|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|Index||18 reviews in total|
I must immediately make clear that the version of 'Succubus' I watched was
the American one with the shorter running time. I have absolutely no idea
what has been cut and how different this is from what Jess Franco originally
intended. Even so, this is a remarkable movie, and one of the most
interesting Franco movies I have seen.
The beautiful Janine Reynaud plays Lorna Green, an enigmatic erotic dancer cum performance artist who stages odd, sadomasochistic events at a nightclub. She is plagued by hallucinations (?) and begins to confuse fantasy and reality, a common Franco scenario. I have to admit by the half way point I didn't have a clue what was going on, or who was who, but I didn't mind. Plot in 'Succubus' is secondary. Atmosphere, aesthetics, babes and surreal dialogue which name-dropped everyone from Stockhausen to Spillane to Mingus to De Sade, make this movie essential viewing. Reynaud is stunning to look at, there's some tasty jazz on the soundtrack, and there's the added kick of seeing the legendary Howard Vernon, a Franco regular who also appeared in everything from Godard's 'Alphaville' to Polanski's 'The Ninth Gate'.
Beginners should check out 'Vampyros Lesbos' first, still the most satisfying Franco I've seen, but make 'Succubus' a close second. You'll see nothing like it anywhere!
As you probably already know, Jess Franco is one prolific guy. Hes made
hundreds upon hundreds of films, many of which are crap. However, he
managed to sneak in an occasionally quality work amongst all the
assembly line exploitation. "Succubus" isn't his best work (thats
either "The Diabolical Dr. Z" or "Vampyros Lesbos"), but it has many of
his trademarks that make it a must for anyone interested in diving into
his large catalog. He combines the erotic (alternating between showing
full-frontal nudity and leaving somethings left to the imagination) and
the surreal seamlessly. This is a very dreamlike film, full of great
atmosphere. I particularly liked the constant namedropping. Despite
coming off as being incredibly pretentious, its amusing to hear all of
Still, there are many users who don't like "Succubus" and I can see where they're coming from. Its leisurely paced, but I can deal with that. More problematic is the incoherency. The script here was obviously rushed, and within five minutes into the film I had absolutely no idea what was going on (and it never really came together from that point on). Those who want some substance with their style, look elsewhere. Also, if its a horror film, it never really becomes scary or even suspenseful. Still, I was entertained by all the psychedelic silliness that I didn't really mind these major flaws all too much. (7/10)
This was an early color film for Franco but he seems to have mastered
the new process with relatively little problems, here utilizing a
decidedly Bava-esque palette (the famous scene with the mannequins, for
instance). SUCCUBUS is considered a transitional film for Franco
because, from here on in, the emphasis on eroticism will become much
more pronounced until it almost turns into pornography sometime during
the next decade. I haven't watched any films from the latter category
but this film certainly pushes the issue as far as it was permissible
at the time! Here, too, because of its dream-like nature (as was also
to prove the case later with A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD ) the
film's narrative lapses and general 'incoherence' are easier to accept
than in, say, EUGENIE DE SADE (1970) where one does not really expect
to find such liberties though I am beginning to realize that, with
Franco, virtually anything goes!
Even though he does not receive credit for writing the screenplay, it is hard to imagine that Franco had no hand in its actual conception, as the themes the film explores are certainly in keeping with the rest of his oeuvre (right from the very first scene, the sleazy nightclub act, which reappears over and over in his films). While the plot is not easy to follow (it actually pays to read about it beforehand, because otherwise it would be practically impossible to make head or tails of anything!), it copiously references noted figures from the various arts paintings, literature, cinema, music which apparently pre-occupied Franco during this period. Unfortunately, most of it is probably beyond the reach of most audiences (myself included) but I must say that I was very pleased to learn that Franco, through a line spoken in the film by Janine Reynaud, held Bunuel, Lang and Godard as the epitome of cinema three film-makers whose work is unmistakably linked (Bunuel chose film as his creative métier after watching Lang's DESTINY ; Lang appears as himself in Godard's CONTEMPT ) and all of whom clearly influenced Franco in the initial phases of his career. In particular, there is a brief repeated scene where Michel Lemoine, looking straight at the camera, describes Reynaud as 'a devil on earth' which reminded me of a similar 'gimmick' used by Bunuel in THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL (1962).
