Two Movies, One EVIL. “House of Cruel Dolls” reviewed! (Full Moon / Blu-ray)

A perverse gang of sex traffickers kidnap beautiful women to be prostitutes for a hidden away bordello, known as the House of the Lost Dolls.  Gaston, a bordello regular, falls for sex slave Yvette and together they make a great escape to free Yvette from the gang’s clutches.  Yvette’s harrowing ordeal is given to the police.  What ensues next is the dispatching of secret agent Sigma to track down and eliminate the ruthless gang, but finding their hideout won’t be that easy as espionage tactics and killer assassins lie in wait around every corner, but agent Sigma will do everything in his power to see an end to their depravity. 

What a wild mashup of manipulation to work in a spy thriller around a sordid exploitation!  That’s the only way to describe French filmmaker Pierre Chevalier’s sleazy action-action thriller “House of Cruel Dolls.”  Also known as “The House of the Lost Dolls,” “The Panther Squad” director and A.L. Mariaux, one of “The Sexual Story of O” Jesús Franco’s pseudo names, penned 1974 released screenplay fills in the blanks with archival footage from the 1967 espionage flick “Agente Sigma 3 – Missione Goldwather,” starring “The Vampires Night Orgy’s” Jack Taylor.  Judging by the colorful, multi-national, grindhouse titles and the crew involved, you can bet on the “House of Cruel Dolls” to be a licentious and violence riddled romp, swanky in sexual severity and coarse with an untamed plot.  As a production of Eurociné, one shouldn’t be surprised of “House of Cruel Dolls’” shameless nature with the once legitimate Marius Lesqeur storytelling company that ventured into mass producing cheap, seedy classics, more around the uncomfortable context of Naziploitation or WIP (Women in Prison), with such films as “Angel of Death,” “Jailhouse Wardess,” “Hitler’s Last Train,” and “Helga, She Wolf of Stilberg,” as well as other European exploitations in “Diamonds of Kilimandjaro” and “Female Vampire” to capitalize on the rise of erotic in the 1970s through the 1980s. 

The Eurociné played the popular casting game of hiring American actors to star in their oversees produced films, but for “House of Cruel Dolls,” the hiring of an America actor doesn’t go as typical as you would have thought.  Instead of signing Oregon born Jack Taylor to be the leading man stopping a ring of evil sex traffickers, Chevalier, along with “Nude for Satan” editor, “Luigi Batzella,” spliced together Jack Taylor’s Italian-made spy thriller “Agente Sigma 3 – Missione Goldwather  fit into the extremely graphic and perverse scenes of rape, gang rape, and perversion narrative of the barely sticky adhesive “House of Cruel Dolls.  There’s actually one scene where Taylor’s character and partner run down a flight of stairs on a boat, but topside is definitely Taylor, but down the stairs inside the boat is a different actor with an extremely bad wig.  Co-starring, more or less, with Taylor are a blend of Italian and French actors from both stories that not necessarily share the same screen with their leading man.  The French actress Silvia Solar (“Cannibal Terror”) does share actual screen time with Taylor as the infiltrating villain in the cloak-and-dagger film whereas Sandra Julien (“The Shiver of the Vampires”) mingles deep undercover in the lion’s den of the sex trafficking master of ceremonies, Rasly, played by “Blue Rita’s” Olivier Mathot staged in actual “Cruel Dolls” territory.  Rounding out the patchwork cast is Magda Mundari, Raymond Schettino, Gillian Gill, and “Shining Sex’s” Claude Boisson (credited as Yul Sanders) who can’t seem to scratch his inch for lusting over helpless dames. 

