Todays offering another movie which got the BBFC’s knickers in a twist Jess Franco’s take on an American Slasher ‘Bloody Moon’, also known as The Bloody Moon Murders, and under its German title Die Säge des Todes, which translates to ‘The Saw of Death’. If you have seen the movie you will see that the German title probably has the most relevance to the content but more about that later. It seems there were two points of contention for the censors being a nipple impalement and beheading by huge band saw, as usual the best bits! Bloody Moon was a German release originally in German language format but is available in a dubbed English language version.
The story takes place in and around the strangely named International Youth-Club Boarding School of Languages, a place for young girls to study Spanish while lusting over the local young men and discussing their sex lives in length with one another. There seem to be a lot of hormones floating around the school, and when one girl is compelled to act upon these urges during a brilliantly retro roller disco and goes off with a masked Miguel, brother of the school owner Manuela, she is none too pleased to discover his face resembles a dish of cornflakes when he unmasks just as they are getting down to business. Resisting his advances she swiftly gets stabbed by a pair of scissors and Miguel is shipped off to an institution for 5 years. On his return to the school there are a new set of arrivals, Angela who is staying in the scissors stabbing apartment is one in particular who catches his eye and he begins stalking her. Although he hasn’t only got eyes for Angela having some bizarre and overtly sexual fascination with his sister Manuela, who tries to keep him in check by offering him a bite on the forbidden fruit should he behave. However as Angela finds out the girls around her seem to be disappearing. She suspects they may have been killed and she is next in line with the killer playing a game of cat and mouse as she desperately tries to get other people to believe her.
One point I have to make about the acting is the over zealous dubbing into English made a lot of the characters come off as either obnoxious, or in Angela’s case hysterical. I would be interested to watch an original language print of this film for comparison, as I feel it detracted away from the mood slightly in that the voices were far too dramatised for some of the scenes. That said Olivia Pascal as Angela played her part competently in displaying varied contorted facial expressions to portray her mounting terror. Alexander Waetcher as Miguel was sufficiently creepy, and Nadja Gerganoff did a good job playing the bitchy Manuela. The rest of the cast were fairly generic, and like I said obnoxious down to the bad dubbing, but served their purpose in their various roles, mainly as kill fodder.
The story advances pretty quickly, with an onscreen kill in the first five minutes. As we follow Miguel and his reintroduction to society there is a bit of filler to try and build up the story but then it reverts quickly back into the action. As far as slashers go this is typical given that the plot really does not matter much but the headcount does. Bloody Moon has a pretty respectable count on kills without too much dragging in between and on this point I would say as a slasher it works. However while there has been some obvious attempt to Americanise this film it plays out in parts more like an Italian Giallo, with tension building from using the killers point of view, and an unseen stalker. There is definitely a Euro feel to this movie despite the attempts of Franco to make it seem otherwise. I liked this edge though, being a fan of both sub genres I felt it gave the best of both worlds. There is one scene in particular when killer plays cat and mouse, and the use of mirrors, doors, and windows would not be out of place in a Dario Argento film, here is where the movie shines though and real tension is built through these scenes.
For a Jess Franco movie this had a pretty substantial budget to some of his other ventures. There is an obvious compromise on location to spend money elsewhere, probably the effects which are spectacular in some cases. However a lot of screen time focuses on the front of the school, swimming pool and exterior of Angela’s apartment. There is also an awful lot of focus on the interior of the apartment with a lot of the characters, especially the girls, seeming to gather there to indulge in gossip. The compromise payed off however as some of the kills, especially the aforementioned band saw and nipple impalement were absolutely brilliant. There is one moment when a real life snake is beheaded which I did not agree with at all, why this was put into the movie I have no idea, it served no point and just appalled me as I am sure it will others. But for the fictional kills they were nothing but top notch and very enjoyable. While the on set locations were limited Franco made good use of the surrounding area to produce some stunning and beautiful shots of the Spanish scenery which certainly makes up for the lack of set. It also adds to the Euro feel of this film and gives it an edge which mainstream 80s fodder often lacks at times making it stand out from the pack of other low budget affairs which saturated the market during that period. That said while Franco got it right on location the overuse of zoom shots at the moon, which had no relevance to the story I might add, added a confusing aspect to this feature. While I accept that the moon can be used to add an extra fear factor into the mix there were just too many shots of it, that by the end it just became the case of ‘oh look another moon shot’.
On balance Bloody Moon is one of the video nasty titles well worth viewing, It is enjoyable, nasty, and extremely retro, with plenty of action. While the bad dubbing protracts slightly from the atmosphere that can be forgiven as when the kills come they do so in grand splendour. For a Franco fan this is obviously one of his best made and most coherent works, and for anyone wanting to get into his films it would be a good starting place. However it is not typical of his body of work as a whole, it lacks the lesbianism element usually featured heavily, there is no reference to S+M, or themes of control which dominate a lot of his other movies. There was also a far lot less nudity than he usually likes to show. Franco dabbled in a lot of genres, and sub genres however and as far as a slasher goes this is a good example if you can embrace the Euro feeling of the movie.