05 February, 2011

LORNA... THE EXORCIST: First Look at the Mondo Macabro DVD

The new Mondo Macabro DVD is a careful reconstruction and full restoration of the longest yet version of Jess Franco's most controversial film. It's a 1.66:1/16:9 anamorphic transfer from a variety of vintage negative [according to the back cover] and other elements with rare, select scenes included from other sources which were painstakingly tracked down. The source elements vary from excellent to acceptable but as a package it flows together beautifully while retaining a vintage venue appeal. A few lime green scratches during some of new, unearthed scenes actually add to the Grindhouse appeal. And that's exactly where versions of this film played theatrically back in the 1970s, but it was even censored for those theatrical venues. 

A highly disturbing tale of diabolical possession and Faustian fatality I place LORNA...THE EXORCIST [onscreen title aka LES POSSEDEES DU DIABLE, SEXY DIABOLIC STORY, LINDA]...

Poster for Lorna, the Exorcist (Les possédées du diable, aka Linda ... | http://www.wrongsideofthear...
Rare English language track included...

Lorna the Exorcist ( Les possèdèes du diable , Jess Franco 1974) | http://dvdsleuth.blogspot.com/201...
Mondo Macabro does it right!

Cult Movie Posters/L/POSTER - LORNA THE EXORCIST | http://www.cultmoviez.com/L/slides/POSTER%20-%20L...

IGN: The Exorcist: The Complete Anthology Box Arts 1670826 | http://dvd.ign.com/dor/objects/853867/t...
More disturbing than...*

in the top 5 of the director's extensive oeuvre. One of Franco's best acted films, Lina Romay, Guy Delmore, Pamela Stanford and Jacqueline Laurent (SINNER) are well cast in their roles. There's a palpable, destructive, unearthly magnetism within the cursed ensemble. I'm not giving any of the plot away since this best works when one simply sits back and watches as it slowly, hypnotically, inexorably unfolds. The emergence of the crustaceans from Laurent's private parts is certainly an image which burns its way into your unconscious. You might want to banish it from your mind, but you won't be able. This is 1000 proof Jess Franco, as subversive, transgressive and historically significant (mid 70s sexual anxiety has never been more thoroughly explored) as UN CHIEN ANDALOU was in its era. Look out for a wild eyed Howard Vernon as a thuggish retainer. 

Franco's blocking has never been more subterranean and a truly creepy musical score featuring a hellish, tortuously repetitive, high pitched guitar theme and rumbling chords makes it as effective as an audio as well as visual experience.

The French language version is presented with easy to read, highly literate English subtitles capturing the poetic flavor of the phrases.

Then I watched the rare  English  language version. Pretty strange experience. The voice sync, casting and dialogue are jarring but it's fascinating to program it with the Eng subs on to see the variances in dialogue between French and English. That's what makes this a must have DVD. It plays more like a strange near-hardcore mid-70s melodrama but is very much worth seeing against the French version. 

A number of deleted and extended scenes are included. Most significantly two completely new scenes: a tense family dinner and post dinner discussion among the Mariel family about Patrick's possible motives for changing the location of the family holiday (he has to follow Lorna's commands) and Chapter 10, which is the first time the "initiation" of Linda by Lorna (who has emerged through the wall) into her supernatural web has been seen totally uncensored on any video format. I'm not going to describe this scene. You probably already know what it entails but seeing it after hearing about it for a quarter of a decade was a seminal experience for me. A still from this scene is included in the 1993 publication OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO. It's the stuff nightmares are made of, mythic, dreamlike, delirious and sinister. And indelible. With these additional scenes (I've collected about half a dozen video versions  from around the world all lasting no more than 82m) it now runs nearly 100m.

Numerous pertinent extras include text notes which explain the fumetti influence in the film along with the importance of the location shooting in the architecturally bizarre structures at La Grande Motte. An interview with editor Gerard Kikoine and some words from Stephen Thrower on the film are also included among other extras. This is a must-have DVD, certainly in the running for the best ever Jess Franco DVD presentation. This masterwork of erotic horror can finally be seen as the director intended. I'll have more to say about this in future blogs. 

*And I do indeed find it more frightening and  soul disturbing than THE EXORCIST (1973), which made me physically ill when I first saw it theatrically. It's a very well made film and I got the chance to discuss it at length a year later with director William Friedkin, a gracious, talented gentleman. But I still have grave doubts about that film and don't really want to revisit it. 

I give this new Mondo Macabro LORNA THE EXORCIST DVD **** across the board. Four stars: my highest rating in the Film, Video, Audio, Extras categories. 

(C) Robert Monell 2011


scott said...

wonderful review! I hope my copy arrives next week from amazon marketplace. I keep running to the po box with anticipation. I really feel this is Franco's strongest work. I have brought my Franco film favorites down to this crazy list:


scott said...

Got the dvd this week... Incredible.This and SINNER have been such great solid releases.
I hope LA COMTESSE PERVERSE will make it to us, even if takes a few years to sort it all out.

I need to check a few things on my old version of LORNA as I feel there's some variances in one of the scenes. Probably my imagination in overdrive, but I need to be sure.

Robert Monell said...

The original version of LA COMTESSE PERVERSE, before it was expanded into LES CROQUEUESES by Robert De Nelse is my favorite at this time. And there is more footage than ever in those exteriors of LA GRANDE MOTTE. What variances do you note?