Review: MIDNIGHT PARTY (1975)/LADY PORNO version
Posted by Robert Monell , Apr 02,2000,09:56 post reply top message newest index
New Version (2023) (C) Robert Monell
aka Porno Pop, La Partouse de Minuit, Sylvia le Basleuse, Sexy Blues (Production/prerelease titles), La Coccolona (Italian release), Heisse Beruhrungen (Erwin Dietrich/Swiss version). LADY PORNO (76 minute Spanish version) Directed by Tawer Nero (Julio Perez Tabernero) for Titanic Films. "A Belgian-Spanish co-production" is credited onscreen in this Spanish language cut. The longest (94m) cut is presumably Franco's own preferred cut and listed as a French-Belgian production.
This is a sexy spy film once directed by Jess Franco in just a few days, at least it looks like a few days, mostly at a hotel in Southern France (some exteriors of the astral pyramids of La Grande Motte are glimpsed). A typical Franco strategy. Around the same time, he shot two other films there (Le Grand Motte) with the exact same rooms, casts and crews (DE SADE'S JULIETTE, SHINING SEX). The version under consideration here has the onscreen title Lady Porno, a Spanish variant of Franco's original MIDNIGHT PARTY. Julio Perez Tabernero, an actor turned producer-director (he can be seen in Franco's own SADISTEROTICA/Two Undercover Angels)acquired it for his Titanic Films (Julio, your company needs a new handle!) and reconstructed it as an "American-Belgian" co-production. It's very amusingly redubbed and rescored with lewd comments ("I'd like to fuck her in the ass!"), bawdy music and direct-to-the-viewer takes. --Sylvia is a very hot stripper who carries on an affair with a cheap detective, Al Pereira (Olivier Mathot) behind the back of her longtime squeeze, Red Nicholas (film historian-critic-actor-musician-screenwriter-Franco friend, Alain Petit). This is not really another of Franco's Al Pereira episodes, as he is mainly a player in Sylvia's story. This is kind of like a live action cartoon (cf LUCKY, THE INSCRUTABLE) with Lina Romay giving it all she has as the resourceful Sylvia. This might actually be my personal favorite of her performances, she mercilessly teases the viewer directly, the interactive takes allow her to pose, stick her tongue out, and make alluring remarks to the audience before turning back to the scene and players at hand, resuming in the traditional four wall mode. The longest version of this film opens with Romay in full interactive mode, addressing the viewer as she twists and turns in erotic self pleasure.
It's mosty a lot of good natured fun for the initiated, except that the subject of interest is torture. Torture that really hurts to watch! Sylvia is taken by Radeck/Agent 008 (Jess Franco himself), a spymaster and professional torture mogul who takes his business very seriously indeed. Look at the way he abuses poor Sylvia: after being stripped and sexually abused by henchpersons Monica Swinn and Ramon Ardid, she's poked, punched and cigarette burned by the ingrates under the very close supervision of Radeck. They take her to the "torture clinic" which, this being a Jess Franco shoot, merely means another hotel room (or the same hotel room slightly redressed and shot from a different angle). Choosing a metal tool, they try pulling out her toenails, as Radeck is beginning to lose his patience. At this point one of my favorite moments in Franco's monumental filmography occurs, and it only last a few seconds: Radeck simply puts a cigarette in his mouth and lights it. That's it! The exact way which actor Jess Franco jabs the smoke into his mouth and fires it up has to be experienced first hand. It's a grand bit a business, something small made into something very special by a seasoned professional, Franco, the actor, is much more flamboyand here than Franco, the director. Radeck drops the pose at the end, as Sylvia and Al are escaping he faces the camera and admits to us that it was all an illusion. We have been spectators. But what are we doing at this venue? Of course, that question is implied rather than asked. It's a comedy of torture, after all.
Alain Petit is very droll as the Marxist jazz singer, Nicholas. Billed as "Charlie Christian" (cf JUSTINE, the 1979-80 Joe D'Amato composite where he is likewise billed as his footage here is rolled over with scenes from SHINING SEX into a unique reedit) he performs his infamous "La Vie est une Merde", also heard in a blues rendition during Franco's 1982 EMMANUELLE EXPOSED and in Petit's documentary THE MAKING OF TENDER FLESH (1997).
The Spanish language version which was screened for this review (subtitled in English) is very much in keeping with the joker/trickster impulses which frequently bubble to the surface of Franco's work. The finale, a shootout between Petit, the villains and the cops (a minimalist debacle of dutch angles and snap zooms accompanied by light-hearted jazz,) followed by shots of birds flying in the distance as our couple floats away on a pleasure craft, is post-ironic in the sense that it delivers on expectations which Franco obviously considers bogus while gleefully curving past the generic demands of representational, grade B sexploitation production methodology. In other words: don't worry, be happy, it's only a movie. Franco places the absurd action as film within a film within a role play since the party itself turns out to be a spy game. When the director-actor breaks the fourth wall again to dismiss the concocted reality he has just created he's getting the last laugh and word, reminding us that his films represent nothing but meditations on represention.
It's especially interesting to watch this "comedy" lon a double bill with the intense, morbid SHINING SEX, made the same year, with the same main cast, on the same locations in Southern France, sometimes using the same hotel rooms, shot from the same camera angles. There is a perverse atmosphere of toxic sexuality, perhaps anticipating Franco's unreleased SIDA, LA PESTE DEL SIGLO XX (1986), a sci-fi/drama about the dissemination of an AIDS like plague. The secret agents in SHINING SEX are extra-dimensional invaders investigated by a paranormal scientist, played Jess Franco again. A truly mind-bending experience would be to view both and then JUSTINE, which composites footage from SHINING SEX, MIDNIGHT PARTY and Franco's lost JULIETTE DE SADE into one Sadean blow-out, courtesy of post-production producer-editor, Joe D'Amato.
REVIEWED BY ROBERT MONELL
NOTES: MIDNIGHT PARTY was released in Germany on January 23, 1976, in France on December 7th, 1977; LADY PORNO carries a 1982 Spanish copyright date.
The IMDB lists Brussels Belgium, Madrid, Alicante, Comunidad Valenciana Spain and Cote Bleue, Bouches-du-Rhone France as additional locations.
(C) Robert Monell--2023 NEW VERSION