The audience in MAIS QUI DONC A VIOLE LINDA?, the 80m softcore version of THE HOT NIGHTS OF LINDA now in 1080p full HD resolution on Blu-ray from Severin Films. This version features the English language track. Onscreen title: BUT WHO RAPED LINDA?
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect ratio: 2.34:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
The opening title card for THE HOT NIGHTS OF LINDA, the 78m 58s hardcore version which was transferred from a collector's vintage video. This version is in French with English subtitles.
Both are presented in 2.35:1 OAR and both are rare, original release versions.
In telling the story of the final disintegration of this dysfunctional family, within the context of mid 1970s European porn, Jess Franco once again illustrates he is most interested in the style of the telling. Sometimes it seems that he just made one film, over and over and over. That one film could be the story of the cruel, guilt-ridden, sadistic, demented father and his wounded daughter. That tale goes all the way back to GRITOS EN LA NOCHE, filmed in 1961. It would resonate through EUGENIE DE SADE (1970), FACELESS (1988) and into his digital era (BROKEN DOLLS). The setting in LINDA is a Greek island (actually filmed in a villa near Alicante, Spain, chosen by Franco for its Grecian style architecture), with a musical commentary which was carefully crafted to sound Greek in style, played with Greek instruments, according to the director, who once again worked closely with the composer. The music is rousing, at times delicate, exotic and somtimes evocative of a lullaby morphing into a fever dream. The dreamer is Marie-France, whom we find out at the conclusion has dreamed the entire scenario, in an twist ending suggested by Franco's Eurocine producer Marius Lesoeur, to soften the film, make it more salable. The film is circular in structure, as is the music, which seems to go round and round, dancing around the action and players.
As in Franco's 1970 EUGENIE, THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVESION, the enclosed narrative begins and ends with its female protagonist reading a book in bed, which presumably triggers a (prophetic?) dream. The book, as we find out in the final image (another zoom shot), is MAIS QUI DONC A VIOLE LINDA? by "David Khunne," one of Jess Franco's most frequent pen-names. It's one of the numerous lost/faux texts in the Francoverse. The same David Khunne would be credited as writing the "novel" (which has never surfaced) on which GRITOS EN LA NOCHE was based. It's almost as if Franco wanted to deny literary responsibility for his scenarios. His name is nowhere to be found on any version of this film, credited to American Jazz musician J.P. Johnson. In the fascinating HOT NIGHTS documentary interview by David Gregory, Franco floats the name of James Joyce as an influence, reminding us that his late 1990s cannibal epic TENDER FLESH opens with a Joyce quotation. Franco specifically mentions the seminal Joyce novel ULYSSES, in which the stream-of-consciousness style allows for numerous conscious and unconscious points of view. Considering that LINDA is a stream of sexual fantasies, traumatic psycho-sexual memories, guilty flashbacks, hallucinations, RASHOMON like renderings of the murder at the film's core and fetid sexual encounters between various characters, all within Marie-France's organizing dream, Joyce is not an inapt comparison. Time slows down, expands, contracts as the sexual encounters become more frequent and it becomes more and more difficult to discern what is real and what is fantasy. The locked room where Radeck once murdered his best friend and caused the death of his wife when he caught them making love could represent the sealed off area of the Unconscious, which only releases its repressed images in dreams, psychoanalysis and art works.
The film itself is a heated fantasia on themes and images which might have fascinated Jacques Lacan (one thinks of his pyscho-analystic construct, the Mirror Stage), with Franco's frequent, almost obsessive use of mirrors to illustrate the irreality of it all and open up the claustrophobic confines in a distinctly Cubist manner. In the first meeting between Marie-Franco and Olivia in the hardcore version, the bodies of the women are broken up into literal cubes by the villa's doorway, windows and parapets. Something is happening here but we don't exaclty know what it is, and the indirection, fragmentation of it all holds the proceedings in a stylistic suspense until the last moments. The intensity which permeates the atmosphere (especially in the hardcore version) may explain the absence of the director himself in his usual cameo (Basilio in A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD being an obvious example) as a subnormal observer of the action, that role taken this time by Pierre Taylou (KISS ME KILLER's hippie musician) as the mumbling, much abused manservant, Abdul.
The softcore BUT WHO RAPED LINDA? adds layers to the already complex matrix of voyeurism, as the surveillance once again illustrates the director's recurring interest in the interactive nature of performance. He's as fascinated with the audience of the show as he is with the performer, you can't have one without the other, and if the performance is an erotic one, then pornography is in the eye and mind of the beholders. Speaking of pornography, the infamous ravishing by banana must be a low point in the director's checkered career, but one wonders if he even filmed it, as it seems on close examination that it may be yet another Eurocine insert from another film, although Franco did shoot all of the other hardcore material. Even Sade himself may have been hard pressed to find eroticism in a close up of vaginal bleeding.
A further stylistic elaboration comes with the added scenes (one again seemingly at the behest of Eurocine) of the police inspector (Bigotini again) and the sex magazine photographer (Catherine Laferriere, EXORCIMS) who spy on the (offscreen) action via amusing cutaway inserts. Franco speaks of the tonal variation of these scenes in a second documentary, JESS AND LINDA TALK LINDA, which was taped in 2008, and shows the late couple attempting to remember the exact shooting circumstances of LINDA. They are both in good spirits and this is a moving, essential tribute as well as illustration of how Jess Franco and Lina Romay basically operated as one creative unit for decades.
The Bonus Features also include the Fantastic Fest Lifetime Achievement Award Presentation to Franco, rare outtakes, a luridly narrated (in hard-boiled English by a voice which sounds like the dubber of Bigotini in the film) 4 minute (softcore) trailer, and an informed talk on the film by critic Stephen Thrower, who helpfully pinpoints the shooting date of the film as exactly 40 years ago, in October 1973.
Given the numerous versions of this film which have surfaced over the years, I very much appreciated this presentation of two rare alternate versions, one in 1080p HD, the other transferred from a blurry, vintage VHS. The Blu-ray brings out a range of color and detail never seen in all the versions I've collected over three decades and probably looks better than any 35mm theatrical presentation anywhere, anytime. And I, for one, also appreciate those slight imperfections, projector scratches, and occasional glitches which remind us that these versions of this quota quickie were made for quick playoff on international soft and hardcore grindhouse circuits. Having the film on BD, DVD, including the VHS release, on separate discs, all supported by relevant special features, makes this a kind of scholar's edition and is the way to do a Limited Edition of a crucial Jess Franco film.
[Thanks to Eric Cotenas for the screencaps and Kris N. Gavin for his assistance is arranging my interview with Paul Muller]
(C) Robert Monell 2013