Jess Franco Double Bill - Vol 2
Devil's Island Lovers / Night of the Assassins

Starring: Dennis Price, William Berger and Uma Romay
Tartan Grindhouse
RRP: 19.99
TVD 3644
Certificate: 18
Available 21 August 2006

Here we go with another Jess Franco Double Bill from the Tartan Grindhouse Collection, to follow on from Volume 1's Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein and The Curse of Frankenstein. This time it's Devil's Island Lovers (1974), and Night of the Assassins (1976) - again in Spanish with English subtitles.

In Devil's Island Lovers a young couple is wrongly accused of murder and initially sentenced to death. However, they are eventually sent to two separate and isolated prisons in South America with sadistic wardens into abuse and torture. When a man admits on his deathbed that he framed the couple, a lawyer demands to be taken to see them with thoughts of a retrial. His trip turns out to be a wasted one, as a fellow captive takes pity on the imprisoned young woman and helps her to escape and meet-up with her lover. But her helper is in the pocket of the director. Can the lawyer save them in time?

This film has a very simple structure, the majority of which is played-out in the first ten minutes, and goes nowhere thereafter. As in The Curse of Frankenstein it's aided by the presence of British actor Denis Price as the lawyer, but he's seldom on screen and when he is he's usually standing around fanning his face with his hat and looking wholly unconcerned. What little substance there is in this film is centred on the security prisons. In other words, it seems to concentrate more on revelling in abuse and exploitation than actually putting itself across as a story of injustice, as it should. There were different variants of this movie edited for world markets with diverse censorship laws. This disc contains thirty minutes of footage shot for the sexploitation version, which looks like another poor 1970s porn flick (ooah matron!) with sex scenes strangely bereft of any sex appeal. Ironically, the finished version of that one was actually shorter, even though the longest scenes were those such as the distraction of the guard. It simply tells me that at no time was the story foremost in the director's mind.

In Night of the Assassins a rich man is attacked in his own home and buried alive by a masked and cowled assailant. Days later his relatives gather for the reading of the will. When the initial reading causes controversy a representative from Scotland Yard in England, who is investigating the death, instructs them all to remain in the dead man's mansion until it is sorted out. But the mysterious masked assailant returns and begins to kill the relatives. What is the link to the Book of the Apocalypse? Are the killings supernatural in origin, based in greed, or simply revenge?

This film is probably more widely known than the other three so far, and that's not without reason. While there doesn't seem to be that much action (even the killings take place at a moderate pace, like it's siesta time or something), there is significantly more going on. This is a slow, but well-structured murder mystery which hints briefly at the supernatural. Perhaps the better story is due to the fact it's based on a story by horror fiction maestro Edgar Allan Poe; however, in this portrayal you'd have to be two pork pies short of a picnic not to guess who the killer is well in advance of the conclusion. Although Assassins is quite well done, I also felt it was a lost opportunity that incorporates none of the style inherent in the Hammer films.

An improvement on Volume 1. I look forward to Volume 3's Linda and Bloody Moon to see if the trend continues.

Ty Power

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