21 April, 2018

LA NOCHE DE LOS SEXOS ABIERTOS (Jess Franco, 1981-Golden Films Internacional)

Release dateSpain Feb 23, 1983
Country  Spain
Runtime94 min
Technical details2.35:1
[King Home Video VHS, Spain. VIDEO MERCURY FILMS, 1994. There is no known DVD release of this film]

Copyright Robert Monell, 1998-2018
Moira (Lina Romay) is a sexy cabaret stripper by night and a secret agent by day. Actually, she's kind of both at all hours. She is attempting to gain information on the Segunda Guerra Mundial, an international criminal group who are about to locate a hidden consignment of gold bars which was secreted beneath the Canary Islands desert during the last days of World War II (making this a kind of unofficial sequel to OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES/LAS TUMBAS DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTS-1981).

Private detective Al Crosby (a stand-in for Franco-favorite Al Pereira) is also on the trail of the gold and teams up with Moira. Eventually, Professor Von Klaus (Canary Islander Albino Graziani) provides a complex code which, when deciphered, will reveal the location. Moira is briefly captured by the opposition, tortured, and then freed by Al. They make a concerted effort to break the word puzzle, and finally succeed in locating Von Klaus's desert villa, in which there is a secret room containing the gold.

First though, the right notes, from a Liszt composition, have to be played on an organ which will electronically trigger the unlock mechanism. 

When Moira performs the piece, the door opens and the treasure awaits them. The only problem is that the counter agents have pursued them by helicopter and plan to relieve Al and Moira of their newly found fortune.

Considering the fact that Jess Franco has returned to Euro-spy genre again and again throughout his career, it would seem the genre holds a special fascination for him, as well as providing the prolific director with narrative action that functions as a necessary backdrop to his trademark erotic scenes, personal touches, visual spirals, and private jokes. The most outrageous scene features Romay performing an elaborate horizontal strip during which she licks some erotic pictures from pages of a sleazy sex magazine while a disco style song plays over the scene. The words to the song repeat over and over "The taste, taste, taste, taste, taste of your sperm"! The lurid level is dialed up to 10 plus here.

It is impossible to separate the sex from
any generic conventions at this point in Franco's career. His later Euro-spy feature DARK MISSION (1988), offers evidence that he could leave aside the obsessive focus on eroticism and make a relatively straight commercial product, but as this more personal early 80s period and his recent films show Franco is at his best when he is
allowed to be Franco. And, as we shall see, this is much more of a Neo-Noir than a typical Eurospy film.

LA NOCHE... opens with a deliriously filmed striptease by Lina Romay, performed in the driver's seat of a classic 1950s American car installed in a surreal, ultra-glitzy night spot, where the sexy action is bathed in gorgeous neon hues. Lina's gyrations and Franco's camera work and lighting design seem in perfect harmony this time around, and the sequence is hypnotic.

There are many shootings, double crosses, sexual torture sessions (one outrageously borders on a XXX level of sado-erotic intensity), exotic locales, and Lina Romay has never looked sexier in very skimpy outfits. 

Franco's Golden Films Internacional period, running through the 1980s, was perhaps his most personal and unfettered. He told me when I interviewed him in 2005 that he was completely free to shoot what he wanted and edit the film without fear of producer [Emilio Larraga, whom Franco told me got into serious tax trouble with Spanish authorities] interference or later revision. But he also worked unpaid upfront and with very low "poor" budgetary resources. Nonetheless, as with LA NOCHE.. he sometimes made his special magic happen. 

He also was pleased when I praised the visual style and atmosphere of what he described as his "black film" [Film Noir]. Film Noir was his favorite genre and he often referred to Robert Siodmak's 1946 version of THE KILLERS as his favorite film. He seemed surprised I had seen his film and appreciated what he was trying to work into it. He went on to say he tried to make the film into an equivalent of the 1940s and 50s American Noirs. Instead of dark and murky, it's teeming with bright shocks of orange, lemon and lime hues. Common colors found on the Canary Island locations. 

Note: According to Nzoog, the Spanish title roughly translates as "The Night of the Open Sex"....

(C) Robert Monell, 2018

Robert Monell

20 April, 2018


Image result for Testamento Diabolico
VSOM [Video Search of Miami]: circa 1991No longer available. At least it's not listed in the JF section their site.
Film [this version]: *Video: * 1.33:1 [including inserts]; NTSC VHSAudio: *

This 1hr 45m composite contained approximately 30m of extra non-Jess Franco-generated/repeated Franco footage,  including erotic inserts [financed by Eurocine and shot circa 1973] and laughably unconvincing zombie footage reportedly filmed by Jean Rollin (very much in the "style" of the 1980 Eurocine coproduction ZOMBIE LAKE, directed by Rollin).

It composites an English language dub of the film with Spanish subtitles, TESTAMENTO DIABOLICO, along with scenes from, quoting a video generated scroll over footage from the Eurocine lensed garden orgy*,  "...the French releases HOLOCAUSTE DE ZOMBI, Princesse De L' Erotisme and the Italian-Euro print UNA VERGINE TRA I MORTI VIVENTI." The scroll goes on to claim to be the "definative" (sic) version which includes all the footage deleted from the "diluted Anglo version." This is really not correct since all this extra footage was never included in any "Anglo" home video version outside of this grey market composite. Some of the zombie footage does appear in such vintage VHS releases, like the WIZARD VIDEO release, which doesn't include the earlier shot erotic footage.

Onscreen title: A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD, with TESTAMENTO DIABOLICO [in yellow subtitles below the main title credit font]. I guess this version may have some value for Franco completists {I paid an outrageous 25 dollars + shipping at the time!] but the MIDNIGHT VIDEO composite is in much better audio/visual quality. That will be logged in a separate future post. Video Search of Miami is no longer in business and one can only have mixed feelings about their business practices and releases ("blurry" is a word which often comes to mind when trying to describe a typical VSOM release0.

*The infamous "garden orgy" is discussed in detail by a panel in "The Three faces of Christina" a 12 minute documentary by Daniel Gouyette , included as a special feature on the 2013 REDEMPTION Blu-ray release of the "director's cut" CHRISTINA, PRINCESS OF EROTICISM (79 minutes). There was some commentary that this release still retained some erotic footage not shot by Franco. It's nonetheless a welcome HD release. A 2k or 4k scan and full restoration, if the camera negatives are available, would also be welcome.   The scene is also included in the bonus material and features mid 1970's JF regulars Alice Arno (as a nude queen wearing only a cape, mask and crown, sitting on a throne and waving a sceptre), Pierre Taylou (EXORCISME), Waldemar Wohlfaart (AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO, YUKA, LES GLOUTONNES) and Nadine Pascal (THE SADIST OF NOTRE DAME).

A completely delirious exercise in creating an accumulator of all known footage from all known versions, as the CEO of VSOM described it to me nearly 30 years ago! 

C) Robert Monell 2018