1981 - West Germany Directed By: Jesus Franco. Starring: Olivia Pascal, Christopher Brugger, Nadja Gerganoff, Alexander Waechter, Jasmin Losensky, Corinna Gillwald, Maria Rubio and Jesus Franco.
Die Sage des Todes
Yet to be released on DVD in a fully satisfactory version and unlikely to be for the foreseeable future. The best viewing option at present in the Dutch R2 release on the European Shock label and even that is far from ideal. While the fullscreen image quality is a leap up from VHS in terms of its quality the print used is missing a small amount of footage due to damage apparently including a few gory frames from the opening stabbing. In addition the whole five minute pre credits sequence suffers from a sound fault which results in the audio being roughly 7 seconds out of sync with the image. I must admit that the English dubbing of this film is so awful at any rate that if I hadn't been aware of this sound issue beforehand I probably wouldn't have noticed! Despite its faults this otherwise uncut and ultimately passable release is far preferable to the worthless UK R2 DVD from the perennially useless Vipco which features the same BBFC butchered print (over a minute of cuts in total) released on UK VHS back in 1994. According to a reliable source all uncut and undamaged prints of Bloody Moon are all thought to be lost which is why no distributor will spend money on trying to put out a better DVD. Those who really must have those fleeting seconds of scissor mutilation intact and the pre credits scene in sync can always seek out the very rare uncut UK pre cert VHS tape on the Interlight label.
Only for Jess Franco and/or "Video Nasty" completists. Despite some semi-inspired moments of graphic gore Bloody Moon is a typically sloppy, dull and uninspired Franco effort which is heavily derivative of both the Italian giallo format and the early eighties American slasher cycle.
Review (Contains Spoilers)
The eighties were an odd if intermittently productive time for Spain’s most famed and prolific sex/horror filmmaker Jesus Franco. There is little arguing that the late sixties and early seventies had been Franco’s most productive period as a filmmaker. Having established a productive working relationship with producer Harry Alan Towers the hard working Spaniard would go on to direct his most upmarket and arguably the most accomplished films of his long career including his bizarre exercise in erotica Venus In Furs (1969) and his disarmingly masterful Dracula adaptation Count Dracula (aka – El Conde Dracula) (1970). However, as the seventies wore on into the eighties Franco became little more than a director for hire, prepared to turn his hand to any exploitation subgenre (provided the money was right) ranging from the living dead cycle to the women in prison pot-boiler with proficient yet generally uninspired results.
One of Franco’s most noteworthy eighties efforts would have to be his rather aptly titled German production Bloody Moon (aka – Die Sage des Todes). Telling a predictable tale of gory, mysterious murders in a Spanish language school, Bloody Moon stands as a rather obvious European attempt to milk some more international box-office and video sales out of the American slasher movie formula which was of course popularised by the success of Halloween (1978) and Friday The 13th (1980) in the preceding years. With its emphasis squarely focused on exploitative nudity and gory slayings Bloody Moon would become one of Franco’s more controversial films.
In the early eighties Britain was in the midst of a moral panic instigated by its tablioid press over so-called “Video Nasties” – a crude generic term coined by the British gutter newspapers (principally The Daily Mail and The Sun) to describe the thriving crop of graphic and salacious horror/exploitation titles that were finding there way into Britain’s then unregulated video market. Although Bloody Moon had legally played UK cinema’s in 1982 with an X-certificate following fairly heavy BBFC cuts, upon its UK video release courtesy of fly by night distributor Interlight, Franco’s film would encounter trouble. While some copies of Interlight’s video release of Bloody Moon contained the cut and BBFC approved British theatrical print, others contained the far more sleazy and gory uncut version resulting in Bloody Moon promptly finding its place on the Department Of Public Prosecution’s list of banned “nasties”. Although Bloody Moon would be re-released on British video in 1994 in a heavily censored version it has never been re-issued in its original uncut form.
Bloody Moon begins on the Spanish holiday resort of the Costa Del Sol. At a party held to celebrate the Festival Of The Moon facially scarred and mentally handicapped outcast Miguel (Waechter) makes amorous advances towards an attractive young girl. Repulsed by Miguel’s disfigurement, the girl cruelly rejects his advances prompting him to fly into a rage and brutally stabs her to death with a pair of scissors. As a result of this crime Miguel is promptly confined to a mental institution.
Several years later Miguel is conditionally released from the institution and returns to the Costa Del Sol under the care of his rich yet bitter, wheelchair bound aunt the Countess Maria Gonzalez (Rubio) and his sister Manuela (Gerganoff). As it turns out Miguel and Manuela had previously been involved in a deviant incestuous relationship prior to his incarceration which Miguel longs to resume leading him to fall under Manuela’s scheming influence.
Meanwhile enterprising teacher Alvaro (Brugger) opens up an international language school in the out of season resort catering specifically for foreign tourists who wish to brush up on their Spanish. However, panic and terror set in when several of the schools students are savagely murdered by a sadistic and unknown killer. Due to his past indiscretions and his growing obsession with attractive young student Angela (Pascal) the finger of suspicion is soon pointed at Miguel, but is he actually the killer? Or are the increasingly horrific murders the work of someone with far more mysterious motivations?
