Bloody Moon

Bloody Moon (Jess Franco, 1981)

aka Die Säge des Todes / Colegialas violadas

In a pre-credits flashback, a disfigured young man Miguel (Alexander Waechter) does a Michael Myers by stealing a Mickey Mouse mask from a disco pool party and using it to trick a bubbly coed into thinking he is someone else and is invited into her bungalow. When she pulls off his mask, she is repulsed. He grabs a pair of scissors and stabs her to death. Cue title with strange music sting. Years later, Miguel’s cousin Manuela (Nadja Gerganoff) retrieves him from a mental institution. The doctor (Jess Franco) says that he is basically cured but she must keep her eyes on him and watch for anything that might trigger his psychosis.

The estate on which Miguel and Manuela live with the wheelchair-bound Countess Maria (Maria Rubio) have as part of its grounds, the bungalows and facilities on which an international language school run by Alvaro (Christoph Moosbrugger) has just been established. Countess Maria makes it perfectly clear that she doesn’t like Manuela and plans to leave all of her money to Miguel and is promptly burned to death by an unseen assailant. Meanwhile, the blonde, mostly Teutonic, coeds have arrived to hang out by the pool and learn Spanish in their free time. Angela (Olivia Pascal) has already had a run-in with Miguel on the train and is stalked by him periodically throughout the film. When her classmates start dropping dead, Angela is the only witness but the corpses keep disappearing. Angela herself seems to be more of a plaything for the killer who leaves messages for her on her language tapes and engages her in a couple near-death dodges while he continues offing her classmates.

Although made with German funding, BLOODY MOON is set in Spain with several German actors playing Spaniards and a mostly German crew behind the camera. One can assume the film’s producers went with Spain because it would seem more exotic to German audiences. Although capitalising on the slasher craze, BLOODY MOON is really an old fashioned thriller spiced up with gore. While the victims are largely coed bimbos, the Nancy Drew-ish heroine is equally threatened by falling boulders and speeding automobiles. The motive for the killings lies not with the traumatically arrested development and/or insider/outsider status of the killer but with a drive the recovering mad person mad again and pin the murders on him so we can inherit the money plot chestnut. As such, it does not even evince the influence of the giallo genre. The poetic shots of Manuela standing topless in her window as if hypnotized by the moon and the various goings on in the Contessa’s seaside castle also hark back to the gothics.

That said, Franco had obviously seen enough slasher films to lampoon the false scare trait. Here, he turns all of his false into cheap laughs. The joke is on Manuela when she comes across Miguel in the doorway of a train compartment and sees a scarf hanging from the open window only for Angela to pop up from the seat opposite and wonder why they’re gawking at her. In her bungalow, Angela walks slowly towards the huge silhouette standing outside her door only to open it and discover a little boy. A lot of the film’s outrageous gore is hilariously fake; especially a head decapitated by a huge circular saw (this after the bimbo victim-to-be allows herself to be tied up by an assailant whose point-of-view the audience shares).

While German sexploitation composer Gerhard Heinz’s electronic score is suitably atmospheric (especially in the more gothic scenes), Frank Duval (who composed several songs for the long-running Horst Tappert detective show DERRICK) contributes a horrid disco track “Love in the Shadow” that is plaid throughout ad nauseum (even on the heroine’s record player) and never fails to get a mention in the film’s reviews.

I saw this film several years ago on tape from Trans World Entertainment and again as a DVD rip of that tape. I had no interest in seeing again when I heard it was coming out on DVD but am glad I had the opportunity. The new HD transfer looks beautiful and adds layer upon layer of atmosphere to the film which was shot by Jess Franco’s regular DP during the eighties, Juan Solar (who had also acted in some of his films during this period as Juan Cozar) and is a typically attractive example of the cinematographer’s use of lighting, colour, and judicious use of filters.

The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation has strong mono audio and features the German main title DIE SAGES DES TODES and German end titles (the US tape had the English language BLOODY MOON title but the end credits were in German). A few shots missing from the HD source were restored from a paler, scratchier broadcast master but the body of the film is ravishing to behold. A nice English language theatrical trailer is included (I’ve never come across one before for this film so it’s cool to see how it was sold). Jess Franco also provides another typically endearing interview in English. The interview begins with an amusingly cute picture of domestic bliss as Lina Romay (who served as A.D. on this film) in the background grabs her purse and keys and heads out while Franco and the cameraman are setting up. Franco seems to have had some creative freedom on this film as he says the producers didn’t know what they wanted other than a horror movie. He does mention that the producers promised him Pink Floyd for the film’s score. That might have been interesting but I think Franco’s best scored work comes from his interaction with the composer, when he knows what stock music he’s using, or when he’s scoring the film himself (or in collaboration) and likely seems to know roughly how the sequences will look edited and scored. It always impresses me how well Franco comes across in English.

Other than his thick accent (English subtitles are provided), his English is grammatically correct and he seems as comfortable as a native speaker. I don’t mean this in a “his English is very good for a foreigner” kind of way. As someone who is used to hearing him talk about his films in Spanish or French (as he did in his earlier Blue Underground interviews for JUSTINE and EUGENIE) or in more halting English as an actor in some of his DTV films, its quite a surprise to hear him especially when being humorous about the behind the scenes anecdotes and frank in his assessment of his own work.

All in all, Severin’s disc is an impeccably-presented release of a minor Franco film. Obviously, to Franco’s legion of loyal fans, BLOODY MOON is an essential purchase but both disc and film may also sate that appetite of those in search of some horror kitsch.

(Eric Cotenas)