Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Jess Franco’s ‘The Demons’ on Blogcritics.
Spanish erotic-auteur Jesús (Jess) Franco is well-known for his
trashy exploits in horror. While many have claimed that he’s known for
just as much gore as T&A, I have yet to find one of his films to
feature the former. As for the latter, Redemption — Kino Lorber’s
off-shoot — has released one of his more “erotic” films from 1973. The Demons (Les Demons)
seduces Blu-ray collections on April 29; filled with more soft-core
nunsploitation witchcraft than you can shake a broomstick at. Previously
unreleased in the U.S. should not come as a surprise to anyone who
happens to pop the disc in with the abundance of sex scenes on hand, you
may want to watch this one alone, boys.
Inquisition horror and witches actually make this release feel rather timely after the success of American Horror Story’s third season “Coven” and the just kicked-off first season of WGN America’s Salem. In The Demons,
we open upon the trial of a woman being tested involving pokes, prods,
and water evaporation leading to her being burned at the stake where she
curses Lady de Winter (Karin Field), grand inquisitor Jeffries
(Cihangir Gaffari), and their right-hand man Renfield (Alberto Dalbés).
Turns out the old hag has two daughters living in a convent, Kathleen
(Anne Libert) and Margaret (Britt Nichols), who are charged with being
witches after exploiting in sins of their own flesh. Now, the two girls
must save themselves and exact revenge against those who killed their
As with all Kino/Redemption releases, the packaging stakes claim in
being “newly mastered in HD from the original 35mm elements.” Presented
in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio on a 50GB disc, the film looks
reasonable enough, but still suffers from the as-is approach. Not that
this is the kind of film that demands a frame-by-frame restoration, if
any of the Kino releases aside from maybe their Mario Bava Collection.
Nonetheless, the film features enough grain to keep a cinematic look,
even if it takes on the soft look of most ’70s productions. Aliasing and
crush never make an appearance, but some scenes look way worse than the
The opening sequence is filled with excessive noise and a flickering
effect, while another around the 90-minute mark looks the same but adds
in a jittery look as if being played through a rickety projector and
being slightly mis-framed. Scratch marks, vertical lines, and stray
hairs are par for the course. The LPCM 2.0 audio track leaves even more
to be desired. Dubbed in French and German, there are times where it
looks like it might be the original language being spoken, but then
there times when people’s lips are moving but there’s no dialogue at
all. A few scenes seem to be recorded at a lower volume, but it never
spikes so if you leave your volume level alone, it goes back to normal
eventually, and with the included English subtitles, it’s not like
you’ll miss anything anyway.
The special features are fulfilling, kicked off with a 16-minute
interview with director Franco who admits the film is just as bad
20-years later — which makes this interview more than 10 years old now —
as it was when first released. Interestingly enough, these are the
first words spoken. Six minutes of deleted footage plays, without sound,
featuring additional footage that was included in alternate cuts and
trailers, of which two are included. Also, there are trailers for
additional Franco films: The Awful Dr. Orlof, Female Vampire, and Exorcism/Demoniac.
Anyone in the market for softcore horror need look no further, even
if I’m sure there’s far better recent material at your disposal. But I
guess if you’re looking to delve deeper into film oddities of the past,
you can also do far worse than The Demons. Filled to the brim
with the aforementioned T&A, a decent video transfer, and Franco’s
reputation front and center, it’s exactly what you’d expect from one of
the reigning sex-ploitation kings.