Franco Forever Vol. 3

The Sadist of Notre Dame(Severin Films)

& Sinfonia Erotica (Severin Films)

by Scott MacDonald



     Jess Franco has over the last few years become my favorite director of all time. Which is odd, because when I first came to his work through a VHS release of Jack the Ripper I was totally put off by it. Over the last 7-8 years I have watched over 60 of his nearly 200 film filmography, and while I cannot say I've loved every single one of his films, I have taken something away from each.

    Also, each film seems to add a clearer view of what Franco was trying to do with his films, and when going back or watching another film it adds another layer.  Of course with that many films to his name, and not shooting on video until the last 2 decades of his career, he has a lot of films that are able to be upgraded to Blu-ray, and so fans of the director have gotten  dozens of the director's films on the format over the 5 years.  In April 2018 Severin Films, a label who maybe have done more to expose more of Jess' films than any other on Blu-ray have gone back and brought out two quite necessary additions in Franco's filmography Sinfonia Erotica, and the Exorcism remix Sadist of Notre Dame.


Sadist of Notre Dame

Director– Jess Franco

Starring – Jess Franco, Lina Romay

Country of Origin- Spain, Belgium, France

Distributor - Severin Films

Discs- 1

Reviewer- Scott MacDonald

    The Sadist of Notre Dame is basically his earlier film Exorcism with about 25 minutes of footage replaced especially around the beginning giving the film more of a focus on Franco's Mathis Vogel character. As such, it sort of helps make it more of an indictment on the Catholic Church that Franco originally wanted.  The Sadist of Notre Dame basically follows Franco as Mathias Vogel, an ex-communicated Priest who has decided to cleanse the streets of Paris of those he has determined to be unclean or sinners. 

     As such Vogel picks up prostitutes, attempts to make them understand that they are sinners, and then kills them.  In many ways this is Franco making a 2nd attempt at a Jack the Ripper story (The first being his Klaus Kinski film, which was actually more Orloff then Ripper, but I digress).  At the same time, Vogel is documenting his escapades in story form and turning them into a erotic magazine publisher operated by Pierre (Pierre Taylor) and his assistant Anne (Lina Romay).

    Sadist of Notre Dame is an interesting take on Exorcism, but if you asked me which one I'd liked better I'd be hard-pressed to tell you as they're both fairly enjoyable views on the same material.  I do like the BDSM intro of Exorcism, but Franco's stalking through Paris throughout the beginning of Sadist of Notre Dame is quite an interesting take, and enjoyable in its own way.   The film has an enjoyable sleazy vibe, but because of the nature of its creation sometime it is not always coherent. That being said it is an interesting experiment from director Franco, and of course offers a lot of sleazy fun. It is just not top-tier Franco, but certainly one that will get a few rewatches from me. The score by Daniel White is actually a high point and helps set a nice ambiance to the film.

    Severin Films presents Sadist of Notre Dame in a 1080p 1:66:1 1080p transfer scanned from the only existing 35mm print left of the film. The transfer is rough at points, but still looks organic, natural, and film like.  There is solid detail, but color reproduction shifts throughout the presentation, this is expected as only one source is available. There is damage throughout,  but not so much that the film is unwatchable. There is a nicely rendered grain field throughout the presentation.  Severin presents 3 DTS-HD mono audio options in English, French, and Spanish. All 3 tracks provide enough clarity to get the job done, though there are occasion bits of hiss and popping throughout.  Extras include a documentary on a classic Parisian horror cinema, an interview with Stephen Thrower, a selected scene commentary by Robert Monell, and an interview with Franco biographer Alain Petit.

The Film (4/5)

Audio/Video (3/5)

Extras (3.5/5)


Sinfonia Erotica

Director– Jess Franco

Starring – Lina Romay, Susan Hemingway

Country of Origin- Spain

Distributor - Severin Films

Discs- 1

Reviewer- Scott MacDonald


    Martine de Bressac (Lina Romay) returns to her home after a stint in a mental hospital. Unfortunately, the life she left, was not the life she came back to. Her husband Armand is now in a relationship with a young man Fiore, and if that wasn't enough, his attention  also goes to a physically damaged nun, Norma. the trio found in the forest.  However, all is not like it seems and though Martine is apparently close to death's door due to a heart condition she has her own plans for this truly bizarre relationship.

    Sinfonia Erotica is a wonderful early 80's Franco film. It blends the Sadean  influences he had been touching upon since the late 60's with symphonic music, specifically the music of Lizst, (who was the subject of Ken Russell's Lizstomania) to create something wonderfully atmospheric and truly interesting to watch. It feels like a mid-60's Franco film with the free-wheeling intensity of his 70's picture. With that being said, the film does have a slower pace, but this lets the film breathe and allows the visuals, and performances to really sink in.

    The visuals here are quite solid, including the natural landscape of the area, and the mansion used as the film's primary location. The performances are quite good for what is being presented. Susan Hemingway does a solid turn as the escaped nun, and Lina Romay, of course, provides her usual excellent and intense self as Martine.

   Severin Films presents Sinfonia Erotica in a solid 1:66:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. Everything here looks quite good for the most part, less damage then the Sadist of Notre Dame transfer, but this is taken from what is again the only print left of the film, and as such it is not perfect. Due to the over lit exteriors and the nature of the film there is a lot of softness to contend with, colors are not always stable, but for the most part this is to be expected, and is certainly an upgrade from any DVD editions out there. Audio is handled by a DTS-HD mono track in Spanish. Everything here sounds fine, and I did not detect any specific issues. Extras include an interview with Franco regarding his first wife Nicole Guettard, and another marvelous interview with Stephen Thrower, this one specifically concentrating on Sinfonia Erotica.

The Film (4/5)

Audio/Video (3.5/5)

Extras (3/5)