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Rest in Peace, Jesus “Jess” Franco (1930-2013)

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I’m writing this quickly, as I have to get this out now, while the news is still stinging, but Jesús “Jess” Franco died yesterday. To me, Franco was and remains the most important figure in cinema, a fascinating individual who ate, slept and breathed moviemaking, who lived to point his lens at anything that caught his eye, who was too arty for the horror crowd and too macabre and lowbrow for the art crowd. He existed in a world of his own, a class of his own and he is of the handful of true auteur filmmakers in which the key to understanding and embracing his style, aesthetic and sensibility lay in viewing and analyzing his entire body of work.

And that, in and of itself, is no mean feat.

The Spanish born writer, director, sometime actor and always jazz musician and music junkie made about 200 films—that we know of—under almost as many pseudonyms. To love Franco was to play sleuth, sifting through titles, re-titles, alternate cuts, bootlegs, soft and hard versions (Franco was noted as being one of the pioneers of erotic horror, in some cases downright pornographic horror and fantasy depending on the country of release). Tim Lucas famously charted much of this Franconian skullduggery in the 80’s video boom in the pages of FANGORIA, its sister mag GOREZONE and his own magazine, VIDEO WATCHDOG. It was during this period that I too became one of the legions obsessed with Franco’s magnificent obsessions. I have written about Franco endlessly, taught classes about his work, had to stand tall against his many, many detractors, interviewed the man and his recently departed life partner and muse Lina Romay and was planning a big Franco cover story/lifetime achievement award issue for August with Severin bigwig and Franco pal David Gregory.

And that show *will go on.

I even made a movie called BLOOD FOR IRINA that I dedicated to Lina (the film is a sort of homage to the Franco/Romay classic FEMALE VAMPIRE) and was hoping to share with Jess this year. I’m proud of the work as I think it captures that most important element that made Franco’s work so powerful; not the sex, the blood or the shocks, but the romantic longing, the meandering jazz-like voyeurism and music-as-character texture. The real soul of a Franco film. Franco indeed made movies like he made his music: loose, fast, dreamy…not for all tastes, some more potent than others, but all inimitable and all truly his own.

There’s no point itemizing every picture Jess Franco made. Internet searches will point you in many directions to either begin or further your education. Just know that this humble editor of the mag you read is deeply saddened by the passing of a true maverick and has an even more potent renewed sense of purpose at getting that special Franco spotlight together.

May he rest in peace somewhere out there in the sunny, sandy, candle-lit and go-go boot littered ether beside the spirit of his lovely Lina.

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About the author
Chris Alexander
Author, film critic, teacher, musician and filmmaker (not to mention failed boxer) Chris Alexander is the editor-in-chief of FANGORIA Magazine. He got his first professional break as the “Schizoid Cinephile” in the pages of Canadian horror film magazine RUE MORGUE before making the move to FANGO in 2007. His words have appeared in The Toronto Star, Metro News, Wired, Montage, The Dark Side, Tenebre and many other notable publications and he appears regularly on international television and radio.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1585436117 Mark Savage

    Death of a true great, and a fine tribute, Chris.

    An era, a way of life, a man who embodied the journey of the the subconscious to celluloid, has faded.

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  • Stephan Segantini

    After the passing of David B. Silva, James Herbert and Rick Hautala we are faced with another hard loss!
    Franco was also a friend of Orson Welles, and in some of his movies we could see the influence of the Master Welles upon his unique aesthetics.
    And now, they are on the other side of the wind…

    We will miss them!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jackie.jormpjomp.1 Jackie Jormpjomp

    First I’ve heard. RIap

  • Erick Hart

    A lovely tribute.
    Franco was an enigmatic director,often dismissed,sometimes praised.He stood in that strange netherworld between the grindhouse and the arthouse.Many critics damned him yet he worked with some true greats and was always his own man.Even on the tightest of schedules and the stingiest of budgets he kept on till very near the end of his life.He leaves behind a VAST body of work and sprinkled through it are some true gems and a lot of intriguing,off center efforts.When it comes down to it I’d much rather explore the depths of his output than linger in front of screenings of a lot of the “classy” commercial efforts that come and go nowadays.Franco wasn’t pretentious and he wasn’t a snob,he WAS a FAR more talented director than he is often credited for and his loss diminishes the horror genre and cinema in general.
    Rest In Peace.

  • Tony F. Corpse

    R.I.P. Must re-investigate my Box Set again in his memory…

  • Daniel glennon

    Thanks Chris for this poignant tribute. I’ve always been a fan and am sad to hear of Franco’s passing. Whatever one thinks of his films, they were truly individual and distinctive and he was a true auteur. My personal favourite is his original cut of ‘A Virgin among the Living Dead’

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