, the controversial Spanish filmmaker who wrote, filmed and directed more than 200 films in his career, has died aged 82. He was still following his passion of making movies up until he died, most recently working on Al Pereira Vs. The Alligator Women, another gonzo film typical of his style.
He was a tireless devotee to film who worked throughout the 50s before he gained any recognition for his work. His career arguably took off with 1962's The Awful Dr. Orlof, the mad scientist classic that forced him to adopt a policy he carried throughout his career: Concerned about the censors, he created two versions of the film, a "soft" version (without nudity) and a "hard" version (with nudity) of the film.
He's achieved a small measure of box office success in America in the late 60s with Necronomicon (1967), Ninety-Nine Women (1968) and a brief run in which he worked with actor in his time away from Hammer, churning out a curious version of Count Dracula, The Bloody Judge, and Lee's final two Fu Manchu films, The Blood of Fu Manchu and The Castle of Fu Manchu all in the span of a year's time from 1968-69. He also made the infamous cult classic Venus in Furs (1969) with the equally infamous Klaus Kinski, and bonkers Vampyros Lesbos (1971), which enjoyed a brief resurgence in the '90s due to its space-pop soundtrack.
Yet he never achieved wide commercial success, and when he moved from Spain to France so as to be able to make more violent and sexual films, his career began to go further downhill commercially. Already considered a fringe auteur at best, most in the industry considered him to be a porn director due to his heavy emphasis on the X-rated adult films he began churning out in the 70s. Three of his films, Women Behind Bars, Devil Hunter, and Bloody Moon were banned in the UK. Franco briefly returned to low-budget horror in the early 80s with the aforementioned Bloody Moon, along with Mondo Cannibale and Oasis of the Zombies, but he soon reverted back to pornographic films.
A vast number of his films, both erotic and otherwise, starred his muse Lina Romay, whom he first met in 1971 before marrying her almost 40 years later in 2008, the only woman in his long lifetime he married. Romay passed away early last year.
Despite his commercial and critical struggles, he had a strong cult following and a bit of a critical renaissance in recent years. The vastness of his body of work assures him of a legacy that won't be forgotten. Said Fangoria editor and Franco scholar Chris Alexander to Empire Online, "He ate, slept and breathed moviemaking [and] lived to point his lens at anything that caught his eye. He was too arty for the horror crowd, and too macabre and lowbrow for the art crowd. He existed in a world and a class of his own."