El Huerto del Francés (The Frenchman's Garden, 1977)

Spanish Divisa Home Video 2020 Blu-ray Book edition


Text written 2021-01-22


Probably one of the most obscure films by Naschy-Molina and one of the least seen of his genre films from the Spanish Golden era, the
1970's. That's a shame as this sombre and harrowing crime drama based on a real crime case borders onto horror, and it is very well made.
This was the second film that Jacinto Molina directed (after the also great film, the 1976 "Inquisición") and it surely must be his best
directed film. There is nothing trashy about this film and Paul Naschy (and Pepe Calvo) both give great performances, and maybe this
is the best role portrayal Paul Naschy ever gave ?

Some says (on IMDB) that this film is slow and boring, so beware of my review if you prefer his trashy and fun Werewolf movies as
Waldemar Daninsky, as a vampire or as a mummy. I love these fun films of his too, but i actually prefer his Non-Werewolf etc. movies,
as the 1974 "Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll" or his very dark 1976 "Inquisición".
"El Huerto del Francés" is a serious Crime Drama and Horror about the historical and famous crime case of Los Crimenes de Peñaflor,
of the 6 murders that Juan Andrés Aldije, called El Francés, and his accomplice Antonio commited between 1898 and 1904 and which ended
with their execution in the Garotte. A most brutal execution method mostly used in Spain and shown here in the ending scenes of the film.

From left to right above: Agata Lys, Paul Naschy, Pepe Calvo and Maria José Cantudo

Already at the start of this great film you kinda feel that this is not the "usual" Paul Naschy film as during the intro credits we get to hear
a song beautifully sung in Flamenco style by Rosa León. Two men, the older Antonio Muñoz or José (Pepe Calvo) and the younger Juan
Andrés Aldije Monmejá (Paul Naschy) are awaiting their execution by garroting, and just why are they there? A Flashback tells us the
story. Welcome to the village of Peñaflor in the Sevilla Province and the Inn "El Huerto del Francés" (The Frenchman's Garden), whore-
house and gambling den, an establishment run by Juan and José, and the time is at the end of the 19th century.

Maria José Cantudo

Juan runs his combined Inn, gambling den and brothel and he spends a lot of time in his garden where he grows vegetables and he's up
a lot at night digging there. He is married to Elvira (Julia Saly) and he has three barmaids and prostitutes providing the extra service,
Socorro, Rocio (Silvia Tortosa, seen i.a. in Eugenio Martin's "Terror Express") and Charo (Agata Lys).
Old man José - Antonio is his accomplice in the scheme Juan has going. José is travelling around and contacts rich gamblers, lures them
to The Frenchman's Garden with the promise of gambling, food, music and beautiful women (and, yes, they for sure were). But, there's a
minus to it, that they will be murdered by Juan as soon as they arrive, and buried in his garden.

Juan is a woman's man (as always in a Nachy-Molina film) and he has a mistress in beautiful Agata Lys (who shedded her clothes in a
lot of Spanish genre films at this time). He also have had women during his travels and one day another beauty arrives, Andrea (Maria
José Cantudo
) and she's pregnant. He forces her to have an abortion with a knitting needle in a disturbing scene, and she's the one that
finally understands what all this digging at night was about.
Juan is married to a woman with rich parents and he's driven by a hatred towards the rich. He wants to get rich on his own and to be
richer than his father in law. The murder scenes are cruel and Juan is a monster, an everyday monster in a great role performance.

The Spanish bluray presents the film in a 2.40:1 widescreen ratio with a spanish DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio with english subtitles, region B.
Extras: A thick booklet sleeve with pictures and text in spanish (by the son Sergio Molina and Victor Matellano),
A long interview with Paul Naschy "Entrevista con Paul Naschy" from april 2003 in spanish without subtitles, and a picture gallery.
A beautiful restoration in 4K.

 

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