05 August, 2006

THE MAN WHO PRODUCED SUCCUBUS


COMMENTARY BY ROBERT MONELL: Pier A. Caminnecci (foreground) watches the transgressive performance of Lorna (Janine Reynaud) along with Jack Taylor in Jess Franco's SUCCUBUS (1967), one of the nine films he was involved with between 1965 and 1971 as an actor/director/producer. Thanks to Mirek for providing this screengrab from the new BU DVD of SUCCUBUS along with the rare German poster for Caminnecci's last production, Freddie Francis' dire vampire "comedy", THE VAMPIRE HAPPENING (1971).

Partnered with German actor-singer-producer Adrian Hoven, Caminnecci produced four Franco-related films within a year under their Aquila Films banner, including SUCCUBUS. Caminnecci appears in SUCCUBUS as Hermann, who tries to seduce Lorna away from Bill (Jack Taylor) much as he did in real life, having an affair with Janine Reynaud as her actor-husband Michel Lemoine stood by. Lemoine is quite effective in the role of "Pierce", Lorna's supervising Demon. There were apparently no hard feelings, as Caminnecci and Lemoine would go on to codirect Reynaud in a future project. Caminnecci also appears in the porno film being watched by the passengers aboard the jet in the opening scene of THE VAMPIRE HAPPENING. This painfully unfunny vampire comedy brought Caminnecci's short career to a crashing halt.

Franco has said that it was Caminnecci who gave him the medieval text upon which SUCCUBUS was based and suggested the idea but that doesn't mean his screenplay credit on the film is to be taken at face value. It's a Jess Franco film all the way and still one of the few where he had complete creative control preparing and shooting, it was nothing like he had done before and would prove quite successful in international markets, including the US. Hoven and Caminnecci prepared export versions as we've pointed out before from their Berlin base. But the "American Version" [see the screengrab in our earlier blog] was "directed" by Terry Vantell of TITAN FILMS INC, the same company who dubbed the Gamera films for AIP to distribute over here. It was cut by "EDIT RITE" and finally released by Trans American Films. In fact, there are two different "American" versions. The one which played theatrically and which I have a copy of runs 80m 10s, while the BU runs 79m 11s. The longer version ends with two minutes of evocative end music over black. This extended coda allows for a soft landing from Franco's jagged edged nightmare and offers the jaded viewer a much needed decompression interlude. To use a cliche, it's the frosting on the cake, and SUCCUBUS is a very rich dessert indeed.
This coda is dropped entirely from both the AB and BU presentations. Did Hoven and Caminneci prepare this musical finale for export or was it an addition by Titan and Edit Rite? Or was it part of Franco's original plan? Were the Atlas International Worldsales elements which AB and BU encountered incomplete in this regard as a result of positive/negative damage? Was anyone even aware that this ending existed as part of the 1969 theatrical package? Note that the original X rating is not part of the AB or BU opening, but it is there at the top of the print I have. The fact that these two elements, which have considerable nostalgia value for me, are not there does not make the BU presentation a bad one. In fact, it's an essential purchase for fans of Jess Franco given the widescreen aspect ratio, the much improved sound-image quality and the pertinent interviews included. It's a good looking transfer with vibrant colors, in fact it looks nothing like it did on the screen nearly 40 years ago. The colors are really pumped up, whereas theatrical 35mm prints had a much more subdued palette, especially the Berlin lensed scenes. There's also an unwanted greenish/yellowish tint to some scenes, the "sunglasses effect" present on certain other BU transfers. A German language version, which some have reported contains no extra footage, played theatrically in NYC in 1969. It would be interesting to have this version along with the complete American version on a SE someday. The BU version also contains about a minute of footage trimmed from the US theatrical version, including two shots which detail the sexual torture of the couple in the first scene. Ironcially, when THE VAMPIRE HAPPENING was released on DVD it was also missing its end music sequence.

7 comments:

Mirek said...

Robert, can you tell if the end music is from the same composers whose music is heard in the rest of the film--Rooyen or Gulda?

Mirek said...

Your instinct about Caminneci's script credit is correct. In an interview posted online on the Terrorverlag site, Franco confirms that Caminneci's credit was given solely for quota purposes. The same is true of Franz Xaver Lederle's cinematographer credit.

Robert Monell said...

And, of course, he was the producer while Franco was ONLY the director, so he could have had it in Franco's contract that the writing credit would go to him on this project. Camennecci was the one who prepared export versions and he may have had this stipulation with Trans American also. In any case, Franco did not have the final say on the credits or the content of the US Eng dubbed version. It's also interesting to note that Caminnecci also takes sole director's credit for the project he and Michel Lemoine co-directed LOVE ON A RAINY DAY. Tom Hunter, the male lead of THE VAMPIRE HAPPENING complained that Camennecci took the film away from Freddie Francis because there wasn't enough sex in it and shot extra nudie footage which appears in the precredit sequence.

Robert Monell said...

It's not the Van Rooyen style jazzy music recognizable from his other Aquila-Franco scores (and remember his scores for the two Red Lips movies were replaced with Fernando Garcia Morcillo cues on the Sp versions) but it does sound somewhat like some of the flowery Gulda orchestrations, like that scene with the piano player. It swells and turbulently flows in the grand Romantic style of Lizst. Look at Gulda's onscreen credit closely, it says it was adapted from "the original", the "original" I take it means the Van Rooyen score which was submitted before being laid on the track in postproduction or maybe on the German version[?]. But the music credit in OBSESSION turns this around...

Uwe Huber said...

OBSESSION is correct here, while the US credits are wrong. Van Rooyen used Guldas record MUSIC FOR 4 SOLOISTS AND BAND (http://www.klassika.info/Komponisten/Gulda/Konzert/1964_02/index.html) for the main title sequence. I haven't found out yet, what that Liszt-style piano piece is, but yes it sounds like Gulda.

Robert Monell said...

Thanks again for the confirmation. Yes, that end music is really essential to the film's impact for me.

Anonymous said...

"I haven't found out yet, what that Liszt-style piano piece is, but yes it sounds like Gulda."

I don't know about the one in SUCCUBUS but the Hoven/Caminecci-produced/ Van Rooyen-scored CASTLE OF THE CREEPING FLESH makes use of a Liszt piece.