April 18, 2006

JESS FRANCOS' LES DEMONS (1972) REVIEW 12



You may be sick of chocolate at this time of the year with Eostre now ending but I am sure your still just as hungry for some more Teapot titillations ..........

This movie always seemed to intrigue me since seeing its’ ‘go video’ pre-VRA release in the 1980’s. In typical ‘Go Video’ fashion it was lurid enough to captivate the young imagine and a burning need to explore it.

I eventually ended up watching it in a piss poor quality version that appeared to be edited together with shears and cellotape and was most disappointed with what could be described as a messy jumble of witchcraft, brief nudity and very little else.

Recently the directors cut surfaced on German region 2 DVD as ‘Die Nonnen von Clichy’ as part of the fascinating output from Kult DVD’s ‘X-Rated’ umbrella.

Although sometimes the dialogue went silent and turned into French (I would imagine the French version to be more longer and featuring more extended ‘torture/dialogue’ sequences, subtitles would’ve been nice here though); this didn’t really impair my enjoyment of the movie.

From what I recalled to what I actually viewed seemed entirely different films all together with the yank edit being terrible but the only way accessible to the film for as long, long time.

‘Les Demons’ appears to be heavily influenced by Ken Russell’s ‘The Devils (1971)’ and is referred by many as a sequel to Francos’ 1969 witch and tit melodrama ‘The Bloody Judge’ with no other but Christopher Lee brandishing the justices in the guise of Judge Jeffries. Les Demons seems to up the sex and violence and although not gratuitous is potent enough to keep the euro-trash fans happy.

Research indicates that there have been several versions of this movie, some shorn, some even re-arranged but I believe the version I saw is the most complete…..

THE PLOT

An old woman is tried and tortured for Witchcraft as all the signs are conclusive evidence she is a handmaiden of Lucifer she is sentenced to death by burning.

As she burns she curses the three culprits who sentenced her to the flames Lady de Wynter, Judge Jeffries and Thomas Renfield.

Further witterings reveal that she will be avenged by her ‘daughters’; Jeffries’ speculates that this refers to fellow practitioners of the black arts. Unconvinced Lady de Wynter and her protectorate Renfield visit a convent at Blackmoor to investigate any ‘orphaned’ women that could fit the bill and be the witches’ siblings.


They interview Mother Rosalinda who confirms that there are two nuns sisters Margaret and Kathleen that could be descendants. One is believed to be pure whilst the other Kathleen is feared to be a witch.

Kathleen is taken by Lady de Wynter and is taken back to her castle where she is tortured to verify further her canoodlings with the devil.

At the convent in Blackmoor, Margaret has a supernatural visit from her mother who asks for her help in avenging her death. Margaret agrees and as well as being bestowed with magical powers also gets a good fucking by the Lord of the Flies himself to seal ‘the pact’ so to speak.

Margaret goes demented and becomes a raging nymphet intend on seducing and destroying the wrong doers , she causes Mother Rosalinda to fall in love with her which ultimately leads to her throwing herself of the nunnery walkways in a fit of insane lust and guilt.

Against this backdrop of satanic delirium a love affair blossoms between the other sister Kathleen and the soldier Thomas Renfield . The sisters are identified as the witches daughters whose’ father happens to be Lord Malcolm de Wynter; who is currently involved with political intrigue concerning William of Orange.

This political intrigue could pave way for the lovers escape to freedom in Holland. Attempts made however abysmally fail and the lovers are captured and incarcerated in the de Wynters torture dungeons.

Margaret disguises herself as a Spanish aristocrat and charms her way into the de Wynter homestead to wreck and ruin the ‘guilty’ inhabitants. Margaret has discovered that she has the supernatural ability to turn people into skeletons in almost an instant and initially targets Lady de Wynter; the final revenge has all participants caught in the black magical crossfire…….

CRITIC

Made with a scant budget the historical accuracy goes completely out the window, perhaps the cast were given a budget where other costumes from other movies were used. This gives several visual indications that at times we seem to be witnessing Elizabethan, Georgian and even medieval garb, verbally the movie is set around the 1680’s due to William of Oranges’ mention.

Oddly enough such historical inaccuracy doesn’t seem to impede the movie as a whole it just adds to its frantic delirium. Even contemporary spider eyelashes and the layer of heavy eye make-up don’t seem out of place. This is history according to Franco and it is his movie so let us not forget this and get a better understanding on the whole.


