Exorcism/Demoniac (1975)

I actually said “oh NO!” out loud when I got home late last night to the news that Jess Franco had died. I mean, I can’t say I’m a fan, I can’t even say I’ve liked most of what I’ve seen by him (I’ve had some quite harsh words for him in the past), and yet his passing is still a loss; the world of cinema is made more interesting by the presence of people like Franco in it, whether or not you like his actual work. So obviously I had to mark his departure with one of his films, and what better (well, probably a few better) than one starring the man himself… Like many of his films, this one came in multiple flavours, and the new Redemption DVD presents two of them under the above titles, Exorcism being the longer sexier version and Demoniac being the shorter one which keeps its clothes on. Despite the title, it’s not actually an Exorcist knock-off; Jess is a defrocked priest writing sadomasochistic stories for a somewhat dodgy publication, the publisher of which is in the other business of staging Satanic-themed sex shows for the Parisian elite. When the possibly not entirely sane writer manages to witness one of these shows and mistakes it for an actual Satanic rite, well, complications ensue. Bloody ones. Hard to quite tell which of the two versions works best; the comparatively compact Demoniac certainly moves rather faster and the overall print quality is somewhat more stable (the longer print is generally good but quite variable—visible changes of quality between shots, sometimes even within shots), but Exorcism has a better sense of proportion and perhaps even comprehensibility (the absence of some scenes in the shorter print renders it a bit abrupt at times). It’s hard to actually call it a good film as such, and yet I found something kind of enjoyable about it; I suspect it helped that, although both versions are unfortunately only present in an English dub, whoever they got to dub Franco himself is actually really good, and he delivers a vocal performance that compensates well for the weaknesses of some of the other voice cast.

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