Either Jess Franco had no idea what he was doing when he made films like Kiss Me Monster (Küss mich, Monster) which stars and was produced by Adrian Hoven, which is unlikely given his output; or else he wilfully ignores conventions and was and still is not frightened of making films that people will accordingly label as bad, terrible, awful. Depending on your mood and your knowledge of convention, and your tolerance for these conventions being broken, there is a high chance that at some point you will stand up and shout ‘this is NONSENSE!’ when watching a Franco production: And yet lots of us like nonsense.
It would be fascinating to know how it came about that Adrian Hoven came to be the producer for Jess Franco. Hoven, who began his career playing trumpet in the circus, rose quickly to stardom in Germany in the 1950s as a typically handsome romantic screen lead, and as the sixties began he branched out into production.
Adrian Hoven with Janine Reynaud and Rosanna Yanni
Kiss Me Monster (1969) is monster madness, and for its story think confusing web of intrigue and murder, because there is layer of possibility added on top of layer of possibility in what’s offered; kind of comedy science fiction, with a spade of crime mystery, constant mild erotic fantasy and elements of the monster nudey mad scientist flick. Maybe there is a pastiche of James Bond, maybe there is a swing at Alfred Hitchcock too, it is hard to say. All of which would make it sound quite exciting, but it isn't, and in nearing a climax, it has the central characters literally chasing windmills. It becomes dull and you want to move on to the next exploitation flick, because (and here is the greatest disappointment of all!) there is also very little by way of exploitation in it. That is normally a good thing, but not here.
Windmills in Kiss Me Monster, produced by Adrian Hoven
Kiss Me Monster condenses from time to time into short speeches made by the random characters which pop in and out of it, with these scenes of dialogue intercut with scenic drives, dances, music and many other forms of non-sequitur. Thus it is that Adrian Hoven comes to explaining a part of the story, although explanation is all it amounts to. Trying to explain the porridge of a plot, Hoven talks about a super-nutrition formula, extracted ovaries, and a race of genetically perfect humans with minds like dogs.
Meanwhile, his spymaster, a 12-year old girl named Yolanda, adds more confusing threats and asides. In a way it is part of the 1960s spy cinema scene, as topped by James Bond and as satirised all over the place, such as in What's New Pussycat? . . . and it is possible, just possible, that Kiss Me Monster is fiendishly clever deconstruction of the whole genre.
Ever Avuncular Adrian Hoven
There are for sure certain tropes of the spy genre present, but as far as the Franco canon is concerned, Kiss Me Monster is also pretty low on nudity and violence, but it makes up for that in the utter meaninglessness of virtually all the action. For the producer and the star billed actor, Adrian Hoven isn't in it very much at all, and has about two scenes, one extended night club scene where he meets the two female agents and seduces one of them, followed by an interrogtaion afterwards; and one scene in which he totes a machine gun, and blasts a whole deserted church full of hooded secret society members.
Adrian Hoven proves more versatile in some respects than many of his peers, seeing that there is money to be made in the film business in Europe, and by the late sixties he was directing and producing exploitative horror films such as In the Castle of Bloody Lust (1968), known to its native audiences as Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde, another flick calling the mad scientist character into being for some body part collecting antics. Antics is the wrong word, actually, as Im Schloß der blutigen Begierde is a pretty disgusting and gross film, with a lot of real looking surgery and roughly editted loud noise in it . . .
So, for what could be completely sleazy and unpleasant, Kiss me Monster is actually quite innocent fare, and comes across as good natured. It's 1969, and two spy girls decide to branch out into striptease, and end up caught up in the hunt for a missing scientist. It's supposed to be funky and fun, and very likely that played well in the drive-ins of the day, but you have to have a certain cretinous pateince to make it through this without yawning your ears off on DVD. It's hard to be even moderately motivated by Kiss Me Monster, despite how good it sounds.
No matter how you describe the action of Kiss Me Monster, it sounds great: a church full of hooded cultists, a society of female queer virgins and a gay duo that control a pair of loincloth-wearing assassins called Andros I and Andros II. Sounds amazing, but it is not, and it winds up being obtuse, slpadash and if you try and follow it, confusing.
Looking at the trailer for Kiss Me Monster, I would have to say that the quality is much finer than that of the DVD of this movie that I watched, and that as with many trailers, the three minute edit it comprises makes the film look much better than it actually is:
Curiosities like Kiss Me Monster never die, so you will certainly have a chance to see it at some point. It isn't just archived, it's lying in wait for the day when critical attention comes to its senses and treats it as the greatest movie blueprint of all time, thus elevating it to the status of all time classic, guaranteeing world-wide re-release and posthumous awards all round.
What is not appreciated is just how many exploitation or similar low-budget style films were made between the end of the 1960s and the mid 1980s . . . because there were thousands of them. The line between exploitation and pornography was non-existent because of where the films were generally to be screened, and in a world with precious little television, no internet, and in which movie making equipment had become accessible to independents, this stuff proliferated. Nobody as of yet has managed to even graps the sheer quantities of this stuff, so much of which must now be lost, but what isn't lost is the experience and history crammed into those two decades. Exploitation is a reasonable name for the genre as young women are inevitably undressed and often killed in these movies, and there is not one single blockbuster among those thousands of films, they were still good enough business to interest a man like Hoven.
It's possible that Jess Franco had it in mind to stretch and break this genre, a tricky idea indeed. At the same time, and watching Mark of the Devil, I can perceive Adrian Hoven wishing to make an artistic masterpiece in this genre, something just as hard as high art only pops up by accident in exploitation, and even then it is usually suppressed.
This poster for Kiss Me Monster is also typical of the genre in that it depicts a scene that has nothing whatsoever to do with the movie, although it makes a fair stab at representing the title. Whatever was planned in pre-production there is no monster in Kiss Me Monster, and although this image sums up a fairly enticing evening at the flicks, that is all it does, because once inside the door the rules were about to change. It was of course normal however for poster designers not have seen the movie they were advertising . . .