Friday, July 15, 2022

Jess Franco's Forgotten Films Volume 1: The Silence of the Tomb / The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff - Dorado Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: Spain, 1976 (The Silence of the Tomb), Spain, 1973 (The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff)
Director: Jesus Franco (Both Films)
Cast: Alberto Dalbés, Glenda Allen, Mario Álex, Montserrat Prous, Luis Induni, Francisco Acosta, Kali Hansa, Yelena Samarina, Manuel Pereiro, Caroline Rivière (The Silence of the Tomb), William Berger, Montserrat Prous, Edmund Purdom, Loreta Tovar, Kali Hansa, Joaquín Blanco, José Manuel Martín, Jaume Picas, Lina Romay, Robert Woods, Jesus Franco (The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff)

Release Date: January 25th, 2017
Approximate Running Times: 84 Minutes 52 Seconds (The Silence of the Tomb), 79 Minutes 32 Seconds (The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (The Silence of the Tomb), 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff)
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Spanish (Both Films)
Subtitles: English, Italian, Spanish (Both Films)
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: OOP

The Silence of the Tomb - "On an isolated island, a simple weekend getaway for a movie star and her friends turns deadly, beginning with the kidnapping of her son, to a string of gruesome murders happening one by one. What does Valerie [Montserrat Prous], the star’s sister, have to do with any of it? Mystery and suspense cloaked in the darkness of the eerie villa abound, while a murderer or murderess remains free to finish a hidden agenda. And the kidnapping?" - synopsis provided by the distributor

The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff - "A powerful performance from William Berger (Dr. Orloff) who has one fiendish goal, to destroy the lineage of Lord Comfort and his family and claim their inheritance for himself. His malevolent plan revolves around Melissa [Montserrat Prous]. From the age of ten she became his tool, to perform his will through his magnetic force of evil and depravity. Bizarre murders and twisted plots predominate in this thrilling tale of suspense and perversity." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 2.5/5 (The Silence of the Tomb), 3.25/5 (The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff)

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "Both films mastered in 4k from our 35mm film prints. 

The Silence of the Tomb and The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff come on a 25 GB single dual Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 23.2 GB

Feature: 11.3 GB (The Silence of the Tomb), 10.6 GB (The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff)

No restoration has been done for either of these films' transfers. There is print debris that varies in degree throughout, colors fluctuate, black levels are weak, and there are some instances of black crush. The image generally looks crisp, and there are some compression related issues.

Audio: 3.25/5 (The Silence of the Tomb, The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff)

Each film comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in Spanish. Both audio mixes sound clear and balanced throughout. Both films come with three subtitle options: English, Italian, and Spanish. Both audio mixes are in decent shape. Dialog comes through clearly, and everything sounds balanced.

Extras:

Extras for this release include the original script ending for The Silence of the Tomb and an interview with actor Robert Woods titled Enidia Chats with Robert Woods (15 minutes, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), a leaflet with an essay titled Un Silencio de Tumba: Jess Franco’s version of Enrique Jarber’s novel written by Alex Mendibil, and trailers for El asesino no está solo (The Killer is Not Alone), Camino solitario, The Counselor, The Crimes of the Black Cat, The Horrible Sexy Vampire and Knife of Ice.

Summary:

The Silence of the Tomb and The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff were written and directed by Jess Franco, whose other notable films include Venus in Furs, Vampyros Lesbos, She Killed in Ecstasy, and Female Vampire.

The Silence of the Tomb: Content-wise, The Silence of the Tomb is a conventional whodunit. That bears a passing resemblance to the type of thriller that one would expect from Agatha Christie. Her most famous novel is And Then There Were None (also known as Ten Little Indians).

Eroticism and horror are two elements that have since become synonymous with the cinema of Jess Franco. And yet, the end result is a film that is in direct contrast to the type of film that one would expect from Jess Franco.

From a production standpoint, the well-constructed narrative does a good job of keeping things moving forward. And nowhere is this more effective than when it comes to the use of red herrings. With the finale act providing a very satisfying conclusion to the events that have just unfolded.

The cast is best described as adequate. The most memorable performance was by Montserrat Prous (The Lustful Amazons) in the role of Valerie Lamark, a young woman who has recently been released from a psychiatric hospital. She delivers a very convincing performance that perfectly captures her character's fractured state of mind.

Without a doubt, The Silence of the Tomb’s greatest strength is its atmospheric visuals. The Silence of the Tomb is a film that relies heavily on mood, and the visuals do a superb job of maintaining the mounting tension. With the standout moments being the kidnapping scene that sets everything in motion and the scene where the killers’ identity is revealed.

The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff: Throughout his career, Jess Franco would often recycle ideas and characters. Case in point, the Orloff character that originated in Jess Franco’s 1962 film The Awful Dr. Orloff. And since that film, there have been numerous sequels. He would even remake The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff in 1986 under the title Alone Against the Terror.

Though he originated the Orloff character, there have been two sequels that were directed by other filmmakers: The Orgies of Dr. Orloff and Orloff Against the Invisible Dead.

Besides Jess Franco, the other constant in the Orloff series was actor Howard Vernon. The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff was one of the few times he was not cast in the role of Orloff.

Content-wise, The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff is more of a psychological thriller. Then a Gothic/horror film like Jess Franco’s first two Orloff films. Another area in which The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff differs from Jess Franco’s other Orloff films is its subdued visual style. with the only atmospheric moment being a scene that takes place in fog. Even the dream/nightmare sequences lack the potency that is rampant in Jess Franco's more atmospheric films.

Another drawback of The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff is its lethargic pacing. And while I wasn’t expecting an ample amount of nudity, I was underwhelmed by the lack of bloodshed. The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff’s strongest asset is its leading lady, Montserrat Prous (Sinner: The Secret Diary of a Nymphomaniac), as a paralyzed young woman named Melissa. The most disappointing performance is easily William Berger's (Face to Face), in the role of Dr. Orloff. He lacks the charisma and intensity that Howard Vernon brought to the role. Ultimately, The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff is a middle-of-the-road Jess Franco film that most exploitation film fans will find tedious to get through.

The Silence of the Tomb and The Sinister Eyes of Doctor Orloff get serviceable audio/video presentations from Dorado Films for this long OOP Blu-ray, which is likely the best these films will ever look unless someone finds better source elements and gives these two films a proper restoration.


















Written by Michael Den Boer

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