Written by: Johan Fundin on January 18th, 2018
BluRay released: February 6th, 2018
Approximate running times: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: LPCM Mono English, LPCM Mono French
BluRay Release: Kino Lorber / Redemption Films
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.95
Jess Franco (Jesus Franco Manera) was a visionary and a predecessor to the modern day Pedro Almodóvar in Spain. Even if their films are quite different the fellow countrymen shared the dynamic visual grammar of absurdity and sexual explicitness, experimentalism and limit-pushing artistic exploration. They both welcomed the liberation from the heavy restrictions and uncompromising censoring within the puritanical Spanish cinematic community following the death of the other Franco, the dictator, in 1975. Spanish filmmakers were now finally allowed to make whatever films they wanted in their native country. By then the younger Almodóvar was only twenty-four years old but big times would come in the 1980’s when he directed a handful of startling underground movies using pop-art color schemes and garish production designs. It comes without saying that Almodóvar was and is the more talented and more gifted of the two filmmakers.
Back to Jess Franco… After all we are talking about the most prolific director of all time (some 150+ films) and an artist who was picked by Orson Welles to work on the maestro’s Chimes at Midnight. Certainly some of his movies must be worth seeing? It is safe to say that the quality of Franco’s work is strongly fluctuating, where the major opinion seems to be that his earlier serious art house films and crime thrillers are better than his later pornographic outings. The Diabolical Doctor Z, an early Franco, made in 1965, is a film well worth to check out by those with a genuine interest and curiosity in discovering Gothic Euro horror beyond the contemporary works by Mario Bava and Antonio Margheriti.
The plot line of The Diabolical Doctor Z is three-dimensional: A scientific research project in Neurology, a triangular relationship and love story, and a revenge thriller. Dr. Zimmer, an independent researcher, has invented a mind-controlling machine that he claims can permanently change the personality of criminals and turn them into normal, law-obeying citizens. So far he has experimented with the minds of animals but has yet to try his equipment on humans in order to prove his theories. At a scientific conference he presents his work and asks his research community for permission to carry out experiments on humans. But Dr. Zimmer’s request is rejected; instead he is verbally humiliated and ridiculed by his colleagues, most notably by Doctor’s. Vicas, Moroni and Kallman, and he dies from a heart attack caused by his frustration. Dr. Phillipe Whitehouse, a younger scientist within the community and a close friend of the Zimmer family, is the only one who supported the groundbreaking research of the deceased. Zimmer’s daughter Irma, who has an intimate relation with Phillipe, is firmly determined to avenge her father’s death, and part of her plan is to kidnap a young and attractive woman, Nadia, to program her into a vicious killer employing her father’s mind-modifying innovation, and to use her against Vicas, Moroni and Kallman. Things turn more sensitive when Phillipe falls in love with Nadia.
The Diabolical Doctor Z is an ultra-low budget film and it certainly looks very cheap, but it has its memorable moments. The tense scene on the train with Nadia and Dr. Vicas with its atmospheric blend of danger and seductive female beauty echoes Alfred Hitchcock, and the set design and contrast lighting of Phillipe’s apartment is strongly reminiscent of a scene in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist, a scene which Paul Schrader borrowed in American Gigolo, lit by Vittorio Storaro. Overall The Diabolical Doctor Z might not be a masterpiece, but it is an interesting little film from a director driven by his passionate and limitless love for cinema.
Note: The BluRay portion of this review was written by Michael Den Boer
The Diabolical Doctor Z comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Black and contrast levels look strong throughout, details look crisp and there are no issues with compression. And when compared to previous home video releases, this new HD transfer is superior in every way.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in French. Both audio mixes sound clear and balanced throughout. The more ambient aspects of are well represented and the score sounds appropriately robust. Also, the French language track has some mild instances of background hiss. Included with this release are removable English subtitles. It should be noted that subtitles translate, signs and newspapers, that are in French.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (3 minutes 3 seconds, in French with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critic / author Tim Lucas.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, locations, the cast, cinematographer Alejandro Ulloa / the visuals, other production related topics and his thoughts about the film. This audio commentary also discussed other films also directed Jess Franco.
Overall The Diabolical Doctor Z gets a solid release from Redemption Films, highly recommended.