Color, 1981, 85m.
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Olivia Pascal, Christoph Moosbrugger, Nadja Gerganoff, Alexander Waechter, Jasmin Losensky
Severin (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Italian Shock (Holland R0 PAL)

Bloody MoonIf Jess Franco's name weren't listed in the credits of this notorious German slasher film, you might be hard pressed at first to guess its Bloody Moondirector based on the evidence at hand. Banned in Britain as a video nasty and barely shown in theaters anywhere, Bloody Moon would make a perfect companion film to other early '80s outrages like Pieces or Nightmare thanks to its unrelenting onslaught of gratuitous T&A, inventive bloodshed, and inscrutable plotting.

In the Halloween-inspired opening, facially-scarred Miguel (Waechter) lurks around a nocturnal party where the pretty object of his affections spurns him for another guy. Naturally he decides to come on to her anyway wearing a Mickey Mouse mask, but when she realizes who's in her bed, Miguel offs her with a pair of scissors. Flash forward a bit to the International Youth club Boarding School for Languages, where bikini-clad babes spend their time playing tennis, lounging around the pool, and occasionally taking Spanish lessons. Miguel's been released from a mental institution and placed in the care of his sister, Manuela (Gerganoff), with whom he tends to get a little too intimate for comfort. Unfortunately their presence at the school becomes a problem when various topless students start turning up knifed and scissored and stashed in cupboards, with pretty Angela (Pascal, the most recognizable name from Vanessa and Behind Convent Walls) feeling uncomfortable about Miguel's past and the fact that her friends keep disappearing. But is our freed lunatic really the culprit, or is someone else entirely pulling the strings behind these brutal slayings?

Completely ludicrous and entertaining from start to finish, Bloody Moon may resemble an '80s slasher film in construction but is a wholly unique experience in practice. Franco's beloved zoom lens and proclivity for wholly inappropriate nudity betrays the man behind the camera from time to time, but who knew he could pull off a body count film with such zeal? The real showstopper here is easily a mid-film set piece in which one unlucky lass gets trussed up on a big Bloody Moonchunk of stone and slowly sent gliding into the path of a gargantuan circular saw, with a spying little boy racing against time to save her. It's easily a shoo-in for any Franco highlight reel (not surprisingly, Pedro Almovodar used it for his opening gore montage in Matador) and demonstrates that he can pull of both suspense and gut-wrenching splatter Bloody Moonwhen he really puts his effort into it. Other delights include the piecemeal music score composed of spooky stock music and catchy instrumental Europop (credited to softcore composer Gerhard Heinz but obviously the work of many library sources) and some wonderfully nutty dialogue, particularly whenever Angela and Miguel open their mouths. On the downside, the story only barely makes sense, and for some reason a snake gets beheaded with some shears on camera, a nasty little moment that could have easily been left out.

The video history of Bloody Moon winds through a number of different international companies since the early '80s, and finding a decent, uncut copy has been nearly impossible. The best option for years was the scarce Canadian VHS release from CIC, which was intact and obviously squeezed rather than cropped to keep the entire image intact (which became quite handy with the advent of 16x9 TVs). In Britain it appeared fleetingly uncut but cropped, but its banned status ensured highly incomplete releases well into the DVD age courtesy of Vipco. The Dutch DVD from Italian Shock turned out to be a major missed opportunity, with several missing seconds of gore and a terrible pan-and-scan job that rendered it essentially worthless. Thankfully, after a decade of DVD mistreatment Severin's US release corrects all these problems. The transfer from the long-buried original negative (bearing the original German title, Die S├Ąge des Todes) blows away any competitors, with perfect framing and punchy, vivid colours throughout. The only audio option is the original English mono track, which is as legitimate as any other given the variety of languages spoken by the different actors on the set. The international trailer is also included and contains a few interesting alternate snippets of footage, including the saw sequence. Of course, this being a Severin release, it would easily be worth buying just for another one of their devilishly entertaining Jess Franco interviews, this time entitled "Franco Moon." The featurette kicks off with Lina Romay bustling in the background as the chain-smoking auteur lights up another cig, then proceeds to talk about how the produces wanted a movie "with 50 horror spotlights" and had no idea how to prepare the project. He also reveals the identity of enigmatic one-off screenwriter "Rayo Casablanca," the intention to use Pink Floyd for the soundtrack, his comedic subversion during filming, the original Spanish title of Raped College Girl(!), and much, much more. Ah, Jess -- how dull DVDs would be without him.

Updated review on June 8, 2014.