Thursday, February 8, 2024

FRANCO FEBRUARY - DAY 8! SHINING SEX (1975) (Severin Films Blu-ray)

Franco February, Ocho Diz is a doozy, it's Shining Sex (1975), a bizarre bit of Franco eroticism that's notable among the director's filmography if just for the mind-warping sci-fi element, but it's also dripping with bizarre sex lensed with Franco's voyeuristic eye lingering over the sensual body of his ultimate-muse Lina Romay. It's got a fantastic score from Daniel White and some cool Franco visuals. One of Franco's weirder (and that's quite a statement) sexual-fever dream entries, a must-own in my opinion, this is a review for the terrific Severin Films Blu-ray, chock full of tasty extras. 


Label: Severin Films
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 106 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Lina Romay, Evelyne Scott, Monica Swinn, Olivier Mathot, Jess Franco,  

I will often describe Jess Franco's films with qualifiers like strange, bizarre, low-budget, depraved and sexually explicit, but the legendary Spanish provocateur took things to a whole new level with his film Shining Sex (1975). In it Franco-muse Lina Romay (Hot Nights of Linda) stars as a nightclub performer/stripper named Cynthia who finds herself being seduced by what turns out to be nefarious aliens from outer-space... or another dimension... or something along those lines, it's not all THAT important. It all starts when kinky couple Alpha (Evelyne Scott, Devil's Kiss) and her mirrored-sunglasses clad companion Andros (Romay's then husband, Raymond Hardy, Barbed Wire Dolls) watch Cynthia's titillating and labia-exposing routine at the club, seemingly so turned on by it that they approach her afterward, inviting her to their coastal estate for some lucrative sex-action. They waste no time either, just a few minutes later Romay's character and Alpha are engaged in a languid labia-licking session during which the other dimensional woman implants Cynthia with a glittery alien substance, which seemingly allows Alpha to not only control the seductive stripper, but also infect and kill her lovers, in addition to slowly killing the stripper in the process. 

Their diabolical plans involve sending the lustful stripper to seduce and sexually assassinate their foes on Earth, who are a handful of scientists and psychics who have somehow caught onto their nefarious plans. Whatever those plans might be, the film didn't quite make those designs clear to me during my watch, or maybe I was just too too turned on by the overwhelming amount of hot stuff Lina Romay getting it on! 

This flick is a bit of a trip even by the usual standards for a Franco joint, we get a defacto sci-fi film with no trappings of the usual science fiction stuff were used to seeing. Literally the only visual elements that indicate sci-fi would be that there been some silver glitter liberally applied to Romay's naughty bits, the rest could be considered delusions of a handful of characters. I also love that the other-worldly being's throne room looks to be some outdoor patio furniture brought in from the outside for a few scenes. What we do get are some eye-catching Mediterranean locations, the usual cool architecture, flamboyant 70s fashions, a cool dreamy score, and plenty of strange sexual encounters. Franco films were always lousy with fornication but this one is beyond the pale in terms of how strange it  gets, the sex is not all that unusual but then you have the various lovers dying afterward in herky-jerky movements, succumbing to some sort of infection inflicted by the glittery stuff that Romay's character has been exposed to. 

Another notable attribute is that Franco's vagina-zoom game is absolutely out of control in this flick, there are so many zoom-ins right into Romay's glistening bald vagina that I am quite sure I saw both of her kidneys at different times. It all gets a bit comical and would make a truly deadly drinking game if you were ever so inclined. Romay is not the only lovely on display either, we also get  the aforementioned Evelyne Scott and Monica Swinn who both engage in some lesbian loving with Romay, but weirdly the sexual chemistry seemed off the whole film, the kissing is cold and without passion, it was quite noticeable. We also get Oliver Mathot (Cecilia) as one of Romay's victims and Franco himself appears as a wheelchair-bound psychic who becomes obsessed with the inter-dimensional alien beings and Romay's character's connection to them. 

Lina Romay is nude for nearly the entire film floating from one sexual encounter to the next, which is not altogether strange for her or for a Franco, but when she's not nude she's sporting a cool diamond checkered jump suit that would not have been out of place in Marvel's Dazzler comic book in the 70's, I do love those dated fashions. As for the sci-fi plot, it is literally revealed in a few bits of awkwardly dubbed-dialogue, and it doesn't add up to much, but it is another testament to the way Franco could take next to nothing and make something curious of it, with his usual artful eye behind the camera giving the flick some cool atmospheric touches that at least make the threadbare sci-fi plot attractive to watch, not to mention the oodles of bizarre sexual encounters and a surprisingly effectively scene of Romay's character succumbing to her alien poisoning. 

