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July 13, 2011

Movie Review: The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff (1973, Intervision)

European cult cinema has produced many undeniable talents over the past 50 years: Dario Argento ( Suspiria, Deepred), Mario Bava ( Black Sunday, Bay of Blood), Jean Rollin ( Living Dead Girl, Grapes Of Death), Walerian Borowczyk ( The Beast, Behind Convent Walls) and Lucio Fulci ( City Of The Living Dead, The Beyond ) are just a handful of names that have contributed numerous memorable features. And then there's Jess Franco. A highly skilled and talented filmmaker in his own right, Franco has been brilliant with films like Venus of Furs and Succubus but has also unfortunately churned out unwatchable shot-on-video sludge like Marie Cookie and the Killer Tarantula and Tender Flesh. The directors mentioned earlier are far from perfect but seem to have a tad more consistency than the Spanish filmmaker. A brand new company specializing in euro-cult features called Intervision has just released a thought to be "lost" Franco film from his popular Dr. Orloff series titled, The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff.

Buy The Sinister Eyes Of Dr. Orloff on DVD

William Berger switches off with Howard Vernon for his own turn as the diabolical Dr. Orloff. The Sinister Eyes Of Dr. Orloff begins effectively with a dream sequence where wheelchair bound Melissa Comfort ( Monsterrat Prous) is in the middle of a horrific nightmare. She suddenly comes out of her slumber to find out that she will be receiving therapy from Orloff. Orloff is haunted by the tragic death of his child but still has an uncanny knack for hypnotizing the handicap with his "Sinister Eyes".

Not a lot happens throughout the running time of Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff; when something does, it's usually in one of Melissa's dreams. In one scene where she's in the middle of one of her nightmares she has the ability to walk and uses that time to plant a tire iron into the cranium of her creepy butler. Don't expect much nudity or violence though as "Sinister Eyes" relies much more on its unnerving atmosphere. There is an effective drowning but overall it’s almost PG-13 fare when it comes to the exploitive elements that are the heart of many of Franco's features. The acting is solid though. Berger in particular is quite fun as Dr. Orloff, just don't look into his eyes..Or else.

The original film materials for The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff are apparently unattainable so instead we have a tape master provided by Mr. Franco himself. The quality is fair as you may expect. The biggest issue in the presentation is the softness of the picture as it almost has a slightly milky image. The audio is ok but it sounds very muffled, especially when the music on the soundtrack plays . I do like the fact that we have the original spoken language as opposed to the usual dubbed English voices. Intervision has also supplied subtitles for those not sharp in Spanish.

Intervision has put together a fine extra feature for the disc that consists of Franco going over his recollections of the film as well some of the origins of "Orloff". Franco's interesting enough during the near 20 minute interview, covering some historical specifics of the film and its not too perfect outcome. I'm kind of amazed that at his age with hundreds of features under his belt that he recall so much.

The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff would never be confused with Franco's more polished classic outings. I'd almost classify it as mid-level Franco. That being said, I'd definitely recommend it to Franco fans and European cult film conneisuirs with patience. Hopefully, Intervision continues to acquire more rarities; particularly European horror from Franco and others. I also would like to see more of their retro '80s DVD covers.

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