Bloody Moon (1981) – By Cary Conley

When it comes to Jess Franco, there are two schools of thought: either he is an underrated genius that can work magic with low budgets, or he is a hack that has managed to carve out a career using lurid ad campaigns while pushing out an inferior product. I’m somewhere in-between these two schools of thought. But whatever you think of Franco, one thing is for sure–he certainly has managed to become successful by carving out a particular cinematic niche for himself. Having just celebrated his 81st birthday, Franco is still making films, with his latest being released in 2010. He has worked in nearly every film genre, but essentially his films are pale copies of more original material, with the occasional inadvertent gem thrown in by accident.

Bloody Moon was made during the height of the slasher craze as an attempt to cash in on the body count genre. A mysterious killer is stalking an all-girl language school, killing off the beautiful co-eds one-by-one. It could be the weird, voyeuristic brother who is a bit of a pariah due to a hideous scar covering one side of his face. It could be his sister who is having an incestuous relationship with her hideously deformed brother–she is obviously freaky, too. Or maybe it’s the weird gardener that lurks around drooling at the hot young ladies as they change their clothes or lounge semi-nude at the pool. Or possibly it’s the cool, good-looking kid that all the girls have a crush on–he’s got just the kind of ego it might take to kill girls who won’t accept his come-on. There are more red herrings in this movie than there are birds in the sky.

Of course, the movie is set up as a showcase for several gory set pieces such as a knife that enters a girl’s back and exits through her nipple (or through her cleavage, depending upon which scene you watch). There is also a death by electric hedge trimmers that is fairly bloody, but the scene that put this Franco movie on the map was the oft-censored power-saw decapitation sequence. Fortunately for us, Severin Films has acquired an excellent, very clean English-dubbed print of this West German slasher entry complete with saw sequence. Unfortunately for us, while the scene is most assuredly bloody, the head is merely a mannequin head, so the entire scene is more reminiscent of H.G. Lewis than Lucio Fulci.

Even though the bloodshed is cheap and amateurish, it certainly is more bloody than most of Franco’s output. Franco has always been more inclined towards portraying softcore sex and nudity than gore, and this film is no different. While there really isn’t much in the way of sex, the girls show a tendency to disrobe at the toss of a hat…or bra, or whatever. This is good for two reasons. First, unlike many of Franco’s flicks, the women are all quite beautiful, which is a definite plus. If you are an experienced Francophile, then you are more than a little aware that a good many of his films used some of the ugliest women in Europe. Films like Barbed Wire Dolls and Ilsa, the Wicked Warden might have an attractive lead, but the rest of the girls might be absolutely hideous, or at best, quite plain. So this bevy of European beauties was both surprising and pleasing. The second reason the sheer amount of nudity was good is that it gave the characters a reason to not wear their hideous clothes. Seldom have I seen a film with fashion as ugly as in this one. We’ve all seen plenty of outdated, low-budget films from the sixties and seventies that were a bit funny due to the wardrobe; but these styles were so horrendous I became choked up trying to determine whether to laugh or to throw up. They were even more hideous than the murders! The set design was equally ridiculous, making this a really fun movie to watch and laugh at if for nothing else but those things. Thankfully, the young women truly enjoyed removing these hideous clothing items, making the film (much) easier on the eyes.

The soundtrack is also rather annoying with the creepy murder motif being repeated incessantly. But on a positive note, the killer does run over a 4-year-old child with a Rolls-Royce, not something a lame American movie would attempt in 1981.

Featuring a very standard plot that most will be able to figure out before the end, plenty of irritating red herrings as the Europeans are wont to do, and a good deal of groovy but kooky disco dancing, Bloody Moon makes for a fun laugh, especially with a few brews and a pizza.