Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

Traditional, Artsy, Genre-Within-Genre: A Little Something for Everyone

THE MIRROR IS THE GATE TO DARK DESIRE

by Tony Nash

(Foreign Language Horror 2 Part 2)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Spoilers Ahead)

(Review is of the Spanish language version)

Al Otro Lado del Espejo (The Other Side of the Mirror) (1973) R ****1/2

Emma Cohen: Ana Oliveira

Howard Vernon: Senor Oliveira, Ana’s Father

Robert Woods: Bill, the Jazz Trumpeter (as Robert Wood)

Ramiro Oliveros: Miguel Ferrera, Theater Director

Alice Arno, Carla, Ana’s Friend

Philippe Lemaire: Pipo

Francoise Brion: Tina

Wal Davis: Arturo Braun

Written & Directed by: Jess Franco (as Jesus Franco)

 Synopsis: Ana, sheltered all her life by her strict but loving father, hopes to marry a budding archeologist documenting the original peoples of the island of Madeira. This hope is shattered when, believing seeing her in her bridal dress will soften his feelings, Ana sees through a large mirror that her father has hung himself. Painful memories force Ana to break her engagement
and leave her family’s home to recover, only to be haunted by vivid visions of her father’s suicide through mirrors, and bizarre compulsions to kill all men falling in love with her. Is her father still dominating her life from beyond the grave, or is there something forbidden looming in the air?

At the Mansion of Madness: The Other Side of the Mirror / Al otro lado del  espejo (1973)

Jess Franco, cinema’s erotic and exploitation auteur, gives viewers the closest thing he would ever get to arthouse style filmmaking with a unique blend of Erotic Drama and Psychological Horror. A young woman suffers a terrible tragedy when her loving but overprotective father kills himself days before she is set to get married. Deciding she needs a fresh start and a new perspective on her relationships with men, she breaks up with her fiancé, leaves the family’s Madeira Island estate in the care of her aunt, and heads off to Lisbon where she puts her piano training to use as a jazz club’s band singer and pianist. When visions of her dead father being appearing in mirrors, the young woman begins to wonder if the man is still dominating her life from the beyond, or if what she viewed as his secret tenderness toward her was really something far darker, something which could destroy her. Franco doesn’t push his normal boundaries with this brief plot excerpt, but he makes up for that in giving his audiences snippets of subtext and ambiguity that makes viewers decipher what he’s trying to tell them. The main question he puts to fans is whether the lead character Ana is suffering from a mental breakdown after seeing her father had killed himself, or is something sinisterly supernatural going on that no one has the power to put a stop to.

Madeira, an island off the coast of Portugal, and one of Jess Franco’s favorite locations, gets shown off in great detail in this film. The island’s architecture, greenery, lakes, etc., are all on display in all their beauty. What makes Franco’s Erotic Horrors different is that he doesn’t make his landscapes foreboding places where bad things can happen, but lush exotic environments that otherworldly forces invade to suit their own needs.

 

Emma Cohen, a sort of forgotten Spanish actress in spite of a fairly prolific career, gives a once in a lifetime performance as the central character Ana. Cohen plays Ana as a woman torn between the complex but loving relationship she enjoyed with her father and the desire to freely see the world her father protected her from. Her attempts at going about finding true love in a way that won’t entirely hurt her father seem to work, only for Ana to receive a devastating blow when she finds the man has hung himself in his study. Cohen takes Ana into a brooding place, unsure if she feels guilty for not giving her father enough time to adjust to her getting married, or if something else is in the air. A move to the capital of Lisbon seems to lift Ana’s spirits as she finds success as the lead singer and pianist of a Jazz Club band, and also finds an easygoing flirtatious fling with the band’s unhappily married trumpet player. Cohen then begins taking Ana down the rabbit hole of the blurring of nightmare and reality when she sees a vision of her hanging father in a mirror and then sees herself murdering the trumpet player with an ancient dagger. At first thinking she’s still feeling some effects of trauma, Ana shrugs it off, only to become more disturbed when she learns the trumpet player was found stabbed to death in the park they rendezvoused at the night before. While she recovers thinking the incident a mere coincidence, Ana soon worries her father might still have a hold of her when she has another vision of him and then sees herself killing her theater director friend after he asked her to play Medea in his revolutionary new staging of the Euripides play.

