The Film (4/5)
Jess Franco died just a few weeks ago. It's been such a short period that it has not had time to fully sink in yet. In the weeks prior to his death, I had been watching a number of his films for the simple reason that unlike many EuroCult filmmakers of the era in which he made films I have only in the last 5 or so years been seriously dipping into Franco's filmography, and have suddenly been going through a marathon run of them.
I had been exposed to Franco in my earliest days of EuroCult fandom, having had seen his Jack the Ripper with Klaus Kinski as a teenager, and just coming off my first Fulci's I had expected something along the same lines I was not impressed. It took a few years before I went back, and discovered the wealth of wonders in Franco's filmography, and with a list of films to his directorial credit numbering over 200 there are many treasures to find.
Franco's golden age existed from the Mid-1960's through the Mid-1970's. He did, of course, direct many excellent films on both sides of those dates, but his best and most popular films were made between those 2 dates. Sinner (aka Diary of a Nymphomaniac) is one of many films made during that period, and is in fact one of 8 feature films he made during the very prolific year (for him) 1973. It also comes during the period where Franco was essentially between his two great actresses Soledad Miranda had died shortly before, and he had yet to meet Lina Romay who would continue to act in many of his films until her death in 2012.
Franco made so many films over the course of his career in such a variety of genres each with his own unique spin that it is always interesting to see the Franco-ized version of a genre or story. Sinner as a genre exercise feels like the psychotronic Jess Franco version of a after school special, something that has been done in film since the Reefer Madness-type films of the 30's and 40's, and had recently been made popular again with the German series of Schoolgirl Report films. The difference between Sinner and the latter series is that the Franco variation on the theme is feature length, and much more stylish. It also features a more involving narrative in comparison to the short stories that compromise the Schoolgirl Reports films.
Sinner opens with a scene that is a true attention-getter with a nightclub sequence that introduces Linda (Montserrat Prous) a young woman who is currently a performer in a lesbian sex show. After the show has ended she catches the attention of an older gentleman in the audience, they spend the evening together drinking much champagne, getting increasing drunk and frisky until Linda convinces him to take her back to his hotel. As the beginnings of what appears to be a typical sexual escapade begins, the man passes out, and Linda fatally stabs herself. As she lies dying, she hands the man the knife, smears him in her blood, and calls the police accusing him of her murder.
He is arrested, and held for her murder. His wife is brought in for questioning, and is disturbed by his cheating behavior, but listens to his pleas that he did not commit the crime that he is being held for, and thus she begins to investigate Linda's background in the hopes she might be able to prove her husband’s innocence. This reveals that the man when Linda was younger was responsible for the turn of events her life took after he raped her on a Ferris Wheel after arriving in the city from the country as a teenager. The film follows the investigation as the gentleman's wife interviews a Countess and a Prostate that Linda had relationships with, and discovers the story of her life in the city.
The opening scene of Sinner alone is worth the price of admission; it is a truly shocking moment that easily draws one attention into the films narrative. It is quickly resolved who the gentlemen was in Linda’s overall history, but the investigation into her background makes great exploitation fodder, and Franco handles every sleazy moment as only he could. The plot although loose, is engaging, and the performances from the cast are truly fitting to the material. Sinner is top-shelf Franco, and if you’ve not seen it yet, this disc from Mondo Macabro is certainly a good opportunity to check it out.
Mondo Macabro has released Franco’s Sinner to their usual standards with an absolutely fantastic 1:66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer preserving the film’s original aspect ratio. The transfer as stated looks fantastic with bright, but natural colors, and excellent fine detail. There is not much in the way of print damage, so what we have here is a a very clean sharp transfer.
The audio is presented in both French and English audio tracks, and both sound excellent. The dialogue in both tracks comes through nice and clear. I did not detect any instances of audio anomalies such as pops, cracks, or hissing on either track.
Franco biographer Stephen Thrower has 2 featurettes on this disc. The first is called Fear and Desire on Jess Franco which runs roughly 17 minutes and discusses Franco at large. We then get Stephen Thrower on Jess Franco’s Sinner which is about 10 minutes long and concentrates specifically on this film. The interview portion of the disc is rounded off by Gerard Kikoine on Jess Franco. This is an interview with the English dubbing director of many of Franco’s films. There are also liner notes accessible on the disc, and a 7 minute Mondo Macabro promo reel.
Franco is an absolute gem from Franco’s 70’s filmography. It is a entertaining sleazy film that offers exactly what it says it’s going to. The A/V restoration from Mondo Macabro is fantastic, and they’ve included a good few extras to make this package all the more worthwhile. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.