08 August, 2008


A pathetic remote-controlled killer, the "Great Irina" prepares to attack in MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE.

The Castillo de Bil Bil, in Benalmadena featured in MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE was also used as one of the Spanish locations for the 1967 Boris Karloff horror film EL COLECCIONISTA DE CADAVERES aka Cauldron of Blood.

[Thanks to Nzoog for the screencaps from the Spanish newsstand DVD of MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE]

Reviewed by Robert Monell

A virtual remake of LES CAUCHEMARS NAISSENT LA NUIT aka NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT (1970), this gorgeously composed erotic thriller [before that term came into common usage; it's really a neo-noir with a lot of extended soft core interludes] also recycles visual, musical and thematic motifs from NECRONOMICON and FEMALE VAMPIRE among others. Most importantly, it must be seen in its original Techniscope aspect ratio to be fully appreciated.

Deliriously lensed in the same Southern Spain which would become an over-familiar environment for many of the director's Golden Films Internacional era products, it is nonetheless one of Franco's most impressive orthographic achievements. The patterned tropical hues on display(canary yellows, shimmering aquamarines, eye piercing emeralds, blood oranges) are entrancing enough to transcend the banal plot elements. Actually, the plot is pushed to the margins, it's more like a ballet of shadowy figures floating through dreamy lounge and luminous Mediterranean environments. Someone walking down a darkened hotel hallway toward a pinpoint of light emanating from a keyhole can be the most fascinating thing in the world to Jess Franco during this period.

This is a heady draught from what I term Franco's Early-Eighties-Exotica period which immediately draws one into its highly intoxicating atmosphere. Irina (Lina Romay), a night club entertainer (Lina Romay) who, under the hypnotic spell of a ruthless individual, becomes an agent of death. The villains are Fabian (Daniel Katz) and Lorna (the dusky Carmen Carrion); their victims are actually criminal cohorts who must be eliminated, apparent jet setters who use the tropical hotel setting as a place to hang out, do drugs and engage in spasms of casual sex (of the soft core variety this time around). The exact nature of the conspiracy isn't of consequence, but there is a crime-noir back story (and a visual reference of a famous American crime fiction writer whom I will let the first time viewers discover themselves).

The dreamlike atmosphere is everything here and the director gradually develops a layered nightmare. Humid tints, tilted set ups in cramped interiors, painterly compositions and the most beautiful seven note phrase ever written by Daniel White do the rest of the job. Juan Soler Cozar's hallucinatory set ups and use of horizontally articulated zones of color are the real reason for being here and these shots are held much longer than necessary for a conventional thriller. The film is hypnotic in the same way that Irina is hypnotized by Fabian, through a kind of seduction by overwhelming images and sounds.

Lina Romay takes a break from her "Candy Coster" persona where she wears a blond wig and little else. She's just as nude here but retains a touching vulnerability. Daniel Katz does the manipulative lounge lizard routine to perfection and keeps us guessing right up until the final shots. Franco's own appearances as Irina's psychiatrist are amusing (he dubs himself) and intriguing, but unfortunately cropped off screen in pan and scan Caliente video until he suddenly shows up at the end to "solve" the crime. The psychoanalyst as detective is a tradition in noir/horror and Franco uses that element to spring his surprise ending. It works because it's so deftly, briskly staged and the film ends immediately with this satisfying pirouette.

Note the use of clashing color patterns during the psychoanalytic sessions and especially the extended drug-party sequence which is virtually dialogue free and creates an oneiric atmosphere through outre camera angles and a use of a deliberately distorted soundtrack. The performer-as-assassin/remote-control killer scenario goes all the way back to GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, EL SECRETO DEL DR. ORLOFF through ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS [CARTES SUR TABLE], MISS MUERTE, VAMPYROS LESBOS and VENUS IN FURS, just to mention a few of the more famous examples in Jess Franco's filmography.

The presentational aspects are everything and the show must go on, style is content in the films of Jess Franco. It opens, after subtly disturbing glimpses of ocean breakers through a gently swaying curtains, with Irina being "presented" by Fabian. We see them, puppeteer and puppet, backstage, about to enter the nightclub as the audience are silhouetted against the high North African Gothic stained-glass windows. It's a breathtaking moment, if you have an "eye", that is. One gets a sense of the audience in the nightclub watching the viewer of the film as we rather uncomfortably watch the "show." The performer-spectator nexus is subverted again and again here as in most of Franco's essential work, replaced with hidden agendas, role playing within role playing, mirrors which become windows and vice-versa.

In her trance state, everything which can be termed ontological reality is reversed for Irina. Her unconscious is represented as a walled off area which begins to rupture here and there. Fabian's face will occasionally penetrate the wall, slowly coming into focus before becoming blurred again. One really gets a sense what it's like to be inside the consciousness of someone who is a sort of Manchurian Candidate, a zombie. The outside world only exists as a distant haze of colored forms echoing with muffled voices, heavy sighs and cries in the night.

Let's hope that a company like Severin Films gives this film the deluxe DVD presentation it deserves, in 2.35:1 aspect ratio from vault elements with English subtitles. It does exist on DVD as one of the "Spanish newsstand" discs and on vhs from the 1989 Caliente Video. I've only been able to see MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE via this MILLION DOLLAR VIDEO CORP cassette, which is cropped to 1:33.1, after its opening Techniscope credit sequence. It remains a stunning film even in that highly compromised format.

It should also be noted that MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE was just one of at least twelve films Jess Franco made in 1982.

[Thanks also to Francesco Cesari]

(c)Robert Monell, 2008


Anonymous said...

That widescreen version looks great. I have the cropped version on DVDR.

Tom Mather said...

I've recently seen Mil Sexos in an incredibly murky print but was totally blown away by it. I'd love to see a pristine copy on DVD. Nightmares Come at Night is one of my Franco favourites, but this is even better.

The jokey ending is really shocking after all the dreamlike scenes leading up to it. Whether this is successful, I don't know, but is it another example of Franco drawing attention to film as film (forced conventional happy ending)?

This has to be my favourite Golden Film so far. I prefer it to Gemidos de Placer which I thought started rather poorly, though that's not to take away from it's stylistic daring and gorgeous land/seascapes.

Robert Monell said...

That widescreen version looks great. I have the cropped version on DVDR.

Yes, I'd like to see it on a good DVD presentaion.

Tom: I agree that this is self reflexive film on film study, and Franco playsing the psychiatrist clinches it in an amusing way. This, GEMIDOS, BOTAS NEGRAS LATIGO DE CUERO, THE SINISTER DR. ORLOFF are all 1982 Golden Films productions which deserve quality DVD presentations.