DAS FRAUENHAUS (Blue Rita)
1977, dir: Jess Franco
One of my all time favourite directors has to be the late Jess Franco. A director who churned out countless movies all the way until his death last year. Being a director with over 200 directorial credits to his name, not every film is going to be noteworthy. That being said, from my somewhat small experience with Franco’s films, I have been entertained (not always intentionally) more than I have been disappointed. Sure, Franco’s work doesn’t sit right with most people, but regardless of whether or not you enjoy his films, you have to give credit where credit is due. Franco made films the way he wanted. A master of sneakily shooting two films at once, and working with the often minuscule budgets and time frames at his disposal. Not only that, but Franco would take on multiple roles, most notably starring in some of his own films. It’s also worth mentioning that Franco was an accomplished musician. As an aspiring filmmaker, I have so much love and respect for the man and find him more influential than the likes of Tarantino or Nolan. One thing that always gives me a smile is watching a Jess Franco film that is just oozing with style no matter how technically sound or narratively coherent the film in question is. This leads me to my take on Das Frauenhaus, released on DVD and Blu-ray by Ascot Elite Entertainment here in Germany.
In a nutshell, the film revolves around the Blue Rita Nightclub in Paris. This isn’t just your typical Parisian strip club however. The Blue Rita houses a dark secret, it doubles up as an extortion ring run by exotic dancers. It even has its own torture dungeon! Those unlucky patrons who decide that they want more than just a mouthful of Petit four (my puns aren’t as bad as some aspects of this film I assure you) will fall victim to the sadistic strippers and walk out with an empty bank account as well as an empty… Doesn’t matter, you know where I was going with that! That’s really all I am at liberty to share because I went in to this one blind and I think you should too. In fact, any Jess Franco film is worth going in blind because you just don’t know what to expect with his films. Das Frauen Haus is an über stylish affair. Right from the film’s opening titles you are in for a visual treat. Wonderfully decorated sets combined with some rather splendid high contrast mood lighting make this an aesthetically pleasing experience, if you’re in to that of course! Some of the costumes used throughout, especially the dances in the nightclub are spectacularly campy. Don’t even get me started on the down and dirty jazz score! As much as I adore that aspect, I think it’s time I cut to the chase and talk about what most of you are really interested in, the sleaze!
If you are here strictly for the eye candy, then you’re in the right place! On a purely shallow note, the female cast is fairly solid with the blue haired Rita (yep, naming your club after a wig you wear gets a thumbs up from me) played by Martine Fléty (Cocktail Porno, Elles font tout), being the star of the show. The girls parade around naked for pretty much the films running time, so there’s an endless barricade of boobs and bush (the latter being both in the literal and metaphorical sense, it was the 70’s after all) for you to enjoy. The cast in general serve their purpose with Franco regular Erik Falk (Barbed Wire Dolls, Wanda, the Wicked Warden) popping in for a small paycheck. So we have covered the loose, satisfyingly absurd plot and the T&A, what else can you expect? Well if you like lesbians, physical and sexual torture, girls in gas masks and a good old-fashioned awkwardly staged fist fights, you will certainly get a kick out of this effort. The film is like a Mille-feuilles (yep, still sticking with the French puns), there are so many layers for you to enjoy! If you want a bonus treat, watch the film with the English dub. The actors on screen look Oscar worthy, trust me! The dialogue and its execution are SO bad at times that it’s a thing of beauty. Yep, this isn’t exactly a film snob friendly outing, but it is a satisfying one. As much as I laughed at the absurdity, I was impressed once again by the style. He was a classy one was Jess!
In terms of the release itself, it looks and sounds great. Judging by the quality of the DVD, those who prefer Blu-Ray will definitely be impressed. You also get the option of either the German, English or French dubs as well as Japanese subtitles. When it comes to extras you get a trailer for the film, a photo gallery containing a selection of German lobby cards and promotional artwork and a small featurette with Erik Falk. It may not be packed with special features, but it does the job and we should be thankful that films like this are getting treated with restorations and wide releases. Overall, this is a great release once again by Ascot Elite Entertainment. If you are a Franco die-hard, you already own this and if you’re wanting to get in to the weird world of Jess Franco, this is a good entry point. Long live the classic sleaze!
Das Frauenhaus is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Ascot Elite Entertainment.