A quiet, conventional psychological horror film
which Franco produced for his own struggling Manacoa Films company.
After a rocky start with the aborted zombie film EL MISTERIO DEL
CASTILLO ROJO (also 1972) Franco obviously tried to play it safe with
this adaptation of an Agatha Christie-style novel about a kidnapping
followed by a series of murders on the island retreat of a movie star.
Staying close to Alicante, Franco was obviously on familiar territory
geographically, but some may find the complete lack of sex, nudity and light
violence a letdown from the man who gave the world SUCCUBUS and FEMALE
Valerie (Montserrat Prous) moves from the edges of the action to dead
center as she is forced from her role as the trusted child care provider
to a woman ferociously fighting for her life in the darkened villa.
Armed with a double-barreled shotgun and swathed in ammunition belts,
she literally lets her hair down under the supportive guidance of her
director. The last reel may remind some of WAIT UNTIL DARK and Franco
proves skilled at gradually ratcheting up the suspense. A good
supporting cast, including Alberto Dalbes, Luis Induni, catwoman Kali
Hansa and Manuel Pereiro, also helps in this claustrophobic setting.
The delicate features of Prous and her credibility in the early
scenes--playing a guitar while in a deep depression, a wallflower at a
party--really pay off when she transforms into the Ripley-style weapon
in full metal jacket. Her eyes have a skittishness that when turned to
resolve can rivet one to her character while raising the hairs on the
back of the neck.
Franco may be referencing the gothic horror classic THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE
with such details as the cold, disembodied eye which watches Valerie
throughout and the general ambience of a vulnerable woman stalked by a
killer in a dark house. The tropical locale and the Bahia music which
open and close the film might qualify the film as Med-Gothic, a modality
Franco would further explore in THE EYES OF DR ORLOFF, also featuring
This is not a bad film, just a very good general audience effort which
shows that Franco could have written his own ticket into the mainstream.
If I have employed some clichés in describing this film that's because
the film is exactly a retreat into those clichés that when manipulated
well can result in a box office hit. Franco obviously needed one and
wanted one at this point. Luckily, he returned to the road less taken, spiraling
off into the wild experimentation which continues to this very day.
-- Reviewed by Robert Monell