Labios rojos (1960)
Nice early Franco is a comic film-noir with some style to burn
13 June 2018
Two female sleuths run a secret detective organisation called Red Lips Agency. They wind up going undercover as exotic dancers at a nightclub in order to solve a crime involving a stolen diamond.

This film is the second or third that the unbelievably prolific Spanish director Jesus Franco made. His debut came the year previously with the rather cute comedy We Are 18 (1959). One of the lead actresses from that film, Isana Medel, returns here as one of the Red Lips girls. Both these early Franco movies are considerably nicer and sweeter than the sorts of things he would come to be known for later in his career. They are also quite a bit better from a technical standpoint as well, with lots of locations, professional camera-work and actual editing (something which became something of a luxury item by the time the 70's came around for Franco). In truth, this is a pretty professional looking little movie from Jess and definitely shows what he was capable of given a bit more money. There is some nice visual style to be found here with the lighting and angled photography all showing the influence of film-noir. And while the basic crime storyline and characters also fall into that bracket, it has to be said that the tone veers wildly off in another direction, as this is an unashamedly silly comic film much of the time. If you were to imagine a film-noir being combined with a 'Carry On' movie, you wouldn't be too far off the mark. The 'Red Lips' idea was actually carried on in two further movies Franco directed, namely, Sadisterotica and Kiss Me Monster, both from 1969. For my money though, this first entry is the best of the bunch. The latter two don't have nearly as much charm or craft about them and while they are more well-known, this obscure first instalment is really the one which deserves to be more widely seen. It showcases another side to Franco and along with his lovely debut We Are 18, it's a fun light-hearted romp which is rather well made.
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