TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS
Color, 1966, 79 mins. 3 secs. / 92 mins. 26 secs.
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Janine Reynaud, Rosanna Yanni
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Blue Underground (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) WS (1.66:1) (16:9), DigiDreams (Blu-ray) (Germany RB HD) / WS (1.781) (16:9), Anchor Bay (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1)
KISS ME MONSTER
Color, 1966, 79 mins. 40 secs. / 84 mins. 24 secs.
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Janine Reynaud, Rosanna Yanni, Chris Howland
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Blue Underground (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) WS (1.66:1) (16:9), Anchor Bay (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1)
Compared to Jess Franco's 1960s masterpieces like Succubus and The Diabolical Dr. Z,Two Undercover Angels and Kiss Me Monster seem almost insignificant. However, the director's peculiar obsessions still manifest themselves in these seemingly fluffy tributes to those swinging '60's spy films and loopy Edgar Wallace mysteries. Succubus' Janine Reynaud appears again, this time as half of the sexy female Red Lips detective team along with the very funny Rosanna Yanni for a colorful pair of West German productions shot back to back with a slew of familiar faces from local Krimi and Karl May hits of the era.
A sunny little romp that plays like a kinky remake of Roger Corman's A Bucket of Blood, Two Undercover Angels (also known by the much more lurid title Sadisterotica) kicks off with our two fetching detectives, Diana and Regina, trading badly dubbed wisecracks as they attend a gallery of violent sculptures at a local art gallery. Upon noticing a striking resemblance between a local missing girl and one of the painting's victims, the Red Lips gals decide to investigate. Their mostly nonsensical journey takes them from swinging nightclubs to the lair of depraved artist Adrian Hoven (Castle of the Creeping Flesh) who kidnaps girls with the aid of his hairy, wolfmanesque assistant, Morpho (a name that seems to pop up in an awful lot of Franco films), played by Renaud's onetime husband, Michel Lemoine (Seven Women for Satan).
The threadbare plot of Kiss Me Monster, involving a strange cult and murders connected to a piece of music, is basically an excuse to get the private eyes in a string of situations where they can shimmy, shake, and shoot at the drop of a hat. Technically there is a deformed maniac on the loose, which is enough to get those entered into many horror movie guides on the flimsiest of excuses. One highlight has Yanni doing a very meta demonstration on the art of the striptease, plus you get a bizarre detour into sci-fi that means the title isn't a complete cheat (even if this isn't technically a horror movie).
The sex and nudity quotient of both films is fairly mild compared to modern erotic thrillers, but the dizzy atmosphere of carefree sexuality that spins through both films makes them incredibly entertaining and delightful if you're in the right frame of mind. The eye-popping production design is really the star here, with a gaudy array of clothes and outrageous nightclubs providing the backdrops which hold these crazy-quilt stories together. Whether taking time for the two heroines to have a saxophone jazz duet or deglamorizing them with big glasses and clothespins on their noses, the films never take themselves too seriously and certainly never bore. The catchy music by Jerry Van Rooyen (a Franco regular) is a major asset, too.
Shot in a variety of languages and completely dubbed everywhere they were released, the Red Lips films feature touch-and-go English dubs that range from adequate to wince-worthy. These versions first appeared on DVD from Anchor Bay in watchable but unspectacular presentations; however, for sheer go-go visual eye candy, Blue Underground's welcome two-disc upgrade set in 2006 was a nice step up at the time. The widescreen transfers look vivid with electric-hued color schemes that threaten to blaze right off your TV set. Theatrical trailers for both films are included along with Franco interviews. Two Undercover Angels features the more traditional of the two, "The Case of the Red Lips" (13m59s), in which Franco covers the genesis of the projects, his memories of the producers and international financing, and working again with Reynaud on two of his more featherweight efforts. Kiss Me Monster features the much wilder and more endearing "Jess's Tangents" (22m26s) which finds the director spouting off on a wide array of topics in the most entertaining and hilarious manner. Too bad he couldn't do an entire audio commentary like this!
Two Undercover Angels made its first Blu-ray appearance in Germany from the much-dreaded DigiDreams whose crummy track record continued with a lackluster presentation that looked like an upconversion with a yellow tint. At least it had the English and German tracks (plus the English credits, trailer, and bios), but it wasn't worth the investment at all. In 2022, Vinegar Syndrome brought both films to Region A Blu-ray as a double-disc set with the two features housed on the first disc featuring fresh 4K scans of both from the original 35mm camera negatives. They looks gorgeous and feature much more detail than before, displaying fine film grain and intricate textures that were completely scrubbed out on video before. In a welcome correction, the night scenes have been properly color timed as well with a darker blue look versus the daylight appearance we had before. They also have more visual info than ever before, framed at 1.85:1 with a significant bit of extra info compared to the 1.66:1 DVDs. The English and German tracks are included (DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono for both), though you only get English SDH dubtitles that don't really correspond to the German track at all. The second Blu-ray houses all of the extras, porting over both of the earlier Jess Franco featurettes from the Blue Underground releases while adding "The Red Lips Diaries" (46m8s), a new appraisal of the films by the always welcome Stephen Thrower who covers the influence of The Avengers, the backgrounds of the major actors, the shortcomings of the English dubs, Franco's affinity for sudden tonal shifts ("just like real life"), and lots more. A real treat to see here is the inclusion of the alternate Spanish versions of both films, sourced from tape with new English translated SDH subtitles (which means you're stuck with things like "[discordant jazz music]" on screen most of the time). It's fascinating to compare these to their more familiar versions as they run substantially longer (see running times above), dropping the nudity and more salacious elements while adding a lot more connective plot tissue, travelogue footage, and character beats. They also have markedly different title sequences and music, so it's great to have them preserved here for posterity. Also included are video trailers and extensive still galleries for both films.
TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS: Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray)
TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS: DigiDreams (Blu-ray)
TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS: Blue Underground (DVD)
KISS ME MONSTER: Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray)
KISS ME MONSTER: Blue Underground (DVD)
Updated review on July 28, 2022.