I've never, ever been a fan of cheapo-Italian Hitchcock knockoffs. Jess Franco is sort of the poor man's Spanish Dario Argento, who is in turn a low rent Italian Alfred Hitchcock. While both Franco and Argento are largely competent, and even inventive film makers, some of their, work, and today we're discussing The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff, is a remake of an earlier Franco film, with some hilariously silly plot elements shoveled in to, I don't know, keep the lawyers out of the way or something. This one is a remake of "Nightmares Comes at Night" (also a Franco film) with a giant front-end-loader full of the old American B-picture "The Screaming Skull" thrown in to make the plot less exotic dancer-y and more family money-ey.
Meet the Fisque family, Lord Comfort and his wife Lady Comfort, Lord Comfort's younger sluttier sister Ms. Martha, and the belle of the family poor paralytic Melissa. Melissa is confined to her bed, and suffers terrible nightmares every night about the violent death of her father. The aunt and cousin are about sick of her caterwauling too. Worse, Melissa is the actual heir to the family fortune if anything happens to Lord Comfort. Before you can say Lord Comfort's dead, he's dead, and it looks like poor crippled Melissa is the murderer. Enter Dr. Orloff, a local psychiatrist who is both treating Melissa and working with the police while their regular crime doctor (I guess) is in vacation. A butler who is devoted to Melissa and is trying to protect her from the awful other women in the house. Finally, throw in apparently popular folk singer Sweet Davy Brown as a next-door renter who has suspicions about the goings on at Fisque Manor.
What follows is a very standard by the book murder in the family story where first Lady Comfort and Martha plan what they are going to do with their split inheritance once Melissa is in the crazy house. Dr. Orloff reveals his nefarious plan to take the whole inheritance for himself and that he's been planning this since before Melissa was born, etc... Sweet Davy Brown clearly fails to sing the horrific song on the soundtrack "Open your Eyes Again" for several minutes at a time, several times, while manhandling a guitar the same way an Orangutan might, if it were stupid.
Franco's script doesn't offer that much tension. I mean, we see Melissa commit the murder of her uncle, and eventually of the other victims, so it's not like their deaths are a mystery. Franco doesn't offer us a McGuffin either. By the time Dr. Orloff reveals his super-villain-like plan the clues to tie him to the murders going back as far as Melissa's father have been shown to us, pointed at, labeled, and described.
This Orloff film is the last in a series dating back to 1962. Admittedly I've never seen the others, but it hardly matters as Orloff himself is barely in the film. The real meat of the story is within the self-destructive family in the Fisque Manor.
For what we've got here, at 76 or so minutes it's not bad. The actresses, Monseratt Prous (Melissa), Loreta Torvar (Martha), and Kali Hansa (Lady Comfort) are astonishingly, almost unnaturally, beautiful and they all manage to act this soap-operatic plot like they're in a half-decent soap opera, so there's that benefit. Don't think this is some euro-sleaze title, it's not, it's not a horror film, the gore is limited to a single bloody towel, and there's nary a boob, lesbian kiss, or bump and grind to be found. Martha does spend a lot of time walking around in lingerie, but it's nowhere near enough to hang a "sleaze" label on. This is a straight up melodrama tarted up with a Spanish mansion and some post-hypnotic suggestion murders thrown in to liven up the bubbles in this soap opera.
The DVD from Invervision DVD is full frame, but I think the film was probably shot in full frame 1:33/1 ratio. Unfortunately the quality of the transfer is abysmal with dull colors, blur, and speckles aplenty. There's no English dub, but that's fine by me most of the time. However, here the subtitles are very, very small and many of them are not on screen long enough to read. Also, one whole chapter seems to have no subtitles at all, which throws a wrench into the plot as it's where, I think, Lord Comfort is explaining the terms of the legacy money to Lady Comfort and Martha. But, I'm not sure as I only learned enough Spanish on Sesame Street to count to ten, and say open (abierto) and close (cerrado), and to ask donde esta biblioteca? Which of course means, "There is a dancing Jesus on my pancake!" Truth be told, I learned that last one from Quentin Tarrantino.
One final note about the subtitles, I think they are way too literal, sometimes veering into the Spanish version of "Engrish". For example, tone deaf singer "Sweet Davy Brown" is referred to as "Davy" of "Davy Brown Sweet" when he introduces himself to the local constabulary.
The DVD also contains a short interview with Jess Franco about the history of the Dr. Orloff films. It's moderately interesting, and in English, but man is he old. Holy mackerel is he hard to understand. If you're more interested in this information about the series it's probably worth the time to watch.