• Nightmares Come At Night



    Released by: Kino/Redemption
    Released on: August 20, 2013.
    Director: Jess Franco
    Cast: Diana Lorys, Collette Giacobine, Paul Muller, Jack Taylor, Soledad Miranda
    Year: 1970
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    The Movie:

    Shown at only a single theater before vanishing into obscurity for over three decades, Jess Franco’s 1970 picture Nightmares Come At Night revolves around a woman named Anna (Diana Lorys) who makes her living doing strip tease shows beside small statues in a shady red hued nightclub. One night, during a very slow, languid routine she catches the eye of a fetching blonde named Cynthia (Collette Giacobine). They hit it off and before you know it, they’re living and loving together not just in the same house but often times in the same bed.

    All is not as it seems with Anna, however. She suffers from very vivid nightmares in which she kills a man (Jack Taylor) with a giant spear. To help her cope, she’s seeing Dr. Lucas (Paul Muller) – and both Lucas and Cynthia seem to insist that something is wrong with poor Anna even when she states that she’s feeling fine. While Anna is trying to figure out just what exactly is happening to her, a mysterious couple at the house across the way (Soledad Miranda and Andre Montchall) is keeping tabs on all involved for reasons known only to them.

    To call this one slow, even by Franco standards, would be a bit of an understatement. Large chunks of the film are taken up by strip tease footage and even a prolonged scene in which a few characters sort of lounge around and dance. Though these add nothing obvious to the plot, they are at least in keeping with Franco’s ‘film as jazz’ aesthetic and it’s interesting to see him start experimenting at this point in his career. After finishing up a series of far more conventional films for producer Harry Alan Towers, here with a lower budget his Eurocine pictures start to get… weird. At the same time, they also start to bear a more obvious style and the Franco that would soon hit his prime period is starting, with this film, to show his teeth.

    Though the stunning Soledad Miranda is top billed, she’s really only in the film for a few minutes and spends a fair bit of that time simply looking out the window. When she’s not doing that she’s bottomless on a dirty mattress against a wall with ‘Life Is All Shit’ scrawled on it in red letters. Though her presence is welcome, the movie has a whole lot more to do with the characters played by Diana Lorys and Collette Giacobine respectively. Lorys looks older than her supposed thirty years here, and the camera lingers on her body in unusual ways almost as if Franco’s trying to accentuate that. She does a fine job on the role, however, never bashful and just distant enough when the storyline calls for it to let her ‘issues’ seem believable. Supporting efforts from Muller and Taylor are appreciable but the two lead actresses really steal the show here.

    As much an arthouse film as it is a horror picture (much of the horror is inferred rather than shown), Nightmares Come At Night is one that fans of Franco’s seventies output, more so than those interested only in his more conventional offerings, should appreciate. It’s a strange, smoky fever dream of a picture that eschews convention in favor or voyeuristic free form experimentation.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Nightmares Come At Night arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.66.1 transfer in 1080p high definition. This one shows a fair bit of print damage but was taken from the only known 35mm elements. Detail isn’t half bad at all and colors come through reasonably well but expect scratches and debris as well as a red mark on the left side of the frame throughout the duration of the movie (the restoration featurette explains that this probably happened when this print was struck). The ‘dream’ sequences are much softer than the other bits (see images 13 and 17 below) and are sometimes out of focus, while the darker scenes, some of which use only natural light coming from small windows, show considerably heavy grain.

    Audio options provided on the disc in English and French language LPCM Mono tracks with subtitles provided in English only. The audio fares a bit better than the audio does, though there is some mild hiss here and there and there are a few minutes on the French track where the dialogue sounds very thin. The levels are generally balanced well and Bruno Nicolai’s evocative score doesn't sound bad. Overall the audio isn’t going to floor anyone but it’s serviceable.

    Extras start off with a commentary track that comes courtesy of Tim Lucas that gives us a rundown of the history of this picture and then goes on to detail some of the personal behind it. He notes the locations, discusses the specific way in which Lorys’ body is portrayed and displayed noting the maturity and ‘ripeness’ that it shows. He also makes some interesting comparisons to other Franco films, specifically Lorna The Exorcist, Succubus and Vampyros Lesbos. Lucas also does a fine job of explaining the way in which Franco uses Nicolai’s score in this picture and elaborates a bit in that regard as to why the director, as a jazz musician himself, might choose to have prolonged scenes where nothing happens outside of characters more or less just moving to music. He also makes some interesting observations about the use of birds in Franco movies and why they may seem to represent what they seem to represent. There are a few spots where Lucas clams up a bit but by and large it’s an interesting talk with an emphasis on critical interpretation and given how this movie plays out, that’s not a bad thing at all.

    The disc also includes a twenty minute long featurette entitled Eugenie’s Nightmare Of A Sex Charade, once again directed by Daniel Gouyette and consisting of interviews with Eurocine production head Daniel Lesoeur and the same film historians who were used on the Orlof nad Virgin Among The Living Dead Blu-rays: Alain Petit, Lucas Balbo, and Jean-Pierre Bouyxou. Archival interview clips with Jess Franco himself are also used here. Franco talks about shooting this film as well as shooting Sex Charade, a film that’s dissected and discussed by the critics as well as we learn how it relates to this picture. The featurette also provides some history on the specific release, or lack thereof, of Nightmares Come At Night, the significance of the different scenes in the film, the use of music and more. It’s a pretty interesting and well put together piece and a nice complimentary piece that works well alongside the commentary.

    Also interesting is the Six minute Visual Essay On The Creation Of The HD Master in which Bret Wood, a producer at Kino, shows some of the first pass scanned footage and discusses the basic cleanup work that was done (we see some side by side comparisons) and then notes some interesting facts about the materials. The Diana Lorys footage was shot fullframe, while the material with Soledada Miranda was matted at 1.66.1 – which is why the feature is presented in that aspect ratio. This also lends credence to the theory that the Miranda footage was shot completely separately and added in later.

    The last featurette is an eight minute segment called Jess! What Are You Doing Now? and it’s an amusing and heartfelt collection of sound bites and clips from those seen in the Chronicles featurette talking to the camera about what Franco may be up to now that he’s passed on. We get answers ranging from ‘he’s worm food and rotting in the ground’ to ‘he’s filming naked ladies loving every minute of it’ (paraphrasing here). It’s done with a sense of humor but you can tell that those involved appreciate what Franco did, how he did it and who he was.

    Rounding out the extras are trailers for other Franco Blu-ray releases available from Kino/Redemption (The Awful Dr. Orlof, Female Vampire, Exorcism and Oasis Of The Zombies), menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Nightmares Come At Night isn’t a perfect film by any means nor is it necessarily one of Franco’s best but with that said, it’s still a worthy addition to his filmography and when looked at as a sort of stepping stone in his career, it’s quite interesting. The fact that the cast are as good as they are here helps and the movie does not want for atmosphere. The Blu-ray from Kino/Redemption won’t win any awards for A/V presentation but it offers the movie up in perfectly watchable high definition and with a good selection of extra features as well.

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