I’ve seen worse cut and paste fuses of different 35mm reels and some not so terrible, yet oblivious a stretch at the seam, “Caligula” comes to mind with the inserted hardcore snippets, but “House of Cruel Dolls” flows and flows pretty well considering the rough segue cuts that blend the 1967 film with the 1974 film without much era style or stock degradation differences.  However, what Chevalier, and also most likely Franco, accomplished with their film had more attributes toward being a hardcore adult movie than being an action packed espionage thriller with prolonged and gratuitous sex scenes.  For example, Gaston rescues Yvette from sex slavery horror after a short-lived shoot out during the opening segment, the pair drive their way to the police station but stop along the way to cool down under the forest trees, lay out a blanket like they’re having a picknick, and have sex before going back to rushing to the authorities.  Plus, also experiencing Claude Boisson uncontrollably salivate over tied up and drugged women and easily make them look feeble as he ravages them is a trope norm of that character in the adult industry.  Plenty of skin makes “House of Cruel Dolls” a surefire sexploitation attraction, but much of the nudity is one-sided with the women baring everything while every man, except for one, keeping his clothes while committing the sleazy act and cinematographer, Gérard Brisseau, remains tight on focusing on two parts:  the clothed humping rear of the misogynistic rapist and the women’s bare nipples being forcibly suckled on. This makes the scenes not pungently powerful but more monotonously dull stuck on loop.  The latter is really laid on thick for the first act, saturating the skin-laden setup with Yvette’s escape and her flashback of how she become a lost doll in the lost doll brothel, but once Jack Taylor makes the scene, the action really starts with solid fight sequences that could rival the Sean Connery era James Bond.  However, you really receive a good chuckle when the big boss dies and story cuts-to Gaston and Yvette, hanging around Gaston’s pool, hugging and smiling that the gang has been wiped out in a drop off, that’s-a-wrap ending that table any coda gratification. 

For the first time released in North America and on Blu-ray home video, Pierre Chevalier’s “House of Cruel Dolls” comes uncut and remastered in Hi-Def, 1080p from the original 35mm transfer by our friends over at Full Moon Features as part of their Eurociné Collection.  Presented in a matted 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the pristine transfer really comes through without really a hint of damage or over the years degradation.  The color palette dices through the natural grain copiously vivid where needed to be character garments, hair, and vehicles.  Contrast has a whispery air about, heavenly almost, throughout without squashing too much of the textures.  The forced Dub English language audio tracks come in two formats – Dolby Digital stereo 2.0 and 5.1 surround sound.  Prepare to have side-splitting, cringe-worthy reactions to the incredible horrendous dubbing of baritone grumbling through the lossy audio tracks.  Even the Jack Taylor impersonator has a different dub than the actual Jack Taylor. Bonus features include trailers of other Euro cult titles. Considering being the only release in North America, “House of Cruel Dolls” is a rubbernecking sight to behold as the Eurotrash epitome of the Eurociné scene of the 1970’s, worth the price of admission just for that.

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Mad Doctors, Evil Bloodsuckers, and Vengeance in “Lust of the Vampire Girls” review!


After painstakingly trying to argue to her boyfriend that he never hangs out with her drug abusive friends, the woman withdraws to her friends’ exclusive sanctum without telling him. Before he realizes what’s really at stake, the boyfriend learns that her friends are potential Devil worshippers that aim to practice human sacrifices, but little does he know that his girlfriend is beyond the dangers of a Devil cultist as she had unwittingly placed herself in the experimental hands of a mad Nazi doctor named Gunter and his serum produced harem of female vampires and loyal male acolytes. As the boyfriend attempts to infiltrate the cult incognito, he’s overwhelmed by the flesh-piercing, bikini-wearing beauties, but the eldest vampire, whose bored after years of being with Gunter and wants to find true love, spares the man’s life and instantly imprints herself onto him. She shows him that his girlfriend is no longer mortal and promises to be with him forever, but before he can commit, he first must destroy Gunter and his work before the evil scientist distributes a new serum that’ll be able to transform women and men into the upgraded superior race of blood-thirsty vampires.

There have been moments where horror enthusiastic filmmakers have embarked creatively on re-creating cult favorites or re-inventing that of the European, over-sexualized female vampire, Victor Matellano’s remake of Jose Ramon Larraz’s for instance, and most have come out on top with inspirationally faithful stories or portray the particular type of promiscuous vampire. Writer-director Matt Johnson takes a wooden stake stab at the complexities of the homage with “Lust of the Vampire Girls,” his feature film debut, and with a budget that’s resting on a minimalistic mishmash pot of a self and crowd-funded platter, the director runs with his sparsely written script with a vast amount of bodies able to fill a plethora of roles. Instead of mystical, fantastical, or ancient damned souls feeding on the hapless male sex, the “LofVG” story surrounds a Nazi madman injecting his serum into women over the years (No, that’s not an euphemism) which is Johnson’s modern day spin to the genre.

