Written by: Jess Franco and Nicole Guettard
Directed by: Jess Franco
Starring: Alice Arno, Lina Romay, Pierre Taylou
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
ďCome. Come and embrace me."
When Jess Franco passed away earlier this year (if thereís an afterlife, Iím guessing he and Lina Romay have already produced at least three films by now), I had intended to eulogize him with a review but never got around to it (considering he was still directing multiple movies a year in his eighties, I obviously have no excuse for such laziness). I had a vague notion that Iíd tackle one of his and Romayís more famous works (like Female Vampire) before fate intervened in the form of Severin Filmsís release of 1975ís The Hot Nights of Linda. It seems disingenuous and absurd to consider it a lost or forgotten title in an oeuvre that included over 200 films (youíre bound to have a couple dozen slip between the cracks), but itís not one that immediately springs to mind when you ponder his work.
Somehow, thatís fittingósure, there are plenty of other more famous (or infamous) films to remember Franco byóthe Orloff movies, Vampyros Lesbos, Venus in Furs, etc.óbut Hot Nights feels so typically Franco despite its apparent B-side status. One of three Franco efforts from 1975, Hot Nights features many of his preoccupations: hedonism, sexual perversion, murder, incest, lesbianism, and psychosis. Itís a threadbare yarn with little plot: Marie (Alice Arno) is tapped to serve as a resident nurse/teacher/secretary for an affluent family. This curious brood includes an odd patriarch (Paul Muller) and his two daughters: paraplegic Linda (Catherine Lafferiere) and nymphomaniac Olivia (Romay). And of course they have a simple servant who canít speak, the great Eurohorror signifier that this family just ainít right.
Predictably, it doesnít take long for the family to explicitly reveal this to Marie, particularly Olivia, who proceeds to hit on her new teacher upon their introduction. More a softcore erotic thriller and less a horror film, Hot Nights owes most of its intrigue to the sensuous relationship that develops between these two, as thereís a real ďwill they or wonít they?Ē (spoiler: they do) quality to their interactions thatís obviously meant to tantalize and titillate at the basest levels. While that doesnít sound like the highest of aspirations, Franco makes an art form out of their entendres and overtures, with Romay especially (and perhaps expectedly) stealing the show. With her incredible screen presence, Romay makes for an alluring, compelling figure in more ways than one. Sheís obviously a stunning woman (and lovingly photographed as always by Franco), but this also represents one of Romayís more impressive performances, as she straddles the line between jezebel and a victim of psychosexual trauma; when she seductively fellates a banana, itís both incredibly sexy and disturbing, so itís easy to see how Marie might entertain the thought of entering a lesbian tryst.
Despite the title (and the even more curious alternate and giallo-esque title, But Who Raped Linda?), the handicapped daughter is essentially an afterthought, there only to serve as another object of her cousin Olivia (itís revealed that the nympho was actually adopted) and serves as the most tragic (if not severely underdeveloped) figure in the film. Instead, the only functioning story here involves Oliviaís twisted, nightmarish memories involving her uncleís murderous encounter with his adulterous wife and her lover. Franco explores this in typical fashion as he yields to Oliviaís warbling, repetitive nightmares (in an egregious instance of padding, he plays the same sequence out twice) that explain how sheís become such a twisted soul. He also plays fast and loose with the narrative; as if the conflict brewing between Olivia and Marie werenít enough, Franco manufactures another bit involving an investigative reporter and a detective who hang out in the neighboring house to spy on the depraved clan.
Once these two are properly injected into the proceedings, The Hot Nights of Linda seemingly reflects the madness of its characters. By this point, there have been rapes, a seductive plot involving the key to a hidden room, suicide, and murder. Other curious moments abound, such as the reporter and detective deciding to indulge their own sexual desires right in the middle of their investigation. Like so many Franco efforts, The Hot Nights of Linda becomes a labyrinthine maze of obsession and perversion, and its dreamlike quality is eventually accounted for (albeit in eye-rolling fashion). Hot Nights also features the other, shaggier Franco touches, such as inelegant zooms and silly dialogue (though it should be noted that the latter could be the fault of the egregiously distracting dub job here).
Still, itís undeniably Franco; Iíve said this before, but it bears repeating: you know a Franco film when you see one, and this is a thoroughly sleazy but awesomely enjoyable effort even beyond its nigh-pornographic raison díetre (though, letís be realóthereís a reason itíll be forever known as the movie with Lina Romay and the banana). It might not match the auteurís more accomplished horror efforts (especially in terms of sheer atmosphere), and it plays like a more distilled version of his work in that it cuts right to the sex and sleaze without much pretense. Something tells me that Franco himself would be pleased with this being among the first of his films to receive a posthumous release, with a high-def upgrade to boot.
Severin has gone all out here; even though the print used for the Blu-ray is occasionally roughshod (I canít imagine a Franco film ever looking completely pristine), itís often vivid and striking, and the DTS-HD mono track is more than adequate. The supplements here include an exclusive interview with Franco, an additional interview with both the director and Romay, footage of Franco receiving a Fantastic Fest Lifetime Achievement Award (thus confirming that FF is indeed doing godís work), a feature with Stephen Thrower discussing Linda specifically and Francoís career in general, outtakes, and a theatrical trailer. All releases are also packaged with a DVD copy, while the first 2500 printings also feature a rare ďFrench Hard Banana VersionĒ that features hardcore pornographic inserts filmed by Franco featuring the actual actors (letís just say Romay fellates more than just a banana here). The quality is subpar compared to the main disc, but it should adequately recapture the feeling that kids used to have when they stumbled upon low-rent, murky 70s and 80s porn when they were fiddling around in their parentsí room. This version also captures Franco at his rawest and kinkiest, as Hot Nights of Linda serves as one of his more memorable forays into debauchery. Buy it!
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