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  Mansion of the Living Dead Ring For Doom Service
Year: 1985
Director: Jess Franco
Stars: Lina Romay, Antonio Mayans, Mabel Escaño, Albino Graziani, Mari Carmen Nieto, Elisa Vela, Eva Léon
Genre: Horror, Sex, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: This Spanish beach resort has a hotel, a beach and glorious weather, but what it doesn't seem to have is many holidaymakers. That's what these four waitresses from a topless bar find out when they arrive for a few days' break approaching the place and giggling amongst themselves that there is nobody to take their luggage, and they're not even very sure whereabouts the reception is, which involves a spot of wandering around. When they do finally reach it, there's still no one there, no guests or staff, until Carlos (Antonio Mayans) appears and tells them they must be split up into pairs in rooms at opposite ends of the building, which they are not too keen on but accept anyway...

As it turns out, this offers them more of a chance to enjoy lesbian couplings, each wrongly believing the other pair are prudes and wouldn't tolerate such behaviour. If you're a prude then you certainly won't tolerate Mansion of the Living Dead, a combination of sex and horror from Spanish master of trash Jess Franco, though that said if you're in any way a fan of mainstream quality cinema it wouldn't do much for you either. This was one of his most typical efforts by the mid-eighties, where he would stage softcore sex scenes extensively then to add flavour include a few fright sequences, presumably designed to appeal to fans of both of those genres, though in effect creating a mishmash which only drew in the most hardy aficionados.

At this stage Franco had become notorious for his cheap and cheerful cost-cutting exercises, and the sight of his name coming up at the opening credits was enough to make many a horror fan groan, but aside from the really dedicated followers - who were not exactly numerous - he was capable of generating an amused indulgence if not an active enjoyment from those who gave his movies a go. In this instance, Franco was ostensibly offering his take on the Blind Dead movies which had been a popular Spanish horror series from the decade before, though you would really have to be informed of that before you watched it or that little detail may well pass you by. Whatever, the followers of those efforts were deeply unimpressed by Franco's activities.

In most of the running time here the plot was thrown out of the window, either for scenes of the actresses wandering about the empty hotel and its grounds, or more pointedly scenes where they stripped off and often simulated sex with one another. The quartet of tourists were led by Lina Romay, Franco's other half and self-confessed exhibitionist, so naturally she spent most of the movie in the buff as Candy, who sports a distracting blonde wig and also spits out a pubic hair in one bit (classy). The girls might have twigged something was up early on when they are sunbathing and an unknown hand throws a machete into the sand between them, giving them a fright, but they shrug it off as they do every example of weirdness until it is too late for them to get away - the presence of a Spanish Inquisition monastery nearby (but no mansion) should have been a strong hint.

Yes, once we have all that steamy stuff over with one of the interchangeable ladies, Mabel (Mabel Escaño) finds herself at the mercy of skull-faced monks who in a never really explained twist have been hanging around there looking for someone to victimise and indeed sacrifice, which they proceed to do to the hapless holidaymaker, though not before they gang rape her in a sequence something of an ordeal to get through. Not because it's offensive, though you could very well see it as that, but mostly because it leaves you dejected that this was the best they could come up with, and the tedium is beginning to be difficult to shift, even with the second half addition of a chained up naked woman named Olivia (Eva Léon) who has some connection to Carlos the manager, or is he just the receptionist? Actually, he's the head monk when he puts on unconvincing white face makeup, which leaves you with not much except quite a nice atmosphere of windswept desolation and lots of naked flesh, a curious mixture that will really only attract specialised tastes. Franco did the music, too.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Jess Franco  (1930 - 2013)

Legendary director of predominantly sex-and-horror-based material, Spanish-born Jesus Franco had as many as 200 directing credits to his name. Trained initially as a musician before studying film at the Sorbonne in Paris, Franco began directing in the late 50s. By using the same actors, sets and locations on many films, Franco has maintained an astonishing workrate, and while the quality of his work has sometimes suffered because of this, films such as Virgin Amongst the Living dead, Eugenie, Succubus and She Killed in Ecstasy remain distinctive slices of 60s/70s art-trash.

Most of his films have been released in multiple versions with wildly differing titles, while Franco himself has directed under a bewildering number of pseudonyms. Actors who have regularly appeared in his films include Klaus Kinski, Christopher Lee and wife Lina Romay; fans should also look out for his name on the credits of Orson Welles' Chimes of Midnight, on which he worked as assistant director.

 
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