• Exorcism (Blu-ray)

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: October 16, 2012.
    Director: Jess Franco
    Cast: Lina Romay, Jess Franco
    Year: 1974
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    The Movie:

    My first Jess Franco movie was FACELESS (which remains a firm favorite to this day) - the Franco film that Francophiles generally hate due to the fact that it is mostly shot in focus and has a coherent plot line. As I got further into Franco's filmography I became one of those rare cult film lovers who stands on middle ground in relation to uncle Jess. I have enjoyed many of his films but have found his output to range from decent to awful. And while he certainly has his share of quirky techniques (soft and out of focus shots, gratuitous abuse of the zoom lens) I've always found his work interesting. Much like French auteur Jean Rollin, Franco tends to be a love it or hate it proposition for most people that simply doesn't have that effect on me. I find them to be interesting filmmakers that sometimes miss the mark.

    Which leads us to EXORCISM. This is one of Franco's most personal films due to the fact that he actually stars in it as insane ex-priest Mathis Vogel. The film opens with a fake staged black mass and absurd phony sacrifice of sexy Lina Romay. This sequence is as silly (and entertaining) as a pulpy Dennis Wheatley creation. But while this all takes place in a seedy nightclub, our "hero" just cannot grasp that what he's seeing is an act for the amusement of debauched Parisians and instead sees it as evidence of real demonic possession. This leads to the crux of the "plot" - Vogel on a holy murder spree throughout Paris to wash the streets clean of the demonic filth hiding in various sleazy clubs and alleys. We also later learn that Vogel pays his bills as a writer for a publication that employs Romay as a secretary - which ties into his unhealthy obsession with her. Finally, we have the local police hot on Vogel's tail enlisting the aid of another writer (Pierre Taylou) to help stop the carnage.

    As almost always in a Franco film, the plot is superfluous. We are here to watch the man work his kinks out on screen and gawk at the lovely Romay. EXORCISM was shot in a few different versions (including an actual X-rated cut with hardcore inserts) but the primary version here is pretty sexy stuff that goes all the way up to the edge of the X. We also have a silly subplot about Romay's bisexual inclinations that is really there just to fulfill the audience's desire for some girl-on-girl action. The sex and the violence are plentiful here however and have plenty of bite. Franco also has some decent presence as an actor - he looks quite weird and frankly creepy. Since this is one of the most badly dubbed films in the Euro-sleaze canon (we are talking Japanese monster movie bad folks) we are going by the physical performance and Franco does the job well. The other main attraction is Romay and her expressive face and natural sex appeal carry her through nicely. And while the murder and sex set pieces contain a great deal of Franco's trademark no-focus shots and zoom lens happy action he has an interesting eye for composition. There is plenty of decadent atmosphere here to enjoy as well. EXORCISM ultimately resides in the upper third of the Franco filmography. Its no FACELESS - but it does the trick for people with an open mind.


    EXORCISM clocks in on its Blu debut with an AVC encoded 1.66.1 transfer in 1080p HD that is a bit green around the gills. The print used was on the abused side so colors are not exactly popping out at the viewer. Additionally, you will be dealing with more specks and occasional scratches than on even most other Kino titles. Since Kino generally do not do any restoration we are at the mercy of the original elements which were less than pristine in this case. However, the Blu ray is a noticeable upgrade over the best previous version (which was Synapse's DVD) and both detail and clarity are good. Considering how sleazy the film is the slightly degraded image may work for the viewer artistically. Finally, the dreaded DNR and edge enhancement are nowhere to be seen. Audio wise we have a perfectly serviceable English language LPCM Mono track. This is occasionally thin but levels are balanced and the hollowness is more than likely a product of the dubbing and post-production sound than anything in the audio transfer.

    Kino have provided the alternate DEMONIAC cut of the film which is essentially an R rated version of EXORCISM with clothed sequences replacing various shots and most of the sex removed and it is substantially shorter than the EXORCISM cut. Really now - while this is nice to have from a completest standpoint, what is the point? You do however get a bit more of Jess skulking the mean streets of gay Paree. Personally, I find DEMONIAC a waste of time but your mileage as Franco fan may vary. We also get some Franco/Rollin trailers to top everything off.

    The Final Word:

    It's Franco. Love him, loathe him or hate him - he is certainly interesting. For the Franco faithful this is a no-brainer despite the slightly wonky print. For the haters, skip it. But for the rare middle ground people you could do far far worse if you were taking a dip in the Uncle Jess wading pool. Kino provides a nice upgrade to the DVD so this is recommended - with reservations.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Martin Luther Presley's Avatar
      Martin Luther Presley -
      Very much looking forward to Redemption's Franco titles. And now I REALLY have to check out Faceless as well! Hopefully Redemption will do something with Sexorcism and other similar xxx-versions. I watched Exorcism recently on a Franco-binge which always means I get a handful of his films mixed up in my mind. I do remember that I quite liked it. Is this the one in which he makes out with his step-daughter (sort of)? Kinky ol' Jess... Oh, and I guess this Blu-ray doesn't carry over his audio commentary? So I better hold on to my Synapse DVD as well! Do you know if the Franco titles are regionfree?Thanks for the review!
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      The step daughter title is EUGENIE DE SADE perhaps?Much like with FEMALE VAMPIRE...there really does not seem to be compelling evidence to warrant a double dip. Thanks for the review.
    1. Martin Luther Presley's Avatar
      Martin Luther Presley -
      EUGENIE DE SADE dealt with that, yes, but I meant Franco's REAL LIFE step-daughter. I'm now pretty sure it was Exorcism. It's that girl chained to the mirror in the fifth screencap from the top. She's also in a different version of Comtesse Perverse (an extra frame story).