Color, 1983, 89 mins. 33 secs.
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Lina Romay, Antonio Mayans, Lorna Green, Antonio Rebello, Albino Graziani, Juana de la Morena, Miguel Ángel Aristu
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
Director Jess Franco's ongoing fascination with spy and private eye films led to some pretty outrageous concoctions over the years ranging from Kiss Me Monster to Two Female Spies with Flowered Panties. Up there with the craziest of them is La noche de los sexos abiertos, one of Franco's uninhibited entries in his "S"-rated period in Spain (when the short-lived rating basically meant very hard softcore films for the most part). In 2020, the film finally made its official English-friendly debut from Severin Films on Blu-ray and DVD under the literal title Night of Open Sex, though in keeping with Franco's cheeky wordplay, something like Night Wide Open might have gotten the point across more clearly. What we get here is another feverish showcase for his most long-running inspiration and future wife, Lina Romay, who gets to cut loose here with a fun, fiery, and sometimes shocking performance that can still make your jaw drop.
Well known for her slinky nightclub acts that climax with her writhing nude on stage atop a car, Moira (Romay) catches the eye of private eye Al Crosby (Mayans) during one of her shows and becomes embroiled with a criminal syndicate looking for a stash of long-lost Nazi gold in the vicinity. After a brutal sexualized interrogation torture scene that will make even the hardiest Franco fans doubt their sanity, she and her shady new employer (Aristu) are hot on the trail of the dying General (Rebollo) who provides them with the clue to the treasure's location courtesy of a code book. However, Crosby has other plans and finds a highly questionable way to get her to switch sides...
Franco had already tackled some of this material earlier in the unreleased 1980 film The Gold Bug (Vaya luna de miel), one of multiple films nominally based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, and here he gets to indulge that aspect with a particularly strange string of decoding plot twists that feature a bit of a musical wrinkle as well. Considering how completely amoral and nasty all the characters are, it's also jarring how upbeat the film ultimately turns out to be with a finale that goes in a very different direction than crime film viewers would likely expect. The whiplash tonal shifts here might make this a bit of a challenge for Franco newbies unless they just want to enjoy the sex scenes (which are frequent and about as far as the market would allow), but it's quite the ride for his fans and a prime slice of genre-twisting insanity you'd never see made these days.
Timed to coincide with Severin's release of Cries of Pleasure, another Franco Spanish sex opus with the same two leads, The Night of Open Sex had been maddeningly difficult to see outside of the more obscure corners of the video gray market. The transfer here, cited as a new 4K scan of the camera negative, looks as good as its companion release with a particularly nice handling of the film grain, which is much thicker here than usual for Franco due to the extensive night scenes and sometimes dimly lit interiors. The opening number and the finale (which makes use of a locale very familiar to regular Franco viewers) are particular treats for the eyes, not to mention the usual striking Canary Islands locations. The DTS-HD MA Spanish track is 2.0 (with optional English subtitles) and has a bit of a stereo effect on it for what was originally mono; it sounds fine but if you have a particularly robust sound system, you might want to push it to your center channel instead. The film is available as a standalone Blu-ray and DVD as well as part of an Open Pleasure bundle and The Astrologer's Open Pleasure Bundle, which both come with a Lina Romay enamel pin.
The supplements here are basically a sequel to the ones on the Cries release with all three featurettes dovetailing with the others. "In The Land Of Franco Part 2" (15m27s) features Stephen Thrower, author of the essential Franco books Murderous Passions and Flowers of Perversion, covering more Portuguese locations familiar from Franco's work (especially the late '60s into the early '80s) as he points out another colorful array of familiar spots, most of which look quite familiar today. Together these tours are quite the treat for Francophiles and actually increase one's appreciation of the recurring imagery in what amounts to a hypnotic rhyming scheme across his filmography. "When Donald Met Jess and Lina Part 2" (9m35s) is the remaining portion of an endearing 1993 VHS interview by horror filmmaker Donald Farmer with Franco and Romay during the making of Jungle of Fear, chatting more about their professional and personal relationship, their challenges in the changing film market, and the affection for their current home. Finally, Thrower offers a dissection of this film and its truly warped charms in "The Night of Open Jess" (20m31s) to go into the film's ties to Franco's earlier spy titles, the shocking function of that torture scene including its subversive use of the film's protagonist, and the limits he was allowed to push at the time in his Spanish output.
Reviewed on February 25, 2020.