Sunday, March 8, 2015

Les nuits brûlantes de Linda (1975) [filmed in 1973]

... aka: Brutal Nights of Linda
... aka: Burning Nights of Linda, The
... aka: But Who Raped Linda?
... aka: Come Close, Blond Emmanuelle
... aka: Erotic Dreams
... aka: Habitación Prohibida (Forbidden Room)
... aka: Hot Nights of Linda, The
... aka: La felicità nel peccato (Happiness in Sin)
... aka: Savage Girls

Directed by:
"J.P. Johnson" (Jesus Franco)

In Paris, Marie-France Bertrand (Alice Arno) is looking for work and goes to an employment agency where she learns of an opening which will put to use her nursing, teaching and secretarial skills. Taking a train ride to the country, she goes to the seaside villa of wealthy Paul Radeck (Paul Muller), a secretive man who wants her to help care for his two adult daughters; Linda (Verónica Llimera) and Olivia (Lina Romay). Linda is a depressed, paralyzed woman-child who clutches her baby doll and likes to sunbathe naked on the terrace. Olivia, who's actually an orphaned cousin Paul adopted and not his blood daughter. is lonely, virginal, sex-obsessed and lies in bed drinking champagne and throwing out sensuous glances to at anyone who walks through the door. Also living in the home is Abdul (Pierre Taylou), a servant who doesn't speak and only grunts like a caveman. Her first night there, Marie-France has immediate reason for concern as everyone acts either extremely suspicious or extremely screwed up. Olivia keeps her awake moaning loudly and likes to watch her new "teacher" shower. She also catches the voyeuristic Abdul peeping in her room and makes note that the short-tempered Paul refuses to discuss Linda's condition and refers to her only as "the fruit of sin."

Meanwhile, a female photojournalist (Catherine Lafferière) and a goofy private dick (Richard "Deconninck " / Bigotini) are spying on the villa from a nearby house with binoculars that somehow enable them to see right into all the bedrooms. Since the girls like to run around naked most of the time, she's hoping to get good photos for Playboy while he hopes to get evidence that Paul murdered his wife, which is the rumor around those parts. Olivia is troubled by nightmares / flashbacks of her uncle slashing his unfaithful wife Lorna's (Monica Swinn) lover's throat with a sword while the two were in bed. Paul is also haunted by visions of the tryst and takes it out on his daughters by beating and screaming at them all the time and caressing them while they sleep in the nude. When he catches one of his girls in bed with Abdul, he drags him off to a room, chains him to a wall and whips him while calling him a dog. There are numerous sexual tanglings all around that keep Abdul awfully busy and Olivia makes mention of wanting a key to a locked room her father always keeps guarded to see what's inside.

The pacing is extremely, almost insufferably slow most of the time and this has next to no narrative drive to propel the thin story forward. Sex, jealousy, madness, murder, child abuse, lesbianism, incest, suicide, ESP and voyeurism all rear their heads from time to time, but the story itself is rather aimless and uninvolving. As per the director's usual, the bulk of the time is spent on nude / sex scenes, but the film finally settles more in the horror-thriller territory in the last few minutes with one of the cast members going crazy and murdering numerous characters with a sword and battle axe. There's some minor comic relief in side scenes, constant zoom shots into eyeballs, a few nice visual touches, a good Daniel White score and a cheeky twist at the very end that's kind of humorous. Of course, the primary reason this was made was to undress all of the female cast members, and this at least does that much, though it takes Franco a whopping 18 minutes to get one of the ladies naked, which may be a record for him. Looks-wise, Romay is in her prime here, so that's good.

Like most other Franco films, this was released in different forms in different markets with differing footage, though the running times all hovered around 80 minutes. The first release, as originally shot by Franco and titled Les nuits brûlantes de Linda, contained just one graphic scene of banana play featuring Romay, though later French versions contained added hardcore insert shots spliced in that were filmed by Franco himself. This was the same version released on the bootleg circuit here in America under the titles Brutal Nights of Linda and The Burning Nights of Linda. Franco later trimmed out some of the more explicit material and filmed new comic scenes featuring the private detective and reporter characters specifically to pad out a softer release version, which played on European TV (dubbed into English) under the title Erotic Dreams. Another version released in Italy titled La felicità nel peccato ("Happiness in Sin") supposedly contains a soft sex scene featuring Swinn not seen in any other version.

The one I ended up watching was an 80 minute cut packaged as The Hot Nights of Linda but with a title screen that calls it But Who Raped Linda? which was also the version theatrically released by hack company Eurociné. The sex is soft, the nudity isn't all that explicit by Franco standards, it's in widescreen, is English-dubbed and opens by saying it's "a film by J.P. Johnson" and then goes on to list the director as Madeleine Quinquandon, who was actually one of the production managers. (The credited director on the Italian version is "Rick Deconinck," it's "Roy Darton" in Spain and so on). Under any name, this is a middling and rather forgettable effort for Franco that represents neither the best nor the worst of his work. Getting into even more details about the various versions (there are many) is something I'm not going to do here because, quite frankly, I didn't like this enough to want to sift through other versions looking for little differences. For a full and thorough run-down of the variations, consult the excellent write-up by Eric Contenas at DVD Drive-In RIGHT HERE.

In 2013, Severin released the ultimate collector's edition for this title. It includes multiple versions of the film, including a DVD and Blu-ray of the soft version as well as a poor-quality VHS transfer of the French-language, English-subtitled hardcore version, referred to as the “French Hard Banana Version.” Other extras include roughly 30 minutes of interview footage with Franco and Romay, another ten or so minutes spent with author and “Franco expert” Stephen Thrower, who discusses the director, the film in question and plugs an upcoming Franco book he's working on, a brief outtake reel, trailers and a few other goodies. It's really not worth the 30 dollars they're asking unless you're a Franco completist.


Headless Eyes, The (1971)

... aka: Bloodthirsty Butcher
... aka: Cabezas sin ojos (Eyeless Heads)
... aka: Headless Eyes

Directed by:
Kent Bateman

Before Kent Bateman started facilitating and personally financing the budding careers of his actor children Jason and Justine (subject of a 1988 People Magazine article questioning their reputation as insufferable, spoiled "showbiz brats"), he made this ultra low-budget gore flick. It was also an early effort for producer Ronald Sullivan, who'd later go on to become a famous hardcore porn director under the name Henri Pachard. While attempting to rob a woman's apartment late at night so he can pay his rent, financially-strapped New York City artist Arthur Malcolm or just 'Mal' (Bo Brundin) ends up getting a big surprise himself when the woman gouges out his eyeball with a spoon. The traumatized artist loses his mind, spends some time in a mental institution and completely alienates himself from his emasculating rich lover Anna, who'd been carrying his expenses on her shoulders for years. Now free from all his constraints, Mal lurks around the city murdering anyone he can get his hands on and then removing their eyeballs, which are placed in blocks of ice in his freezer until they're ready to be added to his art pieces.

This is ultimately little more than a succession of stalking / killing vignettes just barely held together as a film with scenes featuring the killer giving over-the-top deranged monologues. After a drunk, bickering couple mock him, Mal follows them home and kills them with a hammer. He then follows a woman back to her apartment and stabs her through the throat after she tells him she's a hooker ("You know, prostitutes are human, too!"). Many others will die and part ways with their peepers in the process, including a woman hanging sheets on a rooftop, an old lady desperately wanting plastic surgery (and who makes the mistake of lifting up Mal's eye patch), a plainclothes cop who stumbles upon him defiling a corpse in an open grave and a blonde would- be actress who takes her top off for a sleazy casting agent. News headlines scream “Police Baffled. 'Eye' Killer Slays 14th!” This is all somewhat amusing for a little while, but the general lack plot, the repetitive kills and the technical ineptitude soon catch up to it and it becomes both tedious and tiresome.

After an endless string of murder scenes, a female art student named Gigi starts hanging out at Mal's studio demanding to learn his 'technique' but this pointless character then abruptly disappears from the film after having done nothing of note. A lot of the dialogue seems improvised as if there wasn't even a script, the editing and photography are both pretty awful and it's evident by the end that this was never even completed. The very last shot is a freeze frame of the killer, having just claimed yet another victim, exclaiming "I am not finished! I am not finished! I am not finished!" ... and the same applies to the movie itself! A few oddball scenes are worth mentioning, though, especially one of the strangest funerals in film history, which includes a newscaster conducting street interviews with spectators as a corpse of one of the victims is hauled out of her apartment already in a casket (?!) The lead actor sweats, cries, screams, goes on crazed nonsensical rants and I suppose deserves a little credit for putting his all into the role.

The Spanish poster (Cabezas sin ojos) lists cast members "Mike Scott" and "Vicky Bateman," whose names are nowhere in the credits of the film (only four actors are listed and they ain't two of them). Since Kent was married to a flight attendant named Victoria for a number of years it makes me wonder if that isn't her in one of the roles using a pseudonym.

J.E.R. Pictures first released this theatrically on a double bill with Andy Milligan's The Ghastly Ones (1968) in 1972. 

It also played at various drive-ins on a dusk-to-dawn program under the name Bloodthirsty Butcher, not to be confused with Milligan's Bloodthirsty Butchers. Depending on where one saw it, the line-up of co-features changed and titles were often swapped between films.

Early 80s UK Beta release from Sapphire.

Back cover of the Wizard release (using two stills that are not in the actual movie).

David DeCoteau's awful The Killer Eye (1999), a Charles Band production, re-used Wizard 's great VHS cover art for its release, which has caused some confusion between titles over the years. As bad as Headless Eyes is at times it's still way better than DeCoteau's movie.

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