Monday, August 28, 2017

Jess Franco's Punk-Shock-Erotic-Opera: KILLER BARBYS (Review)

Director: Jess Franco

Cast: Santiago Segura, Mariangela Giordano, Aldo Sambrell

Redemption Films / Region A / Unrated / 1.66:1 widescreen / Spanish, English, French language / English subtitles / 90 minutes

EXTRAS: Audio commentary by film historian Troy Howarth



If you've been following Cinesploitation (or it's former incarnation "The Playground Movie Reviews") for any length of time, you know my affinity for prolific Spanish Filmmaker Jesus "Jess" Franco. How can you not like a guy whose career spans a half century with nearly 200 movies under his belt, most of them exploitation of some sort? Yes, his name is divisive amongst the horror community with some calling him a "hack" but there are people like me who will nearly always find the charm in his movies. They vary wildly in quality but always seem to entertain me and that includes his later stuff, some of it shot on video. One that stands out from that later output is Killer Barbys, a film that would even spawn a sequel called Killer Barbys vs Dracula which I have yet to see.

The plot of the original Killer Barbys follows a rock band called "Killer Barbies" (yes, it's spelled differently and I have no idea why) who are on tour in their tiny van when one night they break down on a dark back road. They are met by a creepy old dude who invites them to come stay at the castle of his employer, Countess Von Fledermaus. Some of the members take up the offer while a horny couple stays in the van for some sexy time. We soon find out that the Countess has a curse on her that forces her to drink blood to stay alive and young, kind of like if Elizabeth Bathory and Count Dracula had a daughter. So Von Fledermaus seduces one of the guys (talk about hot MILF action!) while her henchmen slaughter the others so that she may live forever and look damn sexy while doing it. Will the Countess live forever? Will we get to hear more awesome '90s rock from "Killer Barbies"?

This Jess Franco movie from 1996 gets a lot of shit for no reason. People who are more casual Franco fans who only see his more well-received films like Vampyros Lesbos and Succubus unfairly compare his early work to his later. One reviewer on IMDb called it "absolute garbage" and "a sad low point". As I said, this person has obviously only seen a few Franco movies because this is far from his "low point" and Killer Barbys is definitely trashy but it's far from "garbage". It it filled with awesome, catchy '90s-style rock, memorable characters, nudity, sex, surprising amounts of disturbing gore and rivers of blood. I get why some people would be turned off; they wouldn't know cool if it was juggling their balls or they can't handle the somewhat off-kilter pacing. It has to be one of the two!

There are two stand-out foxy ladies cast in this fun music video-cum-horror movie; Angie "Los Angeles" Barea (the lead singer of the band and panty-clad blu-ray cover girl) and the infinitely sexy Mariangela Giordano (Satan's Babydoll and countless others). Thankfully Redemption Films remastered this really fun Franco entry so we can see these ladies more clearly! The former Shriek Show DVD release was dark, smeary and just overall really crappy right down to the very important soundtrack. This new blu-ray has much more detail and fixed a lot of the weird cropping, lighting and sound issues from the DVD. This is not a movie I would have thought to be a priority for anyone to restore but I am most certainly glad Redemption took the time. This isn't a place to start if you want to get into Jess Franco, but definitely a real treat for big fans.

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