Mondo Macabro's new DVD double-feature of Sadist with Red Teeth (1970) and Forbidden Paris (1969) is a real head scratcher. Director Jean Louis van Belle is an obscure French director who created numerous ultra low-budget films in various genres, including horror and mondo. These avant-weird productions invoke familiar Eurocult reference points but Jean Louis van Belle was coming from an entirely different angle than his genre brethren.
Sadist with the Red Teeth combines the psychedelic horror vibe of Jess Franco and Jean Rollin with the experimentalist sensibilities of Stan Brakhage and Bruce Conner. Yes, that prior statement was made in earnest. In the film, a mad doctor convinces a comic book artist (Daniel Moosman) who experiences a car accident that he is a vampire. As a result of his psychocis, the main character is given to episodic freakouts in which he dons joke-shop vampire fangs and attacks people. The brief synopsis basically caputes the entire plot because the majority of the film involves the lead character hallucinating as he wanders from situation to situation. Sadist with Red Teeth doesn't even pretend to provide a traditional narrative. Seemingly normal scenes are interrupted by hallucinations or other unexpected diversions rendered through a variety of means: double exposure shots of snakes and spiders swirling in people's eyes and mouths, colored gel lighting, cartoons, reverse motion shots, people with painted faces, numerous close-ups of screaming faces, and freakout montages consisting of black-and-white stock footage of explosions, collapsing buildings, fires and tornadoes. Over the course of 90 minutes, the random barrage gets a bit tedious, but when this film is "on," it really is bug nuts insane.
Forbidden Paris is a comparatively normal "mondo" movie that sticks closely to the model laid out by Jacopetti and Prosperi in Mondo Cane. The film purports to detail the transgressive side of Paris in the 1960s. The subject matter is typical of the style, including sex (nude woman driving a car, middle-class housewives learning to strip), cults, freaks (faux French Nazis into ritual humiliation, body painting, and parading around the Champs-Élysées), and a typical dose of random ugly animal hijinks. Much of the footage is staged. Numerous actors from Sadist with Red Teeth appear throughout. An observant viewer will also notice that footage of a "the last vampire in Europe" is used in the Sadist with Red Teeth. Could this have been the roots for Sadist with Red Teeth? Only Jean Louis van Belle knows. In any case, this film is more creative than the average mondo, but those familiar with the format won't find anything new here.
Both films are presented in the French language (both films seem to have been originally dubbed in post) with English subtitles. Extras include a much-needed documentary featurette, introductions to each film by the director, and production notes.