Wow, this is getting very fun and interesting. This time, however, I'm going to back ToddBaesen up 150%. Here are a few tidbits:
In a his (very negative) review of Franco's The Bloody Judge, starring Christopher Lee, Glenn Erickson at DVD Savant wrote the following:
"Even less understandable is the championing of Jess Franco's direction, which is only slightly better than his sloppy work on the Fu Manchu series. The liner notes make the laughable assertion that the battle scene herein proves that Franco was clearly the auteur behind the much-applauded knight's battle in Campanandas a medianoche (Chimes at Midnight), the great Orson Welles film on which Franco assisted. The generic and lackadaisical fight in the woods here looks like random coverage. We have no idea who is fighting who or which side our rebel heroes are on. If the color, costumes and location weren't such a good match, we might think it was stock footage from another show. Franco may very well have done the excellent, unique battle scene in the Welles film, but I doubt it, and wouldn't trust Franco's word on the matter. The Bloody Judge would be the last film to suggest a connection."
I suspect this review is what Alan Brody was referring to in his May 18 post.
When I wrote my own (very positive) review of The Bloody Judge for IMDB, I wrote the following:
"There are a few people, including the otherwise estimable Glenn Erickson, of the hugely insightful and informative DVD Savant site, who have claimed, based on the evidence of this film, that Jess Franco could not have "directed" the legendary Battle of Shrewsbury in Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight. First, lets get a few facts straight. It is well documented that Franco shot the second unit on Chimes at Midnight, which included much of the battle scene. This means that Franco shot a lot of coverage of the battle, working from a general outline given by Welles. Later, Welles took the miles of footage into the editing room and, many months later, emerged with the shattering sequence that appears in his picture. Franco, obviously, had nothing to do with this editing process, and, as far as I can tell, has never claimed otherwise. To compare the battle scene in The Bloody Judge with Welles' magnificent achievement is grotesquely unfair, as I am sure that Franco was allowed minutes rather than months to assemble The Bloody Judge for exhibition. Given the strictures under which he was working, Franco, his cast, and his collaborators should be commended for having produced a film with such a high level of professionalism. Welles, that most populist of auteurs, who once stated that he would rather watch paint dry than sit through an Antonioni film, and who responded to energy, verve, iconoclasm, and enthusiasm, had seen and appreciated those qualities an early Franco effort, which eventually led to the offer to work on Chimes."
Franco was second unit director on Chimes at Midnight. Wikipedia has a good definition of second unit director here:
Franco would have set up the shots and organized the action according to Welles' blueprint. To save time and money, Franco would have been doing this while Welles shot his own part and worked with the main actors. He would have had precisely the same relationship with Welles (albeit on a smaller scale) that Yakima Canutt had with William Wyler during the shooting of Ben Hur. Yakima Canutt staged the chariot race in Ben Hur, but William Wyler directed it; it's a difference of scale and function. Moreover, given the scope of the Battle of Shrewsbury, Welles would have used several assistants, or directed in a hierarchical fashion, with Welles relaying information to Franco, who then relayed information to those below him. robertdavidmonell's post from May 19 has it exactly right, as does the first paragraph of Jeff's post from the same date.
There are three credited editors on Chimes, only one of whom, Fritz Muller, had worked with Welles before (on The Trial). We know from several interviews with Welles' editors that he rarely handled the footage or made splices himself, but gave his editors explicit, minute, detailed instructions. He was always open to suggestions, and, if he grew to trust an editor's judgement, would leave things to him or her to assemble on their own, always subject to his approval or censure. We also know that Welles was somewhat lackadaisical about the importance of the editing process until the production of Othello, when he became obsessive and almost fanatical about it ("For me editing is not an aspect of cinema, it is the aspect"). Based on this evidence, there is no way in hell Jess Franco would have had anything to do with the editing of any part of Chimes at Midnight.
Regarding Saul Bass and the shower scene in Psycho - I would say that any one of the many stills I have seen showing Hitch directing Janet Leigh on the set would refute Saul Bass's ridiculous claims to the contrary. Everyone and their uncle tries to take credit for Psycho. If you listen to Joseph Stefano in interviews, you'd think he spent the entire shoot whispering in Hitch's ear. Sorry, no dice. Hitchcock was a legendary control freak. He planned down to the millimeter, and storyboarded everything, so that there was very little left to chance when it came time to shoot. I am sure Mr. Bass had a great deal of input into the shower scene. We know he storyboarded the sequence, and may safely say that he "designed it". He may have even "directed" the shots of the shower head and the water swirling down the drain. Other than that, it was Hitch's show all the way, with Bernard Herrmann waiting in the wings (Hitch generously said that Herrmann was responsible for 25% of Psycho's effectiveness).
My opinion of Jess Franco and his work pretty much coincides with Christopher Lee's. He is a talented genre filmmaker who has made many entertaining and interesting films, some of which have an important place in the history books. He broke taboo's when it meant something to do so, took risks when it meant something to take them, remained stubbornly independent and iconoclastic, and has worked almost continuously from the 1950's until now. He is no genius, and no Orson Welles, and did a bad job on Don Quixote. But it is not his fault that we do not have a decent assembly on DQ. It's Orson's fault, for not finishing and releasing it while he was alive, although that was his choice; and Oja's, for mishandling Orson's legacy. Let's leave it at that.