Director Jess Franco was the quintessence of an auteur. He insisted on making movies on his own terms, often with very low budgets, and hence low production values and quick schedules. His films are obsessed with sex, beautiful women, mind control and death. In short, he's an acquired taste. And, if one has not already acquired that taste, Nightmares Come at Night, long thought to be lost, is probably not the place to start.
Anna (Diana Lorys) is a mentally unstable ex-stripper, living in a mansion with her girlfriend, the manipulative Cynthia (Colette Giacobine). Anna suffers from recurring nightmares involving her killing people, she believes she might be losing her grip on reality. Her friend Dr. Lucas (Paul Muller) tries to treat her, but worries that she may become violent. Meanwhile, two curious strangers (Andres Monales and Soledad Miranda) keep watch over Anna and Cynthia from a house next door.
Not much more can be revealed without giving away vital points of the plot, such as it is. In fact, the plot seems merely to be a bare skeleton on which to layer scenes of Anna dancing at the strip club, or showering, or partying with a young couple. It's a way to show Anna naked as much as possible, in other words. That's not to say that Nightmares Come at Night is just an excuse to show bared female flesh. Jess Franco is very much experimenting here: with flashback, with experiential and impressionistic filmmaking, with the idea of memory in film. But he's also Franco, the voyeuristic lover of women, and he really can't help but do this. One of the critics interviewed in the extras put it best when he said that Franco was a "filmer", that is, someone who loved to film, but wasn't so much interested in crafting a coherent narrative.
The film isn't without merit. Redemption / Kino Lorber have done a really good job in reclaiming this film and cleaning it up. However, for those who aren't already devoted Franco fans, it will probably not be a positive experience. This is an important film, in that it shows Franco as he is developing as a filmmaker. But not something that is going to be embraced by the general public. For most people, rent it.
The video is shown in 1.66:1, a result of the fact that the film was shot with two cameras in two different aspect ratios, and the folks preparing it for release chose to meet them in the middle. It doesn't look great, with lots of scratches, flaws, etc., but it's clear that the print was cleaned up as much as possible.
Audio is available in Dolby 2.0 French and English, with available English subtitles. The sound on the French audio track is tinny, but matches the performances quite well. The English dub is typical for films of this era, in that it isn't a great match performance wise.
There are a number of extras included. They are:
"Making of" Documentary
This featurette is around twenty minutes long, and details the somewhat chaotic story of how Nightmares Come at Night was produced, and why it was lost for so long. Lots of film historians were interviewed, and the machinations that led to the film being released only in Belgium are explained. This is quite interesting.
Homage to Jess
For eight and a half minutes, various people are asked what they think Jess Franco (who is deceased) is doing now. Their answers range from the very materialistic and literal (he's rotting in the ground) to whimsical (he's continuing to make his "filmic first drafts" with unlimited budgets.
About the Master
This features Bret Wood, who produced the DVD for Kino Lorber, discussing the issues they had with remastering the film, where they got the film elements, and why some flaws could not be fixed. Very, very interesting.
Trailers are included for Awful Dr. Orlof, A Virgin Among the Living Dead, Female Vampire, Exorcism / Demoniac and Oasis of the Zombies.
Commentary by Tim Lucas, Critic and Co-Editor of Video Watchdog Magazine
This is the most substantial extra included on the disc, and features Tim Lucas discussing the film, and giving out tidbits of information about the production, the actors, and Franco himself. While Lucas' delivery is somewhat dry, and there are a number of long pauses in his commentary, this is fairly interesting.
Nightmares Come at Night isn't precisely a good film on its own terms. It is an intriguing piece of film history, and can be appreciated on that level. It is also a rare, hard to find (until now) Jess Franco film, and thus will be appreciated by his fans. But it is too incoherent and disjointed to appeal to most people. However, if you're the type of person that likes this kind of film, it's perfect.