Audio/Video: Shining Sex (1975) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Severin Films who continue to give pour on the love for Franco's impressive catalog. This a new scan HD from the original camera negative presented in 1080p HD framed in scope 2.35:1 widescreen. The image is pleasing overall but it is not perfection, with a bit of softness to contend, which looks to be inherent to Franco's unorthodox way of filming with poor lighting conditions that doesn't lend itself to good contrast and clarity. There are moments of good depth, contrast and clarity though, like when we get a close-ups and multiple zoom-in straight into Romay's shaven naughty bits! Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with optional English subtitles, everything is well-balanced, dialogue is never hard to decipher, though there are some occasional pops along the way, but nothing of detrimental significance. 

Severin stack this release with some great extras, beginning with an audio commentary from blogger Robert Monell of the 'I'm In A Jess Franco State Of Mind' site and podcaster Rod Barnett from the 'Naschy Cast'. It's a solid track that gets into the strange themes of this particular entry, some interesting facts about the production, and lots of appreciation for all things Franco. 

We also get the third installment of Stephen Thrower's 'In The Land of Franco Part 3' where the author joined by actor Antonio Mayans who was a frequent Franco collaborator, the pair touring multiple locations use by Franco in Málaga, Spain - including where his ashes were distributed. It ends with Thrower visiting the studio where the remainder of Franco's ashes are kept in a vase, and where patrons pour liquor into his ashes as tribute to the director 

Thrower again appears in the 19-minute 'Shining Jess' as he goes deep into the production of the film, revealing how Franco would film two movies at once without telling the producers who were funding it, and then sell the freebie film to another producer, a shady practice that he denied all during his career. A practice that lead to some actors questioning the script as it just didn't make sense to them why their character would be doing something that didn't fit the part, because they didn't know he was making a completely different film at the same time without anyone's knowledge. 

In the six-minute 'Never Met Franco' French filmmaker Gerard Kikoine speaks in French about working on several Franco films as a post-production sound editor early in his career. Noting that he never met Franco, and getting into the challenges of working on films that often times didn't have proper scripts or coherent story-lines, and how he developed a knack for reading lips which made things a bit easier.

Fans of hardcore sex inserts will enjoy the 13-minutes of 'Very NSFW Outtakes' featuring star Lina Romay engaged in hardcore sex acts, from knob-gobbling to clit-licking, it's steamy stuff shot up close and personal. We also get a fantastic 18-min interview with Eurocine CEO/Producer Daniel Lesoeur with 'Franco At Eurociné'. Lesoeur gets into  how Franco first collaborated with his father on The Awful Doctor Orloff and other films they made together, as well his own part in introducing Franco to his first wife Nicole Guettard, as well as his participation in their divorce proceedings! 

Finishing up the extras we get the lengthy and fun 29-minute appreciation 'Franco-Philia: French Director Christopher Gans On The Life And Times And Films Of Jess Franco' with the director of Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) telling of how he became obsessed with Franco, beginning with a teenage viewing of Dracula's Daughter. It's fun and multi-faceted appreciation, describing Franco as a cinematic pirate who directed a lifetimes worth of films each year, and offering his views on the best way to watch his films and how his friends have scoffed at him for holding Franco in such high regard. 

The disc is buttoned-up with a 4-minute trailer for the film.  There was a limited edition release of this available from Severin with a slipcover and CD soundtrack, but I did notice that this standard edition release still lists the CD as a bonus, but that it not the case, there is no soundtrack CD on teh standard release version. The single-disc release comes housed in a black keepcase with a sleeve of artwork featuring what I believe to be the Italian poster for the film, and it's a hot piece of business featuring an illustrated Lina Romay, which is also featured on the disc itself.  

Special Features:
- In the Land of Franco Part 3 – Stephen Thrower & Antonio Mayans Tour Multiple Franco Locations in Málaga, Spain (13 min)
- Shining Jess – Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of Murderous Passions and Flowers of Perversion (19 min)
- Never Met Franco – Interview with Filmmaker Gerard Kikoine (6 min)
- Very NSFW Outtakes (13 min)
- Franco At Eurociné – Interview with Producer Daniel Lesoeur (18 min)
- Commentary with Authors/Podcasters Robert Monell and Rod Barnett
- Franco-Philia: French Director Christophe Gans On The Life And Times And Films Of Jess Franco - Filmmaker Christophe Gans on Franco (29 min) 

- Trailer (4 min) 

Shining Sex (1975) is a bizarre bit of Franco eroticism that's notable among the director's filmography if just for the strange sci-fi element, but it's also dripping with bizarre sex lensed with Franco's voyeuristic eye lingering over the sensual body of his muse Lina Romay. It's got a fantastic score from Daniel White and some cool Franco visuals that keep the threadbare plot moving along. This has been on my ratty to-watch list that I have kept in my wallet for years, but it's been a hard one to come by till now. Many thanks to Severin Films who have finally made this rarity available fully uncut and loaded-up on cool extras.  

More screenshots from the Blu-ray: