• Sinfonia Erotica

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: April 3rd, 2018.
    Director: Jess Franco
    Cast: Lina Romay, Susan Hemingway, Armando Borges, Mel Rodrigo, Aida Gouveia
    Year: 1980
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    The Movie:

    At the beginning of Jess Franco’s 1980 film Sinfonia Erotica, Martine de Bressac (Lina Romay, as Candy Costar) returns to the palatial home she shares with her husband Armand (Armando Borges) after a stint away at a mental hospital where she was treated for a breakdown. Shortly after her carriage arrives and she gets settled, she finds that her husband has taken a male lover in the form of a curly haired young man named Flor (Mel Rodrigo).

    Martine, still suffering from a heart problem, is understandably surprised by this but also quite heartbroken. Her maid, Wanda (Aida Gouveia), speaks ill of Armand’s latest lifestyle shift, but Martine wants him back. Things take a strange turn when Armand and Flor come across an unconscious nun named Norma (Susan Hemingway) in the garden near the house. They take her inside and once she’s been nursed back to health, they quite literally molest her. They figure she’s been discarded by someone and doesn’t want to go back to the convent where she presumably escaped, so there’s little in the way of consequences for them to face up to. Sometime later, Martine walks in on Armand and Flor in bed. Dismissing her frustration, Armand tells her to go off and bother Norma instead, which does – resulting in a fairly graphic lesbian scene between Romay and Hemmingway.

    Eventually, Dr. Louys (Albino Graziani) proclaims that too much stimulation will possibly kill Martine, Armand figures out a way to get rid of his wife once and for all.

    While it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the twist ending, this is nevertheless a pretty interesting psychosexual thriller and an interesting entry in the director’s massive filmography. It has much in common with some of his other adaptations of the Marquise de Sade’s work thematically, but visually it sees the director taking some interesting chances. The art direction here is quirky, to say the least. The movie is heavily and frequently filtered there are lens flares aplenty here – the movie also uses a lot of soft focus, and sometimes out of focus, photography to build mood and atmosphere. For the most part, it actually works in creating an oddly dreamlike state for much of the film to play out in. You could argue that some of the visuals are reflective of Martine’s increasingly fragile psyche. We know that she’s already cracked at least once before and it’s obvious that her husband and his playthings are counting on it happening again.

    If Franco made the film on a modest budget, it doesn’t really matter very much. There’s not much in the way of effects work to worry about here and the mansion that he shot the film in is an absolutely perfect location, with the ocean on one side and mountains on the other and a huge, sprawling garden on the grounds. The interior has plenty of character, what with its long staircases and interesting works of art scattered about. It’s a beautiful building, and the few areas that look a little worse for wear only serve to make it even more interesting to look at.

    Performances are pretty solid here. Hemmingway, no stranger to Franco fans, is a good choice for the ‘lost’ nun. She has a very innocent and naïve look to her that suits the character quite well. Armando Borges, sporting an earring that really stands out as wrong for the period in which the film is set, is solid here as the manipulative and sadistic Marquis. He plays the ‘bastard’ well. Mel Rodrigo doesn’t have as much to do as some of the others in the film but his work alongside Borges is bold enough that their gay love affair seems reasonably convincing. Their characters do lean towards stereotypes of the day and this isn’t the most progressive film in that regard, but it is what it is.

    Front and center in all of this is lovely Linda Romay, who, as those familiar with the Costar films she made already know, is a blonde this time around. While she never goes as over the top here as she does in some of her better-known pictures, she still brings her trademark intensity and sexual fire to the part and the movie is all the better for it.


    Severin Films brings Sinfonia Erotica to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen taken from a new 4k scan of what is believed to be the only existing 35mm print of the film left. There’s a fair bit of soft focus photography employed throughout the movie that results in pretty faint detail during those scenes, but when the camera is in focus detail here is reasonably strong given the elements available. There are a lot of lens flares here and wonky camera work to take in, so it’s never going to look hyper-detailed even if transferred from the OCN. Some shots look blown out in regards to the lighting, but again, this stems back to the original photography. Colors are a bit faded and minor print damages is spotted frequently, but the disc is free of obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement issues. To be fair to Severin, it would seem that they’ve done a decent job of bringing a film that was tricky looking in the first place to Blu-ray from less than ideal elements.

    The Spanish language DTS-HD Mono track, which comes with optional English subtitles, sounds alright for the most part. The dubbing on the track has a slightly hollow sound to it but for the most part it is pretty clean and properly balanced.

    The disc contains two extras, the first of which is a touching (if questionably accurate!) seven-minute interview with Jess Franco on his first wife, Nicole Guettard, who has a credit in the film’s crew. He talks about how he met her, how she didn’t want to be involved with cinema, and how before they divorced she got a tumor, then Alzheimers, before being sent away to a facility and then passing away. From there he turns the discussion to his relationship with Soledad Miranda and Lina Romay.

    In the second feature, Stephen Thrower on Sinfonia Erotica, the author of Murderous Passions - The Delirious Cinema Of Jesus Franco speaks for just over twenty-two-minutes on Franco’s involvement in filming the works of the Marquis de Sade and the entries that exist in his filmography that tie into the authors work up to this point in 1980. He also covers why the film looks the way that it does and the cinematography employed in the film, how the movie ties into Two Female Spies With Flowered Panties, the locations that are featured in the picture, the depiction of the film’s gay characters (and that earring!) and a fair bit more. As is typical of Thrower’s video essays on Franco’s films, this is quite interesting and full of history and insight.

    The Final Word:

    Sinfonia Erotica finds Franco mixing occasional arthouse pretense with the frequent dashes of kinky sex his films are so often associated with. It’s an interesting picture both visually and thematically, and fans of Lina Romay and Susan Hemmingway should find much to enjoy here, as both ladies get a lot of screen time and turn in solid performances. Severin’s Blu-ray does the best it can with some dicey elements, but the disc provides a more than watchable presentation for this rarity and also includes some decent supplements. Not the best starting point for those new to his work, but certainly recommended to fans.

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

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      I would never expect this to look great. I'm sure there will be plenty of dissenters though. From the screencaps there, it definitely looks better than it ever has. Well done Severin for having the savvy to bring this one to a wider audience, when they could have gone with any number of more well known Francos. I eagerly await this and Sadist.
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      I probably won't be getting this, at least not immediately, but I have Sadist and it wipes the floor with Redemption's Exorcism. It has a disclaimer about picture quality at the start, but it doesn't really need one. It looks really good for something of this vintage. I didn't notice any artifacts which sometimes creep into Severin's blus (Terror Express, The Other Hell). The supposed select scenes commentary is a bit misleading as it's just a short audio essay really.
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      Much better than what Dorado dumped on fans.
      This looks good enough to me, at least Severin is up front about the sources on these.
    1. cmeffa's Avatar
      cmeffa -
      Thanks Ian for this post on the new release of this amazing film.