Saturday, February 22, 2020

FRANCO FEBRUARY! CRIES OF PLEASURE (1982) (Severin Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Severin Films
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 87 Minutes
Audio: Spanish DTS-HD Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Lina Romay, Rocío Freixas, Antonio Mayans, Elisa Vela, Juan Soler

Synopsis: Obscure even by hardcore Jess Franco fan standards, it remains the legendary writer/director’s most daring work of his early ‘80s erotic shocker oeuvre: Inspired by Hitchcock’s Rope, Franco utilized long takes, minimal edits and his beloved Lina Romay at her most extreme for this de Sade-induced saga of violence, depravity and psychosexual mayhem among the amoral elite. Antonio Mayans (Devil HunterHot Nights of Linda), Rocío Freixas (The Sinister Dr. Orloff) and Elisa Vela (Mansion of the Living Dead) co-star in this fascinating Franco rarity from his Golden Films Internacional period, now featuring a 4k scan from the original negative and all-new Special Features.

Jess Franco's Cries Of Pleasure (1982) is a fairly plot-thin affair, even more than usual for the prolific euro-cult auteur. Here we have a playboy named Antonio (Antonio Mayans, Night of Open Sex) who is expecting his wife Martina (Rocío Freixas,The Sinister Dr. Orloff) to return home after a prolonged stay at an asylum. Apparently this couple is into the kinky stuff, because to celebrate his wife's return Antonio brings his new girlfriend Julia (Lina Romay, How To Seduce A Virgin) home. Julia and Antonio arrive at his mansion where he introduces his girlfriend to his assistant Marta (Elisa Vela, Mansion of the Living Dead), who makes it crystal clear that she is banging the mustached horn-dog Antonio too. Also added into this strange and kinky mix an apparently simple-minded live-in guitar player named Fenul (Juan Soler, The Sinister Dr. Orloff) who mostly just seems to walk-in on the menagerie of sexual encounters throughout this night to get and eye-full and play some mood-enhancing acoustic guitar, and to occasionally dispose of corpses. 

The plot is thin but not uninteresting, with illicit lovers Antonio and Julia plotting to aggravate Martina to the point of having a nervous breakdown, sending her back to the asylum. However, once the wife arrives there's not much aggravating happening, but there is an awful lot of fornicating! All night long we get plenty of sex-candy with various softcore mingling between everyone in the house, and Martina doesn't seem too put off by the kinky inter-minglings, in fact she seems to be the in control the of the orgy all night long. 

The film is a slow-burning blur of sexual 
encounters with precious little story to tell, but as a sexy fever-dream it's not too bad. I am not sure what the story is with the cast but there's seems to be a lot of bad chemistry between some of actors. Sure, it's still salacious stuff but actress Elisa Vela clearly does not want Lina Romay's tongue in her tight-lipped mouth! Then we have Romay and Mayans who were previously paired in several other Franco's films, including the crime-thriller sex-comedy Night Of Open Sex, in which their sex scenes played for laughs. Here their coupling is not meant to be comedy, but between Romay's sloppy fake blowjob and their overwrought sex-faces, it's still comedy to me.

With that said, all these ladies are absolutely lovely, Franco has a real eye for gorgeous women, but as usual the highlight for me is his muse and euro-cult sex-kitten Lina Romay, still adorable and total turn-on here!

Thin on plot for sure but there is a tasty twist in the film, we already knew about Antonio's wicked plot to drive his wife mad, but what he doesn't know is that his girlfriend Julia was previously at the same asylum with his wife Martina, where they became lovers, and they're going to kill Antonio. They're very Franco-esque plan  involves them fucking the hot-blooded lothario all night long till he's absolutely exhausted, once he's too weak from all the extreme-canoodling to fight back they're gonna strangle him with a chain! The film also re-visits one of the director's more distasteful Franco-isms, the notion of being raped so good you fall in love. This happens when the assistant Marta confides to Julia early-on that when she was twelve years-old Antonio raped her, and it's been love ever since.  

