Saturday, February 10, 2024

FRANCO FEBRUARY - DAY 10! CECILIA (1982) (Blue Underground Blu-ray Review)

Franco-February Day 10, a look back at Jess Franco's Cecilia (1981), a very tasty slice of erotic Euro-cult that peddles all the stuff you're looking for from a Franco film. We get the voyeuristic lensing, the eye-candy Mediterranean locations, interesting architecture, the sensual delirium and a bevy of gorgeous beauties, not least among them starlets Muriel Montosse and Franco's ultimate-muse Lina Romay. A pleasurably hedonistic watch for the artful dirty-minded, this is a review of the fantastic Blue Underground Blu-ray, a superb HD release chock full of extras, if your a Franco-phile this is an essential bit of softcore delight. 

CECILIA  (1982) 

Label: Blue Underground
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 105 Minutes
Audio: English & French 1.0 DTS-HD MA with Optional English SDH, English for French Audio
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Muriel Montosse, Olivier Mathot, Pierre Taylou, Antonio Mayans, Lina Romay

Jess Franco's Cecilia (1982) is a light on plot softcore romp about a well-off sexpot played by Muriel Montosse (The Inconfessable Orgies of Emmanuelle) who at the start of the film she finds herself in one of those strangely troublesome Franco situations. After shamelessly flirting with her disgruntled chauffeur from the backseat of her luxury car he unexpectedly pulls off to the side of the road, allowing for his brothers, who were recently fired by Cecilia for peeping on her, to pile into the car and rape her. It's turns into one of those raped-so-good-it-turns-her-on moments that only seems to happen in deranged male fantasies or the delirious cinema of Jess Franco. The naughty housewife and the trio of men then go skinny dipping in a lily pond, frolicking in the stagnant water before she drives herself home in the buff, shocking the gatekeeper as she arrives at the estate. At home she informs her not-unjustifiably worried husband Andre (Antonio Mayans, Night of Open Sex) that she has the urge to sleep with other men, and then encourages him to do the same, arguing that it will only strengthen their relationship.

What follows is a sexual odyssey with both Andre and her exploring their lustful curiosities, beginning with Andre seducing a lovely black beauty at an aristocratic gathering. This turns into a threesome when Cecilia gets her voyeuristic jollies while watching her husband make love to the ebony stranger, so turned on by it that she is unable to resist joining in on the erotic pleasures. Later at a party hosted by Cecilia's aged-but-still-spirited uncle (Oliver Mathot, Diamonds of Kilimandjaro) Cecilia seduces a woman who has just performed a incestuous sex-act with her own sixteen year-old son, but all is forgiven because this taboo-snapping sexpot is played by Lina Romay (The Hot Nights of Linda) in a blond wig.  
Eventually all this sexual exploration begins to chip away at the couple's relationship, disproving Cecilia's assertion that it would strengthen the relationship, and even more so when Cecilia's former flame shows up with intentions of winning her back.  

The softcore skin-flick is light on plot, even by the usual Franco standards, but thick with the intoxicating scent of forbidden lust. It also helps that the film was shot in a particularly gorgeous area of Portugal that makes for a splendorous backdrop, the opening scenes are littered with shots of flowers that would make Georgia O'Keefe blush, the couples gorgeous stone villa sitting atop a hill overlooking a mist-laden valley that looks like it came straight out of a fairytale. As stated before the story is slim to non-existent, but we get plenty of satisfying Franco sexuality via the brattish beauty Muriel Montosse who is quite a looker, with soft supple features and seductive eyes, not to mention an alluring screen presence, and her coupling with Romay is fire incarnate for a Romay admirer like myself.

I do dig the film but will admit that the 105-minute run time is way too long, even as a Franco fan I found it a bit of an endurance test to not fidget my way through this one. The sexual energy is enthralling for a time but some of the scenes start to peter out long before the lovers do, and it's not helped by the bland and repetitive synth score from Franco regular Daniel White (Cries of Pleasure). Thankfully, there is a much shorter Spanish version of the film featured as an extra, it is the superior version with a superior score, so I am glad to have it as a viewing option.

