Director: Jess Franco
Mondo Macabro

Mondo Macabro debuts another Jess Franco obscurity in a sensuous Blu-ray presentation with NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND DESIRES.

In a Las Palmas hotel, "The Grand Irina" (Lina Romay, THE PERVERSE COUNTESS) headlines a mindreading act with her lover Fabian (Daniel Katz, REST IN PIECES). After blindfolded Irina reads a note from an audience member (Mauro Rivera, BLACK CANDLES) issuing a death threat, she starts experiencing disturbing sexual and violent nightmares in which she is directed by the mysterious Lorna (Carmen Carrión, SEXUAL STORY OF O) to seduce and viciously murder a number of sexual partners who are unknown to her, starting with a seedy jazz club pianist (Albino Graziani, OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES). Fabian dismisses Irina's worries but she starts to believe she is going out of her mind and seeks the advice of a psychiatrist (Jess Franco) when she discovers the murders actually occurred. Is Irina really a psychotic murderess or the victim of an elaborate setup?

One of roughly twenty films Franco made for Golden Film in the early 1980s – many shot partially on the Canary Islands – NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND DESIRES boasts gorgeous backdrops and striking architecture, and slick Techniscope cinematography in which Franco's trademark zooms are more considered and the minimalist compositions are elegantly framed and lit (often utilizing natural light for chiaroscuro imagery while the flatter lighting for the sex scenes ensures that everything is well "exposed"). While the Spanish title MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE and clairvoyant aspect of the story suggest an homage to John Farrow's 1948 film noir THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (translated into Spanish as MIL OJOS TIENE LA NOCHE), references abound in the film to Franco's own filmography. The theme of mind control dates back to THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z while the story seems to be a remake of NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT while incorporating elements from Franco's earlier SUCCUBUS. The ending is rather pat, eschewing the tragedy of NIGHTMARES or the sting-in-the-tale of SUCCUBUS for the police wrapping everything off (presumably some real Las Palmas cops rather than costumed actors). Besides the Irina and Lorna character names carried over in the thin narrative, the score attributed to Pablo Villa – a joint pseudonym of Franco and Daniel White – excerpts White's theme for FEMALE VAMPIRE amidst a cacophony of organ, pan pipes, Romay's shrieks, and Franco's own voice moaning and spouting gibberish seemingly down a hollow tube. The pacing is languorous but it seems more deliberate than the loosely-edited Eurocine films, with the highlight being a drawn-out narcotized foursome sex/murder set-piece. The cast is atypical of Franco's films, combining muse Romay with the cast of THE SEXUAL STORY OF O, among them Alicia Príncipe (THE STORY OF O 2) and Mamie Kaplan (MANSION OF THE LIVING DEAD), with Katz and Rivera trading off on the male lead roles. IMDb lists Franco regular Antonio Mayans (REVENGE IN THE HOUSE OF USHER) as dubbing American actor Katz. The film also features José Llamas (LILIAN, THE PERVERTED VIRGIN) who was a fixture in Franco's softcore and hardcore efforts during this period.

While a handful of Franco's Golden Films productions received stateside release undubbed for the Spanish-speaking market, only THE INCONFESSIBLE ORGIES OF EMANUELLE received a dubbed release on cable in a cut and rescored version title EMANUELLE EXPOSED. Severin Films released attractive anamorphic DVDs of the EMANUELLE film, MACUMBA SEXUAL, MANSION OF THE LIVING DEAD, and THE SEXUAL STORY OF O. NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND DESIRES received its first DVD release in Spain as a non-anamorphic letterboxed transfer sold cheaply on magazine racks with a cover made up of a montage of different stills from the one used for the original poster (the Spanish VHS release featured a cover still of Muriel Montosse from Franco's EMANUELLE film). Mondo Macabro's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen transfer appears to come from the same element as the earlier transfer, but the HD version is a major revelation in terms of detail, revealing rougher edges than evident in standard definition while also reveling in newfound textures of skin, costumes, and décor. Some jitter evident in a couple shot changes on the early transfer now appears to be more likely the shaking of the zoom lens at the telephoto end as the shaking occurs on shots zooming out from close-ups. The drug-fueled foursome scene sports paler skintones, but this seems to be an effect of the flat, bright lighting and the exposure since other colors look fine. The Golden Films titles appear to have been better cared-for than Eurocine's elements (although most of the Golden Films were not widely exported or recut and only run through the telecine for the original VHS transfer and the later letterboxed transfer which was probably created for television with the sell-through DVDs an afterthought). The LPCM 2.0 mono track is clean and vibrant with the dubbed dialogue as cleanly delivered as the most aggressive passages of the cacophonous score. The optional English subtitles are without any obvious errors.

Extras include the British television Eurotika special "The Diabolical Mr. Franco" (24:41) in which separately recorded Monica Swinn (FEMALE VAMPIRE), Michael Lemoine (SUCCUBUS), Caroline Munro and Brigitte Lahaie from FACELESS, Peter Blumenstock (co-author of OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO), and journalist Tony Crawley contribute to a narrative tracing Franco's beginnings in conservative Catholic Spain, his love of pulp horror, his first international hit THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF, and the career highlights in the different periods of filmmaking in other parts of Europe. Shot in 1999, the special is fun and informative like the other Eurotika specials devoted to Rollin, Naschy, and Larraz but sparse on information about his eighties output once he returned to Spain. Also quite informative is the interview with critic Stephen Thrower (33:12) – author of the mammoth two volume MURDEROUS PASSIONS: THE DELIRIOUS CINEMA OF JESS FRANCO – who places the film in the context of Franco's return to Spain in the late seventies after the death of Francisco Franco and the relaxing of censorship standards with the establishment of the S classification. The prolific Golden Films from roughly 1981 to 1984 afforded him creative control with producers who had no idea how to market the films, with many of the films receiving little release in Spain and not widely exported (indeed, early scholarship on Franco seemed to suggest that Franco did little outside of a few Eurocine productions from the early eighties until FACELESS and the DTV films of the nineties). Thrower discusses the themes and character names carried over from the other aforementioned films, Franco's striking use of locations, and the cast specific to the films he shot in Las Palmas. He also reveals that the score not only includes passages from FEMALE VAMPIRE but also DEVIL HUNTER. The disc also includes the "More from Mondo Macabro" preview reel (which seems to get longer with every release). (Eric Cotenas)