Before entering filmmaking, the Madrid native began composing music at age 6 and studied piano and harmony before penning a novel and later enrolling in film school.
Known for his low-budget cult films, Franco's first big hit was the 1962 film The Awful Dr. Orloff, which was also released in the U.S. He contributed greatly to the cinema fantastique genre, which employed supernatural phenomena in realistic stories, and he helped lead the 1960s Spanish horror boom.
Despite fascist censorship, sex, blood and gore were prominently featured in his films. Franco's other notable works include 1969's Count Dracula, 1971's Dracula vs. Frankenstein and Oasis of the Zombies in 1983.
During his career, Franco frequently worked with actress Soledad Miranda and his wife, Lina Romay, who died last year. He earned an honorary Goya award in 2009 and continued to work until his death, having just released his film Al Pereira vs. The Alligator Women last month in Spain.