Upon finding out her director friend was indeed stabbed to death on the theater stage, Ana attempts suicide, but is saved by a friend. Relocating back to the island of Madeira, but not her childhood home, Ana seems finally on the mend. When the male end of a partying swinger couple genuinely falls for her is when she realizes the moment of truth: her father had incestuous desires toward her, and he’s been possessing her body, forcing her to kill the men who would take her away from him, and finally beckons her to join him in the afterlife. Cohen gives the closest thing to a Method Acting performance that would be seen in a Jess Franco flick, giving her all in the part of Ana, and bringing a nice amount of depth and personality to the character. This normally isn’t seen much in Franco’s films though the actors could give signals in the simplicity of their performances, but Cohen adds a nice bit of spice that gives a special feel to the film.

Howard Vernon, Jess Franco’s favorite actor, gives a short but memorable and important performance as Ana’s father Oliveira. Little is known of the gentleman, other than that he’s an expert on the history and people of the island of Madeira. On the surface he comes off as merely a very overprotective widowed father trying to keep his daughter safe, and thinks no man is good enough for his little girl. Unfortunately, the man’s love seems to be nearing obsessiveness as he is against a fairly good young man who can make his daughter happy, and eventually hangs himself in his study, seemingly unable to handle his daughter growing up. Vernon shows his underrated talent at full force here, mimicking to near disturbing perfection the face of a suicide by hanging, bulging eyes and tongue included. Credit has to be given to Vernon for maintaining that look for long enough to use as still footage later. Days after his death, Oliveira begins haunting his daughter through visions of his hanging corpse through mirrors and his disembodied voice calling to her from beyond. What is initially thought of as him continuing to assert his parental nature from beyond the grave is really much more devious and perverse, as one of the visions reveals that Oliveira had secret incestuous desires for his daughter where he’s shown holding her in a not so fatherly embrace.

Al otro lado del espejo (1973)

Robert Woods, another of the many American actors who went to Europe and became stars, has a brief but necessary role in his debut Franco film as Bill, Ana’s Jazz Band Trumpet Player. While a married man, Bill is unhappy because of his wife’s substance issues and longs to begin a fresh new romance. Initially happy to have the occasional fling with Ana, Bill realizes he’s genuinely falling in love with her, though tries not to push things as Ana has told him what brought her to the city. When Bill becomes the first victim of Ana’s depraved father’s beyond the grave machinations is when the ball begins to roll and tragedy looms over anyone who falls in love with Ana. 

DeVilDead : Critique du film MIROIR OBSCENE, LE (AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO)  (1973) et du DVD Zone 2

DeVilDead : Critique du film MIROIR OBSCENE, LE (AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO)  (1973) et du DVD Zone 2

Like with much of Jess Franco’s 1970’s work, multiple edits and cuts of his films were made, one of the international market, and one to appease the censors of General Franco run Spain. Usually the international edited version, whether German or French language, was Franco’s preferred cut of the film as it allowed him to do more he wouldn’t have been able to do in his native Spain, but surprisingly Otro Lado del Espejo was Franco’s favored cut of this particular film. The 2nd most popular edit is the French language version titled  Le Miroir Obscène, and features new scenes with Franco’s 2nd Muse Lina Romay. Romay plays Ana’s sister in the French cut, and it is her character, not Howard Vernon’s father character, that secretly desires a sexual relationship with Ana. As with the father character in the Spanish cut, Lina Romay’s sister character kills herself when Ana decides to get married, her method being to stab herself in the stomach and pelvis with a long poker. The French cut pretty much follows the pattern of Franco’s preferred Spanish cut, the only difference being it’s the sister, not the father, who calls Ana from beyond the grave to give in to their incestuous desires and possesses her to kill all the men who would try to steal her from her.

Psychovision.net :: Voir le sujet - [M] [Critique] Le Miroir obscène

Surreal, Artful, Hypnotic, Erotic, and everything in between, Franco’s Al Otro Lado del Espejo is the director at his most personal and artistic, successfully blending the materials that would make him famous/infamous world over and the visions he secretly wished to present onscreen. 

