Saturday, June 27, 2009

Les démons (1973)

... aka: Demonios, Os
... aka: Demons, The
... aka: Die Nonnen von Clichy
... aka: Las poseidas del demonio
... aka: Les démons du sexe
... aka: Nuns of Clichy, The
... aka: Os Demonios
... aka: Sex Demons, The
... aka: She-Demons

Directed by:
Jesus Franco

A suspected witch is stuck with a pin, has boiling water poured on her chest, screams, laughs, yells something in French that I didn't understand and is then burned alive at the stake. Before dying, she curses all those responsible; including inquisitor Lord Justice Jeffreys (“John Foster”/ Cihangir Gaffari), powerful noblewoman Lady de Winter (Karin Field) and soldier Thomas Renfield (Alberto Dalbés), and promises they’ll all face a death far worse than hers at the hand of her two daughters. Meanwhile, at a local convent, repressed Mother Rosalinda (Doris Thomas) rules with an iron fist and lashes a young woman’s hands for simply daydreaming. Two orphaned sisters; the pure, humble and innocent blonde Margaret (gorgeous Britt Nichols) and the pleasant but wayward brunette Kathleen (Anne Libert), who dreams of “running naked through the wheat fields with the wind caressing me all over,” are staying there and have their pension paid by a mysterious man. Hey, this is an upscale nunnery! At confession Rosalinda shows concern for both Kathleen’s frequent masturbation sessions and herself, for enjoying watching them; “…seeing her body trembling in spasms of voluptuous pleasure affected me deeply!” Who the hell writes this stuff? Priceless. It isn't long before Rosalinda is stripping off her clothes and rubbing her body while wacka-wacka guitar and bongo drums play and she begins to suspect that Kathleen is possessed by a demon. You know, because she's interested in sex.

Lady De Winter and Thomas, who are secretly lovers and desperate to save their own asses after being cursed, shows up at the convent looking for the daughters of the executed witch. Rosalinda points them in the direction of Kathleen and Margaret, who are promptly bent over a table and felt up to see if their virginity is intact. Kathleen fails the test and is dragged off for a “witchcraft investigation,” which involves being tortured until she’s forced to confess. She’s stretched on a rack, has her leg clamped, has pins stuck in her breasts and fails the water test, so she’s branded a witch and sentenced to die. Lady De Winter’s astrologist husband, Malcolm (Howard Vernon) feels pity on Kathleen and believes she’s innocent, so he pays off some guards to help her escape. Back at the convent, Margaret is paid a visit by the ghost of her mother, who tells her she must avenge her death. Suddenly, a ghostly man in red tights appears, bends her over and rapes her so she’ll be “the bride of Satan.” She seduces Rosalinda, who reacts to that by jumping to her death from a balcony, then flees the convent and ends up finding another witch, who teaches her about her powers.

Meanwhile, Kathleen gets bounced around from painter Brian De Quincy (“Victor Feldman / Andrés Monales), who lets her shack up with him for a few weeks, Thomas, who is ordered to bring her back to the torture chamber or else lose his head, and Jeffreys, who has his way with her once she’s re-captured. Kathleen, as well as Thomas (now a traitor for trying to help her escape) are sentenced to both die a slow and painful deaths after Lady De Winter’s feast. Margaret, who shows up with a new identity, has other plans in store for all of everyone.

It’s not all terrible, but it’s a meandering tale; often slow and dull, despite gratuitous full female nudity that Franco sometimes uses his trademark zooms to focus in on. Some of the Portuguese / Spanish shooting locations are nice and the acting isn't bad, but there’s also no real sense of time or place because of the variance of the costumes and architecture. Toward the end, they throw in a sloppy sword fight (notice how it changes from day to night back to day again during the same scene), and a mildly amusing twist at the end.

The cast also includes Luis Barboo as Jeffreys’ right hand man Truro. It’s based on the novel “Las monjas de Clichy” by David Khunne (a Franco alias) and features a score by Daniel J. White and Franco and decent cinematography by Raúl Artigot. On-screen title of the version I watched (the DVD is from Salvation Films) was Las poseidas del demonio ("The Demon Possessed"), which is said to be uncut. It was first released with much nudity removed for the Premiere Entertainment and Unicorn video releases; shortened from 103 minutes down to just 79.


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