Director: Jess Franco (as Clifford Brown)
Mondo Macabro

Mondo Macabro, the always dependable purveyor of World Weird Cinema on DVD, has visited the cinema of Jess Franco in the past with their fine edition of his 1960s mad doctor masterpiece THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z, and more recently with the perverted excursion that is SINNER: THE SECRET DIARY OF A NYMPHOMANIAC. Now Mondo presents another long-awaited venture (it must never cease to amaze non Francophiles how many of his works pop up on the digital format, year after year), LORNA THE EXORCIST, a self-described “nightmare of transgressive horror.”

Successful middle-aged businessman and family man Patrick Mariel (Guy Delorme) is about to take a resort vacation in the South of France with his beautiful brunette wife Marianne (Jacqueline Laurent, SINNER) and his quickly maturing, soon-to-be-18-year-old daughter Linda (Lina Romay, FEMALE VAMPIRE). Before this friendly family excursion takes place, mysterious, threatening phone calls are made to the house by a female named Lorna (Pamela Stanford, SEXY SISTERS). It seems Lorna is not only a woman from Patrick’s gambling past, but she is some kind of succubus responsible for his financial standing, and that he promised his daughter over to her when she becomes 18. Sure enough, Lorna has already entered Linda’s bedroom (and subconscious mind?), and is now tormenting the once-happy nuclear unit into handing over what rightfully belongs to her after a decades-old deal which was sealed by sex with the philandering papa.

Beginning with a vivid lesbian lovemaking scene between Stanford and Romay (which has no dialog or narrative but nonetheless sets up the tone for the film), LORNA THE EXORCIST is a Franco experiment which blends horror, sex, art and a considerable amount of nonsense into a admittedly mesmerizing fever dream of hot and heavy bedroom frolicking and at least several jaw-dropping shocks, showing how Franco was always trying to push the cinematic envelope, especially during this period.

A number of European films during the mid 1970s attempted to ape THE EXORCIST, but despite its full title, LORNA doesn’t have much to do with exorcism, but it is all about possession. Young Linda is given a blood rite of passage with a disturbing looking phallic device, and as a form of an evil spell, small crabs are witnessed crawling around the nether regions of mom Marianne (Laurent, who like most of the female cast members, is fully naked for a lot of her screen time). As Lorna, Stanford is an extension of the brand of seductive, controlling witch Franco unleashed in SUCCUBUS (1967), though her wild, almost clown-like make-up appears to be inspired either by the Warhol Factory or early John Waters. Franco himself appears as a clinic doctor taking care of an oft-nude mad woman (Catherine Lafferière) also possessed by Lorna, and Howard Vernon is rather wasted as Lorna’s non-speaking butler, attacking someone with a large decorative seashell. André Bénichou composed the Spanish guitar-tinged score, which is appropriate to the abstract impression the film gives off.

A disclaimer before the start of the visial presentation notes that the original negative for LORNA is thought to be lost or destroyed, and that for this restoration, three different 35mm film sources and three different sound sources were used, and some of the material was badly damaged. The majority of the transfer looks absolutely fine, with bold colors and nice detail, but there are some drops in quality (faded colors and signs of wear and emulsion scratches) showing up now and then when footage from the inferior sources have been seamlessly reinstated. The film is presented anamorphic in an appropriate 1.66:1 aspect ratio and has full audio tracks in English, as well as French (with optional English subtitles), with both tracks coming through clean and clear, despite any inherent flaws. The running time is close to 100 minutes, which must be longer than any other known version has ever been, and Mondo should be commended for a job well done.

British author Stephen Thrower (Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci) is on hand for two featurettes: “Fear and Desire: Stephen Thrower on Jess Franco" (17:21) and “Stephen Thrower on LORNA” (12:40). Thrower gives his fond, yet unpretentious thoughts on Franco’s cinema, and in the shorter segment, he singles out LORNA discussing his views on the film, as well as Franco’s clever use of locations (in this case, in the South of France) and his obvious fascination with a certain part of a woman’s anatomy. Thrower is a pleasure to listen to, having a lot of interesting comments to make about the director's style and work ethics. “Gerard Kikoine on Jess Franco” (14:44) is an ironic title since Kikoine states he never met Franco, but did do the dubbing and sound editing on many of his films (starting with 1972’s THE DEMONS and including LORNA). Kikoine (who later became a director) mentions that he became associated with Franco’s films through French producer Robert De Nesle, and among other things, tells a funny story about meeting Howard Vernon. Pete Toombs writes the liner notes about the film, and there are also some talent bios, as well as the Mondo Macabro promo reel, which runs well over 7 minutes. (George R. Reis)