JESS FRANCO MONTH: Shining Sex (1976)

Lina Romay was once married to actor Ramon Ardid, who had introduced her to Jess Franco, who was using him as a still photographer on his movies, and having his wife increasingly appear in the role Soledad Miranda once had, that of the central focus of his camera, mind and crotch’s obsession.

After the death of Miranda, Franco was still grieving. Sure, he was married to Nicole Guettard — and would be until 1980 — who worked as a script consultant on his movies and even was in a few of them, the team of Franco and Romay would slowly grow from professional to something more after her marriage to Ardid broke up in 1975 and ended in divorce in 1978, even though Ardid continued working with Franco until 1980.

Franco and Romay would form a team for four decades of work, living together from 1980 until her death and finally getting married in 2008. She’d appear in more of his movies than anyone else and even as she ages, Franco never ceases to find her beauty and explore it, sometimes with zoom lenses that feel gynecological. But who are we to put our hangups on their love? How rare is it to find someone that you share like-minded feelings about art and sex and stay with that person nearly forever?

This time around, Lina is Las Vegas showgirl Cynthia, whose routine has impressed Alpha (Evelyne Scott) and her slave Andros (Guettard). Of course, this leads her into their bed, except for all the epithets that you can throw at Jess Franco, he’s no mere pornographer.

That’s because Alpha is from far beyond our pitiful planet and the lovemaking closes with Cynthia being covered with a sparkly lotion that forces her to do the bidding of Alpha and Andros, which goes from carnal acts to killing those that know too much about them, which includes Dr. Elmos Kallman (Olivier Mathot), Dr. Seware (Franco) and spiritualist Madame Pécame (Monica Swinn).

I can’t even imagine that this movie was once intended to play movie screens, places that would become altars for the worship of what Franco found most holy, Lina Romay’s sex displayed big, bold and covered in glitter up there on the silver screen, plot and normalcy be damned.

Franco’s obsession — beyond Romay — is always women who have the power to kill through physical, vampiric or sexual means. Empowered by this alien substance, Lina/Cynthia has become biblical verse writ large — “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” as well as the words of the Bhagavad Gita, as recited by Oppenheimer, as he watched the death cloud he has created take physical form — “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Sex can kill and it can take a talkative young woman freely giving of her body and transform it into the literal angel of death, using the lifegiving power between her thighs to snuff out anyone that must be destroyed.

The nuclear frisson of the lust and love and obsession and eventual lifelong partnership of Franco and Romay would knock both of their marriages apart and probably wasn’t easy for anyone in either of their families, but when you discover that kind of love that the Bible only ascribes to the Lord — “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst into the sky that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One.” — woe be to anyone who was in their way.

Unlike some cultists, Franco wanted the entire world to worship with him, to partake from what he saw as perfection. Shining Sex indeed.

You can get this from Severin.

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