04 May, 2022



aka La Coccolona (Italian release), Heisse Beruhrungen (German version). LADY PORNO (Spanish version) Directed by Tawer Nero (Julio Perez Tabernero) for Titanic Films. This is a sexy spy film once directed by Jess Franco in just a few days at a hotel in Southern France. 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, 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. This is not really another of Franco's Al Pereira episodes, as he is mainly a player in Sylvia's story. Approximately 15 minutes of original footage are missing from the longest version, MIDNIGHT PARTY.

VHS of JUSTINE, a 1979 composite edited and rescored by Joe D'Amato from 3 different Jess Franco films, MIDNIGHT PARTY, SHINING SEX, and DE SADE'S JULIETTE (all 1975). 

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 as the interactive approach allows 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 fourth wall mode. It's all a lot of goofy fun. Except that the subject is torture. Torture that really hurts! 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 hench-persons Monica Swinn and Ramon, 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. 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.


 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). 

Lina Romay, as the doomed lover in Franco's lost 1975 feature DE SADE'S JULIETTE, featured along with scenes from MIDNIGHT PARTY in Joe D'Amato's 1979 composite JUSTINE.

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 with the cops (a minimalist debacle) 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. 

Below is an image of the R0 DVD I picked up from Ebay. No extras, but HQ, if not HD, video quality. Just under 90m. It may be from the same source as the Italian and German discs. Seeing it in English, usually not conducive for a Franco screening, is interesting as the slapstick style physical comedy, played to the hilt by Lina Romay, is emphasized. Franco plays the torturing spy master as a clockwork sadist but Franco the director obviously enjoyed presenting the torture of Lina Romay as humorous, breaking its intensity. Monika Swinn and Ramon Ardid seem to be moving in fast-motion as they strip, sexually assault and virtually rape their victim. When Franco-Radeck faces the audience, breaking the fourth wall, he seems to be exasperated that we, the audience could have taken it all so seriously. Franco, the director, certainly returned again and again to the Eurospy format as a way of having fun with genre cinema and asserted its artificiality. 

It's especially interesting to watch this "comedy" with the intense, morbid SHINING SEX, made the same year, withe 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 drama about the dissemination of an AIDS like plague. The secret agents in SHINING SEX, though, are inter-dimensional invaders investigated by a paranormal scientist, Jess Franco again. A truly mind-melting 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. 

(C) Robert Monell, 2022