Plot: What’s it about?
Dr. Zimmer (Antonio Jimenez Escribano) has been working in the field of mind control, with several experiments completed. He has even located some control points, places in the brain that dictate good and evil, which is powerful information. He has been assisted by his daughter Irma (Mabel Karr), who stood by during the experiments and has working knowledge of the entire mind control project. As the project has produced successful results, Dr. Zimmer presents his findings at a special meeting of his fellow scientists. Although his results are real, the nature of his work stuns his colleagues and he is shunned. The group agrees he is a madman, not a scientist and three of the men take extra effort to humiliate him. Dr. Zimmer is so shocked by the reactions of his peers, he falls dead on the scene and this sparks a horrific chain of events. The death of her father sends Irma to the brink of madness, as she swears revenge on those responsible. Her wrath is aimed at the three main antagonists and in order to settle up, she plans to use her father’s mind control device, the very invention that the men mocked. With the help of an escaped convict, Irma fakes her own death and then begins her lethal plot. She kidnaps a go-go dancer known as Miss Death, then uses the mind control device to turn her into a wicked assassin. But will her plan unfold as she foresees, or will Miss Death prove to be beyond control?
As this movie was directed by Jess Franco (The Awful Dr. Orloff, Barbed Wire Dolls), you can assume it has sinister atmosphere, naked women, and low budget roots. All those elements are present in The Diabolical Doctor Z, which proves to be one of the better Franco pictures in all respects. A lot of Franco’s projects suffer from tedium, but some have a potent blend of sexuality, visual flair, and offbeat atmosphere, like this one. Even if you’re not a Franco fan, you need to see this movie if you’re into cult cinema, as it is a blast to watch. The premise is fun, a go-go dancer turned into a killing machine and of course, Franco injects all kinds of weird moments to keep things off the handle. The main elements here are sex, atmosphere, and sci/fi, so those looking for a Franco bloodbath will be let down. Yes, The Diabolical Doctor Z has some violence, but it is rather tame and bloodshed is minimal here. But the eerie, unusual atmosphere drives the movie and creates a lot of “what the fuck?” kind of reactions. That’s good news however, as fans of cult cinema embrace such madness and it is supplied in liberal doses here. I do wish the violence was enhanced, but even so, this offers a fun 50s sci/fi kind of vibe. So expected more of an amped up sci/fi tone than Franco’s usual horror, but fans of cult cinema should be satisfied. As such, I more than recommend Mondo Macabro’s release of The Diabolical Doctor Z.
Video: How does it look?
The Diabolical Doctor Z is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I was quite pleased with this effort, as a clean source print is present and the image suffers from minimal defects. I did see some grain in a few scenes and pops, nicks, and scuffs are evident at times, but all things considered, I think the print looks terrific. So we have a sharp, even refined image present here and that’s remarkable in this case. The film is in black & white, so contrast needs to be top notch and it is throughout. I found black levels to be well balanced and stark, so detail is accurate and consistent at all times. I am very impressed by this visual presentation, so kudos to Mondo Macabro and let’s hope future releases look this great.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original French language edition is preserved here, via a passable, but unremarkable mono soundtrack. The materials have held up well in this version, as hiss is absent and moments of distortion are infrequent. So you won’t have to contend with source flaws, as this material has withstood time rather well. A few minor defects surface, but nothing serious and nothing that distracts from the experience. The music and sound effects come across well, as far as mono goes, but the track is mono, so don’t expect too much. I found dialogue to be clean and crisp, with no volume balances issues to mention. This disc also includes an English language version, as well as optional English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a brief featurette on the career of director Jess Franco, an alternate title sequence, an extensive selection of talent files, a collection of poster artwork & still photos, and the film’s theatrical trailer.