The events of the film take place over the course of a single night, after the fairly thin set-up the sex-games begin almost immediately with the film playing through like a half-remembered orgy with languid long-takes that play a bit with the perception of time. It certainly has a hypnotic pace and atmosphere about it. I think Franco himself is doing most of the lensing, getting the most from single-location with long-takes that soak in the architecture as well as lingering on the kinky-fornicators. If I am being completely honest the hypnotic lensing and easy-going score lulled me right to sleep late last night, and surprisingly, and disappointingly might I add, I didn't have any salacious Lina Romay sex-dreams. Keep in mind that it was late at night, the film is not a bore by any means, but the lingering camera and lulling score, without the element of a particularly 
engaging plot, does not lend itself to late-night cinema viewing in my experience.        

Audio/Video: Cries of Pleasure (1982) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Severin Films, presented in keen-looking 1080p HD framed in the original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. This is sourced from a new 4k scan of the original camera negative and it looks fantastic. I noticed a bit of white speckling, a few tiny scratches and at least one botched frame splice, but otherwise this looks terrific. We get a pleasing amount of grain but Franco's penchant for soft-focus lensing can obscure fine detail. The amply seen skin tones looks warm and inviting, and image density is good with just a touch of softness. Severin give this Franco rarity some serious loving with this fresh new 4K scan, very pleased with it.    

Audio on the disc comes by way of Spanish DTS-HD MA mono with optional English subtitles, offering clean delivery of the dialogue with the score from Daniel White (Barbed Wire Dolls) sounding quite good in the mix. 

Onto the extras we get a 21-min then and now location visit featurette 'In The Land Of Franco Part 1', of part 2 can be found on Severin's Night of Open sex Blu-ray release. This is a location visit with noted Franco-phile Stephen Thrower who takes us o a tour of the region of Portugal where Franco made many of his films, including locations used in Succubus, The Sadist of Notre Dame, Daughter of Dracula, and Die Sklavinnin among others. Throwers adds some historical context to each location in addition to pointing out which films were made there. My favorite stuff here is Thrower's in-depth, and seemingly on the down-low, exploration of the Fortleza do Guincho hotel where he sneaks around and pointing out specific areas that were used by Franco, complete with footage from all the films matching the locations. 

We also get the first-part of an archival VHS interview with Jess Franco and Lina Romay from 1993 by SOV (Shot-On-Video) filmmaker Donald Framer (Scream Dream), the second installment of this interview can be found on Severin's Night of open Sex Blu-ray release. Franco and Romay talk a bit about their relative anonymity in Spain, with Romay appreciating that she can walk down the street in Barcelona without being eyeballed. Farmer says it's a bit strange, because everybody in America knows what Stephen Spielberg looks like, to which Franco counters, yes, but no one knows what Martin Campbell or Abel Ferrara looks like, true enough. Franco also touches on his style of shooting and editing, even commenting on his infamous zoom-in technique, and the importance of developing an editing rhythm. He finishes up with a fun anecdote about shooting Count Dracula (1970) with Klaus Kinski. 

Author Stephen Thrower again shows up for a 26-min interview discussing the making of this film and the film Franco made for Golden Films Internacional, noting that Franco made twelve films in '82 alone! He gets into why eight of these films have been so hard to come, having received no marketing or distribution outside of Spain for many years. Apparently Franco had free range to make whatever he wanted during this period, but with much smaller budgets, but the distributor didn't know how to market the film, let alone keep up with the director's prolific output. Specific to this film Thrower points out the experimental shooting technique Franco modeled after Hitchcock's Rope (1948), using long takes with minimal cuts, and how Franco made that work on the cheap, with a minimal cast of five and no extras whatsoever. 

Special Features:
- In The Land Of Franco Part 1: Stephen Thrower Tours Multiple Franco Locations in Portugal (21 min) 
- When Donald Met Jess and Lina Part 1: Filmmaker Donald Farmer Interviews the Power Couple in 1993 (11 min) 
- Jess Franco’s Golden Years: Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of ‘Murderous Passions & Flowers of Perversion – The Delirious Cinema of Jesús Franco’ (27 min) 

It's great to see Cries Of Pleasure (1982) plucked from the vaults of VHS-obscurity by Severin Films, they've given it a spiffy-looking HD upgrade with some truly excellent extras. I love seeing these Franco films for the first time in glorious HD, and I could watch Thrower wax nostalgic about Jess Franco morning, noon and night, so here's hoping we get a lot more Franco films from Severin with the same high-standard transfers and fantastic extras. 

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