Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 12th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: Spain, 1989
Director: Jesus Franco
Writers: Jesus Franco, Daniel Lesoeur
Cast: Robert Forster, George Kennedy, Fernando Rey, Ramon Estevez, Silvia Tortosa, Craig Hill, Terri Vallee, Brett Halsey, Daniel Grimm, Lina Romay, Jean-Pierre Delamour, Antonio Mayans, Karin Well
DVD released: 2007
Approximate running time: 105 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Castilian
DVD Release: Filmax
Region Coding: Region 2 NTSC (Spain)
Retail Price: 12,95 € (Euro)
Synopsis: A civil war erupts between rebels and an oppressive government regime of a Central American country. Aiding the rebels in their fight is an arms dealer named Wilson who supplies the rebels with weapons. A corrupt Colonel who is having an affair with Wilson’s wife has been ambushing the last few shipments of arms.
Action films in the 1980’s were all the rage with their farfetched plots and lack of substance. So it comes as no surprise that Jess Franco would try his hand at a few action films as the 1980’s action craze had already subsided. Esmeralda Bay does feature some beautiful locations which are fully exploited with crazy action sequences many of which Franco emphasizes by gratuitously using slow motion.
What is an action fill without stock footage? The last thirty minutes of the film is mostly comprised of stock footage of tanks, air craft carriers and numerous other uses of military footage as Franco tries to expand the epic scope of the war he is trying to create. The action scenes are definitely a product of their time with many bullets flying by without ever spilling too much blood. Visually Esmeralda Bay is totally devoid of Franco’s personal style and it doesn’t do much beyond cannibalize all the 1980’s action film clichés.
The one area that this film is stacked in its cast which features a veritable who’s who of cult cinema with the two main leads filled by American actors Robert Forster as the corrupt colonel Madero and George Kennedy in the role of Wilson the arms dealer. In another one of the more prominent role is one of the lesser known siblings from the Esteves/Sheen clan Ramon Estevez. Veteran Spanish actor Fernando Rey who had worked with Jess Franco twenty three years before on the film Attack of the Robots plays the president of the Central American country caught in a civil war. Other notable cast member include Craig Hill (The Blood Stained Shadow), Brett Halsey (Four Times That Night), Karin Well (The Convent of Sinners), Antonio Mayans (Sadomanía) and Lina Romay. Despite the films often ludicrous subject matter the cast are all enjoyable and entertaining in their various roles. One of the most memorable things about Esmeralda Bay is its magnificent score composed by Luis Bacalov (Summertime Killer, The Grand Duel and The Last Round).
Overall Esmeralda Bay is a forgettable film that relies too much on its numerous action sequences and not enough time developing the story.
Esmeralda Bay is presented in a 4:3 full frame aspect ratio. The image doesn’t look cropped or tight with plenty of room at the top and bottom of the frame. Colors look nicely saturated and black levels look good throughout. Overall the transfer looks good with some minor room for improvement.
This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital stereo mix in Castilian. The audio sounds clean and dialog is easy to follow. The music and effects sound balanced with the rest of the mix. There are no subtitle options. Even though most of the film is in Castilian there is one scene near the end of the film were English is spoken.
There is no extra content. The menu is static giving only two options play film or scene selection. If you can find Filmax’s release of Esmeralda Bay at an affordable price you should snatch it up. Despite this release lack of English audio options the plot is very easy to follow.