Audio/Video: Cecilia (1982) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Blue Underground framed in 1080p HD and framed in 1.66:1 widescreen. This is a new scan of the original camera negative and it looks fantastic, film grain is well-managed and tight, colors are nicely saturated and the skin tones look warm and natural throughout. The source elements are in terrific shape with only a bit of white speckling along the way, it's got nice depth and clarity throughout, it is very filmic in appearance.

Audio comes by way of English and French DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono with optional English subtitles. Dialogue is never difficult to decipher, the dubs are good, and everything is clean and well balanced.

Extras begin with Franco's rarer 88-minute Spanish cut of the film with the original title of Aberraciones Sexuales De Una Mujer Casata (Sexual Aberrations Of A House Wife) in 1080p HD with a Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 audio track. I prefer this shorter cut over the 105-minute main feature, and has a different score that was pretty great.  The HD image is only slightly inferior to the longer Eurocine cut with a few more  blemishes along the way, but quite enjoyable. Check out the screenshot comparison between the two cuts at the bottom of this review. 

We also get the mandatory Stephen Thrower featurette, and to be honest I would be a bit disappointed if we got a new brand Jess Franco Blu-ray and Thrower was not included on it in some fashion. Thrower shows up for the sixteen-minute 'Amoral Fantasies' in which the author waxes on Franco's film, it's recurring rape-motif, where the film was shot, and getting into how Eurocine altered the film and changed the title much to Franco's chagrin, offering his views on the what and the why of what they changed.

There is also a feature-length documentary, the sixty-eight minute 'Franco-Philes: Musings On Madrid’s B-Movie Maverick', an appreciation of the director with talking heads/ authors Rachel Nisbit, Andy Black, John Amrtin, film programmer Mike Hostench, Eurocine CEO Daniel Lesoeure, former Fangoria boss Tony Timpone, Martin Unsworth from Starburst Magazine, Professor Julian Petley, actresses Caroline Munro and Diane Thorne, and actor Tony Mayans. It's a great talking heads doc with everyone laying on the love for Franco, talking about his style of film-making, his love of the art form, and his legacy.

The disc is buttoned-up with a 17-minute interview with the late director who discusses the re-titling of the film, his displeasure with that, and certain aspect of shooting the film, plus we get a 3-minute trailer for the film and a gallery of posters and stills from the film.

The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a sleeve of artwork featuring the same artwork as the 2008 DVD on the a-side and a still of star Muriel Montosse on the reverse side along, along with the chapters selections. The Blu-ray disc itself features the same artwork as the wrap.

Special Features:
- ABERRACIONES SEXUALES DE UNA MUJER CASADA - Jess Franco's rare original cut in Spanish with English subtitles (1080p HD 1.66:1, Dolby Digital Spanish Mono) (89 min)
- Sexual Aberrations of Cecilia - Interview with Director Jess Franco (17 min)
- Amoral Fantasies - Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco" (16 min)
- Franco-Philes: Musings on Madrid's B-Movie Maverick - Feature-length documentary examining the career of Jess Franco (68 min)
- Theatrical Trailer ( 3 min)
- Still Gallery (1 min)

Cecilia (1981) is a tasty slice of erotic Euro-cult that peddles all the stuff you're looking for from a Franco film. We get the voyeuristic lensing, the eye-candy Mediterranean locations, interesting architecture, the sensual delirium and a bevy of gorgeous beauties, not least among them starlets Muriel Montosse and Franco's ultimate-muse Lina Romay. It suffers a bit from a too-long runtime and a not-so-great score but it still makes for a pleasurably hedonistic watch for the artful dirty-minded. Blue Underground's HD release looks superb and the extras are beyond fantastic, if your a Franco-phile this is an essential bit of softcore delight.

Top: Eurocine Cut - Blue Underground Blu-ray 2020
Bottom: Spanish Cut - Blue Underground Blu-ray 2020

More screenshots from the Blu-ray: