Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #778
Also known as The Saw of Death
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: March 27, 1981
Sub-Genre: Eighties Slasher/Giallo
Country of Origin: West Germany, Spain
Running Time: 84 minutes
Director: Jesús Franco Manera
Producer: Wolf C. Hartwig
Screenplay: Erich Tomek
Special Effects: Juan Ramón Molina
Cinematography: Juan Soler
Score: Gerhard Heinz
Editing: Karl Aulitzky, Christine Jank
Studios: Metro-Film GmbH, Rapid-Film GmbH, Lisa Film GmbH, Plata Films S.A.
Distributors: Trans World Entertainment, Severin Films (DVD)
Stars: Olivia Pascal, Christoph Moosbrugger, Nadja Gerganoff, Alexander Waechter, Jasmin Losensky, Corinna Drews, Ann-Beate Engelke, Peter Exacoustos, Antonia García, Beatriz Sancho, María Rubio, Otto Retzer, Jesús Franco
Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Trío Los Panchos “Bésame Mucho”
 Orchester Michel Dupont “Love In The Shadow Part 1″
 Orchester Michel Dupont “Love In The Shadow Part 2″
The name Jesús Franco Manera, or Jess Franco as he is commonly referred, is not one you’d instinctively associate with horror. The Madrid-born director, writer, producer, composer, cinematographer and actor amassed over 200 film credits before his death in 2013, aged 82, and is best known for his generous contribution to the Euro-sleaze sub-genre and occasional ventures into the hardcore sex arena. The Spaniard subscribed to the old-school work ethic, whereby quality played a poor second fiddle to quantity. One thing’s for sure, the dude didn’t sleep, as attested by the fact that he churned low-rent trash out seemingly for fun, particularly during his most flush period in the eighties.
Curiously, while Bloody Moon was strictly a gun for hire affair and the only film in his vast oeuvre that focused solely on a genre he had little interest in, it’s frequently mentioned in the same breath as Venus in Furs and Vampyros Lesbos as his most memorable work. It certainly didn’t harm none that the BBFC took great exception to the excessive gore, particularly its notorious circular saw kill, and tossed it on their 72-strong “video nasty” list without blinking.
Indeed, Franco’s film was even one of the 39 successfully prosecuted and has therefore been ensured a fair degree of evergreen status in horror circles. But is it actually any good? Like paella, the answer to that poser would depend largely on your personal palate. Personally I’ve never been enamored with the Catalonian signature dish, but I’ll gladly chow down on tasteless junk food such as this, regardless of the vague stomach rot setting in around the hour mark.
1981 was the year that word started to get out about the American slasher craze and things started to go off Stateside. George Mihalka’s My Bloody Valentine, Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse, Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, Tony Maylam’s The Burning, J. Lee Thompson’s Happy Birthday to Me, Tom DeSimone’s Hell Night, Jeff Lieberman’s Just Before Dawn, Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II and Joseph Zito’s The Prowler were all doing the rounds and it made sense for the Europeans to cash in on this phenomenon while the going was good, particularly given that Mario Bava had practically gift wrapped it for them the decade previous.
Franco’s fellow countrymen Juan Piquer Simón would book his cross Atlantic flight in 1982 for his criminally enjoyable dorm slasher Pieces so Franco had a full year to get in first and Bloody Moon represents his very best shot at earning that elusive visa. It’s actually shot in the sunny climate of a Spanish resort in the Costa Del Sol (with a primarily German cast) and owes just as much to the Italian giallo as it does the American slasher. However, it’s just too goddamn trashy to warrant inclusion in such an exclusive club, no offence. Save for the whole sun and sandals deal, it fits the American slasher template far more snugly, and is one hilariously lousy dub away from being granted full citizenship.
You won’t need to pack those Spanish phrase books to translate the plot as, while packed to the gills with red herrings, twists and turns, we’ve only come for the big “Olé!” and to witness a whole host of scantily clad co-eds laying out by the pool. With a bit of luck, a number of them will die horribly (not before changing bikinis, I hasten to add), and Bloody Moon will have earned itself a five star review for the all-important brochure shot. Sun, sex, savagery – that’s the big three sewn up before we’ve even got our flip-flops on. Just to be clear, that’s not actually suntan lotion you’re rubbing into your forehead right now but I do hear it’s rather splendid for the complexion.
Speaking of which, no amount of moisturizing sperm could make poor Miguel Gonzalez (Alexander Waechter) any less unattractive to the ladies. Sporting the kind of facial disfigurement that would suggest he’s been spooning with Swamp Thing, Miguel’s fortunes are shocking where the opposite sex are involved. Sensing that his virginity will likely be with him like airport luggage until his final adios, Miguel decides to take matters into his own hands.
