Color, 1967, 76m.
Directed by Jess Franco / Starring Janine Reynaud, Jack Taylor Blue Underground (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)
In many respects, Succubus (released in Europe as Necronomicon) is the quintessential '60's Franco film. Sex, sadism, and a trippy disregard for logic are the order of the day as European exploitation favorite Janine Reynaud portrays Lorna, a nightclub performer whose S&M-inspired stage act inspires a series of hallucinatory encounters / flashbacks / fantasies that tantalize the viewer more than they offer explanations. Mannequins, murder, and strange castles figure in these scenarios before the line between reality and dark fantasy is completely demolished in the final few minutes.
Reynaud's strong, sensual presence really powers the film, much as Soledad Miranda's does in Vampyros Lesbos, and her sultry series of dances and costume changes (supplied by Karl Lagerfeld!) make this a real treat for the eye. The sultry jazz score is an asset as well, while Franco fans will derive pleasure from spotting a few of his future frequent players like Jack Taylor and Howard Vernon among the cast. Despite the much-touted X rating, the film is comparatively mild today (apart from the still-strong bondage stage bit) with a few minor topless bits by Reynaud and lots of sighing providing most of its erotic charge. A bit older than your average starlet, Reynaud is perfect as the first of many Franco Lornas with her tough-as-nails mouth and unearthly eyes; too bad she never found another role quite as intoxicating again.
Succubus first appeared on DVD from Anchor Bay in a compromised full-frame edition which sheared the sides off many compositions and featured a flat, outmoded transfer plagued with early compression problems. Blue Underground's much-needed upgrade restores the original compositions and looks considerably better. Many sequences go berserk with soft focus, intentional grain and various filters, but even on a large widescreen set, the transfer looks quite pleasing and film-like. Considering the melange of various nationalities and the different languages spoken on the set, this English mono track is about as serviceable as any other. Along with the English theatrical trailer, the disc includes two very welcome interviews with Franco and Taylor. The director is his usual entertaining and perceptive self, discussing the cast in detail (including recollections about Reynaud and why she was happy on the set) along with his somewhat vague philosophical intentions for the film, while Taylor chats about the location shooting and his early relationship with Franco, which would continue to extend many years into the future.