Tuesday, February 14, 2012

51. ROBINSON AND HIS WILD SLAVES (ROBINSON UND SEINE WILDEN SKLAVINNEN, 1972)

Jess Franco's filmography credits his direction to any number of aliases, but this is one of only two Franco films credited to "Frank Hollmann," both made for German executive producer Karl-Heinz Mannchen. (The other was 1970's SHE KILLS IN ECSTASY, one of his last films to star Soledad Miranda.) Scripted by Art Bernd with dialogue by Reinhold Brandes, this is a light-hearted WALTER MITTY-type story about a phramacist named Robinson Schmidt (Yoda Barkan) who is driven by a nagging wife (Ruth Gassman) and disapproving live-in mother-in-law (Linda Hastreiter) into books like Defoe's ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE, erotic daydreams, and fantasies of life on his own private island.

Through an unlikely series of events -- like having a talking chimp lab assistant who helps him to invent a sleeping formula, an intrigue involving a beautiful actress (DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS's Andrea Rau) and a map that is passed down to him by his late father -- Robinson eventually sails away to find such an island. To make things perfect, it's also inhabited by two beautiful, nearly-naked women (Anne Libert, Ingebourg Steinbach) who are constantly fighting over his sexual services, and they are later joined by the actress... and, inevitably, also by the wife and mother-in-law.

There is not much Franco evident in the storyline, which (aside from the sex element) is on par with a German kiddie film, but there is a good deal of Franco invested in its execution. The island natives (white guys in grass skirts, led by -- of all people -- Howard Vernon!) look ahead to all the preposterous natives to come in his later cannibal films, the Daniel White-credited score leans heavily on one of the more festive tracks from Bruno Nicolai's EUGENIE score, and Franco himself plays a cameo as the short-tempered director of a movie whose production Robinson unwittingly disrupts. Even the lake made famous by A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD and ZOMBIE LAKE makes an appearance. Frequent Franco repertory player Paul Müller (VAMPYROS LESBOS, NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT) appears as the head of a pharmaceutical empire, and Vernon also plays two other roles: a crew member and the star of a porn movie being screened at a party, whose footage looks suspiciously like something that was shot on the sly during the productions of either THE DEMONS or VIRGIN REPORT. All in all, this may be the silliest wad of cotton candy ever spun by Franco, and it's fun entertainment if you're in the right mood for it. I was.

This German import is a two disc set that presents ROBINSON in cropped anamorphic widescreen in German only, and in a preferable 1.33:1 transfer with optional English subtitles. There is a three-second (3s) difference between the two.

Viewed on X-Rated Kult import DVD.

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