• Diabolical Dr. Z, The

    Released by: Redemption Films
    Released on: February 6th, 2018.
    Director: Jess Franco
    Cast: Estella Blain, Mabel Karr, Howard Vernon, Fernando Montes, Marcelo Arroita, Antonio Jiménez Escribano, Lucía Prado
    Year: 1966
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    The Movie:

    Dr. Zimmer (Antonio Jiménez Escribano) and his daughter Irma (Mabel Karr) are, with the help of servant Barbara (Lucía Prado), continuing the work of the late Dr. Orloff. What does that entail, exactly? Using Z-rays and acupuncture techniques to manipulate the brain and spine into adjusting one’s behavior in very specific ways. He figures this can be used to help cure the world of murders, criminals and other unsavory types. When Zimmer presents the results of his research to a conference full of his peers - Vicas (Howard Vernon), Moroni (Marcelo Arroita-Jáuregui) and Kallman (Cris Huerta) - he’s essentially shunned. His fellow neurosurgeons have no interest in supporting his clandestine research or assisting with his unorthodox projects. Zimmer wants to conduct his experiments on living human beings and it’s decided that this is just too dangerous.

    What Zimmer’s peers don’t know is that he’s already started doing this without their blessing. An escaped convict named Hans Bergen (Guy Mairesse) is the perfect guinea pig! Sadly, for Zimmer at least, the stress proves to much for his old ticker and he soon dies from a heart attack. But before he passes, he asks that Irma continue his research. When, later, Irma accidently runs over a hitchhiker named Juliana (Ana Castor), she decides to use the crash as a chance to stage her own death. When she sets the car ablaze to hide the evidence, she winds up burning herself in the process. Back at the family home Irma repairs her disfigurement with a little impromptu plastic surgery and then decides to use the Z-rays her father was using for good to get back at those peers of his that she now holds responsible for his death. She does this by controlling a sexy nightclub performer named Nadia (Estella Blain), dubbed Miss Death in her act, and has her seduce and then attempt to murder the doctors, but inspectors Tanner (Jess Franco) and Green (Daniel White) are snooping around and getting closer… and then there’s the matter of Nadia’s intrepid boyfriend Philippe (Fernando Montes) and his interesting past.

    Not quite as steeped in gothic horror traditions as the three horror pictures he made in black and white prior to this outing, The Diabolical Dr. Z is never the less a really solid genre film with a whole lot of those oddball Franco touches that the director’s fanbase loves. Swanky nightclubs, sexy women, a great soundtrack, quirky camerawork and a cameo from the director himself all provide plenty for the eyes, ears and mind to appreciate. The pacing is pretty solid here and production values decent enough to work. The settings and locations used for the shoot never want for atmosphere and there’s plenty of appreciable mood throughout the movie.

    As to the performances, Antonio Jiménez Escribano is enjoyable as the first Dr. Z., but it’s Mabel Karr who is far more interesting as his successor. She manages to be attractive and sinister at the same time – diabolical even – and she’s a lot of fun to watch here. Estella Blain as Nadia is a complete knock-out and steals most of the scenes in which she’s involved. Her nightclub scene, where she performs an exotic dance with some help from a giant spider and a skeleton, is one of the film’s genuine highlights. It’s fun to see Franco regular Howard Vernon show up as one of the doctors while cameos from Franco himself and composer Daniel White are also enjoyable.


    The Diabolical Dr. Z arrives on Blu-ray from Redemption Films in a new AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer taken from the original negative and framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. It looks really nice, with strong black levels, good contrast, and noticeably improved detail over the old DVD release (which, to be fair, looked very good for its time). There’s nice depth and texture evident here, and the image is quite clean showing only minor and sporadic white specks and what not while the picture is free of compression artifacts, edge enhancement and noise reduction.

    LPCM Mono tracks are available in French and English language options with subtitles available in English that translate the French track. Both mixes sound quite good – they’re clean and properly balanced and while they’re understandably limited by the source material, they sound just fine. Note that if you watch the film in English, it automatically reverts to French dialogue for a few scenes that were never dubbed. The English subtitles do not automatically appear for these scenes if this language option is chosen – a minor quibble, but worth mentioning.

    The main extra on the disc is a new commentary track from Tim Lucas in which he discusses the film’s themes of revenge, examines quite closely why certain character traits matter as much as they do in the film, talks about the film’s location and cinematography and puts the film into context along similar early Franco films like some of the Orloff pictures as well as later films like Venus In Furs to name only a few. Like pretty much all of Lucas’ tracks, it’s well researched and very professional.

    Aside from that we get a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    The Diabolical Dr. Z stands the test of time quite well, one of Franco’s better black and white pictures that somehow manages to both pay tribute to the gothic horror films that were obviously such an influence as well as foreshadow things to come in the director’s filmography. The Blu-ray release from Redemption Films looks excellent and features a strong commentary as its main extra feature.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. blackiederke's Avatar
      blackiederke -
      Hey, I just reviewed this film for DVDRewind as well; excellent film! http://dvdcompare.net/review.php?rid=5149. Thanks.
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      Very nice remaster of the film, commentary seems to be the one from the German DVD.
      Not sure if it received any updating.