Nameless characters, aside from Gunter, shape the lineup of vampires and humans, starting with Victor Medina as the boyfriend. Medina’s performance further darkens the character whose an utter jerk lacking chivalry and a moral compass, but the actor is able to fulfill the boyfriend’s character arc as he tracks down, and express a figment of empathy toward, his estranged pretty girlfriend played by “Friend Request’s” Amy Savannah. The two battle against each other with petty ventures of, sometimes typically, relationship woes and Medina and Savannah reflect that rather well until coming entangled with Dave Nilson’s Gunter. Certainly fitting the part and wielding a passable German accent, Nilson comes off as power, arrogant, and invincible. In short, perhaps the most convincing performance in the entire film. Leading Gunter’s harem den of vampire girls is a the doctor’s oldest, yet ageless, subject, donned to the lovely Ashley Eliza Parker, whose eagerness falls just beyond the fumes of desperation. Rounding out the cast are Jeff Christiensen, Cherish Dawn, Mary Etuk, Jami Kelly, Flo Median, and Bri Northem.

“Lust of the Vampire Girls” might be billed as a homage to the 1960’s and 1978’s European exploitation, but as the film seeps into a quasi-level surrealistic state garnished with sexy female lasses in undergarments, very much reminiscent of the genre claimed to respect, the allure finitely founders and tilts more toward below a meager attempt that results in wince-worthy acting and female vampires perpetually hissing through their teeth. In the sequence of events, the beginning offers a small non-linear storyline that’s sorely misplaced starting with the pretty girl being lost only to be found by a vampire loyalist, then the boyfriend, surrounded by variously masked cladded acolytes, becomes a sleeper agent in Gunter’s psychosexual church of horrors, but then the couple are having an embattled conversation at a coffee house, and then, before we know it, we’re back at the church again – with, again, the perpetual hissing, underwear garnished, vampires in silky, see-thru robes. Overly sexualized female vampires are a very Eurotrash and the hazy environment is very reminisce of the LSD era, which Matt Johnson pulls off both fairly well, but the greats, like Jean Rollin or Jesus Franco, made them more captivating than just being mindless, eye-candy monsters with a very bad lisps.

Wild Eye Releasing and MVDVisual release Matt Johnson’s “Lust of the Vampire Girls” onto DVD home video. Image quality varies in a numerous shades of tint, but for the majority, there’s a soft glow to the entire stock and macroblocking during night scenes. The stereo track has an unbalance wit about it that’s unsavory in it’s lossy quality during the genre uncharacteristically progressive metal soundtrack and offers a cacophony during scenes of anger and scuffle. Bonus material includes “LotVG” trailer and storyboards. On the surface, Matt Johnson skimmed the exploitation genre the filmmaker was shooting for and whether intentional or not, the quality waivers from script to performance and then there are aspects that just don’t make since (like vampires wearing gas mask..?), but it’s an atmospheric A-to-Z low-budget horror film and nothing more.

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Undercover. Underwear. Whatever Defeats Evil Sex Trafficking in “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” review!

Cecile and Brigitte have served two of their twelve month sentence for inappropriate sexual acts involving prostitution and stripping. International authorities, including an American Senator, remove the two ladies of the night from their incarcerations and have them audition a private and provocative dance routine that will spring them from prison life and place them into a contract for hire that the pair of beauties find difficult to refuse. Cecile and Brigitte use their God-gifted talents to slip undercover as a pair of lesbian dancers in order to spy on Mr. Forbes, the Flamingo club owner on the Canary Islands who moonlights as a sadistic sex trafficker. Forbes kidnaps, rapes, and then, with the help of his wife Irina Forbes, hypnotizes well-known and famous women to be the ever faithful lovers of Mr. Forbes wealthily clients and to stop the egregious trafficker, any smoking gun evidence must be photographed for the international police to make a move on an arrest.

