This film puts meat on the bones of Jess Franco's 'Demoniac' (1975) in that the notorious director, never happy with the restrictions placed on his earlier production, revisits his character of Vogel and shapes the story into something more to his liking. One of the inherent joys of being a fan of Uncle Jess is constantly rediscovering new/old things. What other director would have the freedom to re-edit a film from four years earlier? And yet, that is exactly what he did - combed through the scenes, re-dubbed them, re-named some characters, moved scenes around and added 25 minutes of new material. We begin with such newly filmed sequences featuring Vogel, seemingly desolate and outcast, existing in the gutters and backstreets of Paris, a diminutive, ramshackle outsider shuffling through freezing streets unseen by respectable passers-by. After he is (improbably, perhaps) propositioned by a working girl, his latent rage and religious fervour gains hold and she is quickly done away with. This and subsequent killings are beautifully, unspectacularly shot, with Vogel emerging from night-time shadows that have long been his stomping ground. The city has rarely been a creepier, lonelier place (some of these scenes might have been shot in the same locations as Franco's earlier 'Death Avenger of Soho.' They certainly look similar, and locations included Paris and Portugal, so it is possible). I have always felt that Franco is a pretty wooden actor. It is amusing and self-deprecating of him to cast himself usually as perverts and lunatics in what are little more than cameos most of the time. Here though, he is not only the main character (Vincent Price was originally envisaged), but he shines. His weariness, his looks of longing/revulsion at Lina Romay's Anne are striking, and his general beaten demeanour is terrifically conveyed. He is at one with the bleakness that surrounds him. And yet his rage - a shuddering, frantic, desperate violence - is expertly balanced. The performance was always there, but with this revisit, Jess has added much to it, and the result propels this onto the top tier of my favourite Franco productions. It isn't all great of course: the elongated, passionless orgy scene is still present (although may have been trimmed). A whirl of pale limbs set to Daniel White's out-of-place budget jazz dirge - in fact, White's work here is patchy, reminiscent in some places of 'Zombie Lake's cheap keyboard plonkings. It is not surprising that the film meanders, also; this is, after all, the director indulging himself. I am not familiar enough with the original material to identify where edits have taken place, what has been taken out and what has been added. But I do know that this is the definitive version of Franco's story. The characters are fleshed out, the beginning and the ending of the film have been massively improved, and Franco himself must take huge credit for a terrific central performance. An excellent film.
The Sadist of Notre Dame
The Sadist of Notre Dame
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An ex-priest escapes from an asylum and kills people in God's name. This is a re-edited Spanish-language version of L'éventreur de Notre-Dame (1975) and XXX version Sexorcismes (1975) with newly shot scenes.
October 14, 2021