Jess Franco is the epitome of a “hit-or-miss” director. On one side of the spectrum, you have excellent genre cinema such as Vampyros Lesbos, Venus in Furs, The Diabolical Dr. Z, and Succubus. On the opposite end you have films like Zombie Lake, A Virgin Among the Living Dead, Oasis of the Zombies, and Female Vampire that are all scraping the bottom of the barrel. It’s because of this that I’m always equally interested and wary when going into a Franco film, and luckily Bloody Moon falls right in-between the two extremes in which his films can go.
Manuela and her disfigured brother Miguel return to their ailing Aunt Maria’s boarding school for language arts after a five year absence. Miguel has recently been released from a five year stint in a mental institution due to an incident at the very school they’re returning to in which he sexually assaulted and murdered a young co-ed. Manuela has her own reasons for returning with Miguel, as the countess’s days are numbered, and she wants the school all for herself. Too bad then that Aunt Maria only has eyes for Miguel, who is her sole heir; Manuela has ways to change this however, as she’s not above having an incestuous relationship with Miguel to sway him into handing over the assets of the school once the countess is out of the way.
Amidst all of this familial turmoil, a new semester is beginning at the school, with a slew of young ladies arriving on the campus. Before long, strange things begin happening and girls start disappearing. The entire student body seems to be oblivious to this except for Angela, whose suspicions fall on deaf ears due to her enthusiasm for murder mysteries. When Angela finally discovers a dead body, her intuitions are confirmed, yet the body is gone when her friends arrive to check things out. Will Angela be able to convince anyone of the bizarre happenings on campus before it’s too late? And who exactly is to blame for the murders?
Franco is certainly a jack of all trades when it comes to directorial content and the number of styles in which he can emulate, and in Bloody Moon if you hadn’t been told you were watching one of his films, you probably wouldn’t realize it on your own. The film lacks any of Franco’s usual trademarks, like the excessive use of zooming and the off-kilter camera angles, and is pretty subdued in the flash department. The film does exhibit much of Franco’s obsession with the female body, as a handful of the characters have scenes that amount to nothing more than standing around showing off their goods (this amounts to more than half of Nadja Gerganoff’s scenes!)
The film borrows heavily from the Italian Giallo genre, especially that of Mario Bava. In fact, the film feels more like a product of 70’s Italian genre cinema than an early 80’s slasher flick. Franco’s love for Bava, and Bay of Blood in particular, is evident in the mere basis of the film, which includes a wheelchair bound heiress/countess whose fortunes (here it’s control of the boarding school) are sought by greedy relatives. It’s up for debate whether Franco had a hand in the plot of the film, but even if he didn’t, the style and overall feel of the film was purely Franco’s decision, and in many ways it does come off as an homage to Bava and that period of Italian film.
As a body-count flick, Bloody Moon features a nice amount of slayings and gore, but for the most part things are never taken overboard. This is probably a good thing, as the one extended kill scene, where a hapless young school girl is decapitated via a giant buzzsaw is hilariously bad, and elicits laughs rather than gasps. In an interview on the DVD, Franco goes into how the producers had promised a big-name Hollywood FX artist for the film which they never actually delivered. Franco had to scramble and find someone on his own, and some obvious corners had to be cut to get things done. There’s an unfortunate scene where a live snake loses his head via a pair of giant garden sheers, and while I’m not a huge lover of snakes, it was disturbing to watch. I’m not positive whether the snake fell victim to the blades due to the problems with the budget and false promises about FX guys, but it’s regrettable either way.
Bloody Moon isn’t without its faults however, including some shockingly bad editing that has characters occasionally wearing different clothes when walking from room to room, which is cause for great amusement. While it’s hard to judge the acting on display due to the dubbing, I think it’s a safe bet to assume that nothing about it is award-worthy even when viewed in its native tongue. The script is full of inexcusable plot holes (you mean to tell me not one person is curious as to why the countess is missing?), the school girls are astoundingly stupid (seriously, no one notices that dead body hanging in the closet?), and most of the characters are woefully underdeveloped. There’s also the matter of the terribly implemented red herring that no one will bite on unless they were unsuccessful in making it through elementary school. But there’s no denying that through all of the nonsense and problems the film has, it has a charm that’s surprisingly undeniable. Honestly, how can you hate a horror film that has a porn-inspired soundtrack?
When all is said and done, Bloody Moon is an above average foray for Franco into the Slasher sub-genre, although much of the entertainment is derived from the haphazardly put together elements than anything remotely well done. It’s a mindless little ditty that’s best enjoyed with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Severin certainly has a love affair with Mr. Franco, so it’s not surprising they’ve rescued Bloody Moon from a slew of edited releases and are finally giving it a proper presentation. The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and for the majority of the runtime it looks excellent. Wanting to put the fully uncut version out there, a few of the gore shots had to be culled from an inferior source, and they certainly stick out, but it’s not as bad as I’ve seen in other releases, and they’re cleaned up to the best degree possible. The only audio track available is the English dub (Dolby Digital Mono), which is pretty bad and lacks any real oomph in the delivery department and makes the dialogue laughable in a number of instances. Its unfortunate one of the other various language tracks weren’t added in (I believe the film is available in Spanish and German, among others), but then again, this isn’t high cinema where a bad dub completely ruins the experience. If anything, the dub adds to the feeling of the film being a product of 70’s Italo cinema.
The sole extra on the disc, outside of a theatrical trailer for the film, is an interview with the man himself, Jess Franco. As usual, he’s highly entertaining, and relays the horrific experience he had in making the film. The most surprising piece of information is that the producers, at the time of him signing to direct the picture, told him that Pink Floyd had signed on to provide the soundtrack for the film. Whether this was ever going to happen or was just a means to persuade Franco to sign is something we’ll probably never know, but it’s damn interesting either way. If you’re a fan of Franco’s work or Bloody Moon itself, Severin’s release is a real treat.
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