The oddly re-titled DIABOLICAL DOCTOR Z was originally released with the better fitting title MISS MUERTE (much better considering that Miss Death is in the film for more than the ten minutes Dr. Z is…). Dr. Zimmer kacks off shortly after the opening credits when his mind control idea is ridiculed and condemned by his peers and he dies on the spot. His daughter Irma (Mabel Karr) promises to take up the reigns and continue his experiments. Unfortunately, Irma is totally batshit crazy and instead of carrying on to improve the machine she decides to use it to avenge her father’s humiliating death.
Irma fakes her own death and relocates to an isolated farmhouse where she can exact her revenge on the men she holds responsible for her father’s death. She devises the perfect weapon in the form of a buxom blonde under her control thanks to Dr. Z’s methods. Exotic dancer named Nadia (Estella Blain), who goes by the stage name Miss Death, is lured into her thrall by promises of Hollywood stardom but she is quickly taken over by the mad daughter. Her extremely long nails are infused with curare and she is sent out for Doctors Vicas (Howard Vernon), Moroni (Marcel Arroita-Jàuregui) and Kallman (Cris Huerta); all of whom Irma holds responsible for her father’s death.
After everyone who isn’t under mind control has left Irma’s life she continues along a downward spiral of madness and revenge. She sends Miss Death out and when she wavers her escaped felon henchman, Hans Bergen (Guy Mairesse), to finish the job. Whenever Nadia does waver, Irma hooks her back up to the machine and juices her some more. The method is akin to electroshock if the probe is inserted into the brain and as such may be a critique of the practice all the more so since it was criticized by professionals and is being administered by a mad woman. The police are baffled at first though a sharp witted young inspector named Tanner, a young Jess Franco (you can tell which one it is because he is wearing dark glasses…), gets some much needed rest and puts the facts together ending Irma’s plans before she can clean up by executing Nadia.
Though the women resemble each other with a physically passing similarity, they could not be more different emotionally. Irma is determined, educated, tough and insane; while Nadia is easily swayed, artistic, gentle and sane. Nadia’s soft-heartedness shows through when the effects of the machine wear off and she is appalled by what she has done. Nadia may have been chosen due to Irma’s jealousy of what Nadia possessed. Irma’s beauty was destroyed when she accidentally burned her face trying to fake her death. Her jealousy would no doubt be deep seated.
This is a bizarre film…considering it is from Jess Franco…in how straightforward and clothed (?) it is. There is no overt sex in the film though it seethes with sexuality. What is sexier than having someone’s body and their mind? And boy howdy can Estella Blain stuff a body stocking-not that Mabel Karr is a slouch by any means-but this chick is a classic beauty. Even though it was sexy as hell, Jess missed some serious T&A opportunity with Miss Death and her writhing dance in the spider’s web.
The Mondo Macabro DVD release is presented in a 16:9 digital anamorphic transfer and has French and English language choices and English subtitles available as well. The special features include:
Cast and Crew Bios
The Diabolical Mr. Franco documentary