Dr. Orloff's Monster
Spain - Austria- France / 1964
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring
Hugo Blanco
Agnes Spaak
Marcelo Arroita-Jaregui
B&W / 85 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC)
Image Entertainment
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6
    6   10 = Highest Rating  
Guest Review by Troy Howarth
Melissa (Agnes Spaak), an orphan, goes to spend the Christmas holidays with her uncle, Dr. Fisherman (Marcelo Arroita-Jauregui); while there, she discovers his connection to her father's death...
    Often dismissed as the weakest of Spanish director Jess Franco's black and white gothic horror films, Dr. Orloff's Monster though only tentatively connected to the more popular Awful Dr. Orlof is actually a pleasant surprise. Though not in the same class as Franco's first great film (and last b/w horror picture), The Diabolical Dr. Z (1966), it is in many respects a more effective and entertaining work than the first Dr. Orlof or the stylish but dull Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1964).
    The film sees Franco attempting to add an element of poetry and pathos to the horror format, something he would later perfect in Dr. Z. The central figure of Melissa is compellingly portrayed by Agnes Spaak (sister of Catherine Spaak, the star of Dario Argento's Cat o'Nine Tails, 1970), and she is surrounded by a fine supporting cast. Spaak is key to the success of the film's inevitable romantic subplot a mildly comic narrative strand that is uncommonly successful owing to the genuine chemistry between the actors. Though the absence of Howard Vernon (a Franco mainstay, who appeared in the rest of his b/w horrors) is a drawback, Marcelo Arroita-Jaregui (later in Dr. Z and Two Undercover Angels, 1967) does a fine job in the role he surely would have played. (In the French version, the Fisherman character is called Dr. Jekyll; indeed, the actual French title is The Brides Of Dr. Jekyll.) Perhaps the most lasting impression, however, is made by Hugo Blanco cast as Spaak's (apparently deceased) father, he is used by the vengeful Dr. Fisherman to carry out a series of murders. The scene in which Blanco confronts his daughter, emotion finally showing through his (appropriately) blank countenance, is every bit as effective as a more celebrated scene in the Hammer version of The Mummy (1959). Scenes such as this or the moment where Blanco visits his own "grave" give the film an emotional depth that was not present in Franco's earlier horror films but which became more prevalent from this film on.
    Like the director's other black and white Gothics, the film is directed with a sure and sober hand; the zoom shots that tend to put off viewers of his later work are nowhere to be seen, and the film looks slick and well mounted. Daniel White contributes a fine soundtrack, and the silky, expressionistic cinematography maintains a good mood throughout.

Image's DVD release of Dr. Orloff's Monster is a winner. The 1.66/16x9 image is in very good shape. Black tones are rich and deep, and there's excellent detail throughout. The print is in very good shape overall, but it does show some signs of wear and tear and some scenes have noticeable splicing. This French cut includes some saucier footage shot by Franco not seen in other release prints. The disc offers the options of either an English language track (which is to be avoided) or the more compelling French one, with English subtitles. Both tracks are solid but unspectacular, but, again, it plays much better without the silly English dubbing script. (The French track has some noticeable background hiss in spots, it should be noted.) Extras include over ten minutes of alternate and deleted scenes, in somewhat rougher shape than the main feature, and French and Italian trailers. 10/21/04
UPDATE Although the Image DVD is currently still available as a 'stand-alone' edition, the 4-disc Orloff Collection which also includes Franco's The Awful Dr. Orlof, Revenge in the House of Usher, and Pierre Chevalier's Orloff and the Invisible Man is by far the most economical way to purchase these peculiar slices of Euro-Cult cinema.
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