Hoo, boy, I don't even know where to begin with this one! Jess Franco's "Succubus"--his first of four films in 1967 alone, in a career oeuvre that as of this date contains around 190 (!) pictures--takes a sharp turn from the director's previous pictures, many of which ("The Awful Dr. Orloff," "The Sadistic Baron von Klaus," "Dr. Orloff's Monster" and, especially, "The Diabolical Dr. Z") had been perfectly lucid, imaginatively shot, beautifully photographed B&W minimasterpieces. "Succubus" is a film that is almost impossible to synopsize, much less figure out...even more so than Franco's "Venus in Furs" (1968). The only other films I can compare it to, in my limited experience, as far as surrealism, "trippiness" and the ability to both dazzle and frustrate the viewer are concerned, are Jaromil Jires' "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" (1970) and perhaps Alejandro Jodorowsky's "El Topo" (1971). But "Succubus" is a much lesser film than those other two, and infinitely more boring and pretentious (capital "P"). The film seems to concern an S&M nightclub performer named Lorna (played, it must be granted, with some authority by model Janine Reynaud) who may or may not be a hell-sent succubus or perhaps merely a psychotic serial killer. Or perhaps Lorna is only dreaming. Or fantasizing. Really, it is hard to say for sure, and anyone who speaks with great authority regarding this film is full of hooey, as even Franco himself, during a 22-minute interview on this fine-looking Blue Underground DVD, admits to not understanding his own movie! He excuses this, though, by remarking that Jean-Luc Godard once told him that a picture does not have to be understood to be successful. Oy gevalt. Making matters worse is the fact that Reynaud herself is a completely unsympathetic/unattractive performer, although still kinda sexy (perhaps future Franco muse Soledad Miranda would have worked better here). Among the assorted bits of strangeness that the film dishes out are some weird word-association games, a pianist playing his instrument while looking at a math book, an LSD party, some very mild lesbianism in a room full of mannequins, and the fact that the picture seems to have been edited with an eggbeater. On the plus side: some dreamlike soft-focus photography, pretty scenery of Portugal and Berlin, and some strikingly beautiful images, such as lovers viewed through a fish tank (but signifying what?). Equal parts tedious and fascinating, the film was slapped with an "X" rating in the U.S. back in '69 ("X" for "Excruciating"? "Exhausting"? "Extremely hard to follow"?), its trailer proclaiming "The most unusual picture of the year...perhaps, of years to come." In a picture filled with so much ambiguity, that statement, at least, is decidedly true. Get some ergot-based derivative inside you and see for yourself!
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