The Devil Came From Akasava (1971)

Country: West Germany / Spain
Directed by Jess Franco
Soledad Miranda, Fred Williams, Ewa Stromberg, Howard Vernon, Paul Müller, Horst Tappert, Siegfried Schürenberg, Jess Franco

Music by Manfred Hubler, Siegfried Schwab

One of the world’s most prolific film-makers is Jess Franco, and he also happens to be one of the weirdest. He also seems to elicit mixed emotions from film viewers. Some believe he is a gifted auteur with a surreal and quite singular cinematic vision. Others believe he is an over rated hack with poor story telling skills, and a lazy approach to cinema. While I wouldn’t go quite that far, I do believe he is his own worst enemy, always turning his back on mainstream cinema, ending up working on the fringes with second rate budgets and second rate scripts. I guess that you’ve got to respect a man who has stayed true to his beliefs, but unfortunately for us cinema goers it has meant that the bulk of his work, is practically unwatchable without the aid of the fast forward button on your remote control.

Professor Forrester (Ángel Menéndez) is a British mineralologist who is working in Africa (most likely in Kenya). His work has him trying to locate a mineral, which like the Philosopher’s Stone can turn metal in gold. So far his exploration and research has lead him to a cave where he believes the mineral is located.

As the film opens, Forrester’s assistant, Jaoa, is searching the cave dressed in a flame retardant suit. With a flashlight he searches the walls of the cave until he finds a giant crystal which he pries out of the wall. He places the stone in a steel suitcase and exits the cave into a lush jungle setting. Unfortunately for Jaoa, some armed men with less than honourable intentions have been watching and waiting. The men open fire on Jaoa and he is shot twice. Wounded, he tries to make a run for it, back to his car, but falls short. Luckily he has a driver waiting, who rushes to his aid and drags him into the vehicle.

Jaoa is taken back to Professor Forrester who tries to attend to Jaoa’s wounds, but they are too serious. Forrester decides to go for help and gets in his jeep and drives off to secure the services of local doctor, Andrew Thorrsen (Horst Tappert). Thorrsen is in surgery at the time, but promises to rush over as soon as he has finished. Forrester drives back to his compound.

Meanwhile, an unseen person, heads into the room where Jaoa is laid up. This mysterious person opens the suitcase with the mineral inside. The room is suddenly bathed in a bright light. When Forrester returns he finds Jaoa dead. His face looks badly burnt, and the suitcase has gone. Forrester, now seeking help from the authorities gets into his jeep once more and drives off. The gunmen who shot Jaoa happen to be lurking in the lush vegetation surrounding Forrester’s compound. As Forrester drives off, a shot rings out and Forrester disappears.

Meanwhile back in London, at the Forrester’s London office, a man is breaking in. He snoops around for a while until he comes across the safe and begins to open it. The thief doesn’t have time to enjoy his ill gotten gain, because lurking unseen in the shadows is a man with a knife, which he plunges into the thief’s back.

Head of Scotland Yard, Sir Philip (Siegfried Schürenberg) doesn’t believe that Jaoa’s death, Forrester’s disappearance, and the murder at Forrester’s UK office are a coincidence. To get to the bottom of the problem, he goes to a bordello and meets one of the working-girls, Jane Morgan (Soledad Miranda). Jane is actually a Secret Service agent and is to take over the investigation. The man stabbed in Forrester’s office was the first agent assigned to the case, but he didn’t get too far. It is hoped that a female may have more luck.

Jane, posing as an Exotic dancer flies out to Mombassa and then takes a job at the Red Rose nightclub where she can observe all the characters associated with Professor Forrester. But Jane isn’t the only one seeking answers. Walter Forrester, the nephew of the Professor has also travelled to Mombassa to look into his uncle’s disappearance.

The Devil Came From Akasava, while still featuring many of the things that you’d expect in a Jess Franco film – like strip-tease scenes played out against a groovy jazz soundtrack – is still rather comprehensible and accessible as far as Franco goes. This is most probably because it is based on an Edgar Wallace story and a script by Ladislas Fodor who scripted many of the Edgar Wallace Krimis from the sixties. As with all these types of films there are twists and turns along the way, but seasoned viewers will find nothing shocking here. The Devil Came From Akasava, if you’re new to the world of Jess Franco, is a soft introduction. It’s not too weird and it’s a passable way to spend ninety minutes.

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