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Monday, January 24, 2011

THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF -- DVD review by porfle

 
Incredibly prolific Spanish filmmaker Jesús "Jess" Franco has a devoted following, but the uninitiated might be puzzled as to why after watching THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF (1973).  It's not an awful film, just exceedingly bland.

Montserrat Prous plays Melissa Comfort, an heiress who has been paralyzed from birth.  Plagued by a recurring nightmare in which she wanders the darkened mansion as a little girl and witnesses the violent death of her late father (Franco himself in a cameo role), Melissa is placed in the care of eminent psychiatrist Dr. Orloff (William Berger) by her aunt, Lady Flora Comfort. 

It soon becomes apparent that there's a plot against Melissa which may involve members of her own family, including her Aunt Flora, step-sister Martha, and perhaps even Dr. Orloff himself.  Melissa is aided by faithful servant Mathews (José Manuel Martín) and a concerned neighbor, pop star Sweet Davey Brown.  But when people around her start dying off one by one, it may be only a matter of time before she's next.  The question is--who's really doing the killing?


The third of Franco's "Dr. Orloff" films, this is remarkably tame stuff for someone known for his exploitation flicks.  The slow-moving story features the occasional murder, but all are quick and relatively bloodless.  Aside from an incidental glimpse of nudity during one of the killings, there's nothing here that one couldn't find in a standard made-for-TV thriller from the era.

A reliance on handheld camerawork and shaky zooms gives the film a crude look, although it's hardly unwatchable.  Franco does display a few flashes of imagination in his direction and keeps things moving along well enough that patient viewers won't have much trouble sticking with it to the end.  The story itself is utterly predictable and there's little actual suspense until the mildly exciting finale, all of which is accompanied by a melodramatic organ and piano score.

Performances are adequate for this type of movie, though it's admittedly hard to judge the actors' dialogue delivery since I understand very little Spanish.  William Berger isn't all that sinister as Orloff and is, in fact, pretty dull, even when we get a closeup of those titular eyeballs.  Montserrat Prous is okay as Melissa--more interesting, though, are Loreta Tovar and the lovely Kali Hansa as spoiled socialites Martha and Aunt Flora.
 

As Davey Brown, Robert Wood is notable mainly for his awful 70s wardrobe and insipid singing.  His scenes with Edmund Purdom as Inspector Crosby, in which Davey struggles to convince the policeman that something rotten is going on in the Comfort manor, give the film what scant comedy relief it has.  Franco regular Lina Romay appears briefly as Davey's girlfriend.

The DVD from Intervision is full-screen with Dolby 2.0 Spanish mono soundtrack and English subtitles.  Picture quality is good although that Eastmancolor doesn't age very well.  On my copy, the subtitles disappeared for a few minutes around the 46-minute mark.  The bonus feature is a recent 18-minute interview with Jess Franco. 

THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF is a nice low-budget effort that's fairly painless to sit through if you keep your expectations low.  Just don't expect it to be very sinister. 


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