This review covers 'Night of the Assassins', included in this set.
This terrific slow-burner is Spanish Director Jess Franco’s old dark house mystery in the style of a giallo – a historical one, no less. It is a spectacularly underrated film – consistent, intriguing, well-played and possessed of some impressive twists.
Lina Romay, in possibly her best role, plays Rita, shamed servant girl. Without the distraction of hubby Franco’s predilection for sex and gore, her performance shows what a true talent she was. Rita is humble and subversive, a million miles away from many of the other parts she played. Antonio Mayans, who would star with Romay years later in the notorious ‘Mansion of the Living Dead (1984)’, is excellent as Alfred, who may or not be Rita’s brother. Franco himself, never a hugely impressive actor, also gives what maybe his best performance as drunken old lawyer Andy. Dependable Alberto Dalbés as Major Brooks and Vincente Roca as Inspector Bore (pronounced ‘Borey’, fortunately) also spice up the 74 minute running time.
The direction is restrained – no lingering, graphic sex scenes or manically zooming lenses here – and really conveys a classic haunted house thriller. Indeed, Edgar Allen Poe is credited as an inspiration in the opening moments, although there is nothing specifically similar that I can see.
A darkly shot project – occasionally too dark – this drips with atmosphere, with Franco making the most of his splendidly intimidating location.
Both these films highlight the fact that Franco could've been a great sleaze free legitimate director, 'Devil's Island Lovers' has a more rounded script about a couple framed for murder before being sent down and there's no nudity whatsoever although this Tartan edition has 30 minutes of alternative footage which contains some spanking, a lesbian romp, a threesome and some electro shock therapy. 'Night Of The Assassins' is like the illegitimate love child of Edgar Allan Poe and Tennessee Williams, set in Louisiana around the time of the civil war(?) with mention of a copper from Scotland Yard, Yorkshire and Devon and more murders than a Fred West barbecue, again it's story driven rather than flesh driven and even the dusky Lina Romay keeps her blouse on most of the time. I'll be honest and admit that I like a nice dollop of gratuitous nudity (Lina Romay in 'Female Vampire' to name but one) but I found this slice of Franco extremely watchable.