The film has some very striking imagery (not least of all, the two S&M scenes that were pretty much taboo at this point) with the soft-focus and often sensual dream sequences being particular highlights; another key scene finds Reynaud and Jack Taylor going up to her castle and he recounts the tale of Faustine, a Succubus, to her. But, even in this shortened version of the film, one still has to contend with banal passages like the drugged costume party sequence and other moments where the pace drops. Also, I have a quibble regarding the film's latter stages: why did Jack Taylor all of a sudden want to do away with the Janine Reynaud character (the irony of his unconsciously 'hiring' the Devil himself to do this is interesting but it remains frustratingly unexplained).
The music, as is customary for a Franco film, provides the perfect counterpoint to the onslaught of visual and narrative ideas; special care is also taken with the sound effects which are meant to illustrate Janine Reynaud's disorientation (and, with her, the viewer's). The casting of the main roles is appropriate as well: Reynaud may not rank among Franco's loveliest leading ladies but it is arguable whether anyone could have essayed the part with more conviction and, in any case, her sensual body is certainly utilized to the hilt throughout; Jack Taylor is commanding enough as her shady manager/lover; Michel Lemoine makes for a mysterious and sinister Mephistophelean figure; Howard Vernon's brief appearance is a natural, and typically professional.
Obviously, I would love to see the original full-length German-language version of the film released as a SE DVD, but one wonders whether that will ever come to pass. At least, my VHS copy was a one-up on the now-OOP R1 Anchor Bay DVD, as the film was presented in its correct (I assume) widescreen ratio! The film's silly pan-and-scan theatrical trailer (for the U.S. version) was also included.
Delirious, near plot-less mood piece and if it's more LSD inspired than the Devil then we must remember when it was made! After a startling SM opening (which even itself is not what it seems) we move to soft focus and dream or imaginings or remembering . Lots of literary and cinematic references and indeed this is the Franco film that Lang himself praised. Beautiful and mesmerising the film unfolds at a leisurely pace but has a richness within each fold. A rare movie to languish within. Old Jess could make 'em when he tried. Fine central performances too including the indomitable Jack Taylor and Howard Vernon. I haven't even mentioned the Lisbon locations - ah!
Franco proves, once again, that he is the prince of surreal & erotic cinema. True, much of his work can be viewed as entertaining sleaze but with Succubus (Necronomicon) he shows what he is truly capable of when he lets his warped creativity run riot and gives us a film that is both hypnotic and enigmatic whilst still maintaining the delirious eroticism intrinsic in his work. Jerry Van Rooyen's splendid score pulsates as the viewer is thrown from one bizarre scenario to another as we follow the trials of a striptease artist (Reynaud) who may be schizophrenic, or may indeed (as one mysterious character states) be a devil, attempt to come to terms with the world she inhabits. A beautiful and enigmatic piece of cinema highly recommended to anybody with even a passing interest in alternative cinema.