After tricking an unsuspecting victim into wet humping by way of Disney and stabbing her to death with a pair of scissors when she unmasks him and instantly chokes back the chunks, Miguel is institutionalized for a full five stretch. After spending his incarceration working on his chat up technique, he is released into the care of his sister, Manuela (Nadja Gerganoff).
It just so happens that, along with their invalid aunt Countess Maria (María Rubio), Manuela operates an international boarding school of languages for young ladies and it’s smack bang in the middle of the Costa Del Sol. Theirs is clearly one fucked up family unit as, while dotty Aunt Maria is convinced she’s being plotted against by her niece, Manuela has been known to polish Miguel’s mahogany idol from time to time, like any good older sister does.
Incest, conspiracy and facial disfiguration – hardly the chief ingredients to a happy home, although the whole keeping it in the family deal appears to have worked out reasonably well for the siblings. However, Manuela now has a challenger to her baby brother’s affections as there’s a new señorita at the academy and shooting his sour cream up her cervix is less likely to result in a whole host of mutant babies.
Said beauty is fresh-faced student Angela (Olivia Pascal) and, no sooner has she laid her towel down at the pool, than Miguel develops an obsession with her that appears not altogether healthy. Stalking her from a distance not always excusable as kosher, Miguel yearns for her touch, even though chances are looking decidedly slim of anything other than a sympathy hand job at best.
However, Angela’s a popular girl among her peers and this provides him a number of buxom bunnies to leer over also. The thing is, there’s a darn sight more than harmless spying going down at this boarding school as, one-by-one, these frisky little Fräulein are being hacked and slashed by an unknown assailant and naturally all signs are pointing straight back to the known murderer within our ranks.
Just to keep us on our toes, gardener Antonio (Peter Exacoustos) is regularly seen pruning the foliage with his abnormally sized gardening shears and beheads an actual tree snake just to remind us all what he’s capable of. Meanwhile, Angela’s studies could be going better as some smart Aleck switched her dialect tape with one where the narrator impolitely requests she let him cut her with a hacksaw.
Could it simply be coincidence that Miguel is always nearby when anything untoward is playing out or could Professor Alvaro (Christoph Moosbrugger) have taken temporary leave of his senses? Alas, no prizes for solving this mystery long before the final act shenanigans, but reasonable rewards for sitting through a largely incident-free first forty five as the big pay-off comes eventually.
Bloody Moon can be forgiven for the fact that every female character is totally one-dimensional and sex obsessed, indeed, one could applaud such a decision given that they’re only present to scream at the top of their lungs, flash their cans, and die in manners most ghastly. As for the abysmal dubbing track, well this is the kind of Eurotrash whereby it only adds to the vintage charm as does the gloriously all over the place score of Gerhard Heinz, which flits between broody, frantic and outright porn music at will. Hilariously, producer Wolf C. Hartwig falsely promised Franco a visit from none other than Pink Floyd, and I’m glad he didn’t come good on that audacious claim as this is no place for rock giants of Floyd’s caliber and they may never have lived this one down.
There exists a small niche who will glean considerable pleasure from Bloody Moon, myself inclusive, and it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t tick all of the slasher boxes. Just bear in mind that it’s regularly undermined by incompetence and all the more charismatic as a result of it and you should be just fine.
If nothing else, Franco proved that he could create an atmosphere of mild foreboding, albeit laced with unintentional hilarity. The fact that it has since become almost his calling card suggests one of two things to me. Either I need to strike around 200 of his films off my watch list post-haste or rue the fact that he didn’t spend more time perfecting his slasher craft. Whatever I stump for, I’m not going anywhere near the paella.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Given that the alternative title for this film is Die Säge des Todes (or The Saw of Death to those without a Spanish phrase book), it should come as no great surprise that the infamous buzzsaw decapitation is the crème de la crème here. Ignore the fact that Inga cleverly transforms into a mannequin at the critical point of incision and instead marvel at how wonderfully gruesome this act is and the hilarity of the young boy whose attempts to thwart the killer end in being ploughed down at top speed before he can run home and tell his parents. Meanwhile, death by falling boulder comes from way out of left field and is more than worthy of a hurrah, and strangulation using fireplace thongs is deserving of a hearty cheer also.
For the Pelt-Nuzzlers: Naturally, one of Franco’s Euro-sleaze inclination wouldn’t be able to resist shoehorning in a little harmless nudity for those all-important holiday snaps and provides multiple sets of perky pinkies to slather over. We Europeans love a bit of topless sunbathing don’t cha know.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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