Thursday, April 9, 2015

Broken Dolls (Jess Franco, 1999)

First off. Yes, the date is correct. This film was in fact made in 1999. I know, when most of you think of Jess Franco, you automatically think of the 1960s, 1970s, or maybe even the 1980s. But the 1990s?!? While not as prolific as he was in, let's say, the 1970s (he famously made close to ten films in 1974 alone), Jess Franco continued to write and direct films right up until his death in 2013 (Al Pereira vs. the Alligator Ladies being one of the last). The thing that makes a film like Broken Dolls such a dicey situation for a Franco-fanatic like myself is that I've never ventured outside my self-imposed Franco comfort zone. In other words, I've yet to watch a Jess Franco film that was made after 1987. Sitting on my shelf for what seemed like an eternity, Broken Dolls found itself passed over time and time again by other movies. This all changed one day when the two films I had scheduled to review turned out to be unworthy of my unique brand of attention (Fright Night Part 2 and Hemoglobin). And after noticing that my stash of emergency porn was exhausted, I finally decided to take the plunge into the bewildering world of Jess Franco, post-1987. How bad could it be?

Well, I'm happy to report that the bewildering world of Jess Franco, post-1987, is just as bewildering as the bewildering world of Jess Franco, pre-1987. Meaning, the calendar might say 1999, but you wouldn't know it after watching this film. Sure, Jess Franco's muse, Lina Romay, is a little older, but I bet he can scrounge someone up to fill her black hold-up stockings.

(How do you know the actress Jess Franco casts to fill Lina's black hold-up stockings is going to be wearing black hold-up stockings?) Do you really think I would bother to review a Jess Franco film if it didn't have a scene, or multiple scenes, that feature scantily clad Euro-babes prancing around in nothing but black hold-up stockings? (Of course, how stupid of me.)

Her name is Christie Levin (a.k.a. Rosa Muñoz) and she is hands down one of the sexiest women ever to appear in the Jess Franco universe. Which is high praise when you consider the sheer amount of sexy women who have appeared in his movies over the years.

However, I have a particular type, and, after studying and observing her essence for an extended period of time, I eventually came to the conclusion that Christie Levin pretty much encapsulates everything I look for in a Franco siren. The only problem being, she's in Broken Dolls. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the film's off-kilter tone. It's just that I'm not used to cinema that is this off-kilter. Anyone who has seen the film will back me up on this one.

After opening with your standard Franco-approved coastline porn (random shots of the ocean and the sky), we're quickly informed by an island dweller named Tona (Lina Romay) that what we are actually witnessing is not filler, but an environmental disaster in the making. You see, what may seem like a bunch of tankers simply sailing across the sea, is, to use Tona's words, "a sinister invasion." Disrupting the tranquility of her island paradise, Tona views these metal monstrosities as a threat to her way of life.

I like how Jess Franco manages to incorporate his surroundings into the plots of his films. Obviously noticing that the island (Málaga, Andalucía, Spain) is constantly being passed by huge tankers, he decided to write them into the script.

When she's done cursing the ships, Tona goes to home to have breakfast or lunch (it doesn't matter) with her normal family; one that includes her son, Beatriz (Mavi Tienda) and her daughter, Gina (Christie Levin). Also sitting at the table is Don Martin (Paul Lapidus), her husband, who Tona describes as a "man of mysterious origin." Wait a minute, why is Tona's son wearing a girls top? And how come he doesn't have a bulge in his pants?  Holy crap, Beatriz is a woman! And get this, she's not even Tona's daughter. If you thought that was worthy of a holy crap, I should inform you that Gina isn't Tona's daughter, either. No, she's her husband's mistress. And, like I sort of implied earlier, she has an awesome habit of prancing around the island in nothing but black hold-up stockings, black panties and an Asian-style robe (which, by the way, is never cinched - cinching is for losers).

Even though I figured out Beatriz's gender, we get officially confirmation in the next scene when we see her walking naked on the beach (look, ma, no penis). Did anyone else think it would have been cool to have Beatriz notice a woman named Mimi floating on a pink surfboard during her nude beach stroll? Just me, eh? Weird.

"I want to move away... I don't want to be here... I'm losing my youth and beauty..." You said it, sister (an unhappy Gina is clearly not a fan of living in paradise). Nonetheless, Gina still manages to fulfill her duties as Don Martin's live-in whore with a cock-straddling grace.

Caught masturbating with a couch cushion while watching Gina and Don Martin have sex (or at least have something that vaguely resembled sex), Tona gives a Beatriz a good spanking. "You're a bad girl," Tona tells her after each slap. To which Beatriz responds, "I'm not."

The scene where Gina tries to seduce Herbie (Exequiel Caldas) in an uncinched robe is the real reason this review exists. A sort of handyman/guitar player, Herbie plucks away at his guitar as Gina heaves and thrusts the contents of her hump-worthy undercarriage to-and-fro in an erotic manner.

Now, some might say committing six minutes to a scene where a leggy blonde with mild chin acne in an uncinched robe flirts with some shirtless dweeb with a guitar is overkill, but I'd argue the scene's actually too short.

Clearly possessing a shitload of talent, Christie Levin is a natural performer. It says here that Jess Franco cast Christie in two other movies. Meaning, I might just have to watch more post-1987 Jess Franco movies. Noooo! Seriously, if they're anything like Broken Dolls, I'm in for a treat. Wait, "a treat"? Um, let's just say, I'm in for some serious brain damage. And I don't mean brain damage in a bad way.

Special thanks to Tom Clark for recommending this movie


  1. Ha you finally got to it! You know, as weird as this one is, its actually one of the most straightforward, at least narratively speaking, of Franco's later digital efforts. And if you think Christie Levin is great here, watch Snakewoman (2005) which for my money is the best of Franco's later films, where she's rocking longer, red hair. One of Franco's best later days muses for sure.

    1. I own Snakewoman (and Red Silk). I haven't watched them yet. Pray for me. ;)

  2. Oh, thanks for the link by the way! Just noticed that. Only thing is its broken! I changed the name of the site so its now: