Wednesday, 22 June 2011



Yippee! It's been too long since they last sent me a Jess Franco movie (February, actually) and there are always two competing emotions: Hope and Expectation. One is "maybe this will be one of his good ones: another Eugenie, another She Killed In Ecstasy", while the other is "dream on: it probably won't". The odds are against it, the stats don't lie: a Franco movie is far more likely to be abjectly terrible than any good. Even when taking into account that I've only seen 33 of his films (he's credited with 192 on the IMDb), the chances of another good one are slim at best. Still you have to admire his persistence, and his stamina - he's 81 and still going, although it appears he's now making "personal films" for his own amusement (although the reviews on the IMDb suggest they're "personal" lesbian porn videos).

Well, make that 34 down, 158 to go and the odds even slimmer because The Demons is another one of his stinkers. Made in 1974, it's a French-Spanish historical piece set in 17th Century England and starts with a witch cursing her aristo persecutors and the notorious Judge Jeffreys as she burns at the stake. Locating the witch's two daughters at the nunnery in Blackmoor, they instantly seize one of them as a witch (why not both of them?) and unwittingly allow the curse to fall upon themselves: the other daughter escapes, disguises herself as a Spanish countess and somehow conspires to get everyone together for the old witch's revenge....

As you'd expect nay demand from the Dirty Old Man Of European Exploitation, Franco is not very interested in the revenge story: he's much more interested in getting his women naked and zooming into their pubes, mostly to an annoying and inappropriate bongo soundtrack. Either they're naked and being tortured by Jeffreys' witchfinding tribunals or they're naked and pleasuring themselves to the shock of the Mother Superior (but inevitably not so much that she doesn't join in). The killing of the evil aristos is perfunctory at best - it's as if Franco was so wrapped up in all the tit and bum stuff that he forgot it was a revenge drama - and basically achieved by cutting from the screaming victim to a skeleton. Small wonder that it was originally rejected by the BBFC for theatrical release.

On a technical level, there are a few occasions when the sound cuts out completely (which isn't unknown in Franco films - the sound on Killer Barbys is incredibly shoddy). Mysteriously, the film occasionally switches from English to French language, sometimes in the middle of a scene, and for some reason Redemption haven't provided subtitles (if they have, I couldn't find them). I was still able to follow most of it thanks to a thirty-year-old O-Level in French along with some blind guesswork (and the fact that it didn't really matter).

The six-year shadow of the distinctly superior Witchfinder General hangs over the film, obviously, along with Mark Of The Devil and Franco's earlier Judge Jeffreys movie The Bloody Judge (with Christopher Lee), and The Demons isn't anywhere up to that level - and I don't much care for Mark Of The Devil in the first place. It would clearly have been much better if Franco had for once gone with the horror angle and stuck with the curse and vengeance story. Instead he opts for his default position of having his camera drool at tedious length over the screaming torture victims and masturbating nuns. Frankly, if you want to look at ladies' naughty bits, go and get some porn. Or a lady. This is boring as a film, and to be honest it's boring as porn.



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