International Horror Film Review: Dr. Orloff’s Monster (dir by Jess Franco)

This 1964 Spanish film takes place in Austria.

The notorious Dr. Orloff is dying.  Orloff was the lead character in director Jess Franco’s The Awful Dr. Orlof.  (The spelling of Orlof’s last name changes from film to film.)  In the first film, Orlof (played with maniacal relish by Howard Vernon) was a father driven mad by his daughter’s disfigurement.  With the help of his mute servant, he murdered women so that he could perform skin transplants in order to give his daughter back her beauty.  In Dr. Orloff’s Monster, Dr. Orloff is a more of a generic mad scientist and he is now played Javier de Rivera.  Knowing that his time is running out, Orloff passes along his secrets to one of his disciples, Dr. Conrad Jekyll (Marcelo Arroita-Jáuregui).

(In the dubbed American version of the film, Dr. Jekyll’s name is changed to Dr. Conrad Fisherman.)

Dr. Jekyll returns to his own remote Austrian castle.  He’s soon joined by his innocent niece Melissa (Agnes Spaak).  Melissa is searching for her father, Andros (played by Hugo Blanco).  What she doesn’t know is that Dr. Jekyll earlier caught Andros in bed with Jekyll’s wife, Inglud (Luisa Sala).  Jekyll murdered Andros.  This led to Inglud becoming an alcoholic.

However, thanks to the teachings of Dr. Orloff, Jekyll knows how to bring Andros back to life.  Unfortunately, the reanimated Andros is a hulking monster who Conrad uses to kill all of his former mistresses.  It turns out that Inglud wasn’t the only one who had trouble sticking to marriage vows.  Soon, Inspector Klein (Pastor Serrado) is investigating a growing number of nightclub-related murders.  Inspector Klein is also falling in love with Melissa, which has the potential to make things more than a bit awkward.

Dr. Orloff’s Monster (which is also known as The Mistresses of Dr. Jekyll) was Franco’s first sequel to The Awful Dr. Orlof and it was also the tenth film that was he was credited with directing.  (As Franco was a prolific filmmaker who used a huge amount of pseudonyms and whose films were often released under several different titles, we will probably never have a definite answer on how many films he actually directed over the course of his long career.)  Particularly when compared to Franco’s later films, Dr. Orloff’s Monster seems rather restrained.  As always with Franco, there’s a bit of nudity and an emphasis on murder but the violence is rather bloodless and the usual Franco perversions are hinted at without being explicitly shown.  Instead, with this film, Franco emphasizes atmosphere over shock.  The black-and-white cinematography creates the feel of a perfect noir, with Andros emerging from the shadows to attack his victims and then retreating back into the darkness.  This, along with a deliberate pace and Franco’s frequent use of close-ups, gives Dr. Orloff’s Monster the feeling of a languid but menacing dream.  With this film, Franco fills the screen with nightmarish ennui.

Unfortunately, the film suffers due to the absence of Franco’s usual villain, the great Howard Vernon.  Vernon always brought a hint of old world decadence to his performances and the rather bland Marcelo Arroita-Jáuregui is simply not as interesting as Dr. Jekyll.  Despite his death at the start of the film, Dr. Orloff would appear in other Franco films and, fortunately, Howard Vernon would return to play him.

One response to “International Horror Film Review: Dr. Orloff’s Monster (dir by Jess Franco)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 10/3/22 — 10/9/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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