The Bloody Judge (1970)

bloody judgeThis is a pretty appalling film, frankly.  One of those films where you grit your teeth in a stubborn drive to watch the bloody thing to the bitter end, knowing that life’s just too short to be wasted on films like this. I mean, there are far better films that there’s just not enough time to watch, and I end up watching this rubbish? Ah well, that’s the Horror channel for you, goodness knows there are some shocking films dumped on that channel to fill the airtime. Having been sampling some of that channels ‘delights’ of late I guess it was just a matter of time until I got stung. Really should have known better.

It’s also a film that utterly perplexes me.  For one thing, it ‘star’s Christopher Lee as the titular character. Lee has a bizarre performance here that is one third bored, one third embarrassed, one third incredibly sincere. What I can’t figure out, is that if I remember rightly, around that time, Lee didn’t want to be typecast as Dracula, or to be famous only for being in poor  Hammer films (I had the impression he always thought he was a better actor than that) and yet he signed on for this rubbish? What in the world was he thinking of? Was it for the art? The pay-check? I mean, I’d really like to know Lee’s reasoning regards appearing in something like this. Perhaps if someone has read Lee’s memoirs or biography they could enlighten me here.

But anyway, The Bloody Judge. It’s directed by Jess Franco, who is apparently some kind of cult exploitation director- this is my first encounter with his work, and I’ve since discovered that the sleazy, gorier aspects of this film is fairly typical of his output, which is disconcerting, as its those elements that are really bad. The gore is clearly just red paint, and the sex/nudity is inept, tame and boring; it’s all hopelessly, terribly amateurish, so why is Jess Franco apparently such a  famous ‘cult’ director?  I can’t figure that out, maybe someone can explain his appeal to me. I figure some film fans get the films they deserve, because some films fans seem to deliberately champion bad films by giving them the ‘cult’ label, and some film-makers seem to get careers and reputations pandering to such film fans.  Shame on both parties, because it results in me watching rubbish like this on a Monday night when I could be re-watching Michael Mann’s Heat or something.  If I had to say one good thing about the film, it would be regards the score by Bruno Nicolai- its very good, but its clearly for a different movie, because while it does, yes, seem very good it nevertheless  ‘feels’ very wrong in just about every scene.

I don’t know the history of this film. It’s clearly either some kind of Anglo-Italian or Anglo-Spanish production as most of the film is like a (really bad) Spaghetti Western, with obviously European actors being hopelessly dubbed into English. The print shown on the Horror channel was doubly confusing as it kept dropping into German dialogue for some scenes, making it quite a surreal experience trying to figure out what was being said and what was going on. Turns out it wasn’t some technical slip by the Horror channel; apparently the scenes with the German dialogue were cut from original editions of the film as they were the goriest/sexiest bits, and DVDs of this version had subtitles during the ‘restored’ scenes.  Without the subtitles it just made the whole experience doubly bizarre. Oh well.