Friday, February 11, 2011

Lorna, the Exorcist (1974)--Repost with critique of the Mondo Macabro DVD

Save this paragraph, what follows below is my original post on Lorna, the Exorcist, as published on December 27, 2009. Despite my desire to tinker with the text, I have resisted the urge to change it. It is not very good, alas. The original title of this post was "Jess Franco's Lorna, the Exorcist (1974)," and I have removed the "Jess Franco's" from the title (as an incidental note, this is because I've largely abandoned the auteur theory as a workable critical approach). I've recently received the Mondo Macabro DVD release of Lorna and am, again, quite impressed. The DVD release presents the film in a beautiful, anamorphic widescreen transfer, and the film is presented with an English language option and a French language option with English subtitles. I've watched the disc twice and have yet to listen to the English track, as I much prefer the French. The subtitles are excellent. Included on the disc are text essays and interviews with author Stephen Thrower and Gerard Kikoine. The Kikoine interview is of particular interest, as he shares his anecdotes about Robert de Nesle, editing Jess Franco's films, and his early work as a sound editor and film editor. Kikoine also talks about French cinema and censorship in France during the seventies. It is recommended and is my favorite supplement on the disc. The super-dope Mondo Macabro trailer reel is included also. This DVD release is essential Franco, and I cannot think of a true, cult film fan who does not have a stack of red DVD boxes on their shelf in his or her collection. One other note, there is a scene in Lorna which I reference below as being more provocative in its original version. Mondo Macabro has included this scene in their loving restoration of the film (an introductory text halts the beginning of the film on the disc, describing the laborious process of bringing this transfer to the public. This is very commendable work, and I appreciate it when Franco is attributed the value that he deserves.). I have left the original screenshots from my old vhs transfer and have included, above them, screenshots from Mondo Macabro's release. This is not done for comparison, as it is obvious that there is none. I have left the original screenshots, as they were part of the original post and they show how old school Franco fans saw this film, perhaps, prior to this essential release. I purchased my copy here, but it can also be found here.

Patrick (Guy Delorme) and Marianne (Jacqueline Laurent) Mariel, along with their daughter, Linda (Lina Romay), near the threshold of her eighteenth birthday, decide to leave their lush villa and head to the coast for a vacation. Patrick receives a phone call at his holiday destination from a woman named Lorna (Pamela Stanford), who wants Patrick to keep his end of the bargain that the two made nearly eighteen years ago. Lorna, The Exorcist (1974) (a more apt title is this French one, Les possédées du diable) is another Robert de Nesle/Jess Franco collaboration. Whatever pact the duo made with the devil of low-budget cinema is unleashed upon the viewer. The trademark Franco production style, cheap, small crew, few actors, single locations, etc., works completely in Lorna's favor. "Franco delays the descent into the plot as long as possible," write the authors of Immoral Tales, "increasing the claustrophobia, working out his compulsions." The film's extremely simplistic narrative allows Franco to paint a perverse tableau of images, shrouded in the most intense and haunting atmosphere.The eroticism of Lorna, the Exorcist is carried by Romay's Linda and Stanford's Lorna, and their love scenes are captured by Franco with longing, loving looks, slow embraces, and gentle touching and caressing. Lorna begins with Linda emerging from a balcony to seduce a willing Lorna upon a bed. It's a sequence made all the more powerful upon the later revelation that Lorna is the actual seductress; and Lorna's visits to Linda are in her dreams. Visually this sequence and another where Lorna seduces Linda while taking a bath are treated by Franco at the edges of voyeurism. Each sex scene dares to move one step further into its intimacy, threatening to remove any intimacy at all by revealing all. When Lorna finally confronts Linda and reveals her plans for the young daughter, she tells Linda her tale of first meeting her father and the pact they made before she was born. Lorna and Linda embrace again, and perversely Franco plays on the film's incestuous theme. Apparently, this consummation scene was far more provocative and graphic originally (fact from Immoral Tales) and was absent from my French print of the film. (A still from Lorna from this sequence is included in Obsession: The Films of Jess Franco.) The erotic sequences are not reserved completely for Lorna and Linda. Catherine Lafferière appears as a mad patient (victim or lover of Lorna) being treated by a doctor played by Franco; and her performance is as uninhibited as Romay or Stanford. Her scenes have little narrative weight and seem to exist to only permeate the truly erotic and haunting atmosphere.Virtually all of the characters have one motivation and each actor is able to play to his/her motivation with a singular intensity. Delorme's Patrick runs on fear and plays as a desperate man throughout out the film. Laurent's Marianne, like Linda, is a victim of Patrick's pact with Lorna: she doesn't know what to do or what is about to happen. In a particularly nasty scene, she's the victim of one of Lorna's spells in one of the most wince-inducing scenes in Franco's filmography. Lina Romay is fantastic as Linda and is able to genuinely balance the effective and seductive erotic sequences with a wide-eyed performance in the more innocent scenes. Stanford, as Lorna, again delivers with another seductive performance, even all the more brilliant as Franco has her hidden behind quite a bit of bizarre makeup and some impressive costumes. The primary location of the modern hotel lacks the grandeur of the genuine and more ancient locations of Franco's other work, but as the Immoral Tales authors note, the hotel (and Franco's compositions) contributes to the film's claustrophobic and intense atmosphere. Producer Robert de Nesle contributed to the hauntingly beautiful score with André Bénichou, an essential element to Lorna. In Lorna, the Exorcist, Franco plumbs the dark depths and delivers a provocative and dark gem.

1 comment:

Mr.LargePackage said...

Great review, Hans. Yes, I am a voyeur. Oh yeah. And that is large and in charge.