I haven't seen all of Jess Franco's movies, I have seen 5, I think, and there are more than 180 of them. So maybe it's a bit early to say so but "Necronomicon Geträumte Sünden" (better known as 'Succubus', but that is the cut version) is according to me if not the best, certainly on of Franco's best. Franco is best known (although 'known' might be slightly exaggerated) for "Vampiros Lesbos", a weird cultish movie that got more acclaim in the mid 90's when people found out Jess Franco was also an interesting composer. Through the soundtrack a happy few discovered the man and found out what was to be expected after seeing the video clip of 'The lion and the cucumber' ('Vampyros Lesbos OST'): Jess Franco is an overwhelming director. When the phone rang during 'Vampiros', I let it ring. I just wanted to see more of the movie. Since that moment Franco never could grip me that much. But then I stumbled on this movie. It is even better than "Vampiros Lesbos", I think. Franco is looking for what he can do with a story and a camera. We find out he can do a lot. I certainly didn't expect to find "Necronomicon" that great: its beginning didn't impress me at all. Remember, I had seen "Vampiros Lesbos" before (although chronologically that came only three years later) and both movies kinda start the same. But then the story went on, puzzling and gripping, beautiful camera work and the stuff you would like to see Godard do if he weren't so occupied with spreading his political messages. Later on in the movie I heard a dialogue about which art was or wasn't old-fashioned. The man says that all movies have to be old-fashioned because it takes weeks before the audience sees what got filmed. But the girl replies that "Bunuel, Fritz Lang and Godard yesterday made movies for tomorrow". Janine Reynaud is an interesting lead actress and of course Howard Vernon, a Franco regular, is also there. Luckily the acting is good (something that can spoil a lot of Franco movies for you, but not this one). But certainly watch out for the dummy scene. The erotic tension, the wild directing and the fact that it's a yesterday's movie for tomorrow make it a movie a lot of people should see. The fact that it is a bit more accessible than "Vampiros Lesbos" certainly helps.
I am fascinated by simple things: watching a 'feelgood' movie makes you
feel good, and the opposite. Yet, this simple process has the most
astounding mechanism, which props up every single aspect of waking
life. You pick your friends this way, dream, suffer and love this
wayall intuitively, without much conscious thought.
Now turn to this film. Franco is sort of a gamble for me. He works so fast, that when cameras start rolling the thing is basically half-formed and taking shape as you watch. This is nice. I don't mean to make any excuses for what the films clearly lack, but it's an interesting way to make films, more loose than usual; what some of the best filmmakers attempt, trying to sneak up to who is really watching. It's a living experience if you can stay lucid. (by contrast to someone like Kubrick or Nolan who puts the vision first, deftly maps everything ahead of time so it reaches you lifeless)
So for me, the gamble is squeezing past the sloppy overall vision faster than you can reason. This is staying lucid, by which I mean let yourself be neither numbed nor swayed by the sex or violence; in this or any film. If you don't squeeze past fast enough, you'll be stuck behind a wall of finding faults, not a fun place to be. If you do, Franco can reward you because that is the level where he starts to be intuitively interesting; the idea is to be already on the inside when he starts tethering images. Sometimes when you get there, it's just empty fabric, but sometimes not.
The point is that he does have this semiconscious level, which is not conscious thought and most filmmakers utterly miss. This film reaches that level better than any of the rest I've seen.
The main premise is a woman unsure of herself and reality. All sorts of stratagems point to that; the opening scene is in a dungeon where she has a couple tied up and playfully tortures them with a knife, this would be the typical Franco film you are geared to expect but we soon find it's a staged scene, pointing at fabrication. Back home, she performs a striptease for her man but he's bored and rolls to sleep. The next scene is where, dismayed, she walks out as if in a dream and wanders to a seaside castle, where apparently she has a life and child. More. She suffers from amnesia, and later she pops with others in a party what looks like acid tabs.
This is all loosening up reality so we can get to the interesting stuff, simple entry points.
So the film is where the woman wanders around in a narrative haze of folded time, not unusual for Franco. But there's more than languid air here. Franco namedrops Godard at one point, I was reminded more of Resnais and later Raoul Ruiz. (also influenced by Resnais)
Men approach her claiming to know her (we presume sexually), but she can't remember. Won't?
