It seems that the endless canon of work directed by Jess Franco is still being tapped into for fresh-to-DVD releases, a trend that is thanfully continuing. Persistent purveyors of world-weird cinema, Mondo Macabro (the outfit who some years ago gave us a wonderful edition of one of Franco’s finest genre works, THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z) revisits the most prolific (or at least the busiest) filmmaker in European trash cinema with “Le journal intime d'une nymphomane”, here given he moniker SINNER: THE SECRET DIARY OF A NYMPHOMANIAC for this long-awaited U.S. DVD premiere.
Linda Vargas (Montserrat Prous, THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF) is a young prostitute who frequents a night club where an erotic lesbian stage act is the main attraction. Linda effortlessly propositions a balding middle-aged man named Mr. Ortiz (Manuel Pereiro, SATAN’S BLOOD) gets him sloshed on champagne, and brings him back to her apartment for some frolicking. As the man passes out, the naked Linda calls the police reporting a murdered woman, and proceeds to slit her own throat. When the detectives arrive, they have no choice but to arrest Ortiz for Linda’s murder.
With his desperate pleas of innocence, Ortiz can now only confide in his wife Rosa (Jacqueline Laurent, LORNA, THE EXORCIST) who is disgusted by her husband’s infidelity (even though she later states they never make love), but not convinced that he killed the young woman of the night. Rosa sets on her own investigation, finding various background information on Linda and her descent into perversion and sexual obsession through interviews with former lover Countess Anna de Monterey (Anne Libert, THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN) and stoner stripper Maria (Kali Kansa, NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS) who happens to hold a possession which reveals just about everything Rosa needs to know: Linda’s secret diary.
Made shortly after the loss of Franco’s beloved leading lady Soledad Miranda, and just before future wife Lina Romay was to become his most frequent female star, SINNER: THE SECRET DIARY OF A NYMPHOMANIAC is actually one of Jess’s more interesting and involving sex outings. Its confessional, post-mortem storytelling approach (a possible nod to Welles’ CITIZEN KANE, as suggested in the disc’s extras?) is what sets it above the usual romp of this sort, and makes for a surprisingly absorbing, non-linear plotline, and it's surprisingly well edited. A French production shot entirely in Spain, Franco gets to exploit a sense of natural, scenic style without the advantage of a proper studio, and the local discotheques add plenty of early 1970s flavor, while being integral to the plot.
As expected, the film is chock full of nudity from some very sexy Euro starlets of the time, and there’s a number of light girl-on-girl scenes, as well as these beauties just tossing around in bed as nature intended, all of it being quite titillating. Montserrat Prous, in a role which would have surely been given to Lina Romay if the film had been made several years later, is appealing as the dazed and damaged (mostly by men) Linda, seen in flashbacks as a cotton candy-chomping innocent assaulted on a Ferris wheel, and later a habitual hooker who goes through withdrawal when not engaged in sexual activity. Franco’s most used actor, Howard Vernon, shows up as a doctor who clears Linda from a line-up of drugged out hippies, taking her into his care and hoping to redeem her. The music, credited to Vladimir Cosma and Jean-Bernard Raiteux, is a trippy mix of jazz fusion and psychedelic prog rock, and I would love to play it at my next party.
One of those Franco films that has been seen mostly through bootlegs over the years, Mondo Macabro delivers SINNER looking better than ever for its legit Region 1 DVD release. The film is presented anamorphic in an appropriate 1.66:1 transfer (from the original negative), and the image is virtually clear of any blemishes or print damage. Detail is sufficiently sharp and colors are well saturated, leaving nothing to complain about. Audio is available in English, as well as French (with optional English subtitles), with both tracks coming through clean and clear.
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 SINNER” (10:15). Thrower gives his fond, yet unpretentious thoughts on Franco’s cinema, and in the shorter segment, SINNER in particular, and he’s 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). 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 is also some talent bios, as well as the Mondo Macabro promo reel, which runs well over 7 minutes. (George R. Reis)
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