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Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Alice Arno, Lina Romay, Paul Muller, Catherine Lafferière, Pierre Taylou, James Harris, Monica Swinn
Length: 80 min
Disks: 3 (1 BD, 2 DVD)
Label: Severin Films
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: LPCM Mono
The most prolific of Euro-Cult directors, Jess Franco wrote and directed at least 200 films in a career that spanned 57 years – 1955 to 2013. Franco was a compulsive filmmaker with a scattered filmography that presents a daunting challenge to scholars and film historians like Stephen Thrower who are trying to impose some semblance of order on the director’s protean output. Franco’s The Hot Nights of Linda is actually titled But Who Raped Linda? onscreen and the direction is credited to one J.P. Johnson (an American jazz pianist whom Franco admired). Franco used dozens of pseudonyms. Many of his films are cut and recut and retitled, with hard-core sex scenes added or removed, depending on the whims of distributors. Franco inserted identical scenes from his own films into different movies he directed. His films referred increasingly to his previous work. Franco created his own universe, his own mythology. In his earlier movies, Franco was capable of classical construction and a cinematic elegance that waned as the speed at which he cranked out movies escalated.The Hot Nights of Linda was made in 1973, one of the busiest years in Franco’s career, with 11 films completed and three films started but incomplete. The early 1970s was the white heat of Franco’s creativity, according to Thrower. Franco craved cinematic freedom but at the price of discipline and rigor. His later work was often shoddy and slapdash. Once in a while, Franco made a good, solid film: Venus in Furs (1969) is an extraordinary fantasy-thriller about a woman who returns from the dead, but Franco followed it with the abysmal Count Dracula (1970), which wasn’t the step up from the Hammer Draculas that Franco and Christopher Lee hoped it would be.
I never understood Franco or his cult following. He has tackled movies in all genres, from “B” horror pictures to pure hardcore sex films and low-budget Maciste sword-and-sandal epics, and yet he hasn’t made one great film. Jess Franco is the Kilgore Trout of modern filmmakers.
According to film writer Stephen Thrower, The Hot Nights of Linda delivers on basic softcore thrills but can be viewed as a psychological chamber piece that doesn’t have any really obvious exploitation hooks, which is one reason it may have been overlooked in the Franco canon. The themes of The Hot Nights of Linda are incest, a family patriarch who is concealing a dreadful secret, and the family unit in decay. The Hot Nights of Linda is one of the strangest and most claustrophobic of Franco’s films.
Actually Linda isn’t the main character, which makes the storyline all the more confusing: Linda (the slim and raven-haired beauty Catherine Lafferière) is a paraplegic who lives comfortably in her uncle’s seaside Greek villa but is constantly hit on by her more strong-willed nymphomaniac cousin, Olivia (Franco’s uninhibited and beloved muse Lina Romay). The estate belongs to Olivia’s debauched father (Paul Muller). The simple-minded manservant Abdul (Pierre Taylou) provides stud service to the sexually insatiable Olivia. The lead role actually belongs to the alluring and statuesque Alice Arno as Marie-France Bertrand, who is hired as a live-in nurse/secretary and whose pulchritudinous presence brings some of the household’s darkest secrets to light, leading to lesbianism, sadism, murder, suicide, horsewhipping and bloodshed. Ultimately, the ending is an “it was all a dream” cop-out.
Multiple versions of The Hot Nights of Linda were released throughout Europe but, as with most Franco films, Linda was never given an American theatrical release. Unfortunately, video versions for all of these versions were absolutely dire, with blurry VHS copies suffering from murky quality, random edits, and brutal cropping of the original scope photography. Considering its dismal history, Severin Films is to be saluted for releasing what can only be termed the first watchable copy of this film ever issued on home video.
Severin’s restoration is a godsend for Franco fans, who can finally see The Hot Nights of Linda looking better than it ever has before. The colors here are really beautiful, including a lovely sequence with the two female leads smoking and chatting against a surreal magenta backdrop—a nod to Mario Bava. This Jess Franco curio is restored from a 35mm print said to be discovered in a Barcelona bordello, and is presented in high definition for the first time ever. As to be expected, there is a certain amount of age damage and all kinds of audio and visual anomalies that go with the territory of low-budget filming. But that won’t take away from the enjoyment of most fans. Any releasing company that doesn’t “clean” their films to death with DNR and other filtration deserves commendation, as Severin certainly does.
The mono track copes adequately with the sound. Like the video, the audio betrays the print’s history, with all sorts of pops and crackling, but most of the anomalies are at the very beginning and at reel changes. Dialog is clear and, most importantly, Daniel White’s hauntingly exotic music comes over with fine fidelity, and proves to be one of the highlights of the film.
Bonus features include Hot Nights: An Interview with Jess Franco (16 min.) in which the loquacious chain-smoking director talks about preparing the multiple versions of The Hot Nights of Linda, shooting by the seaside in Spain (not Greece), getting what he wanted out of Romay and Arno, and his unusual creative process; Lina and Jess at Home (12 min.), in which the aged couple speak almost indecipherable English (without subtitles); and Stephen Thrower on Linda (12 min.) – Thrower, author of Nightmare USA and Beyond Terror, is currently in the final stages of an exhaustive and definitive volume on Franco. There also a number of outtakes, and a trailer. As an extra bonus, limited to the first 2500 copies, a bonus DVD disk of the French Hard Banana Version of Linda is included.
The 80-minute But Who Raped Linda? soft-core release version was Franco’s preferred cut and the longest version out there. The longer 80-minute cut is the primary one on Severin’s dual-format Blu-ray/DVD edition, featuring the English language track. It’s a professional dub overall (with only one annoying voice actor), and The Hot Nights of Linda can finally be appreciated for its rich aesthetic beauty—including some scenes absent entirely from the more commonly circulated hardcore version. But the film meanders and The Hot Nights of Linda is too restrained to classify as a horror movie. I’d also advise anyone who doesn’t “get” the Franco phenomenon to give this one a miss. Franco is an acquired taste. You’re either attuned to him or you’re not.