JESS FRANCO MONTH: El sádico de Notre-Dame (1979)

How many times can you make one movie? Well, if you’re Jess Franco, the answer is a bunch, because there’s 1975’s L’éventreur de Notre-Dame AKA Exorcism which was also remade as the adult Sexorcismes. There’s also another cut called Demoniac, because Franco realized that some day weirdos would obsess over his movies online.

Four years later, Franco Xeroxed his own work and added new footage to make this movie, which starts with Mathis (Franco) arriving in Paris and taking his blade to prostitutes and women who enjoy sex to save souls. He was thrown out of priest school because he’s insane and attacked a nun, so now he’s trying to get his story “The Return of the Grand Inquisitor” published in The Dagger and the Garter magazine.

While meeting with the owner of that sleaze zine, Pierre Franval, Mathis becomes obsessed with a secretary named Anne (Lina Romay) who is a lesbian in love with her roommate Rose, a fact that he learns by being a voyeur and that she also arranges sex-filled fake Black Masses by tying up and torturing a dancer named Nina, who is played by Franco’s real-life stepdaughter Caroline Riviere because, well, it’s a Jess Franco movie.

Of course, the psychodrama of the Black Mass isn’t real, but to Mathis it is, so he becomes the Inquisitor of his fiction, killing everyone and anyone involved. The tradeoff is that while we get some great shots of Franco with Notre Dame behind him, Lina’s role is significantly reduced.

I love that Stephen Thrower broke down on the blu ray how this all came to be. The movie comes at a period of life when Franco had been through great change. He’d divorced his first wife Nicole Guettard and, as these things happen, Romay had also divorced her husband Ramon Ardid. After making multiple movies in Switzerland for Erwin C. Dietrich and the death of friend and producer Robert de Nesle, Franco was back in Spain and burned out. Eurocine decided that they could take Exorcism and get production company Triton to pitch in some money to make Las Chicas de Copacapana and Two Spies In Flowered Panties, as well as this movie.

Somehow a slasher movie with not much blood and a sleazy movie without as much sex — yet still full frontal nudity — this is a weird case of a movie that has enough versions that you can just about make your own cut.

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