The Bloody Judge DVD Review
Written by Sharon Davies
DVD released by Mediumrare Entertainment
Directed by Jess Franco
Written by Jess Franco, Enrico Colombo, Michael Haller, Harry Alan Towers and Anthony Scott Veitch.
1970, Region 2 (PAL), 89 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 21st January 2013
Christopher Lee as Judge Jeffries
Maria Schell as Mother Rosa
Leo Genn as Lord Wessex
Maria Rohm as Mary Gray
Margaret Lee as Alicia Gray
Howard Vernon as Jack Ketch
The time is 1685, King Charles is dead and his brother King James II sits in his place. Europe is in turmoil and there are plots to usurp the throne, Britain is therefore split in two. Those faithful to the king and the others who support Prince William of Orange, who with the Duke of Monmouth plans to invade England and take the crown.
Overseeing law in England is The Lord High Chief Justice, Judge Jeffries who has little time for either supporters of the potential invaders or those suspected of Witchcraft. He has so little patience that most that stand before him will be given no mercy and swiftly tortured and then executed. Judge Jeffries reputation and his judgements have left him feared and hated and push many people into becoming the antagonists he so despises – and so a vicious circle is created.
The first judged member is innocent Alicia Gray who, by chance of being stood near a group of voodoo plotters, is left with a murdered lover and her fate being decided by the bloody judge. He orders her to be tortured or "examined thoroughly" – enter the hooded executioner who simply loves a good old stretching, (shame she doesn't enjoy this to the extent Morticia Addams does) concluding she is a witch. Of course this leads Jeffries to condemn her to be burned at the stake.
Overseeing the trial is Alicia's beautiful sister Mary, who pleads with the Judge to spare her sister's life. The assumed honourable Judge shows the first chink in his armour as with a wink and a nod it is made plain exactly what she could do to spare her sister the flames. With Mary refusing and her sister quickly chargrilled the tale plays out a story of the law, lust, revenge and turmoil as the judge and Mary's futures will coincide as her relationship with a influential man will escalate the rebels' desire and push Jeffries to his limit.
Jess Franco has directed more than 200 films and has a reputation for creating good low budget B-movie horrors with extremely bloody scenes, and after the popular Witchfinder General (1968) this film seems obviously inspired by such storylines. Christopher Lee is his usual brilliant self and utterly commands attention from both the viewer and the characters placed in his path.
Lee was obviously very focused on getting this character right on the money and had researched the true George Jeffries and his Bloody Assizes years – this gives real gravity to the story and is compelling at least.
In terms of horror, the majority of the gore scenes are included to demonstrate the torture inflicted upon the captured souls, and with the cherry red blood and nudity flowing it's satisfying for any horror fan, although overall it felt more like a historical piece. (There is also a strangely amusing corpse-licking scene which Christopher Lee strongly objected to).
Overall I enjoyed the film and even googled the real judge to find out more about the time, the acting is great and the film is a quality production for its era, but is it a horror? Hmm, I'm on the fence and it's a shame Jess Franco didn't deliver one of his usual shockers, but I guess with the fight between Lee and Franco to push towards either horror or non-fiction we have been left with a tame mix of the two. Of course the horror of the actual trials of the day would be enough to leave any of us quaking in our boots but for entertainment purposes it could have gone further.
I hereby sentence this film to 10 years hard labour with Tom Six – let's crank up the twisted horror scale.
Video and Audio:
Considering the date of this film the video and audio are typical of the time, but the video is particularly good. Jess Franco, having directed a mound of films, is naturally an expert on how to set a scene etc and this film really has a feel of old style quality.
The music is cheesy, big booming orchestras and the like but again typical, and occasionally the dubbing is poor, but on the whole the video and audio is well executed. Pat on the back to Mediumrare Entertainment for an impressive restoration.
Trailer – this here is entitled "Night of the Blood Monster" just one of The Bloody Judge's MANY titles. Jess Franco explains in the following documentary that this was a common practice of studio releases throughout Europe.
Deleted and Alternative Scenes – includes 4 scenes including an alternative German opening scene, a more tame version of the lovers barn scene, a 'dream' version of the torture scenes and again a more restricted version of Mary's dungeon escape.
Documentary "Bloody Jess – Interview with director Jess Franco and start Christopher Lee" (25 mins). I found this documentary to be extremely interesting as Christopher Lee discusses the history behind the true George Jeffries and his attempts to remain true to the story, plus his opinion on the overall release AND how he hates the current horror genre!! NOoooooooooo!
Jess Franco also discusses the production and his views on his directortorial career.