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Night Of The Assassins
cast: Alberto Dalbes, Evelyn Scott, William Berger, Maribel Hidalgo, and Lina Romey

director: Jesus Franco

78 minutes (18) 1976
Tartan Grindhouse DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 3/10
reviewed by Tom Johnstone
A black-hooded killer in a cheap Halloween mask, a succession of nasty but silly murders: it could be Scream. But no, it's just a slice of 1970s' schlock from the prolific Spanish exploitation director Jesus Franco. He's so sensationalistic, even his name's designed to cause a scandal, by taking the Lord's name in vain. No, I'm sure it was an accident of birth, but this movie's dull rather than entertainingly bad. The direction is so clumsy that if it does at times have a certain ghoulish atmosphere, this seems more by accident than by design. Night Of The Assassins (aka: La noche de los asesinos) is a perfect example of the kind of foreign language film that can only be improved by bad dubbing.

The opening credits name-check Edgar Allan Poe, but it is in fact a remake of that old Bob Hope haunted house spoof, The Cat And The Canary (1939). Another remake. There was another version made in 1979 with Honor Blackman, but by all accounts that one wasn't any good either. The basic plot of all these films is that a curmudgeonly old git forces his family to stay in his spooky house in order to collect their inheritance. This provides one of Night Of The Assassins' most memorable shots, a dimly lit tableau of the family waiting for the will to be read. Meanwhile a masked murderer is thinning out the number of potential heirs by disposing of them in colourful ways based on the four elements: earth, air, fire and water.

Maybe Franco is paying the killer himself, for as with everything else about the film, there's something ham-fistedly slapdash about the way the murders are carried out, with the assassin rendering the victim unconscious, tying them up really badly and waiting until they're semi-conscious before carrying out his, um... fiendish plans. So, for example, the first murder is based on 'earth', so the killer bashes the victim over the head, drags him into a hole, them chucks some soil on him as he struggles feebly. If nothing else, it's refreshing to see an amateurish serial killer. It makes a change from all these all-powerful, superhuman types you get nowadays. The other good thing about Night Of The Assassins, is the way the opening credits give you a preview of the film's highlights, which saves you sitting through the whole thing.

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