Director: Jess Franco (as Jess Frank)
Image Entertainment

Spanish-born Argentinean actress Soledad Miranda had been acting since she was a teenager, but it was a series of European films made by Jess Franco in the late 60s and early 70s that brought her international cult status. By 1970, Miranda had radiating starring roles in such Franco works as VAMPYROS LESBOS and SHE KILLS IN ECSTASY, and it's doubtless she would have been the director's leading lady of choice for years to come. Sadly, that would never happen. Weeks after the film in question here--THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA--finished shooting, Miranda died in a tragic automobile accident in the summer of 1970. She had just turned 27.

For her final film, Miranda strays from the usual horror tales she'd been appearing in for Franco, and here does a turn as spy Jane Morgan. The German-made film is said to have been based on a novel by Edgar Wallace, whose stories had an extremely popular cinematic run in Deutschland, just reaching their expiration by this point in time. A scientist discovers a mineral which is able to turn into gold, but encountering it causes deadly results, burning people to a shoe polish-brown make-up effect. The scientist's assistant dies, he disappears and all sorts of agents and other interested parties get entailed in the intrigue.

As Jane Morgan, Miranda (using her Franco-contrived "Susann Korda" pseudonym) is a super spy who poses as a prostitute and offers her services to a nervous looking and elderly Walter Rilla (as a Scotland Yard head). She then travels to the scenic country of Akasava where the lethal but valuable stone is being carried around in a brief case. Meeting up with handsome Rex Forrester (Fred Williams, Jonathan Harker in Franco's COUNT DRACULA), she later discovers that he is from Scotland Yard, and they form a team, professionally and romantically. A scheming doctor (Horst Tappert) and his double-crossing wife (Ewa Strömberg) are also involved, and another villainous agent (Franco confidant Howard Vernon), is blown up in a private jet while trying to flee with the stone.

THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA is a mishmash of James Bond motifs (Fred Williams' effortless seduction of much of the female cast is not unlike Sean Connery) and other Euro spy films of the time, with Franco's perpetual overuse of the zoom lens in constant check. The film is well-paced, and the editing is better then most of his other early 70s films, and although the script is confusing, the whole package is quite enjoyable in an inept kitsch sort of way. Miranda is not as demanding as she is in some of her other Franco roles, but her sexy screen appeal is the glue that holds this all together. While posing as an exotic dancer on stage, she doesn't even remove any clothes, but her idle gyrating and luscious leg exposure is so sensuous, it's enough to believe that people would actually pay to see such a lame act.

Franco gives himself a good part as a secondary spy who dumps a gunshot victim into a lake and then succumbs to the radiating stone. Some of his other regulars are on hand, including Paul Mueller as a physician and Argentinean actor Alberto Dalbes (THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE) as yet another spy! Aside from Miranda, the real star of THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAWA is its soundtrack. The upbeat, jazz-tinged psychedelic pop music outdoes the actual film, and later made for some the best moments on the popular "Vampyros Lesbos Sexadelic Dance Party" CD.

Image Entertainment's DVD is surprisingly full frame, rather than its original hard-matted aspect ratio of 1.66:1. The slight cropping is noticeably tight on some scenes, but the compositions still come off quite well. Colors always look vivid and the print is in very nice shape, with grain noticeable in only a few instances. They have also opted to present the film in German language only (an English dub does exist, even though the film was never released in the U.S). The mono audio track is perfectly clear and actually impressive. No extras (not even a trailer), but Francophiles and Eurotrash fans will no doubt want to add this one to their collections. (George R. Reis)