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Tuesday, May 3, 2022

THE HOT NIGHTS OF LINDA -- Blu-ray/ DVD review by porfle

 Originally posted on 10/12/2013


The third film (the first two being THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF and PAULA-PAULA) in my admittedly limited experience with the late cinematic superstar Jess Franco, THE HOT NIGHTS OF LINDA (1975), aka "Les nuits brûlantes de Linda" and "But Who Raped Linda?", leaves me still trying to catch that vibe which seems to attract so many Franco-philes to the prolific director's highly eclectic assortment of films like moths to a flame.   

Still, this strange, slapdash, often tawdry exercise in exploitation is brimming with enough perverse sex,  violence, and off-kilter oddness to hold our attention even through a few seemingly interminable stretches.  It begins with a Frenchwoman named Marie-France Bertrand (the voluptuous Alice Arno) being hired by Greek millionaire Mr. Steiner (Paul Muller) to live in his beachfront villa and care for his invalid daughter Linda (Catherine Lafferière) and psychologically disturbed niece Olivia (Franco mainstay Lina Romay). 

Unfortunately,  the feeble-minded Linda will respond only to Steiner's mute manservant Abdul (Pierre Taylou),  a kindly soul who dotes on Linda while drooling over Olivia from afar.  This is exacerbated by the fact that the oversexed Olivia, although still a virgin, sheds her clothes and starts furiously masturbating at the drop of a hat.  Marie-France herself eventually gets sucked into Olivia's gravitational pull until she begins to realize how flakey she really is. 

The film's title is a misnomer since the only "hot night" Linda has is the one in which Olivia sneaks into her bedroom and rapes her.  This sexually voracious nutcase also ravishes an incredulous Abdul in return for him sneaking into Mr. Steiner's room and retrieving the key to a bedroom he keeps sealed.  Here,  years ago, the adolescent Linda witnessed her uncle murder the man who was having an affair with his wife Lorna, who later committed suicide.

This rambling,  almost  stream-of-consciousness story is, like so many of its kind,  the framework on which to hang a succession of perverse sexual situations that build to a violent climax.  Much of the running time consists of Franco languidly caressing Lina Romay's nude body with his camera, whether she's rolling around in bed pleasuring herself or forcing herself sexually on some unsuspecting victim.  Other nudity includes a sunbathing Linda and some glimpses of Marie-France's ample form, in addition to a sequence in which Mr. Steiner chains a naked Abdul to a wall and canes him severely as punishment for "touching" Olivia. 

There's more to this story, however.  The first 2,500 copies of Severin Films' Blu-ray/ DVD combo set also include a third disc containing what they call the "rare alternate banana version" of THE HOT NIGHTS OF LINDA.  This is the hardcore French cut, with much more nudity and graphic sex which Franco lensed himself since he knew that such scenes would be added anyway.  Some scenes are merely reshot with the actresses exchanging the same dialogue in the nude rather than clothed, while Romay's masturbation sessions, as well as her lesbian encounters with Alice Arno and Catherine Lafferière, are much more up close and personal. 

The term "banana version" is derived from the scene in which Olivia rapes the helpless Linda--here, she uses the fruit in question as an impromptu phallic substitute, drawing a stream of vaginal blood (which doesn't score too high on my eroto-meter).  Elsewhere, her heated coupling with Abdul now includes some dreadfully unappealing fellatio that's shot in such extreme closeup that the camera often meanders around in a mish-mash of blurred flesh. 

Missing from the "banana version" is an entire comedy-relief subplot about a rotund police inspector (Angelo Bassi) and a female tabloid photographer who are staking out Mr. Steiner's residence.  (This was added to the softcore version to fill in the gaps from all the deleted X-rated material.)  An entire murder scene is gone as well, making the ending somewhat less violent. 

While the softcore print, from a 35mm source, is fairly good with occasional flaws (some of them a bit jarring), the "banana version" seems to have been dubbed from a finely-aged videotape copy complete with choppy editing,  bad sound, and awful picture quality.  Still,  it is in the original French with English subtitles, whereas the edited version is badly dubbed in English--lips sometimes move without accompanying dialogue, and the mute Abdul's grunting noises are similar to those of the closet monster in THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE. 

Severin Films' Blu-ray/DVD combo set is in 2.35:1 widescreen with English mono sound (French on the subtitled limited-edition disc).  Franco fans will enjoy the two bonus interviews, one with the director alone and another with both him and his beloved muse Lina.  David Gregory (director of "Ban the Sadist Videos!") offers a short segment with genre author Stephen Thrower discussing the film.   In another brief clip,  we see Franco receiving the Fantastic Fest Lifetime Achievement Award with Lina by his side.   Some outtakes--mostly of Olivia and Abdul's sex scene,  plus Alice Arno rolling around naked in bed--and a trailer round out the extras.

Jess Franco's most impressive quality, to me, is how prolific he was--a compulsive, seat-of-his-pants filmmaker who didn't lavish a lot of time and care on his films, giving them a hit-or-miss quality which makes them, at the very least, interesting to watch.  THE HOT NIGHTS OF LINDA is that, but not much more.   Unless,  of course,  you're tuned into that special Franco vibe that has so far managed to elude me.

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