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Jesús Franco made over 160 films in his 50-year career
Jesús Franco made over 160 films in his 50-year career / SUR

12 May 1930: Jesús Franco is born

  • The film creator and director was born on this day 87 years ago

Born in Malaga on 12 May 1930, Jesús 'Jess' Franco Manera was a Spanish film director, writer, composer and cinematographer. He wrote and directed more than 160 motion pictures in his lifetime, encompassing a wide variety of genres.

Franco began his career working as an assistant director at the age of 24. In 1960, he attended the premiere of the new Hammer Horror movie The Brides of Dracula and this instigated his interest in the horror film business.

Franco&rsquos career took off in 1961, with the release of The Awful Dr Orloff. Considered to be the first Spanish horror film, the movie received wide distribution in the United States and the UK.

Even though he had some American box office success, including two 1969 films with British actor Christopher Lee, Franco never achieved wide commercial success. Many of his films were only distributed in Europe and they were rarely dubbed into English.

He continued to produce exotic horror films throughout the 1960s, but for a brief period he turned his attention to a number of James Bond-like spy thrillers.

A huge fan of jazz, Franco used various pseudonyms, many of which were taken from jazz musicians such as Clifford Brown and James P. Johnson.

Several of Franco's films were based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade, someone who remained a major influence throughout his life. His themes revolved around lesbian vampires, cannibalism, sadomasochism, zombies and sexploitation.

In 1969, Franco moved to France in order to free himself from the strict censorship of totalitarian Spain. He wanted to make more erotically violent films and his following movies featured abundant nudity, with long, uninterrupted scenes of debauchery. These low-budget films included Vampyros Lesbos, a film about a woman who has a series of erotic dreams that involve a mysterious female vampire.

Although he produced a number of relatively successful horror films, he became pigeonholed as a porn director due to the huge number of X-rated adult films he began turning out.

Most of his hardcore films starred his lifelong companion Linda Romay, a young Spanish actress more than twenty years his junior. Romay met Franco in 1971, though they did not marry until 2008. They remained together until her death in Malaga in 2012.

In his later years, he directed two big-budget horror films - Faceless (1988) and Killer Barbys (1996) - both of which showed what he could do when his projects were adequately funded.

Franco attracted a large circle of bizarre actors during his life, many of whom were over the hill performers in the twilight of their careers. He gained a reputation for not paying his actors and the entirety of his work after 1996 was of very low quality, none of which was distributed theatrically.

Franco died of natural causes in Malaga on 2 April, 2013. He was 82.