domination of the will by another.  Against the backdrop of Franco's other work, especially his work during this period, Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff is far from distinguishable.  The camerawork is clean for the majority and missing are those beautiful, subjective Franco shots, often leering at its ladies in provocative poses.  The mystery-cum-police-procedural story is very conservative and well-rendered, and there are no diversions or frolics from the action.  Frolics and detours from the plot would have been very welcome.
Subsequent to Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff, Franco attempted to make three films back-to-back with the Manacoa production house.  (8)  Two of the films were never finished and the other did not do well.  (9)  Franco would make much better films during the immediate period, such as La comtesse perverse (1973), Al otro lado del espejo (1973), and especially, Sinner (Le journal intime d'une nymphomane (1972).  The latter was produced by Robert de Nesle and features both Prous and Hanza.

I would definitely recommend Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff for those looking for a more restrained Franco film or for those, like me, who have seen a lot of Franco and are now looking for obscure titles from the filmmaker.  I have seen well over a hundred of his films and I know there are still plenty out there to uncover.  Los ojos siniestros del doctor Orloff isn't a hidden gem but it's very entertaining Franco.
1.  Obsession:  The Films of Jess Franco.  Ed. by Lucas Balbo and Peter Blumenstock.  Graf Haufen & Frank Trebbin.  Berlin, Germany.  1993:  p. 218.
2.  “International Man of Cinema:  An Interview with Edmund Purdom.”  Chartrand, Harvey F.  Shock Cinema.  No.  24/Spring 2004.  Ed.  Steven Puchalski.  New York, N.Y.  2004:  p.  31.
3.  Bizarre Sinema Jess Franco El sexo del horror.  Ed.  Carlos Aguilar, Stefano Piselli, and Riccardo Morrocchi.  Glittering Images.  Firenze, Italy.  1999:  p. 104.
4.  Ibid.
5.  Ibid.
6.  Ibid.
7.  Ibid.
8.  Ibid.
9.  Ibid.

1 comment:

Dick said...

I like this film. I think its my favorite Orloff after Awful.