The new doctor in town is summoned to the castle of the notorious Professor Orloff by his daughter. She’s convinced that strange things are going on and that they are connected with the scientist’s experiments. The truth turns out to be even stranger than she suspects…
lnfamous euro-auteur Jess Franco enjoyed his first success in the film business when he wrote and directed ‘The Awful Dr Orloff’ (1962), a film that starred Howard Vernon as a mad scientist taking inspiration from Georges Franju’s (far better) picture ‘Eyes Without A Face’ (1960). The character was such a hit that half a dozen sequels followed over the years, some involving Franco and/or Vernon, some not. Vernon does take the title role in this one; but writing and directing is in the hands of Pierre Chevalier.
The film certainly begins on familiar ground. Our local village’s new sawbones is the young and handsome Dr Garondet, played by a fairly wooden Paco Valladares. Most of the time he swans around in a ‘Dracula’ cape, which was probably left over from another movie. When he needs to get to Orloff’s castle (is he a ‘Doctor’ or a ‘Professor’ now? You decide), he’s met with the usual resistance from the local villagers, but manages to get a coach ride part of the way. Eventually, and, believe me it takes a while, he meets up with Orloff’s daughter Cecile, played by Brigitte Carva. She’s worried about mirrors that don’t reflect and chairs that move on their own. She was also buried alive six years earlier, waking up when her father’s servants were trying to rob her corpse! But let’s not worry about that, it’s fairly irrelevant (I think).
Anyhow, Valladares ﬁnds Vernon only too happy to talk about his work, which involves creating an invisible man who survives on human blood; the first of a race of super beings that he will use to take over the world. His master plan apparently includes lots of sleazy exploitation too; whipping a disobedient servant girl, and allowing another to be raped by the invisible man while he looks on as an interested spectator (a very lengthy and tasteless scene).
The invisibility SFX consist of a few moving chairs and naked footprints, and when the creature is revealed it turns out to be some bloke in a joke shop gorilla suit who is quelled by Valladares in the lamest way imaginable. Other joys include some gratuitous nudity for Carva, Valladares trapped in that room with the ‘walls that come together’ (brilliantly realised by the camera repeatedly zooming in closer and closer on some bricks) and the castle going up in smoke at the end (they obviously couldn’t afford actual fire).
Despite seeming to have a lot of plot, it’s all squashed into the last 20 minutes and it takes an age to get there, with director Chevalier unable to create even a tiny bit of atmosphere or suspense from the gloomy castle interiors. Additionally, Vernon apart, the acting is generally terrible, and not assisted by some awful dubbing.
There’s no a lot of point trying to make sense of the timeline of the Orloff character over the series of films. He’s kind of like the Peter Cushing incarnation of Dr Frankenstein; somehow surviving the rubout at the end of each picture, and turning up again with a new gimmick/line of research in the next one. Due to the many, and varied, cuts of the films for different territories, he sometimes isn’t even called Orloff anymore, actually appearing in one as Dr Jekyll!
This is little more than a series of scraps and half-formed ideas badly stitched together in a desperate attempt at forming a coherent narrative. A joy for any lover of bad film. See it if you can.