(As bizarre as this will sound, I actually recommend people check this Franco flick out. He doesn’t go over the top in terms of nudity and sex scenes, and is more interested in the interactions of the characters and the surreal visions of his leading lady Ana. The core of the subject matter is pretty adult for sure, but he plays with it ambiguously throughout the film, only getting explicit briefly in one of the very last scenes of the film. Emma Cohen’s performance is really worthwhile in the film and shows how underrated and underappreciated she is as an actress. I’ve seen the whole of the Spanish cut and some of the French cut, and while I understand why Franco preferred the Spanish version of the film as it kept more to the films he really wished he could’ve done more of, the French cut is still interesting in that it presents a sister/sister forbidden romance that was rarely touched in films dealing with Oedipal type subject matter. The French version I can’t recommend as it contains quite a few scenes of Lina Romay having sex with various partners to lure Emma Cohen’s character to the dark side, and of course such scenes are not for everyone’s taste, but is worth seeking out if you’re interested. Mondo Macabro did an excellent job with the restoration of the Spanish cut in visuals and audio, and is totally worth checking out.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070396/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

Buying Options

https://www.moviesunlimited.com/the-other-side-of-the-mirror/843276025298

For the French language cut

https://www.artusfilms.com/jess-franco/le-miroir-obscene-53

https://mondomacabro.bigcartel.com/product/the-other-side-of-the-mirror-standard-edition

 

 

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

TIME FOR SEASON’S SPOOKY GREETINGS

To All My Followers, Those I’m Following, and All Curious Visitors,

HAVE A HAPPY AND SAFE HALLOWEEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tony Nash, Movie Fan Man

Filed under: Uncategorized

Bitter Jealousy, an Ancestor’s Revenge, Ghosts of the Past, and an Amoral Statue

by Tony Nash

(Foreign Language Horror 2 Part 1)

(All Opinions are of the Author Alone)

(Possible Spoilers Ahead)

(Review is of the original Italian language version)

Italian Poster (from IMDb)

Un Angelo per Satana (An Angel for Satan) (1966) **** PG-13

Barbara Steele: Harriet Montebruno / Maddelena Montebruno / Belinda

Anthony Steffen: Roberto Merigi / The Sculptor

Claudio Gora: Count Montebruno

Mario Brega: Carlo Lionese

Marina Berti: Ilda, the Housekeeper (as Maureen Melrose)

Ursula Davis: Rita, the Maid

Vassili Karis: Dario Morelli, the Teacher (as Vassili Karamesinis)

Aldo Berti: Vittorio, the Gardener

Betty Delon: Barbara Lionese

Halina Zalewska: Luisa

Written by: Giuseppe Mangione & Camillo Mastrocinque, from a story by Luigi Emmanuele, adapted from the novel by Antonio Fogazzaro

Directed by Camillo Mastrocinque

Synopsis: Roberto Merigi, an aspiring artist who also restores damaged and aged art pieces, is hired by Count Montebruno to repair a once thought lost statue of an ancestor. He finds out quickly that the locals aren’t happy with his assignment, believing the statue to be cursed by a jealous ancestor of the Montebruno’s. Merigi soon finds himself smitten with the Count’s niece Harriet who’s just returned from her studies in England, who bears a striking resemblance to her great aunt Maddelena who modeled for the statue. Not long after, a series of tragedies befall the community, and the locals believe the curse is at work while Merigi is certain something very human is at work.

A Recollection of the Past (from Genre Grinder)

1966 closed one chapter of Italian cinema and opened the door of another. Gothic Horror had been very popular from the late 50’s, but the genre would soon fade away to more modern set Horror, and the quickly rising favorite new Western genre. The Gothic style Horror thankfully went out with a bang with two solid films: Mario Bava’s Operazione Paura (Kill Baby Kill) and Camillo Mastrocinque’s Un Angelo per Santana (An Angel for Satan). The latter made film history thrice for not only being one of last Gothic Horror films in Italy, but also one of the last Black & White genre films in Italy and lead actress Barbara Steele’s farewell to her tenure in Italy. The film is a solid mixture of the popular tropes of the supernatural, local legends slowly becoming to be believed as fact, and certain parties using the fear of the locals as cover for their nefarious deeds.

The Possessed Heiress Surveying the Locals (from The Bloody Pit of Horror Blog)

Director Camillo Mastrocinque’s decision to shoot the film in Black & White is a mix of aesthetic choice and necessity. With playing up the ghost story and possession story, Mastrocinque wanted to focus on mood and atmosphere, and Black & White evokes that perfectly. Most Italian Horror films of the time were shot in Black & White anyway, so Mastrocinque going back to what made the genre popular to start with is very fitting.

