Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

'The Bloody Judge': Jess Franco's Best?

The Bloody Judge (aka "Throne of Blood", "Throne of the Blood Monster", "The Witch's Trial" and "Witch-killer of Broadmoor) (1970)
Starring: Christopher Lee, Leo Genn, Maria Rohm, Margaret Lee, Hans Hass, and Milo Quesada
Director: Jess Franco
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A hypocritical judge (Lee) illustrates why a little rebellion among the peasantry can be a good thing every now and then.

Loosely based on the final months of notorious and controversial historical 17th century British hanging judge George Jeffries, this film is probably the best work I've seen from Spanish director Jess Franco. The plot is coherent and engaging, the camerawork and sets are fairly decent, and there's actually a few well-staged action scenes. To top it off, the characters are even interesting... as repulsive as Jeffries comes across, he is emerges as a fascinating character... and Maria Rohm's pure-hearted peasant girl (who is forced to have sex with the vile Jeffries in exchange for her sister's life) is a character that the viewer can feel real pity for.

Unfortunately, the film also has all the hallmarks of some of other Franco's pictures, such as unnecessary torture scenes and nudity and just general crap thrown in to guarantee an R-rating at the very least. (Franco must have been the role-model for the fools who were in charge of "Snakes on a Plane" as far as that approach goes.)

Interestingly, this film would have been stronger if a scene that apparently was only included in the German-language version of the movie had been in all the edits. Although repulsive for some of its sexual/torture content, it does make some later part of the film seem a little less unmotivated plot-development wise.

This "lost" scene and other bonus material included on the "Blue Underground" DVD release of the picture actually makes up a very worthwhile package for fans and scholars of "exploitation cinema" and other B-movies. It's material that gives excellent insight into rare insight into the production and marketing processes that went into these multi-national European productions of the 1960s and 1970s. (Yeah, the liner notes are a little ridiculous--the reviewer who wrote them seems to hold Franco's body of work in much higher regard that a sane person should--and the interview with Christopher Lee makes him seem like a pompous ass, but it's all very interesting.)

For more reviews of movies with Christopher Lee, visit Movies You Should (Die Before You) See, Terror Titans, and Watching the Detectives.

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