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The Diabolical Dr. Z (1966) - Blu-ray Review

Movie Review

5 beersArtsy kink.  This is what awaits you inside one of director Jesús "Jess" Franco best and most masterfully shot films. 

With Spanish-born filmmaker Jess Franco’s eerie feature, The Diabolical Dr. Z, things begin to get sexy and strange.  Truthfully, there’s no going back either as a naked woman gets chased through a theatre in this cult classic.  Look at his filmography and you can see that swift march into the underground of B-grade horror flicks.  It is, of course, a list of films that also includes such cult classics like Vampyros Lesbos and Jack the Ripper

But The Diabolical Dr. Z is a standout in his twisted filmography thanks to its lush cinematography and its tale of trance-like terror.  Too bad then that the mad Doctor Zimmerman (Antonio Jiménez Escribano) dies all too soon after being humiliated in front of his peers.  His over-the-top performance – being an extension from Franco’s previous film, The Awful Dr. Orloff, who is also mentioned here – is a definite win.  However, he is just a distraction; our real focus needs to be on his daughter.

The gothic-natured melodrama of his previous black-and-white film is back but, with a heavy serving of dense atmosphere, the curves of actress Estella Blain and her poisoned fingernails, we get a new layer of dreamy eroticism.  Put this all inside a revenge thriller and, voila, a medical themed cult classic is born. 

Close-ups are the name of the game in this dance of death.  Written by Franco and Jean-Claude Carrière (The Unbearable Lightness of Being), this horror film concerns itself with a cruel surgeon’s daughter, Mabel Karr as Irma Zimmer, who uses her father’s work, specifically a nasty little machine that turns the help into mindless slaves, to do her bidding and kill those responsible for his death. 

She’s on a mission of revenge.  And there will be no stopping her.  All she needs is someone to lure the men to their deaths.  Enter the fabulous Blain as the dancer who reveals much in her artfully choreographed scenes.  Such beauty must be used for manipulation. 

Established in the very opening with a prison break, the sense of dread and doom fills each and every frame.  We get a suffocating feeling that never leaves us.  Even as this escapee runs through a forest – the close-ups of needles pricking skin and the angles of faces work in conjunction to let us know that this twisted feature is not going to end well for anyone.  

The Diabolical Dr. Z, now on Blu-ray thanks to Redemption Films and Kino Lorber, is both stylish and wildly exploitative.  It does not disappoint.


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Film Details

The Diabolical Dr. Z (1966) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime: 86 mins
Director: Jesús Franco
Writer: Jesús Franco
Cast: Estella Blain, Mabel Karr, Howard Vernon
Genre: Horror | Sci-fi
Tagline: The Last Word in Shock!.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Get rid of her right away."
Theatrical Distributor: U.S Films
Official Site:
Release Date: February 15, 1967
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: February 6, 2018
Synopsis: stylish medical-horror thriller that brings to mind the work of Georges Franju and David Cronenberg, The Diabolical Dr. Z is a vitally important film in the horror cinema’s transition from spooky scares to a more dreamy and erotic variety that would become the signature of Spanish-born filmmaker JessFranco. Mabel Karr stars as Irma Zimmer, the daughter of a visionary scientist(Antonio Jiménez Escribano) who has developed a morbid system of mind control. After the slightly mad doctor’s death, Irma carries on her father’s work, and uses a telepathically-controlled exotic dancer with poisoned fingernails(Estella Blain) as an instrument of revenge upon three doctors who mocked Dr.Z’s theories. But can Irma eliminate the names on her hit list before a pair of detectives (played by Franco and the film’s composer, Daniel White) expose her plot?.


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The Diabolical Dr. Z (1966) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Details


Home Video Distributor: Redemption
Available on Blu-ray - February 6, 2018
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English
Audio: French: LPCM 2.0; English: LPCM 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Redemption Films and Kino Lorber Studio Classics present The Diabolical Dr. Z on 1080p thanks to a crystal clear HD transfer.  With an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono mix, the film absolutely blossoms .  Using a “fine grain print”, the 1080p transfer of this second-billed B-movie looks amazing in the textures it now presents to film buffs.  The local landscapes used in the movie are preserved with fine lines and the glass paintings – suggesting a depth to the film that was not financially possible – are items of beauty.  There is a new crispness throughout the black-and-white film thanks to the HD upgrade and the lab itself looks impossibly detailed.



Fans get a strong commentary track from Tim Lucas, author of Obsession: The Films of Jess Franco.

Special Features:

Also included with this new transfer are the film’s original trailer and French and English soundtracks.

Original Theatrical Trailer  


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The Diabolical Dr. Z (1966) - Blu-ray Review