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Sadist of Notre Dame, The
I am going to write a sentence about Jess Franco. A sentence that will be sculpted out of a handful of ideas that I have about the auteur, but nonetheless a thesis as yet unknown as I type what you are reading. Right now. The Sadist of Notre Dame is Franco's cry for help. As such, it's still a Jesus Franco movie, so, as much as it's a privilege to again watch a man grapple with his identity, it's still a crappy movie. At some point while watching, it became clear that maybe my glancing, if rabid, hatred of Franco meant that I actually loved his movies. (After all, I keep coming back to him.) Yet by the conclusion of Sadist I again understood that no matter what fun topic the weirdo could film, it would still suck.
My first attempt at viewing Sadist ends in a stalemate, as leisurely scenes of director/actor Franco pensively wandering the streets of Paris intermix with shots of scabrous bums pissing while they walk. We'll try again another day.
Next night, and I've got an open bottle of Pernod slowly dripping into an IV hooked straight into my brain. It doesn't help a bit, but keeps me conscious as Franco puts us through the paces, revealing his character as (Spoiler Alert) a tortured ex-priest on a mission to clear the Paris streets of prostitutes. The kind who are kind enough to drive around in their own cars, soliciting random unwitting gentlemen on the street.
Betwixt musical interludes and chit-chat, every so often we get a brief stabbing or satanic orgy of the bourgeoisie. If you've ever seen a Jess Franco movie, you know your return on investment will be low. In Sadist Franco lowers the ante by re-purposing footage from his earlier film Exorcism, and adding new stuff meant to shock and enrage. While aiming at big, easy targets like The Church, Franco casts himself as the poor man's Ken Russell, but his orgies lack fire, and the stabbings are rather tame. The Spanish Film Classification Board called this movie "an absolute abomination", but they might as well have been talking about its execution, rather than its content. To wit, if it's Jess Franco, you're probably being oversold.
Franco's 'cry for help' gives you the feeling of being a tourist lost in Paris (minus the stabbing) but it's up to you to decide if you wish to further decode the director's depiction of himself as a repressed, lapsed, psycho-sexual killer. Meanwhile Franco's other proclivities are on full display; a few nice shots and lots of cool music. One marvels at the man's ability to parlay a love of music, sex, and movies, into a lengthy career, while possessing little talent behind the camera.
The Sadist of Notre Dame should be re-titled to change the spelling of one critical word to 'saddest'. Franco's sexually sadistic movies never fail to underwhelm, and this one is no different, with tepid murders and nominal sexuality buttressed by the director's penchant for setting up his camera in a nightclub and wandering away for a while. Severin Films does this Blu-ray relatively proud, with a good presentation and some nice extras, but you really have to be a Franco fan (and I don't judge) to want this on your shelf. I'll split the difference and call it Recommended for Euro-sleaze fans only.
Severin claims this new 1.85:1 ratio 4k scan was sourced from 35mm elements "discovered in the crawlspace of a Montparnasse nunnery." I'm not sure about that, but they certainly did some digging to get this movie whole and in high-definition. The Montparnasse rats must have had a little fun with the print, since there are occasional, noticeable, big bits of film damage that flash by. At other times, dark scenes lose definition and are suffused with film-grain and digital grain. Colors look natural and are rich and deep. Details are otherwise acceptable for such a film, and this likely looks better now than ever.
Three DTS-HD Master Stereo audio tracks are offered, English with Closed Captioning, Spanish (with English Subtitles), or French. All tracks are dubbed, no matter the language, which creates a layer of disconnect. That said, all tracks are damage-free, though they sport varying tonal qualities. The soundtrack is mixed appropriately with dialog and is also free of damage.
Extras include an approximately 10 x 12" Poster of the cover art, and Selected Scene Commentary by Franco-phile and "I'm In a Jess Franco State of Mind" Webmaster Robert Monell. The Gory Days of Le Brady, is a fun half-hour documentary about the legendary Parisian cinema. Stephen Thrower gets a 27-minute Interview regarding his Jess Franco book, and author Alain Petit also gets a quick 5-minute Interview to talk about his Jess Franco book.
The Sadist of Notre Dame should be re-titled to change the spelling of one critical word to 'Lame'. Franco's sexually sadistic movies never fail to underwhelm, and this one is no different, with tepid murders and nominal sexuality buttressed by the director's penchant for setting up his camera in a nightclub and wandering away for a while. Severin Films does this Blu-ray relatively proud, with a good presentation and some nice extras, but you really have to be a Franco fan (and I don't judge) to want this on your shelf. I'll split the difference and call it Recommended for Euro-sleaze fans only.
- Kurt Dahlke