Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Attack of the Robots (1966)

Jess Franco was a Spanish director who has probably made more feature-length films than any other director. His filmography has about 200 films. Many of them are erotic horror, some of them are more mundane action and sex flicks. His reputation has never been too high and I've gathered many of his films indeed are of poor quality, but some of them have redeeming qualities about them, such as hallucinatory sequences and imaginative camera work.

I just managed to see two of his films, which I believe were the first for me. I saw both on 35 mm on big screen. The first one of the two was much better than the latter one, and I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the screenwriter. Cartes sur table AKA Attack of the Robots (1966) was written by Jean-Claude Carrière, one of the best-known and most revered French screenwriters of the last 40 years. He's written lots of stuff for directors like Buñuel, Godard, Peter Brook, Philip Kaufman... and Jess Franco.

Cartes sur table is an enjoyable spy romp with many parodical touches. The film is full of silliness and it's almost always in the right tone, so it's not overdone or unintentional. There are some light touches of sadomasochism and fetishism, which both show in Carrière's and Franco's later films. Cartes sur table is also a reminiscent of Godard's Alphaville which was done a year earlier, so it's possible Carrière and Franco wanted to parody the better-known film. Both star Eddie Constantine as a hardboiled hero (though he seems silly and clumsy in Franco's film), both have Paul Misraki's music, and both have a huge central computer that speaks incoherently in the end.

Cartes sur table is one of those cheap spy flicks the French made in abundance in the sixties (remember the Lemmy Cautions and Nick Carters Constantine starred in?), but it's also a lightweight New Wave film in its self-reflectiveness which is never too loud. Comes recommended by me - if you can catch it, as it seems like there's no decent DVD publication.

And then I saw Franco's later Count Dracula with a stellar cast of Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom and Klaus Kinski, but this was only boring. Nothing else. Sorry. Nothing to see here.

Franco died earlier this year, having directed his last film in 2012. Its main character is called Al Pereira, just like Constantine in Cartes sur table.

More Overlooked Films here at Todd Mason's blog (after a hiatus).

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