Apr 8, 2013
To be quite honest, I have no clue how anyone could be a serious Jess Franco fanatic (indeed, to my surprise, a number of these people exist) or even be able to stomach the majority of his super sleazy cinematic works, but recently, I had the opportunity to watch one of his rare ‘masterpieces,’ Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden (1968) aka Succubus, and I was quite literally shocked that the film was not only of an ostensibly esoteric and surrealistic nature packed with sub-sexy S&M imagery, but also ‘artistic.’ By happenstance, Mr. Franco, who was at the decrepit age of 82, died the same day, 2 April 2013, as when I initially watched Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden, thus making the film experience all the more of a strangely eerie escapde in ‘high (s)exploitation’ cinema. To make things even more interesting, Chicago Sun-Times star critic Roger Ebert – a pudgy and prissy individual who I have always had an affinity for hating to the fullest (mainly due to his poor taste in film and politics) and who once described Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden as one of the worst films of the year and “a flat-out bomb. It left you stunned and reeling. There was literally nothing of worth in it. Even the girl was ugly.” – ended up finally kicking the bucket on 4 April 2013 after looking and sounding like one of the creepiest men in the world (and certainly more disturbing than any monster from a Franco flick) for a number of years after having his jaw removed due to cancer, only two days after Herr Franco – the man he loved to hate in what was nothing short of cinematic fate. A rather idiosyncratic work any way you look at it, Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden is a West German production directed by a superlatively sleazy Spaniard and produced by and starring future Fassbinder actor Adrian Hoven (World on a Wire, Lili Marleen), who would go on to play a cross-dressing Nazi cabaret singer in Shadow of Angels (1976) aka Schatten der Engel directed by Daniel Schmid – a controversial filmed based on the banned Fassbinder play Der Müll, die Stadt und der Tod aka The Garbage, the City, and Death. When the kraut financial bankers pulled out, Herr Hoven called in pompous blueblood Pier A. Caminnecci for monetary support and he was more than willing to oblige as he started a romantic relationship with lead Janine Reynaud (who Franco 'discovered' in a bistro in Rome, Italy) and would also be credited as the writer (apparently, Franco only assembled a 3 page story for the film), associate producer, and actor. To add to the artistic absurdity that is Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden, Karl Lagerfeld – one of the world’s most famous fashion designers, as well as head designer and creative director for the fashion house Chanel – acted as the costume designer for lead actress Janine Reynaud’s wardrobe. Indeed, as a woman that was nearly 40 at the time of her appearance in Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden, Reynaud is not exactly my ideal as a stunning lead with fresh flesh that is screaming to be undressed, so I can actually understand Roger Ebert’s less than kind words regarding her appearance, but she is surely the sort of woman that a pack of elderly alcoholic aristocrats, not to mention Jesús Franco, would jump on given the opportunity as a sort of Peggy Bundy of the posh pervert realm. A rather hypnotic and hallucinatory hodgepodge of marvelous mansions and phantasmagorical hallways, high fashion and low horror, and nightmarish and nonlinear storytelling, Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden is the sort of film that reminds you that Europe is taking its last gasp and the only thing Mr. Franco can think to do is cinematically celebrate like a nymphomaniac toddler in a classy kraut whorehouse.
According to Jess Franco, the fictional grimoire the “Necronomicon” was not an invention of American novelist H.P. Lovecraft, but a real tome by a Jew or Muslim named Abdul Alhazred or so the director claimed in a somewhat recent DVD release of the film by Blue Underground under the American title ‘Succubus.’ While Franco seemed quite sure of the unverifiable real-life origins of the ‘Necronomicon,’ he is proudly unsure of the point of his film, admitting in an interview, “They’d say, “I didn’t understand the film.” I’d say, “I didn’t either.” So that obviously created a legendary buzz. “This guy doesn’t understand his own movie.”” Indeed, what one won’t have trouble understanding about Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden is that it is about a lecherous lady named Lorna Green (Janine Reynaud) who gives simulated snuff shows for degenerate jetsetters and debauched aristos at a naughty and nefarious nightclub of the supposedly super chic persuasion. Unfortunately for her and every ‘made man’ that catches her fiercely frisky fancy, Lorna’s manager William Francis Mulligan (Franco favorite Jack Taylor in his first collaboration with the Spanish sleaze auteur) has her under a literal Satanic spell that has transformed her into “the essence of evil…a devil on earth!,” so much so that she is a succubus/somnambulist that violently murders wealthy men and women, but cannot recollect doing so. A wildly wanton woman who admits horror movies are her “weakness” and that Nietzsche will never be shunned, Lorna begins to lose her little head when she becomes totally unable to differentiate between dream and reality in a depraved and debauched maniac microcosm of the delirium-ridden sort where nothing is as it seems and a certain daunting dream logic takes possession of Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden before the viewer can even get in a single blink.
Featuring surrealist scenes of lethal lipstick lesbianism, the Bava-esque sexualization and sinister-ization of mannequins in a plastic orgy from hell, well dressed dwarfs and noble blood drunkards, quasi-beatnik mumbo jumbo about the genius of auteur filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard, Fritz Lang, and Luis Buñuel (filmmakers who apparently “never outmoded”), and the spiritual enslavement of a woman in war with her own forsaken soul, Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden is indubitably an eccentric and – dare I say – artsy piece of Euro-sleaze by a filmmaker who will probably be best remembered as a prolific horror pornographer who never swayed in transplanting his vision into sinful and salacious cinema, even if his eyes oftentimes seemed to be too badly blurred. When I first saw the Austrian arthouse splatter-punk porn flick Mondo Weirdo: A Trip To Paranoia Paradise (1990) aka Jungfrau am Abgrund directed by the late Carl Anderson about a year ago or so, I could not make sense of the film’s opening inter-title “dedicated to Jess Franco & Jean-Luc Godard,” but after watching Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden, it finally made perfect sense, even if the Franco film does not. As for Franco’s seemingly nonsensical references to Godard in Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden, he had the following to say in a rather recent interview, “And you’ll find I often refer to Godard because his new style of cinema was a discovery for me. Godard always said that a film doesn’t have to be understood to be successful, and it’s true. Because people...I came to the conclusion that, in general people don’t understand anything. They don’t understand Necronomicon. They don’t understand The Adventures of Zorro, either…” If one thing was easy to understand about Franco’s films, it is the domineering, if rarely delightful, eroticism that permeated throughout his work, with Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden being his first big statement of over-sexed and intrinsically incoherent celluloid that would degenerate into all out pornography about a decade later.
In a recent interview, Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden star Jack Taylor had the following to say about Jess Franco as a filmmaker, “I think Jess’ best period is when he had a producer over him to control him a little bit, my particular impression is that Jess would get bored in the middle of a film and want to start on something else.” Short but sweet as if directed by a less cultivated heterosexual Kenneth Anger who read the CliffsNotes on works written by the Marquis de Sade instead of the collected works of Aleister Crowley, Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden is the first film were Franco had complete artistic freedom (as he admitted it an interview) and it certainly shows, so Taylor’s comment seems rather peculiar, unless he is speaking in more regard to the Mediterrean maestro’s masturbatory degeneration into pure pornography. While I cannot say I am a Franco fanatic in any sense, I can at least say I appreciate two of his films, Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden and Faceless (1988) – a totally tasteless unofficial remake of the French-Italian horror classic Eyes Without a Face (1960) aka Les yeux sans visage directed by Georges Franju. Indeed, although I may only like two of the 160+ films Franco directed during his admittedly eventful and prolific lifetime as a filmmaker of fetishistic filth, that is more than I can say about Michael Bay and Eli Roth.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 8:26 PM
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