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June 11, 2019

My Nights with Susan, Sandra, Olga & Julie

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Mijn Nachten met Susan, Olga, Albert, Julie, Piet & Sandra
Pim de la Parra - 1975
Cult Epics BD Regions ABC/DVD All Regions two-disc set

I still remember my visit to Amsterdam, about fourteen years ago. At the store called Boudisque, I asked if they had any DVDs of films by Pim de la Parra. I don't know for sure if the clerk even knew who Pim de la Parra was. Such was the fate of pioneering Dutch filmmakers Pim de la Parra and his production partner Wim Verstappen. It's only been in the past couple of years that the Netherlands' Eye Institute as rescued the films of "Pim and Wim", and with those films, a bit of film history that was virtually forgotten. Cult Epics has in turn made several of the films available on home video.

The title is a bit misleading as it suggests some kind of hedonistic romp. The character with the title in the first person is Anton, a young man who arrives at a converted farm house to meet up with Barbara, a woman never seen in the film. The farm house and a nearby shack are the home for Susan, Sandra, Olga, Julie, and as listed in the Dutch title, Piet and Albert. The farmhouse is an informal commune for these six dropouts. Anton's presence has disrupted the relative equilibrium of the group, although the first scene reveals Sandra and Olga to be anarchic forces. The French title of the film is Les Furies which more specifically would seem to refer to Sandra and Olga as vengeful female spirits, although no motivation for their actions is provided.

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Like his debut feature, Obsessions, de la Parra again visits the themes of sex, murder and voyeurism. There is nudity and soft-core sex, as was par for European films during the mid-1970s. Pim and Wim produced films that straddled the line between serious commercial filmmaking and outright exploitation, constantly pushing the envelope of what Dutch censors would allow. This is a much more polished work than de la Parra's previous films, aided by use of a widescreen format. The six commune dwellers have chosen to isolate themselves from society at large, with Albert choosing to enclose himself in a room illuminated by a hanging red light bulb, while Piet lives in the nearby shack, physically expressive but orally mute. Julie is mostly seen sleeping. With police investigating a possible murder in the vicinity of the farmhouse, the choices are to break the cycle of self-enforced separation from others, or to totally succumb to madness.

The blu-ray comes with several supplements. In his video introduction, Pim de la Parra tells of how Rutger Hauer, not yet an international star, turned down the role of Anton. Three early short films are also included, with the two about the perpetually clumsy Joop showcasing the goofy humor of Pim and Wim. The supplement with stills and posters provided the information on the French title for My Nights . . .. The film is notable also has containing the final film work by composer Elisabeth Lutyens, whose atonal film scores had previously been part of several horror films produced by Amicus and Hammer.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 07:00 AM

June 04, 2019

Devil's Kiss

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La perversa caricia de Satan
Jordi Gigo - 1976
Redemption BD Region A

Devil's Kiss has just about everything needed for an exploitation horror movie - gratuitous sex, unmotivated violence, and a story that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. And yet I got the feeling that for whatever reasons, writer-director Jordi Gigo was holding back on the sex and gore when he really should have been fearlessly tasteless. This was a French/Spanish co-production made for Eurocine, a French company that specialized in low budget fare that played in the grind houses of Europe.

While the better known Eurocine productions were directed by Jesus Franco, with Jean Rollin also on hand for a couple of films, one of the other frequent filmmakers was Pierre Chevalier. I have to admit I have seen only a handful of films compared to historian Tim Lucas, who contributed some notes on the back of the blu-ray cover. But I have seen Chevalier's Orloff and the Invisible Man which is deliriously unhinged. More laughable than horrifying, the film also presents an argument that some actresses should not be seen in the nude, even if it is a requirement. Not only were these movies made to be screened in theaters where paying close attention to the story was besides the point, the films sometimes would have pornographic inserts based on when and where said film was shown.

There is very little information on Jordi Gigo. In writing about an earlier DVD release of Devil's Kiss, critic Aled Jones commented, "Not wanting to belittle Jordi Gigo and his directing chops but he does come across as a third assistant on a Jess Franco shoot in terms of talent which is hardly a recommendation." IMDb indicated that Gigo had a hand in writing Exorcismo with star Paul Naschy in 1975. Following Devil's Kiss, Gigo made a soft-core film, Porno Girl, before slipping into obscurity. Devil's Kiss definitely has a cult following, but it is primarily based on enthusiasm for the genre both dismissed and loved as "Eurotrash".

A spiritualist, Claire Grandier, blames the Duke of Haussemont for the suicide of her husband. She accepts the invitation to one of the Duke's parties as part of her scheme for revenge. With Grandier is the scientist, Romain Gruber, who specializes in mental telepathy. The guests at the party are part of what use to be known as "the jet set". Grandier holds a seance where the lights suddenly go out, but that's far less horrifying than the fashion show beforehand featuring garishly ugly bell bottom jumpsuits. The two become houseguests of the Duke. The reanimation of a bald, facially scarred corpse is only the beginning of their havoc.

Jordi Gigo appears to have taken various elements from horror movies almost at random, to form an incoherent mix. I bet you didn't know that zombies could be stopped by the sight of a crucifix? The blu-ray comes with both the English and French language dubbed tracks, but neither makes a difference in any added nuances. The expository dialogue is dull enough to make one long for the inane prose of Ed Wood, Jr. The cast is made up of primarily secondary Eurocine contract players Silvia Solar, Olivier Mathot and Evelyne Scott. Were it available online, I would love to read what horror film historian Stephen Thrower has written that might cast a brighter light on Devil's Kiss. As it is, the critical consensus is that this is cinema audit, loved by the most dedicated genre aficionados. You can't totally hate a film with the line, "No one will notice an additional grave in a cemetery."

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 07:20 AM