Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Orloff Collection!

I've seen this collection before and was mildly intrigued, so when I found it for cheap at Half-Price Books, I snatched it up in hopes it wouldn't disappoint me. It didn't, not really despite the fact that I know that Jesse Franco is, to put it mildly, a rather marginal director with lots of hard-to-watch cult films under his belt and a penchant for lightweight pornography. That said, the classic nature of at least two of the movies attracted me, two films Franco regarded as his "museum pieces".

The centerpiece of the set is 1962's The Awful Dr.Orloff (which has numerous titles, but which was originally called Screams in the Night). It's a weird piece of black and white horror tension (in which we think we see much more than we do) about a mad doctor who kidnaps and kills women to use their skin to help revive his mutilated sister (or daughter I forget). He's aided by a grotesque blind henchman named Morpho. There's a lot of creeping about and some actual entertaining movie making of a classic variety in this often neat little thriller.

There are echoes of Dracula, The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari, and other assorted horror flicks. But even more derivative is the name of the villain himself.

"Dr.Orloff " gets his monicker from the head mad scientist villain played by Bela Lugosi in The Human Monster,a 1939 British horror flick with more than a shred of neat scares.

It's based on the Edgar Wallace novel The Dark Eyes of London, which is also the title of the movie in England.

Franco borrows the name and the general idea of a mad scientist who preys on the weak for his own dire purposes, though Lugosi's scheme is a good deal more about larceny than madness.

The 1964 sequel to The Awful Dr.Orloff also has a slew of titles but Dr.Orloff's Monster seems the the most direct and the most dishonest since Orloff himself is barely in the movie, which features another mad scientist named Fischerman who keeps his dead brother around to kill for him. He targets cabaret dancers and singers, so we get a lot of sleazy dance numbers and some really meager singing before these dames are offed. Meanwhile an innocent girl, the doctor's niece discovers her dad is still around and has to deal with this undead reality.

The third film in this set, Orloff and the Invisible Man is not by Franco but another director but features Orloff who, as the title announces this time creates a transparent monster who preys upon whomever happens to get to the castle. Actually this 1970 flick is a real snore with abundant nudity but a dearth of narrative structure and some really rather meager invisible gags. It begins and ends with little understanding of or by the characters in the story.

There is a fourth film title Revenge in the House of Usher which borrows a bit from the classic Poe story and mashes it with vintage footage from the original Orloff movie. This 1982 movie is really boring and doesn't even  offer up any boobs to leaven the tiresome and ponderous proceedings. It looks like one of those movies they made in a week or so at the most. Very disappointing, save for the slightly fresh look at the old Orloff footage within a marginally new context.

All together this collection a curiosity for horror fans who like me prefer vintage old-fashioned monster movies. The first film fills the bill and to a limited extent so does the second. The rest are curiosities but little else. I cannot recommend this set unless you find it really cheap like I did.

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  1. i think they were just counting on people reading that as "karloff"

    1. Likely true. I think I did when I first clapped eyes on the the set.

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