Someone on the IFC channel lost their mind recently, and so "The Devil" made an appearance on cable late Friday night. It was an intriguing title and a potentially interesting plot summary (I'm always up for a good cheesy zombie movie), but the words "directed by Jesse Franco" let me know that whatever was coming up was going to be pretty crummy.
I've seen several of Franco's films, and at first I was puzzled why this guy was allowed to keep making movies. Then I remembered the way people get addicted to stupid things like tobacco or sniffing gasoline. My metaphor for this is that of the restaurant critic who started out hating cilantro (an aromatic herb used in Latino cooking, especially in salsa - some people like it, some people think it tastes like soap), then felt OK about it, and eventually became addicted to it. There's just something about Franco's slapdash, hackwork style that irritates a person in a way they may grow to enjoy. He's like a American version of Roger Corman that way.
Anyway, the Franco style is in full display here. This movie is much better than the train wreck that was "Castle Of Fu Manchu" (my reference point for all things Franco), but it's still pretty cheesy. The lead actor is a fairly dashing sort, and there are a couple of enticing young babes who serve as great camera bait - they light up the screen very nicely when they are around. And there are also a bunch of Continental looking character actors sleepwalking through their roles - think "Hammer film studios supporting actors who have given up all hope of ever doing anything better." And there's a weird "hip, swinging" soundtrack that seems to start up a new motif every 60 seconds or so, but every piece is scored for Hammond organ and wah-wah guitar and there's no dynamic range to them - it's as if the soundtrack people took the Hank GrawfordJimmy McGriff quartet, fed them Quaaludes and Chianti, locked them in a studio, forced them to play for an hour at gunpoint, and recorded the results from a room 10 yards down the hall. Then they just cut the music into snippets and jammed them into scenes at random, regardless of what was happening on screen at the time.
And the plot itself...well, I never did quite figure out what was going on. There's a spy story buried in her somewhere, with a McGuffin device that turns metal to gold and humans into zombies, and I think the movie is actually supposed to be a spoof, but it's hard to make out and even harder to actually care. The English dub is so tin-eared and full of clinkers (and delivered by a bunch of ESL voice actors who sound as if they are reading the lines for the first time) that it removes almost every ounce of enjoyment I might have gotten from the movie. Seriously, I might have rated this movie at least two or three points higher if I'd been able to watch it with subtitles in its original language.
Anyway, it's vaguely watchable (especially during its cheesecake moments when the sweet young things disrobe) and it's by no means the worst thing Franco has done. I might even watch it again for the irritation value sometime if I get the chance.
Review by lemon_magic from the Internet Movie Database.