From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Jesús "Jess" Franco (born Jesús Franco Manera; 12 May 1930 – 2 April 2013) was a Spanish film director, writer, cinematographer and actor. While never having found mainstream success, Franco has nevertheless retained a small and faithful cult following with his sexually-charged horror films. He was very prolific during the 1960s through to the late 1980s; paying particularly homage to the writings of Marquis de Sade; especially Sade's Philosophy in the Bedroom is quoted extensively; spreading Sade's philosophy to the masses in the late 20th century. Other literary influences have included Sax Rohmer, Robert Louis Stevenson and Richard Connell.
Franco's themes often revolved around lesbian vampires, women in prison, surgical horror, sadomasochism, Nazi zombies and sexploitation. IMDB lists 199 films directed by Franco. He also worked in other exploitation film genres, such as cannibal films, spy films, giallo, crime films, science fiction, jungle adventure, exorcist films, war movies, historical dramas and nunsploitation. His main claim to fame is that he has managed to write and direct close to 160 motion pictures in his lifetime, encompassing a wide swath of different genres, with practically no financial backing available to him.
His movies often contain long, uninterrupted shots of nude women writhing uncontrollably on the floor or in bed (such as in Lorna, the Exorcist and La comtesse noire). He is also notorious for his use of hand-held camera and zoom shots, especially between 1968 and 1975.
He has frequently worked with actors genre Howard Vernon, Antonio Mayans, Paul Müller, Christopher Lee, Soledad Miranda, Lina Romay (his longtime companion) and Klaus Kinski. Most of his hardcore films starred his lifelong companion Lina Romay, who admitted in interviews to being an exhibitionist. Kinski is famous for his dislike of directors, but according to Franco, he never had any trouble working with him. Other actors he has worked with include Jack Taylor, Britt Nichols, Maria Rohm, Alice Arno, Janine Reynaud, Monica Swinn, Pamela Stanford, Luis Barboo and Katja Bienart.
Franco has also worked under innumerable pseudonyms, including David Khune and Frank Hollmann. A big fan of jazz music (and a musician himself), many of his pseudonyms are taken from famous jazz musicians, such as Clifford Brown and James P. Johnson.
Franco has made more than 180 films. Some of these include, the top ten IMDB-rated as of 2013 were:
- Miss Muerte (1966)
- Gritos en la noche (1962)
- Sie tötete in Ekstase (1971)
- Eugénie (1974)
- La mano de un hombre muerto (1962)
- Nachts, wenn Dracula erwacht (1970)
- Eugenie (1970)
- Die Liebesbriefe einer portugiesischen Nonne (1977)
- Paroxismus (1969)
- Robert Monell's blog "I'm in a Jess Franco state of mind".
- Tim Lucas, How to Read a Franco Film, in Video Watchdog n. 1 (1990)
- The book Immoral Tales: European Sex & Horror Movies 1956-1984 (1994) by Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs dedicates a chapter to him.