Rudy Schwartz's Reviews

As you probably know, the ethical issues surrounding scientific research are in the news again. J. Craig Ventner and his team have created a synthetic life form in their laboratory, reportedly by combining computer generated DNA strands with pre-existing microplasma cells, presenting the imminent possibility of manufacturing microbes significantly more complex than Wolf Blitzer. Arguably, I've done the same on any given morning after eating at Taco Bell, so I'm not particularly impressed. However, being just a layman, I suppose I'll have to defer to the scientific journals.

But more pointed questions are being raised by the Vatican, which has served as our moral compass for centuries as it has overseen the world's most prolific pedophilia racket. And even for non-theists there's a delicate balance worth pondering as humans cross this forboding cognitive threshold. If species with genomes fine tuned with computer software are to be produced, then who will produce them, and what will be the intent? Will the requirements be defined by the highest bidder, or by governments with dubious political agendas? And even with the best intentions, will there be unexpected catastrophic outcomes, like in that one Three Stooges episode where Curley saws a table in half while Moe is standing on it? I don't think there's any doubt that we're all Moe standing on the table. The question we must confront is: Who is Curley and what does he have in that toolbox?

Maybe man would be better served by drawing lines in the sand which simply cannot be crossed. For example, maybe we could decide that no technological research is allowed if it doesn't expand our cable lineup, induce spontaneous orgasms, or cause a million barrels of raw crude to be puked directly into the Gulf of Mexico. Everything else is gravy, which is fattening, and only keeps you from noticing little chunks of things in your meatloaf that you'd rather not eat.

I can't assume to hold the answers to any of these questions, but I can warn you that my recent viewing of Diabolical Dr. Z has only muddied the water, to the point that I'm much less sure how mankind ought to proceed. For example, what if there were a way to insert metal spikes into the brains and spines of hardened criminals, and with a few "Z-rays" applied at the appropriate frequencies, convert them into the cast from Eight is Enough? Wouldn't that be a good idea? And what if, instead of just flopping their bodies on a table before poking the spikes into their brains, you had this big complicated robotic contraption that grabbed them by the wrists and lifted them up, making a bunch of loud beeping noises, while you twiddled some knobs on an oscilloscope? Wouldn't that be an even better idea?

It may be that director Jess Franco wanted to unravel these conundrums in Diabolical Dr. Z, but if so, his objectives were irrevocably hijacked in the first fifteen minutes when the title character drops dead from a heart attack after being ridiculed by a panel of eminent scientists. With his dying gasp, he urges his daughter Irma to continue his work, and her interpretation of this request is to hunt down and kill every one of the motherfuckers who mocked his theories, along with some collateral damage in the form of a Dutch hitchhiker in a two piece bikini. Clearly, Jess Franco did not set out to make the case for leading edge scientific research, but he did succeed in producing one of his rare story lines that can be followed without the assistance of hash brownies or paint fumes. And anyone who has managed to sit through some of Jess's other films (e.g. Venus in Furs) will recognize that this is no small feat.

There's also a trippy soundtrack with lots of jazz trumpet and atonal treated piano, plus a protagonist scientist guy who resembles Sean Connery with a dash of Leslie Nielsen, and his girlfriend, Miss Death, who seduces a mannequin on a giant fake spider web in a tight see-through body stocking.

By Franco standards, it ranks low for gratuitous nudity and graphic violence, but I'd still recommend it for anyone who likes 60s women's hairstyles and experimental jazz, or who wants the unvarnished, worst case scenario for scientific hubris left unchecked. After all, these are difficult questions to grapple with, and we'd best enter into them with a full complement of tesla coils and paranoid hallucinations.

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