Franco has been so prolific in his career that, inevitably, his
work has proven to be rather inconsistent, the quality often depending
on a combination of personal commitment and having the time and
money to actually do more than simply point and shoot. At his
best, he made works or remarkable poetic beauty and genius –
strangely erotic, surreal, dream-like horror films that are unlike
anything else ever made. At his worst, he made fairly ham-fisted,
screamingly camp but astonishingly dull exercises in sex and violence.
Exorcism is closer to the latter than the former,
though it has just enough oddness to lift it out of the depths
occupied by films like Macumba Sexual.
Franco himself stars as Vogel, a demented defrocked priest who
has escaped from an asylum but now lives openly in Paris, writing
lurid historical S&M articles for a local sleaze rag. The
magazine's editor and staff – including Franco muse Lina
Romay and punky-looking Monica Swinn – are also involved
in staging fake black masses for the delectation of bored socialites,
but this doesn't sit well with Vogel, who takes it for the real
thing and sets out of a sluggish rampage of murder in order to
save the souls of various sinners, before kidnapping Lina. The
local police, led by Olivier Mathot, are on the case but seem
to lack motivation, even when told that Vogel is living in an
apartment across from the missing girl's.
is one of Franco's more convoluted movies – not so much
in terms of plot, but in the way the film has been chopped and
changed over the years. This is the 1975 softcore edition, while
the less raunchy 'horror' edit Demoniac is also
included on the disc. There's also a hardcore version (Sexorcismes)
and chunks of the film would later turn up in 1979's El
Sadico de Notre Dame. None of these versions can be said
to be the definitive edition of the film, and all suffer from
the often clumsy chopping together of available footage to make
the required edition. Sadly, Exorcism feels like
it's been edited with a chainsaw at times, scenes jumping and
starting or ending abruptly. Of course, things are not helped
by the fact that this is taken from a somewhat battered print
– presumably the only available source (this print effortlessly
contains the sort of damage that faux-grindhouse producers spend
ages recreating on video).
However, the film manages to maintain a certain sordid fascination.
The staged S&M shows are a particular obsession of Franco's,
having cropped up in a number of his films, and here they are
certainly eye-popping. Ironically, Lina Romay feels rather under-used
beyond the initial performance, which is a pity as she is an undeniable
visual presence, unashamedly naked in most of her time on screen.
The pacing is rather slow, but whenever you feel yourself getting
bored, Franco will throw in a bizarre sex scene or unconvincingly
bloody killing to wake you up, and the jazz score is typically
Of course, the dubbing is shocking – lazy and peppered with
inadvertently hilarious dialogue, which adds a little additional
unintentional entertainment value to the whole thing. This, plus
the regular sex and violence, stops the film from becoming dull
– but this is third rate Franco really, and if you are unfamiliar
with his work, it's definitely not the place to start.
Demoniac removes more or less all the nudity
and runs almost thirty minutes shorter. It's nice to see included
for completists (though it's sad – if understandable –
that the hardcore cut wasn't also included) but you don't need
to watch it.
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