The Film (4/5)
Jess Franco died a little over one year ago now in April of 2013, as one of the last remaining auteurs of early EuroCult cinema it was a tragic loss, but being in his mid-80's, and having been in declining health for sometime it was hardly unexpected. If one is to find a silver lining in the dark cloud of Franco's tragic passing it would be that over his very long and prolific career the Spanish director left us with over 200 films to explore and to enjoy for decades to come. Prior to his passing his films began to trickle on to the Blu-ray format with Redemption Films releasing his classics Female Vampire and Exorcism on to the format in October of 2012, and then later with the Awful Dr. Orloff, Nightmares Come at Night, and one of my personal Franco favorites a Virgin Among the Living Dead. It has been a while since those Franco releases, and now they have released one of Franco's most understated masterpieces his nunsploitation epic The Demons.
The Demons was made in the shadow of Ken Russell's controversial masterpiece of cinema The Devils. The film did quite well around the world, and caused a wave of nunsploitation cinema in it's wake. One of those films would be Franco's 1973 film, which opens with an old woman being tested to prove whether or not she is a witch. The test concludes that she is, and the woman is burnt at the stake, but of course, she swears her revenge on the people who executed her, and she happens to have a pair of daughters...
The film then picks up at a convent which is the home of her two daughters Margaret (Britt Nichols) and Kathleen (Anne Libert). Kathleen is a very sexual young woman, while her sister tries to be more pure. Kathleen, for her sexual indiscretions is targeted by the Lady DeWinter as a witch like her Mother. She ends up attempting to run away with her lover Renfield, but is caught with him, imprisoned, and tortured. Meanwhile, the innocent Margaret is raped by the devil, and is no longer so innocent. She is now possessed with the desire to seek revenge on those who have done ill to her Mother and Sister.
The Demons is one of Franco's finest films, I will get that out of the way. It also comes at the beginning of one of his finest and most prolific periods. It is also a film that is both a restrained film more in line with his earlier Harry Alan Towers period films like Eugenie, Venus in Furs, and the Bloody Judge, and his more outlandish films that would soon come like Lorna The Exorcist and A Virgin Among the Living Dead. Also, for a film that is considered a riff on the Devils it spends very little time ripping off, rather it has to be one of the most original films to come in the wake of that trend. It takes some general ideas from the Russell film, but ends up going into a wildly different direction that involves witch hunting, torture, and bizarre sexuality. The film runs over 2 hours which is quite a long time for a Franco film, but it does not feel like a minute is wasted in the films running time. It is a film that demands to be experienced.
The film is presented by Redemption Films in a very good 2:35:1 1080p transfer that preserves the OAR of the original film. Redemption/Kino have maintained a similar aesthetic for their line of Blu-ray releases which involves a simple scan of the best available materials, with (probably) some minor color correction. This creates some very good film like transfer, and the Demons is no exception. The film appears to come from a very good source, and the image is quite clear for the most part with excellent clarity, excellent colors, and strong detail throughout. There is a nice level of organic film grain present that makes the film look like a projection rather than a video and that is certainly something I can appreciate.
The audio is presented by Redemption in an LPCM 2.0 track in either German or French, both tracks are suitable, but not spectacular. Simply put, they get the job done. The dialogue, music, and effects come through clearly, and I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Redemption have included 6 minutes of silent deleted scenes, and trailers for other Redemption Franco releases on this disc. However, they have made buying this disc absolutely worth your money for an 16 minute interview conducted with Jess Franco shortly before his death by Severin Films' own David Gregory. This is one of the most fascinating interviews I have ever seen with the director, where he offers a blunt critique of his own film, and at times the interview felt down right melancholic.
The Demons is one of the finest films by director Jess Franco. he cut assembled by Redemption Films for this Blu-ray release is from what I gather the longest available cut of the film ever available stateside, and that alone should whet the cinematic appetites of Franco-philes all around. The A/V on this disc is presented in the natural style that is the trademark of Kino/Redemption, but looks EXCELLENT, and the interview with Franco included on the disc is simply a must see for fans of the director. Redemption Films Blu-ray of Franco's the Demons comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.