Franco, Jesús


Franco, Jesús
(1936- )
   With a filmography which includes more than 180 films directed in 45 years, Jesús Franco is undoubtedly one of the most prolific Spanish filmmakers. His career developed in the field of commercial genre cinema, ranging from desarrollismo comedies to horror and hardcore porn, and took place across several European countries. In contrast with the auteurist tradition, he sees himself as a mere hack who turned out a continuous stream of titles under a range of artistic names (the IMDB lists over 60 of them), often invented by producers without the director's consent, including Jess Franco, Clifford Brown, James P. Johnson, David Khune, and even Lulú Laverne and Candy Coster. He has also written most of his films, as well as working on the score (he is a jazz lover, playing jazz his entire life). As an actor, his best remembered appearance is the child-like brother in Fernando Fernán Gómez's El extraño viaje (Strange Journey, 1964), where he looks remarkably like a young Peter Lorre.
   In the mid-1950s, Franco worked as assistant director for Juan Antonio Bardem (who gave him his first opportunity in the industry), Luis García Berlanga, and Orson Welles. He directed his first film, Tenemos 18 años (We Are Eighteen), in 1959, and his career continued on the margins of the industry, most often working on shoestring budgets within whatever trends were commercially viable at the time. He claims to make movies out of love for the art, rather than for any artistic ambition. He is credited with being a pioneer of Spanish horror, with Gritos en la noche (Screams in the Night, 1961), made well before the boom of the late 1960s. Experts of the genre note his masterpiece is Drácula contra Frankenstein (Dracula vs. Frankenstein, 1971). In 1983, he became one of the key personalities in the Spanish soft-core porn industry, directing several films a year. In spite of all of this, audiences have found certain recurring themes and characters in his filmography appealing, as well as his preference to work with particular actors (Lina Romay became his muse from 1973 and all through his later porn phase). His work is in the process of being reassessed by fans and experts on popular cinema. In 2006, the Paris cinemateque celebrated his career with a season of his best films. In 2009, he was awarded an honorary Goya for his entire career. In his acceptance speech, he expressed his surprise at having been given such a prize as he had never worked for prizes and had never attempted the kind of films that get prizes.
   See also Franco, Ricardo.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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