My notes on Jesus Franco’s Killer Barbys movies.
Killer Barbys (1996)
This small-scale comeback picture from Jesus Franco was his first above-ground credit in nearly a decade and first film after a three-year hiatus in a filmography which is otherwise a non-stop torrent of titles. It exists on the whim of the eponymous Eurorpop group, who wanted to play at being movie stars and settled for a vehicle even shoddier than the Alice Cooper effort Monster Dog. Only front woman Silvia Superstar/Silvia Garcia Pintos and drummer Billy King/Antonio Dominquez appear as themselves – the other band members in the movies are actors playing fictional characters.
Book-ended by lengthy gig footage from the Killer Barbies (the spelling is different on the title to avoid legal action from the makers of Barbie dolls), complete with Franco’s trade-mark zooms and lyrics on a level with ‘I love you, I’m going to kill you tonight’, the plot has the band’s Mystery Machine knockoff minivan break down in the backwoods. They wander to an old house where a demented servants are looking after Olga Lujan (Mariangela Giordano), a bedridden Bathory-type, who grows young after drinking the blood of several band-members only to be thrown naked out of a window and impaled. Santiago Seguera, the hulking star of The Day of the Beast, plays the scythe-wielding loon who hangs beheaded corpses up in an out-building and is finally squashed flat under a lawn-roller, while longtime Euro-horror fixture Giordano mostly rants and raves in the role Franco usually assigns to Lina Romay, though she does some enthusiastic naked and bloody writhing atop one victim. Neither as odd or inept as the bulk of Franco’s post-1985 work, but pretty much as boring. It features overuse of the smoke machine and way too much Killer Barbies music for most people to stand.
About the best that can be said for Killer Barbys – which was made on film – is that it’s not quite as excruciatingly difficult to sit through than most of the shot-on-video Franco material (Lust for Frankenstein, Mari-Cookie and the Killer Tarantula, etc) that followed … not excluding Killer Barbys vs Dracula.
Killer Barbys vs Dracula (2002)
Stephen Thrower, a critic predisposed to like Jesus Franco movies much more than I am, comments ‘making one film about The Killer Barbies might be considered an accident; making two is unforgivable’.
Not exactly a sequel to Killer Barbys, more a reunion. This virtually plot-free charade is set in Tivoli World, a Spanish holiday attraction which is like a cartoon Westworld. Franco had shot there before (in Vampire Junction) and it looks like a cheesy, sort-of-sad place to visit, as out of its time as the flagging KBs or the once-scurrilous, inventive filmmaker. The band, again fronted by Silvia Superstar (who gets to wear a lot of frocks) and Billy King, are playing at what in real life would be a pretty desperate gig for an established act. Strident Romanian Comrade Irina (Lina Romay) arrives with the coffin of the impaled Count Dracula, which might be on loan to the park as part of an exhibit (as in House of Frankenstein) though the script never confirms or denies it. Romay struts about being stern and ranting about decadent capitalism as if Franco hadn’t looked at a newspaper covering events in Eastern Europe since about 1986.
Dracula (Kike Sarasola) is woken up when the Killer Barbies play a song called ‘Wake Up’ and the rhythm is so infectious that the stake is expelled from his chest by some species of reverse peristalsis. Dracula, a gurning baldie, runs into a Dracula impersonator (Peter Martell), who has an impressive grey pompadour, and kills him. Is this a set-up for an illusion-or-reality plot device in which the real Dracula replaces a fake one? No, it’s just something that happens – like the way Dracula turns into three see-through phantoms to attack a journalist (Katja Bienert) who asks him about AIDS (this harks back to some eeriness with superimposed vampires in Franco’s El Conde Dracula).
The whole thing seems to have been videotaped in the daytime – which is a strange look, even for a comedy horror. And nothing very funny happens, despite a bunch of non sequitur characters wandering about – veteran Aldo Sambrell does a pirate song, blind ‘Dr Seaward (Dan van Hussen) and sidekick Albinus (Carsten Frank) are on the trail of the vampire (and seem like references to the continuing characters that wind through Franco’s oeuvre, put in just to keep Tim Lucas happy), one of the musicians (Victor Seastrom) is supposedly a descendant of Dracula, and Dracula finally turns into a toy rabbit. Written by Franco, Romay and Jose Roberto Vila, from a story by Franco and Jacinto Santos.
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