With a picturesque holiday resort as a backdrop for its gory carnage and the presence multiple suspects with the (probable) motivation of nabbing a slice of a crippled aristocrats fortune it should be obvious to any European horror and exploitation buff that Bloody Moon “borrows” liberally from Mario Bava’s seminal and similarly plotted Italian body count thriller Twitch Of The Death Nerve (aka – A Bay Of Blood) (1971). At the same time however, Bloody Moon owes much in a commercial sense to the success of the Friday The 13th school of American slasher films which ironically enough were heavily influenced themselves by Twitch Of The Death Nerve. While Bloody Moon strives desperately to recapture the lightning in a bottle of both its commercial and stylistic inspirations thanks to cack-handed direction, an intolerable cacophony of bad Euro-pop masquerading as a score and horrendous English dubbing, Bloody Moon instead winds up a typically interminable botch job as is typical of Franco when at his least inspired.
In a certain sense Bloody Moon could almost be looked upon as a latter day giallo, but as a straightforward murder mystery Bloody Moon is frankly a dead loss. The tepid screenplay penned by Rayo Casablanca (his only known writing credit) crawls along lethargically onscreen resulting in a first hour so painfully devoid of interest that the graphic killings with which it is occasionally punctuated only barely make it worth the effort of sitting through. While a number of suspects are thrust at the viewers, for all the convoluted maneuverings Bloody Moon is such a thin and lazy affair in narrative terms that literally anyone could be revealed as the killer without it making the slightest difference to the overall outcome. For example the scarred Miguel is in the frame as top suspect simply because we’ve already seen him viciously stab a girl to death in the pre credits scene not to mention his later clandestine conversations with his sister Manuela in which the two make less than subtle overtures about “getting rid of everyone”. In short all the clues point so heavily to Miguel being the killer that even the dimmest of viewers is certain to realise he’s an obvious red herring. In fairness the sordid incestuous overtones between Miguel and Manuela do offer one tenuous point of narrative interest, but ultimately even that is paid off in a numbingly predictable fashion at the films desperately muddled conclusion.
While Bloody Moonmakes for a tedious bore in narrative terms it certainly has to be said that Franco at least pulls his finger out enough to ensure that the film delivers amply on the exploitation front. In a predictable yet welcome development Franco’s emphasis is squarely placed on a heady brew of sleazy titillation and gratuitously violent slayings. The tone is set as early as the films pre credits sequence as Franco goes off at the deep end with Miguel brutally stabbing at the bare breasts of a nubile young girl with a pair of scissors. Once the film begins proper it does admittedly seem like an age until the killings kick in but they certainly graphic as one young lady is stabbed in the back replete with a grim shot of the blade exiting through her bare breast. Additionally in a scene sure to offend reptile lovers a live snake has its head lopped off with a pair of garden shears replete with a lingering shot of the snakes decapitated head and neck writhing on the ground.
The highlight however is an outrageously gory scene which another young lady consents for the masked killer to bind her to a stone slab believing it to be a prelude to a kinky sex act. However the killer has quite different plans and instead proceeds to feed his increasingly panicked victim into the path of a gigantic circular saw blade resulting in a show stopping (not to mention extremely bloody) decapitation. While the obvious plastic mannequin head used for the decapitation effect is like something out of an Andy Milligan film its hard to fault Franco for the agonizingly drawn-out and sadistic build up as the girl inches towards the blade for what feels like an age. Franco even manages a semi-inspired sting in the tale as a prying little boy intervenes and turns the mechanism off apparently saving the girl, only for the killer to immediately restart it cruelly quashing any hope of the girl being saved from her fate. In an equally mean spirited postscript the killer then takes to his car and pursues the interfering boy along the highway and viciously mows him down. All in all though the nastiness of the violence itself is offset both by a combination of obviously fake prosthetic effects and moments of typical Franco ineptitude that threaten to turn the film into an unintentional comedy, most notably an almost slapstick scene in which a female protagonist narrowly avoids being crushed by a gigantic polystyrene boulder. It should also be noted that the majority of the killings are preceded by a shot of the full moon in the night sky while the soundtrack swells up ominously. While this does lend Bloody Moon a pleasing symmetry it ultimately seems to have no real significance or purpose beyond justifying the films otherwise irrelevant title.
With all the hideously gaudy fashions on display and the even more hideous Euro-pop that dominates the soundtrack, Bloody Moon at times makes for a horrifically cheesy time capsule of everything that sets teeth on edge about the eighties. Additionally Bloody Moon is cursed both by Franco’s largely sloppy direction and a crushing bore of a narrative which offers viewers a lazy jumble of red herrings which never equate to anything resembling genuine audience interest. To be fair it must be said that those viewers prepared to slog through this dreary exercise in monotony will at least be rewarded with a generous helping of sleaze and some grisly if unconvincing butchery. These moments are executed with enough gusto that its fair to say that if Franco had sustained the same level of inspiration throughout then Bloody Moon could potentially have been one of the prolific Spaniard’s more rewarding efforts. As it stands though, despite Franco’s grisly concessions to both the giallo and the American slasher formula, Bloody Moon is seldom anything more than a typically uninspired ordeal of a Jess Franco film, resembling an insipid, cheesy and tedious foreign soap opera peopled with attractive but listless protagonists who are only interesting when they are being horrifically killed.
Also Try… Twitch Of The Death Nerve / Pieces (1982, Juan Piquer Simon) / Madhouse (1981, Ovidio G. Assonitis) / Scream… And Die! / Halloween (1978, John Carpenter) / Friday The 13th / Friday The 13th Part 2.
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