Judge Daryl Loomis has now sworn off bananas forever.
She is the fruit of sin.
In 1975, the king of Euro-sleaze, Jess Franco (Female Vampire), released eleven separate films and started three more. Few, if anyone, could match his absurd output and few, if anyone, would want to work that much, but he was a man of ideas, weird and gross ideas that he had to commit to film. Franco's cult status has meant that much (though not even close to all) of his work has come to DVD or Blu-ray, but The Hot Nights of Linda has missed the boat until now. Existing only on awful generations-old VHS tapes, our old friends at Severin Films located a 35mm print in a Barcelona brothel, cleaned it up, and present it now on a Blu-ray/DVD combo with a special bonus for you Franco collectors out there.
Facts of the Case
Marie-France (Alice Arno, Kiss Me Killer) is hired to go to a small French town to be the live-in nurse for a paralyzed, nearly mute young woman named Linda (Catherine Lafferiere, Celestine). When she gets there, she meets not only her grunting older brother and secretive father, but also their nymphomaniac cousin, Olivia (Lina Romay, Macumba Sexual), who has a secret of her own, one that could tear the family apart.
The Hot Nights of Linda, given the odious title in the movie of But Who Raped Linda, is really not a very good movie, but it cuts to the core of what Jess Franco stands for: perversion and sex. It's most certainly not the worst piece he ever put out (all of those would come later in his 50-year career), but the filming is poor, the editing is confused, and the dialog is pretty much terrible.
That said, the storytelling is tighter than I'm used to from the director. The plot doesn't really go anywhere, but the benefit is that he didn't really write a plot into the movie. When he did put some mystery or supernatural elements in, it comes off as ridiculous and boring, but here, by keeping everything within the confines of the mansion, he's able to stay in his wheelhouse: perversion. The Hot Nights of Linda is nothing but fetish after fetish, with incest, S&M, food-related junk, and more on hand, each getting its fair due through the 80-minute running time.
He does insert a few relatively unrelated segments that resemble a plot and deliver some weak comedy, but no surprise, these are by far the worst parts of the movie. Luckily (or not, depending on your point of view), Severin has provided a limited edition third disc in the Blu-ray/DVD combo. This disc boasts the rare French "Banana" edition of the movie, which removes these awful scenes and replaces them with hardcore footage that Franco shot himself for a certain market. While that method generally makes the movie far worse, in this case the movie is actually quite a bit better. It not only removes the worst bits, a number of scenes are different and, though it amounts to the same thing, the story is tighter and the movie is quite a lot better.
But nobody's coming to Jess Franco movies for the storytelling; they've come for the perversion and, thanks to its stars, this one completely delivers. This, of course, starts with Lina Romay. Yes, she is one the most gorgeous actresses ever to appear on the screen and, yes, she is often referred to as Franco's muse (she appeared in a large number of his movies and the two were married until they died about eight months apart), but I prefer to call her the woman who was willing to do all the disgusting things Franco asked of her. More power to her, I suppose, but especially in the alternate version, it means she does some really unseemly things and, in case you were wondering, the answer to the question of who raped Linda is, indeed, Olivia. Alice Arno does her best to compete; she's a beautiful and willing actress, but has a hard time standing up to the intense levels that Romay reaches. Linda is basically a non-entity, with no spoken lines, but she's there to play a victim of abuse, which she does.
Outside of that, The Hot Nights of Linda is a pretty shoddy production, with poor acting, mediocre direction, nearly non-existent writing, and an extremely stupid ending that even Dallas can't match. All of that is to say, then, that it's right on par with most of Jess Franco's movies and his fans, of which I am definitely one, won't care a bit.
The collection from Severin is on the level of their normal high quality releases. The 1.85:1/1080p image looks relatively great, given how the movie looked in the previous VHS releases. We can see how bad it could look from the French hardcore version, presented on a third disc, which looks genuinely terrible to the extent that it's hard to even tell what's on the screen at certain points. On an objective level, for that version, that means it saves viewers from some genuine grossness, but it also highlights the good work of Severin. It's not perfect, there are bits of dirt and damage throughout, but the image is overall very clear, with good colors and very decent black levels. The sound, too, is imperfect, with some clicks and pops here and there, but it's nothing distracting and, again, it's far better than it has ever fared.
Extras, beyond the alternate cut, aren't that extensive, but there's good quality stuff here. An interview with Franco starts it off and, recorded just months before he died, shows off a pretty incredible memory given his advanced age and the sheer amount of films he made. Next is another interview, recorded on the same day (at least it seems that way, since he and Romay are wearing the same clothes), with the couple sitting down for more detail about their work together. A third interview featuring Franco scholar (because, apparently, every kind of film scholar exists these days), who talks about the movie in the context of his filmography. A set of gross outtakes and a trailer rounds out the disc.
It's far from his best work, very far from his worst, and not even close to his most disgusting, but The Hot Nights of Linda is a pretty good example of Jess Franco's work. And while the disc isn't perfect, it's catnip for a Franco collector, one that I can definitely recommend, at least for that particular demographic.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
• Alternate Cut
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