Color, 1983, 88 mins. 20 secs.
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Lina Romay, Antonio Mayans, Ida Balin, Alfredo Kier, Rocío Freixas, Lorna Green, Juan Antonio
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
Long out of reach for Jess Franco fans except for terrible quality bootleg releases pulled from ancient VHS tapes, his "S"-rated erotic epics (mostly for Golden Films) made upon his return to Spain in the early '80s have finally been getting the deluxe treatment in recent years from Severin with titles like Cries of Pleasure and Night of Open Sex. One of his best-known films from that period was inevitable to come along at some point, and that came to pass in 2021 with the Blu-ray and DVD release of Black Boots, Leather Whip (or Botas negras, látigo de cuero). Antonio Mayans, one of Franco's busiest leading men from the era, is back in business here as Al Periera, a morally dubious and frequently fornicating private eye for a crime tale "filmed entirely at Costa del Sol, Malaga, Spain" with "special thanks to Riomar Ubanization and Pipers Nightclub," which means the usual mixture of sweat, sunlight, and palm trees. Credited to "Clifford Brown y Jess Franco" (a redundant credit if there ever was one), it's another carnal treatment featuring his trademark use of wide scope framing that made so many of his film around this period so fun to watch.
Disillusioned in his hotel room after a job gone bad and ready to split town, Al is approached by blonde nightclub performer Lina (Romay, of course, under her frequent "Candy Coster" name) with a $5,000, one-hour job to retrieve her black purse from a junkyard after it closes that night. The job gets complicated when he's ambushed by two gun-wielding hoodlums, which results in Al shooting one of them in the... face, maybe? Despite having a regular girlfriend (Freixas), he falls for Lina's charms as she cajoles him into snagging some incriminating photographs of her that could make things complicated with her gender-fluid crime boss husband. Of course, it isn't long before Al finds out he's being dragged into a criminal underworld filled with S&M, violence, and betrayal.
Despite the title, this one limits its leather kink to one sequence -- but it sure makes it count right in the middle of the film, as Al falls afoul of a dominatrix and her gold lamé-loving cohorts that ends up with our antihero getting stripped naked and furiously whipped while highly inappropriate self-gratifying use is made of a cane. Overall though this is really Franco in crime movie mode all the way complete with Romay scorching it up as a great femme fatale and Mayans doing his patented gumshoe routine, this time appearing both with and without his familiar mustache (for reasons dictated partway through by the plot). Though there are enough sex scenes to appease the target audience (including a steamy nightclub number that goes about as far as Spanish standards would allow), the film has plenty else to offer including some unexpected humor, dark plot twists, and a nice amount of gun and fistfights to boot. It's definitely a highlight from the Golden era and not one any self-respecting Franco acolyte can afford to miss.
Given that the only previous versions out there were standard def rips of varying quality, it should go without saying that the Severin Blu-ray scanned from the original negative is a huge leap ahead of anything we've had before. If you've seen their other Spain-lensed Franco films from the past couple of years, this is up to that usual tier in terms of a/v quality and a real delight to watch. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 Spanish mono track sounds great as well (and nice to finally have without that VHS hiss in the background), complete with optional yellow English subtitles. The film also comes with an enthusiastic audio commentary by Robert Monell and Rodney Barnett, who explore this film's significance among the dozen-ish he made that year, the end result's tendency to vault far beyond viewer expectations, the film noir tropes in the film, the clever intentional choices in the sound design, the background behind the 39-title Golden Films cycle, and tons more. "In the Land of Franco Part 5" (16m52s) continues the magnificent series of location featurettes with Mayans and Stephen Thrower exploring familiar locales from Bloody Moon, Cannibals, Devil's Island Lovers, 99 Women, The Corpse Packs His Bags, Count Dracula, and other Franco favorites, pointing out where some key shots were pulled off and getting some great stories along the way. Finally in "Shiny Boots of Leather" (32m35s), Thrower gives another excellent dissection of Franco's cinematic mindset as he chats about the breakneck shooting pace at the time (with most films made in a week), the history of the Periera series and its inherent peculiarities with other actors like Howard Vernon and even Franco himself, the minimalistic nature of the stories and casts in Franco productions around this time, the various portrayals of gay men in his films including the unusual one here, and Romay's subset of Candy Coster roles.
Reviewed on June 24, 2021