Jess Franco is the maestro of guilty pleasure shlock and the 1980 violently erotic, crime drama “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” is no different inventoried with ubersleaze spiced in folly comedy and tense sadism. The sort of mixed bag genre film only writer-director knew, and understood, how to achieve on a minuscule budget level in hastily conditions, but “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties,” whether designed or by chance, stemmed from the combination of old and new footage, re-edited out of the original title, “Ópalo de fuego: Mercaderes del sexo,” and told a slightly different tale with slightly rearranged character backgrounds and graphic scenes, and featured two different locations that were later labeled Las Palmas of the Canary Islands to tie it all together. Severin has included both versions on a limited edition Blu-ray (“Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties”) and DVD (“Ópalo de fuego: Mercaderes del sexo”) release to experience both versions.

Franco’s long time common law, then legal in 2008, spouse Lina Romay, under pseudonym Candy Coster stars as Cecile in really a non-seductive, non-promiscuous, and only pinched with erotica role. Unlike Romay’s “Bare Breasted Countess” (aka “Female Vampire”) role, Cecile undercuts the erotic tone with more gratuitous comic and threatening nudity. Relishing into a staple of erotica are all of Romay’s supporting cohorts consisting of “Zombie Lake’s” Nadine Pascal, “Women Behind Bars'” Joëlle Le Quément, Susan Hemingway of “Love Letters from a Portuguese Nun.” Interesting enough, Hemingway isn’t credit in either version of the film. Pascal offers playful dilly-dally while practically be nude throughout whereas Quément slips into a deeper carnality with an unhinged relationship with her sex trafficking husband Mr. Forbes while Hemingway just provides a taken-advantaged vessel to plunder her dignity, soul, and body for easy money. Surrounding the gorgeous vixens are ruthless, dirtbag men played by Claude Boisson as the club owning sex trafficker and “Elsa Fräulein SS’s: Olivier Matthot as the sleazy American Senator Connelly. The role with the most opaqueness between the two versions of the film goes to Mel Rodrigo as Milton, the club’s gay artist organizer with an existential crisis and a quick to rebel attitude.

Though charming in its own delectable unchaste ways, Jess Franco deploys a haphazardly glued story inflamed with by chance moments shrouded with psychosexual tendencies. Sexually ostentatious and manic, “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” wildly pivots like an out of control sprinkler, spitting lustful filth, jovial comedy, and menacing suspense everywhere while still, by way of only Franco can accomplish, accurately hitting the intended mark of downright Eurotrash entertainment. A shocking, yet hardly noticeable, factor of the director’s is his film withholds any large amounts of blood or gore; in fact, gore is absent and the blood is sparse, especially during the girls-on-girl torture scenes involving bondage, a switchblade near the hind parts, and a cinder-weaponized cigarette, but the element that sparks gritty fortitude in those same said scenes, shot intently with fraught close-ups and well positioned shadows, could culminate a subversive tone that ultimate could convey a scene without words.

Severin’s limited edition 2-disc release of the Eurocine produced “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” has rightfully been graced with the Blu-ray treatment. The release also has the Spanish edit version of “Ópalo de fuego: Mercaderes del sexo.” The Blu-ray is a 1080p encoded AVC transfer presented in a near stand definition aspect ratio format from a restored into HD, uncut print. The overall color palette appears fairly washed with only some segments, especially peering out over the water or inside tight quarters, stand out with rich color. Darker scenes are heavily splayed with turquoise that, again, give the washed overlay, but the richness of the shadows with grindhouse print grain is stellar. Franco’s struggle with focusing, as part of technical self embattlement or as part of an against-the-grain auteur, are prominent throughout. The two LCPM 2.0 tracks are dubbed only in English or French and while not tracked in the native Spanish, either track will serve as a palpable substitute despite the English track being transcribed awfully cheesy and the French track with consistent hiss. Bonus material includes “Two Cats in the Canaries: An Interview with Jess Franco” is an undated interview with Franco recalling his love for the Canary Islands and being a genre maverick. There’s also a 1993 interview with long time Franco composer Daniel White conducted by “Cannibal Hookers'” Donald Farmer, a thorough analyst of Franco and “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” by Stephen Thrower, location outtakes, and a theatrical trailer. While “Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties” is not the best example of Jess Franco’s credits, the vicious erotic thriller is arguably ambitious and epitomizes the style of the legendary filmmaker with sultry, fringed performances and an unforgettable narrative lined up in a one-two punch package from Severin Films!