• Black Boots, Leather Whip (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: June 25th, 2021.
    Director: Jess Franco
    Cast: Antonio Mayans, Lina Romay, Ida Balin, Alfredo Kier, Lorna Green
    Year: 1982
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    Black Boots, Leather Whip – Movie Review:

    When Black Boots, Leather Whip (Botas negras, látigo de cuero), one of a whole bunch of films that Jess Franco made for Golden Films in the early eighties, begins we see a private detective named Al Pereira (Antonio Mayans as Robert Foster) in his hotel room packing a suitcase. He needs to get the fuck out of Dodge, because he owes a lot of money to some people who don’t take kindly to those who don’t repay their debts.

    Enter Lina (played by Linda Romay, under her oft-used Candy Coster alia), a beautiful and delightfully curvy woman in a blonde wig (of course) who works at a nightclub where she performs bizarre acts involving blowjobs and what looks like Christmas tree garland on a skinny dude who doesn’t seem nearly as appreciative as he should that this is what he gets to do for a living. Regardless, Lina is more than willing to handover a whole lot of money and a fair bit of flesh in trade if Al can only find out what happened to a black leather bag that has gone missing, and which contains some photos of her that she’d very much prefer not fall into the wrong hands.

    You see, Lina is married to an androgynous man who performs in some similarly risqué acts, though these are of a homosexual nature. He feels that Lina’s been having an affair behind his back, while she insists that it was all business and part of her act. This is interesting if you think about Jess Franco and Lina Romay’s real life relationship on and off camera, but let’s not get off topic here. Of course, Lina isn’t particularly loyal to her beau, spreading her legs for Al in his hotel room sixteen-minutes into the movie. Regardless, he needs the money and likes the sex and so he takes the case and starts trying to track down the elusive piece of luggage causing his new friend so much grief. This leads to a few interesting exploits, one of which involves a dominatrix helping to give credence to the second half of the film’s English title, until he finally starts to put together the pieces of the puzzle, but not before Lina has rad lesbian sex with another woman and yet a third woman is executed, gangland style, with a bullet to the head while she masturbates with a blade and is whipped by her assailant.

    Set to a great score by ‘Pablo Villa’ and featuring some genuinely beautiful location work, Black Boots, Leather Whip is a solid entry in the director’s massive early eighties period. The sex scenes stop short of hardcore (though they don’t leave much to the imagination) and are shot with a rather clinical feel, but Lina Romay really is in fine form here, really taking the bull by the horns and throwing herself into the femme fatale role with the type of enthusiasm that has endeared her to fans the world over for so long. While the blonde wig may be obvious and the pseudonym rather poor at hiding her identity, it’s a very good role for her and she makes the most of it. She and Mayans had to have been very familiar with one another at this point, this was hardly their first film together, and they have decent chemistry. He plays the sleazy, derelict private dick rather well in this picture, looking very much the part of a down on his luck sleuth and very much the type of guy who would fuck his clients and owe money to people who might want to kill him.

    There are some striking visuals here. One scene set in a junkyard really stands out, if only for being set in a junkyard (not common in Franco movies!) but in addition to that there are a lot of nice interior shots and very good use of shadow and light. Franco’s ability to lose track of what is in and out of focus is on display here from time to time but overall the cinematography is strong and the movie tells a decent story, keeping us engaged throughout even when Linda has her clothes on.

    Black Boots, Leather Whip – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings Black Boots, Leather Whip 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 26GBS 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. Franco shot stuff fast and sometimes with little regard for focus, but this seems like a very good representation of how the movie should look.

    The only audio option on the disc is a Spanish 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.

    The first extras is an audio commentary with I'm In A Jess Franco State Of Mind writer Robert Monell and the NaschyCast's Rodney Barnett. They cover the neo-noir elements, the spider vs. fly elements at play in the picture, some of the film’s transgressive qualities, Lina as a femme fatale, Mayans contributions to many Franco films of the period, a history of the Al Pereira character, connections to pictures like Double Indemnity and Rear Window, the film’s release history and how hard it was to see on home video until now, how quickly Franco and Mayans were cranking out films during this period, the warning signs that Pereira ignores as the plot plays out, the way that the female characters in the film are able to play Pereira like a violin, when exactly the film was made, how Franco enjoyed a lot more creative control over this quick low budget movies than he did over some of his bigger pictures and lots more. It’s a well-informed track that does a nice job of shedding some light on the picture’s history.

    The disc also includes In The Land Of Franco Part 5 in which Murderous Passions author Stephen Thrower continues his detailed exploitation of different locations used throughout Franco’s filmography. In this sixteen-minute piece, Thrower and Antonio Mayans visit locations from Bloody Moon and learn how the director's temperament changed depending on what sort of locations he was shooting on as well as what it was like on set. Then we check out some locations from Cannibals (essentially a garden!), and then a location he used in 99 Women, Der Todesracher Von Soho and The Demons. Lastly we check out a place where he shot some of Eugenie (Historia De Una Perversion). This is just as enjoyable as the earlier four entries in the Land Of Franco series that Severin has been doing. Interesting stuff.

    Also one hand is a second featurette called Shiny Boots Of Leather, which is a thirty-two-minute piece where Thrower offers up a history of the film, noting that it was one of many films that the director made in 1982, one of his most prolific periods. He notes it was made fast and, like others, shot in a week or two and then edited and dubbed in another week or two. He then goes on to talk about how this film compares to other Franco movies, Mayans presence in the film, the history of the Al Pereira character and how Franco was sometimes making a film based around an idea for a single scene during this period. He then goes on to talk about some of the striking beauty of a few specific scenes, some of the themes that the movie deals with, the wrecking yard scene and the strange score used overtop of it, the use of sex as currency, how the sex scenes in the movie tend to be mechanical and cold and quite a bit more. As always, Thrower's insight is appreciated, he brings a lot to this and gives you plenty to think on.

    Menus and chapter selection are also offered, and this release comes with some nice reversible cover sleeve art.

    Black Boots, Leather Whip – The Final Word:

    Black Boots, Leather Whip is a well-made slice of sleazy neo-noir wherein Franco once again works out a lot of his personal kinks on screen for all to enjoy! Romay and Mayans are both really good here and the movie features some strong cinematography and a nice score. Severin is to be commended for bringing this obscure chapter of the man’s filmography to Blu-ray in a strong presentation and with a nice selection of extras too. Franco fans ought to really enjoy this one.

    Click on the images below for full sized Black Boots, Leather Whip Blu-ray screen caps!