BLOODY MOON (1981) (Blu-ray)
Director: Jess Franco
Severin Films

Jess Franco’s Die Säge des Todes (the German title scene on the print presented here), better known to English speaking audiences as BLOODY MOON is considered the director’s contribution to the slasher craze of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Owing a bit to popular American “body count” efforts like FRIDAY THE 13TH, the film is also somewhat akin to the Italian giallo genre, with similarities to Mario Bava’s FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON and A BAY OF BLOOD. Like those two, greed is the reasoning behind the growing body count, and BLOODY MOON checks in as one of Franco’s more digestible films from the 1980s, now given the HD treatment by Severin Films.

At a poolside disco masquerade (where the music sounds like what you’d here during one of Benny Hill’s “Hill’s Angels” skits), the scarred-faced Miguel (Alexander Waechter) puts on a Mickey Mouse mask (no, they didn’t get permission from Disney) tricks a partying babe that he’s another guy, and begins to fondle her in the sack. When she removes the mask and assertively rejects him, he grabs a pair of scissors and stabs her to death. Some years later, Miguel is released from an asylum and put into the care of his sister Manuela (Nadja Gerganoff), and they reside in resort (owned by their wealthy, crippled aunt) which includes a language school. The school is attended by attractive sex-starved females who hang out by the pool topless and ogle the Latin gardener, who along with a dimwitted handyman, the straight-laced principal, the pizza-faced Miguel and his strange sis (who stares at the full moon with her breasts exposed and teases her brother in some sort of bizarre incestuous charade) are all possible culprits in a series of grisly murders. New student Angela (Olivia Pascal, SUMMER NIGHT FEVER) witnesses one of her friends being Shishkabobed, but when the body disappears, she has a hard time convincing everyone around her of what just happened. As the murders pile up, Angela is persistently watched and trailed by the killer, and she remains in constant fear for her life.

BLOODY MOON was produced by West Germany’s Wolf C. Hartwig, the guy who gave us the long running “Schoolgirl Report” series, and at times it doesn’t even look like the work of Franco. Though shot in Spain, none of his acting regulars are on hand, but rather an international cast, and although the zooms are inevitable, the proceedings seem to have more control and don’t linger on endlessly. Beginning with POV shots of a masked stalker, reminiscent of John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN, Franco permeates the film with “cheat” scare tactics, including a slow creeky door opening to reveal a harmless black cat and an imposing shadow at the front door, unveiled to be an adolescent salesman. The victim of such anxiety is played by the beautiful German-born Pascal, the star of VANESSA (1977), who was trying to go “legit” here (meaning not disrobing) and she makes an appealing femme fatale.

BLOODY MOON does maintain an ample amount of female nudity, though restrained in comparison to some of Franco’s softcore horrors of the period. The gory killings certainly don’t disappoint here, as one poor blonde is speared through the chest, another is clasped by the neck with a garden tool, etc. The best and most infamous moment comes when (and this is most likely why the film secured a spot on Britain’s “Video Nasty” list) a kinky female is willingly tied down to a table where a running band-saw lops off her head, a truly nasty and ambitious effect, and well done at that. Look for Franco himself during the opening moments as the white-coated asylum doctor.

Severin Films presents BLOODY MOON on Blu-ray in an HD transfer in 1080p from the original German negative with clarity considerably improved over their 2008 standard DVD. Preserving the film in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, detail is extremely sharp (with night scenes easy to make out) and there’s very little grain or print blemishes, and colors are accurate and extremely strong (the film actually looks like it could have been shot yesterday) with good contrasts and fine textures. Like on Severin’s 2008 DVD, several brief gore bits are re-inserted from an inferior source (obviously missing from the negative source), but the inserting is done seamlessly and thankfully included for the sake of completeness. The only audio option is a sufficient English PCM mono audio track; it appears that most of the actors spoke English while shooting the film, but it’s of course post synced. The track is perfectly good, with the sometimes hollow-sounding dialogue being very clear.

Carried over from the 2008 DVD is “Franco Moon, a featurette containing an interview with the late director, who was always enthusiastic when discussing his films. The interview contains a brief appearance by his wife, the late Lina Romay, seen grabbing her bag and taking off to let Jess continue talking! The most interesting thing about BLOODY MOON revealed here is that the German producers promised Pink Floyd to come in and do the score, but it turned out to be total lie and Jess was stuck with a rather mediocre composer. Franco also explains how he injected some humor into the film, how his lead actress didn’t want to take her clothes off, and he also addresses the silly pseudonym (“Rayo Casablanca”) of the film’s screenwriter. An English language trailer is also included. (George R. Reis)