Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Diabolical Dr. Z (1966)

This is the part of October in which we kick around dead directors.  But, to be honest, this early Jess Franco entry brought a sufficient quantity of fun.  Dr. Zimmer is an old man and scientist who has developed a method to amplify the "good" and "evil" areas of the brain.  Science!  He proves his theory by experimenting on a hyena, then comes to the science council to get approval for human testing.  But they deny him so much that he has a heart attack.  Jerks!

His daughter, who is also a dr. and a diabolical one, vows revenge.  And she uses dad's technique to turn normal people into killers.  Specifically, a burlesque dancer named Miss Death, to whom she also affixes poisonous fingernails.

It's here that the film gets interesting, as a mad scientist yarn gets infused with some of the kink for which Franco would be acclaimed.  Miss Death gets tamed with a chair and a whip, like a jungle cat.

Dr. Z is enjoyable, if not amazing.  It feels like a hybrid of horror's old approaches—compact, pretty predictable story arc—and swinging psychedelic influences spritzed with the aforementioned Franco sleaze.  In having a female villain pursuing male victims, it's automatically more "progressive" than lots of horror films that followed it.  But it's not all granola and Tofutti.  The movie is stymied pretty often by its weak characterization.  The people who populate Dr. Z feel like third-degree sidekicks who have somehow been pushed into lead roles.

Overall, though, pretty solid for a B-movie and spared of bloat that would make it wear out its welcome.


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