Bahia Blanca - Bahia Blanca( Blu Ray) [Severin - 2020]One of the great wonders and joys of being a fan of highly prolific euro-exploration director Jess Franco is that there are seemingly always uncovering rare or largely unseen film from his huge back catalogue- and Bahia Blanca is one such film. It comes from his mid 80ís period, and I must say it stands as one of the jewels of this decade. The film is set in a small Spanish fishing village, and itís nearby Islet- and is best described as a moody drama, with moments of humour & tragedy. Sure we have the expected sleaze & female flesh, but itís largely played down for some of the best acting Iíve seen in a Franco film, a picturesque & grand setting thatís scoped wonderful, and a rewardingly-yet subtly twisting plot. Here from Severin- one of the key labels behind many of the rediscoveries/ reissuing of Franco films- is a Region free Blu Ray reissue- featuring a great 4k print, and some neat extras.
Bahia Blanca( White Bay in English) was made in 1984, and it was one of ten films Franco helmed that year. The film appeared at a great time of professional upheaval in the director's career, he also self-financed the film too- so it must have been a very personal film. If you compare it to some of Francoís trashier, and sleaze focused fare- this is extremely lo-key, at times grand, with well-chosen actors who are allowed to show a range of emotions, with the characters feeling much more filled out . Yes, we have the expected female nudity & leering lens, but this doesnít appear until around forty minutes into this one hour & thirty-eight-minute film. The focus is on telling a (largely) well-filmed drama thatís full of passion, hope, tragedy & grief- where characters are largely not what they seemed at first sight.
The film moves between a small Spanish fish village & itís nearby Islet. We start the film on the small wooden dock of the Islet, as we get introduced to Alida(Eva Leůn)- who runs a small bar on the island, and she is bemoaning the lack of ships/ trade passing by as the sun goes down on the dock- with Franco wonderfully capturing the deep layers of reds, and Alida silhouette. Next, we move to the village, where the coroner has been called in from the city to find out how a man whose washed-up on the beach has died- it turns out he has been shot. From here we meet the villages roughish & ramshackle Inspector Carlos FernŠndez- played Spanish actor Antonio Mayans who appeared in a handful of Francos mid 80ís films. As the film moves on we get a cameo from Franco himself- as the black leather cap-wearing El Miserias, who is seemingly the village crazy- he warns the Inspector & coroner of the Islet- saying itís inhabited by a deadly temptress. The pair decide to set out & see for themselves, knocking rapidly on the bar's door as Alida dons a wig, and starts strumming Spanish guitar & lulling singing along to it. It turns out both the Inspector & Alida know each other from their shady criminally past- and itís at this point we meet MarŪa Alidaís nomenclature(deaf and dumb) sister- played wonderfully by Franco regular/ muse Lina Romay. Back in the village, we have a sub-plot of innocent shop keeper daughter, who has become infatuated with the young son of the villages local gangster.
The film's plot nicely unfolds- along the way stopping for moments of rye humour, passion, and light gun action- along the way Franco captures the beauty & grandeur of the location very well- sure we have the occasional Franco like zoom, but largely the location & actors are capture with great skill. With later on some quite emotional powerful & sad moments coming into play. Mayans is great as the rough & ready inspector, Romay does some of the best acting of her career- really taking on the persona of the nomenclature MarŪa with such depth & emotion. Leůn is good as the tough-but-sensual Alida, and pretty much all the supporting cast do a good to a great job too. Bahia Blanca is one of Francoís great films of the 1980s, and itís such a pity itís been so difficult to see for some many years. Sadly at present the Blu Ray is out of stock with Severin, but I do hope they repress it- as it does stand as some of Franco's best work, whatever the decade.
Moving onto this new region free Blu Ray release- and the new 4K scan looks largely great, with a good definition of colours & the film's settings really selling themselves. The only issue with the print, is at points the subtitles are not as clear/ crisp as they could be, and at moments becoming almost unreadable when we get white subs on bright backdrops. On the extras side we get two featurettes- first there is the 4th part of the In The Land Of Franco series- this runs around seventeen minutes and finds Stephen Thrower & actor Antonio Mayans going around three shooting locations in Spain- two which Mayanís acting in 1983ís Revenge In The House Of Usher, and 1974ís Night Of The Skull, which was the first film Mayans worked with Franco on. And a Franco spy film- along the way we get a few minute interview with Myan- discussing his last few memories of Franco he has before he passed, which is nice to hear- all in all, another great part in this series. Next Thrower returns for Bay Of Jess- this runs around the eighteen-minute mark and finds him discussing Bahia Blanca & itís production. He opens talking about the production company that put out the film Manacoa Films, which was set up by Franco in the í70s. Next, he moves onto discuss the period the film was made, going onto talk in-depth about the film to hand- itís actors & other Franco films they where in, the films more character-driven tone, and his general thoughts on the film. Lastly, he talks about the films original Spanish VHS version of the film from the í80s, that is largely unwatchable due to its transfer- he shows us clips of the VHS, and you can see what an amazing job Severin has done with this release of the film- so another very, very worthy featurette.
In finish, Bahia Blanca is certainly one of the more moody, dramatic & classy films that Franco ever made. Severin has once again done a stellar job on this release, and once more give a great gold standard release of this film- which makes it all the more sad that this Blu Ray is now out of print. Let 's hope they repress/ reissue it someday, as this is a top tier & rather distinctive Franco film.Roger Batty