Harriet Being Possessed (from Twitter)

Barbara Steele, in her swansong to the Italian Horror films that made her famous, gives one of her finest performances as the innocent and pure Harriet Montebruno, and an evil ancestor named Belinda looking to destroy her. Steele slyly goes from persona to persona, being the rationale and unaware of the harm being done to her Harriet one minute to the sadistic and hate filled Belinda another. As Belinda, Steele plays the part up as a woman who, because no one ever loved her, would use the hate that brewed within her to kill all the love she saw around her. Steele even adds an interesting and nice little bisexual lesbianism to the character, suggesting the possibility that Belinda secretly desired the cousin Harriet bears a strong resemblance to, but at the same time hated the woman for having what she couldn’t. The part harkens back to Steele’s debut in Italian Horror with Mario Bava’s La Maschera del Demonio (Mask of the Demon/Black Sunday), in which she played another innocent woman made the pawn in a wicked ancestor’s scheme for revenge, though the former was most certainly supernatural while the latter could be either, nicely bringing Steele’s career in Italy full circle.

The Sculptor Merigi (from The Bloody Pit of Horror Blog)

Anthony Steffen, as he was rising to stardom via the Italian Westerns, took a little side trip to appear in his one and only Horror film as Barbara Steele’s romantic interest Roberto Merigi. Merigi is an artist hoping to make a living as sculptor, but is content at the moment to bring pieces that have been damaged in one form or another back to life. When he meets Harriet, Merigi’s otherwise mundane life quickly gets more to offer for him, and he made a few attempts to woo her. One night n a fevered frenzy, Merigi learns the of the curse brought about the wickedly jealous Belinda, and soon finds the curse coming to life all around him as Harriet goes through bizarre personality changes, and the otherwise peaceful locals become more and more unhinged. Steffen, infamous for being something of a wooden actor, uses this to his advantage as Merigi is an outsider who is looking in at the events around him, and his outsider status allows him to see the happenings more objectively, which will prove useful in clearing Harriet of wrongdoing.

The Brute Carlo (from Cineraglio)
Harriet’s Uncle the Count (from KinoLexx)
The Doomed Couple (from The Bloody Pit of Horror Blog)
The Creepy Vittorio (from IMDb)

A slew of Italian character performers including Claudio Gora and Italian Western regulars Mario Brega, Aldo Berti, and Greek-Italian Vassili Karis help make up the remaining characters in the little hamlet. Gora’s character holds quite a bit of importance in that he may know more than he’s telling in regards to the curse and what credence it truly holds to the community. Brega and Berti are two of the brutish members of the community who are generally only tough looking but are normally harmless and kind, but when the Count orders the restoration of the statue, things begin to downward spiral, and the once kind denizens begin to lose their minds.

The Statue That Started Everything (from The Bloody Pit of Horror Blog)

Craftsman filmmaker Mastrocinque creates one of the grand finales of Italian Gothic Horror with a piece that ties the supernatural, the moody atmosphere, the tension, and multi other tropes all together in a homogenous mixture that both pays tribute and acts as a grand opus to everything that made the genre what is was and kept it popular for the period it thrived in. The Queen of Italian Horror Barbara Steele may have been saying goodbye to the country that made her popular, but she would continue to act for another 20 to 30 years, her time in Italy prepping her for other types of roles she would receive later. US Blu Ray Distributor Severin Films did a magnificent job in restoring this rarely seen piece of Italian Horror, offering up a clear crisp image that highlights the black & white contrasts, and offers the option of the original Italian audio (which is the better track IMO) with translated English subtitles and the rarely heard English dub track.

( I highly recommend giving this film a look along with Mario Bava’s Kill Baby Kill as they are the best examples of how to finish out a genre film run properly, as when those kinds of films are done, they keep the possibility of a comeback in interest alive. As said above, star Barbara Steele gives a career defining performance in the film that sums up all the work she’d done in Italy at the time. The atmosphere, score, story, and the cast all make the film worth checking out.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060109/?ref_=hm_rvi_tt_i_3

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Angel_for_Satan

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Un_angelo_per_Satana

Buying Options

https://www.moviesunlimited.com/an-angel-for-satan/760137748786

Filed under: Film & TV: Potpourri, Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics