• Shining Sex (Severin Films, Standard Edition) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: August 25th, 2020.
    Director: Jess Franco
    Cast: Lina Romay, Evelyne Scott, Monica Swinn, Olivier Mathot, Pierre Taylou
    Year: 1977
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    Shining Sex – Movie Review:

    Shot around the same time and with many of the same cast members as Midnight Party, Jess Franco’s Shining Sex tells the sordid story of a stripper named Cynthia (Lina Romay, of course) who is employed at a very fancy establishment in France. Cynthia is the top draw in the club, but when she’s free, makes a bit of extra money on the side by working as a prostitute. Alpha (Evelyne Scott) and Andros (Raymond Hardy) are a mistress and servant couple from outer space who arrive at the establishment and make some moves on sexy Cynthia and, while they’re going at it, Alpha manages to insert some space matter into her that allows them to exert their control over her and use her as a very unconventional means to assassinate their foes. At the top of the list are a psychic and a biologist - Madame Pécame (Monica Swinn) Doctor Seward (Jess Franco) - who have somehow learned of the alien couple’s bigger plan, that being to launch an alien invasion of some sort.

    Cynthia is able to take out Pécame but wrongly assumes that Seward is out to destroy her rather than Alpha, which leads her back to the alien mistress. Alpha then subjects her to some shock treatment before then sending her out after Karma (Olivier Mathot), another on her list of enemies she wants to do away with – but first, before she can kill him, she’ll go on a very, very long boat ride!

    An utterly strange yet somehow artistically satisfying combination of super low budget science fiction concepts and pretty explicit sex, this film is a trip. Low on dialogue and plot but high on naked couplings, it serves as a nice showcase for Franco’s abilities to get the most, visually speaking, out of his cast and his locations. The cinematography is appropriately weird and, of course, somewhat dreamlike and the score jibes with the onscreen action rather well, using a strange combination of free jazz and strange, otherworldly sound effects to help enhance the mood.

    The story, as interesting as it is, comes second to the sex in this picture, but fans of Lina Romay will certainly be impressed regardless. Franco is at his most obsessive behind the camera here, going overboard with the zoom lens and inviting the audience to ogle every square inch of his muse’s admittedly well-groomed nether regions. Romay, for her part, is as bold here as she ever was and she does look fantastic here, spending the vast majority of the film’s running time unimpeded by clothing and delivering that smoldering, sexual intensity that gave her a career in the first place. The supporting work is decent enough. Swinn and Scott both look good here, with Scott’s silent role standing out, while Hardy, Mathot and Franco himself are amusing in their supporting roles.

    Shining Sex – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings Shining-Sex to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen taken from a new scan of the original uncut negative that takes up just under 31GBS of space on the 50GB disc. The transfer is pretty solid, showing some minor compression artifacts in a few spots but otherwise looking good. There are some shots that look soft and some that are just plain out of focus, but this is clearly how the movie was lensed and, Franco fans already know, not super uncommon in the director’s filmography. Detail does vary from scene to scene but close up shots look really good (that razor burn looks painful), and there’s pretty strong depth and texture throughout (but is there may be some light DNR applied here? Hard to say as it has such a soft look to it).

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks that comes with optional subtitles in English only. Audio quality is fine, the dialogue is pretty easy to understand and to follow and the score has a bit of appreciable depth to it. There is the occasional pop here and there but overall this is quite clean and always properly balanced.

    This disc is stacked with extra features, starting with a commentary track from Robert Monell of the I'm In A Jess Franco State Of Mind blog and Rod Barnett of the Naschy Cast pod cast. The track is quite thorough, covering this 'very odd' entry in the director's output, talking about the opening credits and some of the names that appear (noting that Jess Franco's actual name doesn't appear), the director's tendency to make multiple films at the same time during this period and the film's connections to Midnight Party, how the film addresses sexuality and eroticism and this film's variation on using the idea of an STD coopted as something more appropriate for a horror or fantastical film). Lots of talk here about the cast members and the director's work but also some of the themes explored here, such as the loss of virility in one key scene, the line between eroticism and 'crass sexuality,' the film's hardcore variant and some of the history behind that, the use of color in the film to portray an alternate dimension and plenty more. It's an interesting and insightful track that covers a lot of ground.

    In The Land Of Franco Part 3 is a thirteen-minute piece where Stephen Thrower and Antonio Mayans head to Malaga, Spain where they explore the city where Jess and Lina spent the later years of their lives, including areas where Franco's ashes were scattered after he passed. They explore and talk about locations used in a few different films - Mil Sexos Tiene La Noche, Jugio Sucio En Casablanca, - about the cinematography that was employed in some of these films as well as what it was like for Mayans to work with Franco (he tells a great story where Franco found a location with three trees and decided it would make a 'great jungle'). There's also footage here from Andale Audiovisual, a Malaga-based production company whose owner, Kike Mesa, shot a bunch of interviews with Franco in his later years. Mesa is interviewed here and shows off some great photos and talks about his friendship with Franco.

    Shining Jess is a nineteen-minute spoiler-heavy deep dive into the history of the film and the themes that it deals with, again, courtesy of Thrower, who talks about Franco's workaholic tendencies, his working relationship with his producers, how he came to make this picture for Eurocine (describing the state of his career at this point as being 'in a bit of a quandary'), how he made this film in conjunction with Midnight Party (and how 'he swore up and down and back again that he didn't do this' in public), how the film incorporates science fiction into the story in such a minimalist way, Lina's exhibitionist tendencies and how this film takes advantage of them, Franco's own character and the naming of that character, why the movie hasn't received as much attention as some of the director's other pictures and quite a bit more.

    Never Met Franco is an interview with filmmaker Gerard Kikoine (who is joined by a really cool looking dog!) that clocks in at just over six-minutes. He speaks here, in subtitled French, about how he got his start in the business doing post-production sound work in Paris and worked on a few of Franco's seventies offerings. He notes how Robert de Nesle brought him on board to do this, how Franco himself would typically do the editing in Spain before sending things off to France where they were further worked on, having to make sense of Franco's films and the difficulty in doing so without proper scripts or paperwork to work off of, adding what he hoped was appropriate sound effects and music to specific scenes, how they periodically hijacked plots and other bits and pieces related to his work at this time.

    In the 'Very NSFW Outtakes' section we're treated to just over thirteen-minutes' worth of hardcore footage, complete with sound (or at least dubbed audio of Lina, and oddly none of the other participants, moaning a whole lot) and of the straight sex and lesbian sex variety. Most of this footage is shot in close up, leaving nothing to the imagination.

    Franco at Eurocine is an interview with producer Daniel Lesoeur that runs eighteen-minutes. He speaks in English about how his father connected with Franco and decided to make their first film together, which would turn out to be The Awful Doctor Orloff. This did well enough that they then decided to make a few more films together. He talks about writing with Jess under his direction The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus, how Franco cameoed Nicole Franco in the film Shining Sex (she's credited as Nicole Guettard) and how she worked on the script as well as their divorce, Franco's relationship with Lina Romay, why they wound up co-producing with German company Brux Inter Films, how Franco's direction style did not include the need to explain things to his cast, how the success of Cannibal Holocaust led to them making a cannibal film together, how Franco came to make films like Oasis Of The Zombies and Dark Mission, trying to remake The Awful Dr. Orloff and trying to get Iron Maiden involved (seriously) and loads more. Lots of great stories here.

    Filmmaker Christophe Gans On Franco (or, as the title card reads, Franco-Philia: French Director Christophe Gans On The Life And Times And Films Of Jess Franco) is just what it sounds like, a lengthy twenty--minute piece where the director, speaking in subtitled French, talks about a Franco film retrospective that took place in Paris, how Franco changed genre films by making vampire movies that were unlike the typical Hammer Films of the day, the way that he mixed erotic elements with horror and how he initially responded to films like Dracula's Daughter by seeing them as oddities. He talks about the international flavor of the director's work and how he feels Franco led an 'adventurer's life.' As the talk goes on, he covers how Franco dealt with periods of both poverty and elation and how he took it all with the same enthusiasm for cinema, how Lina Romay's body was his 'cinematic musical arabesque' (using Doriana Grey and Female Vampire as his favorite examples), the way that Franco portrayed beauty in his films, the psycho-sexual atmosphere in his films and how he hopes that Franco will never be forgotten.

    A theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection finish things up on the disc.

    The soundtrack CD and slipcover included with the limited edition release, covered here, have not been included with this standard edition release.

    Shining-Sex – The Final Word:

    Shining Sex isn’t Franco’s strongest film from a narrative standpoint but it’s got loads of mood, atmosphere and sex to keep viewers interested. It is, in its own way, very nicely shot and the performances from the three leads are pretty strong as well. Severin Films has rolled out the red carpet for this release, presenting it in very nice shape and on a disc absolutely stacked with extra features. Highly recommended!
    Click on the images below for full sized Shining Sex Blu-ray screen caps!