JESS FRANCO MONTH: Exorcism (1974)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jess Franco is an acquired taste. As of January 19, 2018, when I wrote the original review of this film, I had not yet learned to love his movies. So here’s an experiment: the 2018 take on the film and the 2022 version. Let’s see if we learn anything.

2018 version

Anne (Lina Romay, muse of this film’s director, Jess Franco) is a performance artist who specializes in recreating Satanic rituals and spicing them up for old rich folks to savor. She also writes for a magazine, Garter and Dagger, that appeals to people who like this kind of dreck.

Turns out that Mathis, one of the writers at the magazine (yep, Franco himself), was a priest kicked out of the church for following Old Testament beliefs instead of Vatican 2. After overhearing Anne and her assistant planning a Black Mass (not an actual one, more like a sex party, which come to think of it, why is a man of the cloth working for a porn magazine? And wouldn’t an orgy be just as bad as a Black Mass?), Mathis kills each and every person involved.

There’s another cut of the film, Demoniac, which is just death and gore with none of the sex. It’s 69 minutes long. And there’s another version called Sexorcismes that remakes this film with added hardcore footage, including Franco himself showing up for the party. And Franco remade it again as El Sádico de Notre-Dame.

Under any title, this movie is the absolute shits. It fails at horror. It fails at being sexy. It fails at being interesting. It even fails at being an Exorcist clone because it has nothing to do with exorcism!

Look — when I tell you a movie is bad, trust me. It’s bad. Real bad.

Seriously — I found a movie about Satanic sex crimes boring. If that’s not a recommendation to avoid, I don’t know what is!

2022 version

Consider this three movies in one: Sexorcisme is the hardcore version, which also has two versions, coming in at 71 and 82 minutes. And then there’s The Sadist of Notre Dame, a remade version that came out just a few years later, with Franco shooting new footage five years later to add greater character motivation. And there’s a really cut down version, Demoniacs, which ironically has a running time of 69 minutes.

Then there’s the original, Exorcism AKA L’éventreur de Notre-Dame.

You could see this as confusing, but I like to think of the films of my favorite exploitation directors as grand puzzles that demand solutions.

Made during the height of the demon possession film cash-in cycle, this finds how Jess Franco would make one of those movies and of course, he runs hard and fast in the other direction, as this movie feels like the 70s I knew I’d never escape alive.

So when I look back at my old review, I realize that either back then I was judging Franco’s movies against normal films. Or perhaps I really have Stockholm Syndrome and have started to completely accept everything Franco makes as something better than it should be.

Instead of realizing that this is boring, if we concentrate on a normal film narrative, one must embrace the sheer wildness of it all, as Lina Romay plays Anne, a performance artist who makes great money staging fake Satanic rituals in the time when such things were considered transgressive art and not reasons to fear a dark Luciferian underground out to rule the world. But tell that to Mathias Vogal (Franco), a former priest who has lost his sanity and sees what they are doing as a true Black Mass that he must decimate by finding every woman involved and conducting a one-man Spanish Inquisition.

Of course, Franco brings the sleaze and has some fine instruments to conduct his symphony, including Monica Swain as a sadist who yells, “You’re as disgusting as a leper’s sores. You make me vomit!” and Catherine Lafferière as Martine.

Any movie where Franco plays a deranged priest who says things like “Yes I have a chapel in my house, what’s strange about that?” and obsesses over his sins while spying on women as they make love and then murdering them, I’m very much for. Also, the same dude writes Inquisition fiction ala Penthouse Forum for his real job, which is insane, but such is the universe of Franco. There’s aso a momebt wen he stares out into the early day outside his window and you can nearly see two shapes of him, his physical and shadow form and it truly shows us the divided nature of his character,

As for the Sexorcisme cut, how badly do you want to see Jess Franco’s fuck style? Because there he is at the end of the film, giving Lina a tongue bath and man, you’d expect doubles to be use for all of this reshot footage and nope. It’s all of the cast and you even get to see little Jess in footage that in no way matches up with the rest of the movie. The fact that that sex scene between Jess and Lina exists kind of breaks the movie, because in the original cut, he’s praying in Latin just as much to keep his lust from taking over his body as he’s trying to get Satan out of her.

This is what we call emotional maturity, friends, when you care about the story more than seeing Lina Romay in a non-simulated sex scene.

You can watch this on Kino Cult.

The Demoniac cut of this movie is also on the ARROW PLAYER. Head over to ARROW to start your 30-day free trial. Subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly. ARROW is available in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices, Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.

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