Spanish filmmaker Jess Franco passed away earlier this month at the age of 82. The director was known to zombie fans all over the world for his popular underground cult classics “A Virgin Among the Living Dead” and “Oasis of the Zombies” (aka “Bloodsucking Nazi Zombies.”)
Franco was a master of exploitation and launched his career with a number of low-budget horror films before turning to pornography in the late seventies. However it was in 1981 that he would leave his stamp on the world of zombie cinema forever with “Oasis of the Zombies.”
Although Franco touched on the genre in 1971 with his film “A Virgin Among the Living Dead”, it was his brief involvement with the production of “Zombie Lake” that eventually led to his own zombie classic. Credited as a writer on that film, and originally tasked to direct, Franco abandoned the project before filming ever began.
Producer Marius Lesoeur quickly brought Jean Rollin aboard to finish the film, but teamed up with Franco again the following year to produce “Oasis of the Zombies.” Often called one of the worst zombie movies ever made, it has gone on to become a classic of the genre! (It’s also rumored that Franco secretly shot an alternate Spanish version of the film simultaneously… but if it did exist, it has since been lost to the ages.)
Interestingly, Lesouer would again hire Rollin to direct some brand new zombie footage for the 1981 re-release of “A Virgin Among the Living Dead.” The move proved controversial with fans of the original film. But this new version, along with “Oasis of the Zombies”, has helped to forever define Jess Franco as one of the godfathers of international zombie cinema. R.I.P. Jess Franco (May 12th, 1930 – April 2nd, 2013.)