Sex Trafficking in Marseilles

Human trafficking is recognized as a form of modern day slavery today but it has been around for decades. In the early 20th century the white slave trade in Europe became a major crime phenomenon in which hundreds of young women went missing only to end up enslaved in prostitution rings. This criminal activity provided the basis for countless melodramas and sexploitation films but one of the most entertaining and accomplished efforts is the French feature Des Femmes Disparaissent (1959), which was released in the U.S. in 1962 as Road to Shame. Women Disappear is a more accurate translation for the original title but the movie is a tautly directed thriller which has the look of a vintage noir with moody black and white cinematography by Robert Juillard (Forbidden Games, Gervaise).

Continue reading

Gaze into the Face of Madness!

The critically acclaimed but notoriously difficult actor Klaus Kinski in a photograph from his early years as a stage and film actor.

I’ve always thought that you had to be a little crazy to be a great actor and Klaus Kinski was more than a little crazy. If you don’t believe me read his purple prose autobiography Kinski Uncut which was also published under the title All I Need is Love in 1988. Or watch Werner Herzog’s 1999 film biography Mein liebster Feind (My Best Fiend-Klaus Kinski) about the German director’s volatile relationship with the actor. Better yet, try to get your hands on Paganini (aka Kinski Paganini), the actor’s only directorial effort and his final film, which was released in 1989. For those with all-region DVD players, you can still find PAL copies of it on Amazon’s German web site in a double disc release from SPV Recordings. If you thought Ken Russell’s film biographies of Tchaikovsky (The Music Lovers, 1970) and Liszt (Lisztomania, 1975) were excessively over-the-top and in flamboyant bad taste, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Paganini also features supporting roles for French actor Bernard Blier (Les Miserables, 1958), Dalilia Di Lazzaro (Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, 1973), Eva Grimaldi (Joe D’amoto’s Convent of Sinners, 1986), Marcel Marceau as – big surprise – a pantomine artist and Kinski’s wife Debora Capriolglio in her first lead role.

Continue reading

Superdrago to the Rescue

One of countless Eurospy actioners released in the wake of the James Bond film craze in the sixties, Secret Agent Super Dragon (aka New York chiama Superdrago, 1966) has been mercilessly ridiculed on MST3K but served straight up, it’s often funnier in its own poker-faced way and has some oddball flourishes to set it apart from its fellow spy wannabes. I know it denotes a certain immaturity in the writer to even do a post on this, yet I am compelled…I must!

Continue reading

Jess Franco’s Attack of the Robots

Imagine a science-fiction influenced spy thriller about humanoid assassins directed by Jess Franco with a screenplay adaptation by Jean-Claude Carrière (a frequent collaborator with Luis Bunuel), a cool jazz score by Paul Misraki (Alphaville, Le Doulos, Les Cousins) and an international cast featuring Eddie Constantine, Fernando Rey and Francoise Brion. It sounds like a film buff’s fever dream but it actually exists. Released in 1966 during the height of the James Bond craze, Cartes sur table aka Attack of the Robots is a stylish and amusing entertainment that takes a standard world domination-by-madman scenario and infuses it with a cheeky sense of humor. The film will come as a surprise to those who only associate Jess Franco with Eurotrash favorites like 99 Women (1969), Vampyros Lesbos (1971) and Wanda, the Wicked Warden (1977).

Eddie Constantine as Interpol agent Al Pereira in Jess Franco’s Cartes sur table (aka Attack of the Robots, 1966).

Continue reading

The Phobophobic Housewife

Margit Carstensen tries to relax by listening to music in Fear of Fear (1975) but it doesn't stop her increasing bouts of anxiety and depression.

Margit Carstensen tries to relax by listening to music in Fear of Fear (1975) but it doesn’t stop her increasing bouts of anxiety and depression.

Films about housewives losing their identity in a marriage or slowly going bonkers from the daily rituals of domesticity are plentiful enough to form their own distinctive subgenre. Among the most intriguing of these films, all of which reflect the specific time and cultural moment in which they were made, are Frank Perry’s Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970), John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence (1974), Chantal Akerman’s landmark 1975 feature, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quia du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, Dusan Makavejev’s Montenegro (1981), and the curious Canadian indie Dancing in the Dark (1986), directed by Leon Marr. But the one I’d like to highlight and which I had the pleasure of revisiting recently on DVD is Fear of Fear (German title: Angst vor der Angst, 1975), directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Continue reading