MALAGA, Spain—Jesus 'Jess' Franco, a veteran director of more than 180 horror, "cult" and softcore adult films, has died at the age of 82 after suffering a stroke at his home in Malaga.
Born in 1930, Franco was a child prodigy, having begun composing music at the age of 6, an interest he followed through most of his youth, during which he studied piano and music theory at the Real Conservatorio en Madrid. He later branched out to become a popular novelist, and then began studying filmmaking at the Instituto de Investigaciones y Experiencias Cinematograicas, and later at the University of Paris (aka the Sorbonne) in France.
As an adult, Franco got work at Agata Films S.A. in Bologna as a screenwriter and production assistant, and began directing in 1959 with his debut work, We Are 18 Years Old, a comedy involving two teenage girls on vacation. Franco continued making movies, including several horror films such as The Awful Dr. Orloff, and softcore sexually-oriented features such as Vampyros Lesbos: Sexadelic Dance Party (whose musical score, composed in part by Franco, became a Top 10 hit in Europe in the '90s), Sex Charade, Succubus (an award nominee at the Festival of Berlin in 1968), The Mistresses of Dr. Jekyll, and The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (during which filming he met his future wife Lina Romay)—all the while avoiding the authoritarian censorship instituted under Generalissimo Francisco Franco (no relation), which lasted until the dictator's death in 1975.
Over the course of his career, Franco was able to work with some of Europe's top actors, including Christopher Lee, who starred in Franco's Count Dracula and Sax Rohmer's The Castle of Fu Manchu; and Klaus Kinski, who starred in Venus in Furs along with Maria Rohm, who graced about a dozen Franco films including Eugenie... the Story of Her journey Into Perversion, Rio 70 and 99 Women. His wife also had roles in many of his films until her death in February, 2012.
Franco remained an active director until his death, with his latest feature, Al Periera Vs. The Alligator Women, opening in Spain just last month.
A full listing of Jess Franco's movies can be found here.