Francos’ ‘pokey’ editing is as punchy as ever and trademark crotch shots are also prevalent at varying sexy intervals. There is also a skill on show here too, some of the scenes are constructed and filmed in what appears to be beautiful gothic tableaux. On occasion some scenes look as though they are filmed with a strong visual element borrowed from the theatre.

On occasion I noticed an adult ‘fairy tale’ kind of vein running through the imagery. The witch in the cottage also cements that feeling towards the films final instalments.

The torture sequences aren’t as focal to the proceedings as one would tend to imagine if a first time viewer. They are gruesome enough but nowhere nearing the same league as the harsh cruelty in ‘Mark of the Devil (1969)’ and the S.S medi-camp stable of film making. What is of interest is the different representation we have of the witches’ torture.

In the Spanish dub when pins are pushed into her arms and boiling watered poured over her breasts the old woman maniacally laughs at her executors. In the English/German dub these are replaced with screams of pain.

The facial reaction clearly indicates that all the attempts of torture are a waste of time. It’s’ a bit of a shame that these Spanish laughter ‘dubs’ weren’t utilised for all the other versions. On a few occasions the sorceresses of the movie are referred to as ‘true witches’. If there mother is a legitimate, 100% broomstick mounter then her powers would override any attempts of inflicting pain, hence why I believe the laughter to be important in these early sequences.

Another exceptionality of the movie is the amazing ‘soundtrack’. The joyous thing is that it is totally out of place and out of keeping with the historic settings. Gone are the violins, harpsichord and whimsy twee of period piece soundtracks , ditched in favour of infectious bass rifts leading into frenzied jazz flute. Bongos dance wildly to a prog rock funk fusion that accommodates the majority of the sex scenes and the action sequences.

This frantic tempo really empowers the visuals and picks the whole feel of the movie up when it is occasionally needed in moments of slowness.

I sincerely hope that this soundtrack becomes available it is a waste to keep it hidden as it really is that bloody good.

Unfortunately on the Spanish dub the music has been substituted by a totally inferior sombre organ and what appears to be a Gregorian chant. I guess you can’t have it all ways.

Such a diverse mixture of music, costume and style makes this a bizarre experience. The movie is like an ocean vessel, the pitch and roll could be used to represent the way the narrative of the picture twists and turns as a true example of ‘on-the-go’ direction.


The leads themselves appear to be enjoying every minute. The voices used for some of the dubs are understandably shoddy but setting this aside most seem giving it their best shot for the character they play.


Karin Field makes a welcome twisted appearance as Lady de Wynter and blends both her cruelty with her beautiful looks effectively. The stunningly handsome Cihangir Gaffari made a rather ‘dry’ Judge Jefferies and it was a shame that more use wasn't made of his character within the plot. Howard Vernon turns up trumps with his ‘Lord Malcolm de Wynter’ incarnation and is delightfully doddery too.

Beautiful people (check out Sister Margaret - Britt Nichols is absolutely stunning looking), attractive costumes (although from all over time it seems), eye-catching settings and flashes of inspirational direction make this worth seeing.

I favour this over ‘The Bloody Judge’ and would advise all to check it out but only in it’s’ (or one of it’s’) truest, longest forms.


Most Outstanding Moment

Lady de Wynter wandering around the gothic dungeon in see-through apparel – delicious.

The comical representation and boudoir antics of sex starved Satan - red tights and all (I sometimes wish Franco filmed this sequence in speed up- it would’ve been hilarious and quite fitting)!!!!

The Film; Les Demons / The Demons/ Sex Demons/Os Demonios/ She-Demons/ Die Nonnen von Clichy (German Region 2 Kult DVD release title)/ Las Poseidas Del Demonio (Kult DVD on screen film credit title)


The Country;
France / Portugal

The Year; 1972


The Players;

Anne Libert Kathleen

Britt Nichols Margaret

Doris Thomas Mother Rosalinda

Karin Field Lady De Wynter

Cihangir Gaffari Lord Justice Jeffries

Luis Barboo Truro

Howard Vernon Lord Malcolm De Wynter

Alberto Dalbés Thomas Renfield


The Director; Jess Franco

The Music; Jean-Bernard Raiteux , Daniel J White and Jess Franco.

My Relations are; The Bloody Judge (1969), The Mark of the Devil (1969), Witchfinder General (1968), The Mark of the Devil pt.2 – The Witches (1972).

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