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Miss Muerte / Le Diabolique Dr. Z

The Diabolical Dr. Z
Dans les Griffes du Maniaque / Miss Death

Spain/France 1966
produced by
Henri Baum (executive) for Hesperia Films, Ciné-Alliance, Spéva Films
directed by Jess Franco
starring Mabel Karr, Estella Blain, Fernando Montes, Howard Vernon, Guy Mairesse, Antonio Jiménez Escribano, Ana Castor, Jess Franco, Daniel J. White, Alberto Dalbés, Marcelo Arroita-Jáuregui, Alberto Bourbón, Cris Huerta, Lucía Prado, José María Prada
written by Jess Franco (as David Kuhne), additional dialogue by Jean-Claude Carrière, music by Daniel J. White

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Doctor Zimmer (Antonio Jiménez Escribano) has found a way to control the personality of a person, meaning he can determine wether a person is evil or good. He has even gone so far as to test it on an escaped death row convict, serial killer Hans Bergen (Guy Mairesse) ... however, when he wants to present his results at a medical congress & ask for permission to test his invention on more humans, he is laughed at, booed out, called a Nazi & dismissed altogether ... to much for the wheelchair-bound old man, so he dies from a heart attack right there on the spot, but not before telling his daughter Irma (Mabel Karr) to continue his work ... however, it soon becomes clear she is more interested in avenging his death ...

Soon enough, Irma fakes her own death, then abducts Nadia (Estella Blain), a nightclub dancer with stagename Miss Muerte & especially long fingernails, & uses her father's brainwashing device to turn her into her instrument of revenge, & there are 3 men, all doctors from the congress, on her list: Vicas, Moroni & Kallman ...

Soon enough, Vicas (Howard Vernon), travelling by train, meets a seductive young blonde - Nadia of course - who before long invites him into her compartment for you-know-what, but suddenly scratches his throat with ehr fingernails ... & since her fingernails were dipped in Curare, Vicas doesn't survive it ...

Moroni fares even worse. He meets a beautiful blonde - yes, Nadia again - at a café, but since he is a faithfully married man, she doesn't have quite the same effect on him ... but when he leaves the café she follows him around & makes him more & more nervous ...

& he should be, too, since Irma's male killer Bergen ahs since broken into his house & killed his wife. When Moroni finally arrives home, he only finds his wife's body & takes the first taxi to the police station ... only, the first taxi is driven by Bergen, & he releases a poisonous gas onto Moroni ...

Of course the police (represented by Jess Franco himself & Daniel J.White) have since taken up investigations, & with the help of Philippe (Fernando Montes), Nadia's ex-boyfriend, an acquaintance of Irma's & a doctor at the congress where Zimmer died all rolled into one, come to some right conslusions, but somehow too many pieces of the puzzle are still missing.

... on his way home from whereever, Doc Kallman (the last on Irma's list) finds the body of a lovely blonde (mhm, Nadia again) lieing across thew street, & good Samaritan that he is, he takes her with him into his very own clinic - but not to gie her medical assistance but to threaten her with a gun, since he figures (& quite rightly too) she might be the woman who has killed Vicas & Moroni. & while he keeps her put with his gun, he asks his servant to call the police ... what he doesn't know though is that his servant & his nurse were since replaced by Bergen & Irma, & of course, they show little hesitation in killing Kallman ...

In the meantime, Philippe has found Irma's secret hide-out & entered it, & intervenes just in time to prevent Bergen from killing Nadia - who has served her purpose -, instead he kills Bergen, but when Philippe faces Irma herself, he proives to be little match to her & her diabolical machinery. Only Nadia, who starts to remember him again, & the police who have agfter all found the hide-out as well, can kill Irma & save Philippe's life.

The last shot sees Nadia - now her old self again - caressing Philippe's face .... but wait a minute, aren't her fingernails still dipped in Curare ?

 

In his later career, director Jess Franco was often dismissed as an incompetent hack, a no-budget oddity, a quickfire filmmaker, a producer of tasteless sleaze, or at best a side-note to film history because he had worked with Orson Welles. All these misjudgements stem from having seen the wrong  films of the director's large filmography (over 150 and counting).

Of course, Franco did his fair share of shitty movies (& Oasis of the Zombies, his probably most frequently re-released film, is also his worst), he did often work without any budget to speak of (but then again, what's a man to do if he wants to film & there's simply no money around), & he did deliver incredible sleaze (though sometimes quite stylish sleaze, too, like La Comtesse Noire/Female Vampire).

However, Miss Muerte has none of these shortcomings, this is an extremely well-done sci-fi/horror/thriller boasting a visual style & freshness that was only rarely rivalled in its time or even today. Franco here shows his very own cinematic lagnguage, consisting of unusual camera set-ups & angles that turn even his cheapish sets into something interesting & an excessive use of the zoom lense used to tell the actual story. & not to forget, while the plot of the film itself is pure & somewhat silly pulp, Franco shows genuine love for his pulpy roots, which is clearly translated into the movie.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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starring
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