All sorts of hypnotic images intrude in her story, usually of men who pressingly ask questions about art and pop culturea Godardian 'loan'. Her man assumes the role of Mickey Spillane (potboiler and film noir detective) and slaps and interrogates her as if she's a noir dame holding out on him. At the party, the host reads up from a book about the woman as temptress and succubus who seduces, leads astray and drains men. All this reinforces a sense of sexual guilt and suffocation.
Superficially, it's about the woman's journey through masculine perceptions of her, boring if you think of it in the Catholic context which the conscious mind of Franco was probably addressing. Superficially, this is presented to us as 'brainwashing' by her man. Bo- ring.
What's powerful about this, is wondering a bit about who or what is tethering images into a story. This is beyond conscious control of images, up to you to ponder.
From the inside of her dream, you can't separate inside from outside, images simply bubble up in some order. These images are all her own dream, gradually they take the form of violent urges, being in that story gradually she feels more impure. What is causing this to happen? What starts out as her own reverie, is it slowly polluted by these other perceptions?
Surely making out with the young girl is her own genuine urge to be apart from men, interrupted by the compulsive desire to kill. Or is it? Is it something her man would fantasize about, who she wants to please? Is she becoming the character imagined of her? Is the self fetching the images or the other way around, the images gradually acquire a self?
This right here is the level where Franco is intuitively interesting. It is that semi-abstract space of story not tainted by logical mind, involuntary memory. If you have to see only a single Franco film, make it this or Eugenie De Sade.
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!
The timing was right. Art house sex films were all the rage and the
marketing in the States was simple and brilliant, taking good advantage
of punters seeking cinema kicks during the dawn of the sexual
revolution. A phone number was published for people to call who wanted
to know what the title meant. The bewildering erotic-horror element and
the hallucinatory visuals and dialogue were not what many of them
Old-timers in the Manhattan theatrical exhibition business told me it did very well at the box office. The put-downs by Canby and Ebert didn't hurt. Newspaper of the subway crowd, The New York Post, gave it a good review. The gloss of Euro-sophistication gave it a veneer of respectability that the crude sleaze of routinely shot American sexploitation films lacked. Viewers didn't feel the urge to slink out of the theater trying not to be seen.
In today's DVD and streaming world, with thousands of independent theaters now vanished from the landscape, without titillating ads in big city newspapers, Succubus-style films released today would be quickly forgotten.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nightclub striptease artist Lorna Green (ravishing redhead Janine Reynaud in peak sultry and enigmatic form) performs a racy S&M act that threatens to become a deadly reality. Pretty soon Lorna is having trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality. Is Lorna some kind of agent for Satan? Or is she just going mad? Director Jess Franco, working from an oblique, yet intriguing script by Pier A. Caminecci, delivers an artful blend of elegance and decadence that along with the languid pace, tasteful, but still highly arousing nudity and kinky sex stuff, a supremely hip and groovy jazz score by Friedrich Gulda and Jerry van Rooyen, a nifty array of eclectic literary and cinematic references, and an extremely abstract narrative that keeps you guessing right up until the end exactly what is going on all combine together to create a heady and hypnotic mind trip that casts its own singularly off-kilter spell and radiates its own heavy and unique psychedelic vibe. This movie is a true work of boldly unconventional and experimental avant-garde cinema that plays by its own decidedly obscure and esoteric rules, with a wealth of gorgeous visuals courtesy of the vibrant color cinematography by Jorge Herrero and Franz Xavier Lederle and such inspired moments of sheer weirdness as a bunch of people at a posh party acting like dogs and mannequins that for some inexplicable reason come to creepy life. The insanely lovely Reynaud looks positively smashing in fancy dresses and even better in the buff. Moreover, there are fine performances by Jack Taylor as Lorna's suavely evil manager William Francis Mulligan, Adrian Hoven as concerned psychiatrist Ralf Drawes, and Michel Lemoine as the sinister Pierce. Howard Vernon briefly pops up in a neat bit part as the flaky Admiral Kapp. An admirably bizarre and uncompromising little curio.
|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|