of the Living Dead
DVD Release Date: October
= Highest Rating
quartet of horny young women check in to a deserted seaside
hotel, unaware that a satanic cult of undead monks occupies
the abandoned monastery nearby...
"horrotica" auteur Jess Franco ventures into Templar
with this pseudo-knockoff of Tombs
of the Blind Dead. The similarities are purely on the surface,
however. Franco's evil cultists in Mansion
of the Living Dead aren't really zombies or revenants,
but rather more like ghosts. Nor do they move in slow motion.
(Just lethargically, like the movie itself.) They sacrifice
victims to Satan but don't bite anyone or drink blood. Religious
chanting is heard on the soundtrack whenever they appear; instead
of sounding creepy or unnerving it's more like a phonograph
recording of the Air Force Academy Choir played at extra-slow
speed. The Female
Vampire herself, Lina Romay (billed as "Candy Coster",
in a platinum blonde wig) ends up being a lot scarier than the
Thank God, then, for
the naked ladies.
of the Living Dead
starts off as a sex comedy and ends up a grim, if not very frightening,
horror tale. The four girls, supposedly German tourists on holiday,
have about a thimble full of brains between them given their
insipid dialog. They arrive at the resort and find it eerily
deserted, staffed only by a single receptionist named Carlo
(Franco regular Antonio Mayans, billed as "Robert Foster")
and a creepily cheerful gardener who likes to sing and declare
his socialist politics. (He's also a peeping tom, and since
the ladies do without clothes for much of the time he's got
plenty to peep at.) Somebody throws a knife at them while they're
sunbathing, but despite the scare and the odd lack of guests
they just blow the incident off, focusing instead on shagging
one another and having fun. (I told you these gals were rock
stupid!) Amid the giggly muff-diving the ladies note that the
area around the resort experiences sudden gusts of strong wind
at odd times, causing the bell in the adjacent abbey ruins to
The film now makes
a jarring shift in tone when one of the women, off by herself
taking photos around the abbey (hiking in short-shorts and high
heels, no less), is seized by white-robed monks. Most of these
are slow-moving and silent a la the Blind Dead, wearing plastic
skull masks, although one of them sports cheesy makeup
looking like a microwave pizza melted on his face
and their leader appears to be the hotel gardener. (At least
I think that's the case...) In a ritual to Satan the woman is
gang-raped by her captors and then stabbed to death by the leader.
Another of the girls is likewise killed, lured to the abbey
by Carlo. He is himself one of the monks, the one with the melted
pizza face, which is his true countenance. The two remaining
tourists get a bit worried when their girlfriends go missing,
but, being incredibly dumb, they're more concerned with lesbian
lovin' than calling the police or getting the hell out of there.
Even when Romay's character discovers a crazy, half-starved
naked woman (Eva León) chained to the wall in one of
the empty hotel rooms, she still doesn't get all that freaked
she sees something in Carlo that leads her to trust him. Turns
out she has a connection to the cult via one of her ancestors
and an incident that occurred centuries ago. Carlo brings her
to the abbey, but not as a sacrifice...
Franco opts for a
conventional style with Mansion of the
Living Dead, for the most part eschewing rapid zoom shots
and out-of-focus close-ups. It's well-photographed and, as one
might expect, uses the picturesque Canary Islands locations
to good effect. He manages a few atmospheric scenes here and
there, especially those set in the abbey or when Lina is wandering
the corridors of the empty hotel (dressed only in heels, of
course), but the characters are just too silly and the story
too vague to generate any interest. Were it not for the abundant
display of flesh Mansion would
be a very dull experience. I suspect that Franco, who also wrote
the screenplay, was well aware of the scenario's shortcomings.
Solution? Lots and lots and lots of nudity. Once the
gals check in to the hotel (around the 10 minute mark) they're
topless or buck naked in the majority of the scenes that follow.
a decade after her early-'70s
was starting to pack on a few pounds by this point but can still
captivate with those huge dark eyes of hers.
by erotica/sexploitation specialists Severin Films, the DVD presents
the film via a superb anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen transfer with
a solid mono soundtrack. The source print is totally uncut and
absolutely pristine I really wish more Euro-Cult titles ended
up looking this good on North American DVD! The Spanish language
audio track comes with optional English subtitles that are well-written
and easy to read.
only one bonus feature included on the disc but it's a good one.
The Mansion That Jess Built is a 19-minute featurette
comprised of recent interview footage with Franco and Lina Romay.
Franco is his typically candid, sardonic self, which always makes
for an interesting discussion. His blunt dismissal of George Romero's
as well as zombie
movies in general ("they're dead, so they are silly"),
is juxtaposed with his admiration for fellow Spaniard Amando de
Ossorio's Tombs of the Blind Dead
("it was very creative"). He explains that the
spectral monks in Mansion are meant
to personify a truly literal depiction of the term "living
dead", since they are actually more alive than deceased.
They are not reanimated corpses, but rather beings existing in
a sort of limbo between life and death. To him, the stereotypical
zombies seen in the vast majority of horror films are "idiots"
who can't really do anything but "fall down." Because
they have no mind they are not frightening. (Sorry, Jess, but
I must strongly disagree on this point.) He cites the 19th Century
writings of Spanish author Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer as his
main inspiration for the film, and that Mansion's
monks are a metaphor for the Catholic ecclesiastical establishment.
For her part, Romay talks about how breaking taboos of cinematic
sex and nudity contributed to the cultural liberation of Spain
at the beginning of that country's post-fascist, democratic era.