Written and directed by: Jess Franco
Reviewed by: Brett H.
ďI love having a hot body next to me. Little tits like theseÖ and a little bush like this one.Ē
How do you like your living dead? I prefer mine of the slow moving variety, but thereís such a plethora of different types out there that just about any horror fan has to be fascinated by one form of them. Weíve had zombies that run, learn, eat flesh, are voodoo powered, and I canít really complain about any of them. Just what constitutes zombie is entirely open to interpretation. Armando De Ossorioís ambitious 1971 effort, Tombs of the Blind Dead is such an example. Are they mummies or are they zombies? I guess it really doesnít matter. Theyíre dead, they walk, and theyíre quite the creation. Jess Franco was as intrigued as any other horror fan by the skull faced Templar knights and a decade later made a somewhat of an homage to the original Blind Dead effort. The original film had some nudity, but Jess Franco has to do things his way. And, Jess Francoís way is to make the Playboy Mansion look like Mr. Dressup. Is the homage worthwhile or just another notch in the belt of Francoís endless list of film excursions?
Four topless waitresses decide to take a trip to a seemingly great hotel just off the beach. The problem is, there doesnít seem to be anyone else there with them. The girls brush it off, thinking that everyone must be at the beach. The only two rooms left in the place are a ways apart and the ladies split up and head off to their rooms, where they all indulge in some girl on girl action. Before doing so, each side accuse the other side of being prudes who would never dine on female flesh! The hotel staff is sparse as well, with only Carlos (Antonio Mayans) and a pervy gardener present in daily affairs. But, these ladies are horny and Carlos looks to be a real womanizer, so itís not long before one of them, Candy (Lina Romay) ends up with him. One of the girls decides to take off to snap a few photos and never returns and soon enough another stumbles upon a centuries old secret.
It turns out that Carlos isnít the nice man he seems. He keeps his wife chained to a bed like a dog, rarely feeding her and only taking her outside to use the bathroom. Not only this, but somewhere on the premise reside a temple of ghosts who had been cursed by a witch during the Spanish Inquisition. Their faces resemble a skull and they must perform satanic services in their demonic habits, focusing their time on bringing promiscuous women to the temple and offering them as a sacrifice to the dark lord. The leader doesnít wear a mask, though, his face is blotchy and white with blood seeping through, and he has reason to believe that Candy is the girl who can lift the curse and bring all the troubled souls the freedom theyíve longed for. Or is Candy just another slutty lass on their muddled journey back into the good books of God?
Mansion of the Living Dead obviously is not a film for everyone. Those who donít enjoy a solid dose of sexuality in their horror films arenít going to strike gold with this one, either. Iíve never been opposed to an abundance of sex in horror films, the nude scenes are part of the reason I love the genre in the first place. Of course, the obligatory tit shot present in so many treasures is magnified by something along the lines of a Hubble Telescope by Spanish film legend Franco. I suppose the main knock on the softcore horror film is the fact that people seemingly donít enjoy going back and forth between sex scenes and horror scenes. I canít say that Iím one of them, mostly because in your average low budget horror effort, youíre treated to a generally slow or predictable plot with characters you generally hope to see die. The kills are the reason everyone shows up, hopefully accompanied by some nice atmosphere and suspense along the way.
With a film such as Mansion of the Living Dead, the way the film is presented makes all the difference. The opening 40 minutes are so are solely of the girls having fun and munching rugs while on vacation in a sort of paradise. Jess Franco provides the audience with marvelous scenery and all the while a sort of mystery looms in the back of your mind; just where the hell is everyone? In the last 20 minutes, the film does kick into horror gear and when it does, itís highly enjoyable and tells a story that generally could have been stretched into 80 minutes elsewhere. So, the final 20 minutes of Mansion of the Living Dead along with bits and pieces throughout accomplishes what it sets out to do. Instead of filler scenes of useless conversation, we have some lesbian scenes. Rather than just showing the women hanging out all the time, we have more lesbian scenes or perhaps some wonderful shots of the ocean or of the posh hotel (where did the mansion promised in the title go?). Itís a bit unconventional, but I donít see the problem with looking at a lot of naked ladies. Itís entertaining and thatís all I ask from a movie, especially a horror film that you know isnít going to be the next Evil Dead or Halloween. Itís the type of movie you watch in between classics, and it definitely serves its purpose.
Surprisingly, thereís a couple laughs along the way as the gardener of the hotel always spies on the ladies and does absolutely nothing in the way of tending the gardens but sing to the flowers (the garden looks great, so why mess with a good thing?). The scene that takes the cake is during a lesbian sequence that involves some sixty-nine when a hair gets in one ladyís mouth. She says, ďa little hair!Ē to which the other replies, ďmake a wish and blow!Ē Funny stuff! But, I realize the main reason you and I are both here are for the horror scenes and if you can make it through 70 minutes of lesbianism with a dash of mystery, rape, misogyny and myth, youíll get to the meat and potatoes of the dish. Surprisingly, itís not bad. Quite honestly, the first time the Templars are shown in the film, it was genuinely creepy seeing them stand so silent and motionless. At the time, you have no idea why theyíre there or what theyíre doing. Seeing as the living dead in the film are more or less accursed spirits, there wonít be any gut munching, but rather the movie ends with story rather than action, much like a classic gothic horror of old mixed amidst this cradle of filth. It also goes without saying that the sex in Francoís films is present as a result of nudity not being allowed in Spanish film for so long. When the door opened for Franco to show what he wanted to show (more times than any other director Iíve ever known), he jumped at the opportunity and never stopped.
Severin presents Mansion of the Living Dead with a stunning 2.35:1 transfer ensuring that ever bit of lush ocean view will be seen as it was intended and is presented in Spanish with English subtitles. The subtitles are easy to read, but youíre going to have trouble catching every line when glancing at the eye candy showcased above it. The lone special feature is a dandy, a 19-minute interview with Jess Franco and his wife/co-star of the movie, Lina Romay. Very appropriately, Franco starts the interview off controversially as he says that he doesnít care for George A. Romeroís interpretation of the walking dead because they are just that, merely the walking dead. His reasoning may be to toot his own horn regarding the ending to this film as the living dead in it do have a reason, have minds and are much more capable of dastardly deeds than a mindless flesh muncher. I must ask this, though: if he wasnít happy with Romeroís interpretation, then whatís with the mindless dead in his very own Oasis of the Zombies? I guess when you do 180 or so films, you're allowed a few lapses in memory. I enjoyed Mansion of the Living Dead, albeit not on the level I enjoyed the hardcore cheese sleazer, Malabimba. Many shun this softcore terror a bit too quickly, but Iíd rather embrace this small piece of trash history than condemn it to hell. Rent it!
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