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Blue Underground presents
Succubus (Necronomicon) (1969)

"I have done well. She is perfect: a disciple who mirrors my own image, the essence of evil, a devil on earth."
- Pierce (Michel Lemoine)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: July 24, 2006

Stars: Janine Reynaud, Jack Taylor, Howard Vernon, Nathalie Nort, Michel Lemoine
Other Stars: Pier A. Caminnecci, Adrian Hoven, Daniel White
Director: Jess Franco

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, gore, sadomasochistic abuse)
Run Time: 01h:19m:18s
Release Date: July 25, 2006
UPC: 827058111799
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-A-B- B-

DVD Review

The films of Jess Franco are something of an acquired taste, especially those from his psychedelic period in the late 1960s. It was during that period that he began to be allowed freedom of creativity from his producers, a move not everyone would agree was a good thing. But for those who appreciate them, Franco's pictures have a weird sexiness and bold strangeness that often careens into the surreal.

The plot is somewhat on the cryptic side, but the essentials are that Lorna (Parisian model Janine Reynaud) stars in a Lisbon nightclub act that combines sex and snuff for decadent onlookers, and she has a somewhat strained romantic relationship with promoter Bill Mulway (Jack Taylor). In between attending bizarre parties and having even stranger dreams, a mysterious man, Pierce (Michel Lemoine, Reynaud's husband at the time) is releasing Lorna's inner demon, making her an insatiable sex object with a thirst for blood.

The story is rather flimsy, as is so often the case with Franco's pictures, but what really makes it an important development in 1960s cinema is the sense of a waking dream that is realized throughout the running time. There are two extended dream sequences that dominate the film, filled with symbols both self-evident (trains) and mysterious (a peddler of secondhand harps). These dreams allow Franco's subconscious to run riot, with such peculiar inclusions as a pianist (frequent collaborator Daniel White) playing from a math workbook. Lorna's psychiatrist (producer Adrian Hoven) appears both in dreams and in the waking world, and his conduct is equally baffling in both. He engages in a strange word association game with Lorna as does the dream Admiral (Howard Vernon in a walk-on part), in both cases bringing from her the sexual tensions and attractions that she keeps hidden.

The dream world spills over into the real world in other ways, especially as Lorna's psyche begins to fracture. When she seduces a blonde woman (Nathalie Nort) and takes her to her baroque castle, the shots of the young woman caressing Lorna oscillate back and forth between the blonde and a mannequin. Lorna seems to be dissociating, making the murder of the young woman more acceptable to her. There are equally surreal moments in the fully waking world, such as Taylor and screenwriter Pier A. Caminnecci breaking into a chorus of Chicago, That Toddlin' Town. The camerawork, with the gauziness of the dream sequences, is often the only clue as to what Franco intends to be the real world.

Reynaud is terrific in the central role, projecting a determined and earnest sexuality, in part thanks to her outrageous red wig and eye makeup that would embarrass Cleopatra. Jack Taylor, in the first of many collaborations with Franco, does fine as the lover who has secrets of his own. Franco's original version was recut for American release—with about eight minutes lost in the process—under the name Succubus. It's a shame that Blue Underground wasn't able to also provide the original version (under the even more nonsensical name, Necronomicon) for this release. It's a key picture in the Franco catalog, with numerous aspects that will reappear in his work, such as the sadistic stage show (Vampyros Lesbos), the character name Lorna, which he will recycle countless times, and the attraction of sadism and lesbianism (Eugenie, as well as many others).

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This is something of a problematic film, having been shot with heavy-grain stock. This transfer does a reasonably good job of rendering that grain without too much shimmer and sparkle. Fine detail and texture are therefore quite good, and color is extremely vivid. The source material is virtually immaculate. It's a big improvement over the long-deleted Anchor Bay DVD, but one longs to see this in HD.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The jazzy soundtrack is provided by classical pianist Friedrich Gulda, making for a highly unlikely union of creative forces. Franco is a jazz aficionado, so he makes good use of the soundtrack. Audio quality will probably never be much, given the dubbing on the cheap, but this presentation is relatively quiet and distortion is nominal.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: M-Lock
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:52m:36s

Extras Review: An extensive 22-minute interview with Franco is included, and he spins some yarns that may or may not have truth to them. Speaking in French, with English subtitles, Franco tries to convince us that the Necronomicon is real and that it was the source for sections of the movie, and has a laugh over his notorious remark that he didn't understand the film himself. Shorter, but also interesting, is a seven-minute chat with Jack Taylor, revisiting some of the Berlin filming locations. The final extra is an American trailer, in anamorphic widescreen as well, which rather presents this as a sexploitation horror film, which is hardly the case.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

One of Franco's most notable cinematic fever dreams, with some good extras and an excellent transfer.


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