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Nightmares Come at Night(1970)
For years considered a lost Franco film (after having played at a single theater in Belgium), Nightmares Come at Night was rediscovered in 2004 and has been recognized as a key film in the evolution of Franco's cinema, which in 1970 was assuming a dreamlike logic, governed more by the director's libido than the traditional horror movie structure.
For more about Nightmares Come at Night and the Nightmares Come at Night Blu-ray release, see Nightmares Come at Night Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on August 27, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Diana Lorys, Soledad Miranda
Director: Jesús Franco
» See full cast & crew
Nightmares Come at Night Blu-ray Review
Franco, Lost and Found
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, August 27, 2013
When low-budget horror and Euro-sleaze auteur Jesus "Jess" Franco died this past April, at age 82, he left behind an enormous body of work, with over 150 features to his credit in a career that spanned from 1959 until this year, when poor health left him unable to complete his final movie, Al Pereira vs. the Alligator Women. We can certainly use the word "prolific" to describe his output, but even the most ardent Franco fans will acknowledge that many—if not the vast majority—of his films are totally forgettable. In his creatively lean years, he churned out one X-rated grindhouse cheapie after another, paying the bills but disassociating himself from any real consideration as a serious filmmaker. (Or, at least, one to be taken seriously.) Still, inside this sea of sleaze, several films worthy of lasting appreciation have bobbed to the surface, notable for their unexpectedly buoyant mixture of deliberate artiness and low-brow voyeurism. Redemption Films and their distribution partner, Kino-Lorber, have been reissuing these more-successful Franco efforts in deluxe Blu-ray editions, and their latest batch of titles includes three films—The Awful Dr. Orlof, Nightmares Come at Night, and A Virgin Among the Living Dead—that find the director at his most visually compelling.
Nightmares Come at Night—or, Les cauchemars naissent la nuit—is one of the director's more obscure features. Made in 1970 on Franco's lowest budget yet, the psychosexual thriller got only a brief run in a single Belgian theater before disappearing completely, its negative and lone 35mm answer print presumed lost for good. All but forgotten during the VHS era—when Franco's early works gained new international exposure—the film became something of a rediscovered gem in 2004, 34 years after it was made, when the print surprisingly turned up in the archives of The Cinémathèque Française and soon made its home video debut on DVD. If Nightmares Come at Night is a gem, we might also say it's an unpolished one, both in terms of Franco's often technically sloppy filmmaking and the picture quality of the speck-covered surviving print. Nonetheless, the movie has a lot to offer Franco fans. Along with his usual cinematic touchstones—copious nudity, a dreamy vibe, lesbian sexuality—the film finds the director successfully experimenting with narrative form, setting up a circuitous story that loops back upon itself and destroys our prior conceptions about the characters and their motivations in the process. It's a repetitive and sometimes languorous experience—as might be suggested through the redundant "night" of the title—but it circles to hypnotic effect, lulling us into an atmosphere of uncertainty.
The Awful Dr. Orlof's Diana Lorys stars as the raven-haired Anna, a former burlesque dancer who gives up undressing on stage when the "proud, beautiful, indifferent" Cynthia (Colette Jack)—a bisexual patron of the seedy nightclub where Anna works—invites her to come and live in her plush mansion outside of town. The two begin a sexual relationship, but Cynthia soon grows emotionally cold, while Anna is plagued with nightmares that leave her disturbed and on-edge. When the film begins, she awakens from one dream—of an encounter with a male lover (Jack Taylor) gone awry —with literal blood on her hands. As is often the case in Franco's films, the question of whether we're seeing reality or some psychotic fantasy is central to Nightmares Come at Night, which has a less-than-reliable narrator in the possibly unhinged Anna. Cynthia is concerned about these strange dreams—or is she?—and summons Dr. Paul Lucas (Paul Muller) to have Anna examined. Meanwhile, a pair of criminals—played by Andrés Monales and Franco muse Soledad Miranda, in bit roles—also keep watch on Anna from the window of an adjacent house, weirdly curious about the proceedings. Who are these people? Why is Cynthia so cruel to Anna? Where is all this going?
That last question is one we ask ourselves several times during the first forty-five minutes of the film, which are built solely on mood rather than a conventional plot. There are long scenes of Anna confessing her belief that she might be crazy to the sympathetic doctor. There's an eight-minute flashback to the night when Cynthia first laid eyes on Anna, doing a teasingly slow strip routine—complete with stockings and a feather boa—and an extended lovemaking sequence where Franco lets his camera pull in and out of focus on the bodies of his two female leads. (It bears saying that Anna is naked or very nearly naked for almost the entire duration of the movie. Look out for her outfit that's comprised entirely of draped gold chains.) The film takes an interesting turn, however, when Franco jumps backwards to Anna's opening nightmare, which, when we see what immediately precedes and follows it, casts the story in an entirely new light. This is no Hitchcock-level twist by any means—and the story is still thin, even by Franco's standards—but the sudden reveal gives immediate purpose and recontextualized clarity to a narrative that might otherwise have been too abstract. It all comes together in Franco's characteristically dream-logic-beholden way, the plot holes and pacing bumps smoothed over by the film's low-key eroticism and semi-surreal atmosphere.
Nightmares Come at Night Blu-ray, Video Quality
Included on the disc is a great little featurette that has Kino Blu-ray producer Brett Wood explaining the picture quality peculiarities inherent in Nightmares Come at Night given the film's low budget and strange lost-but-now-found history. Wood discusses how the 35mm print used here —the same one that was discovered in 2004 and used for Media Blasters' DVD—was actually a quick answer print not intended for distribution, which explains why there are some haphazard hairs and bits of debris that were permanently burned into the image during its creation. (An answer print is used by the filmmakers to do a final check on the coloring, look, and feel of the finished project before proper copies are made for theatrical exhibition.) Along with these burned-in marks, the picture also displays the usual assortment of age-related markings, from small fleeting white specks to long vertical scratches that run for several seconds at a time. Wood was able to attenuate some of this damage—he shows us a before and after sample—but the cleanup was by no means comprehensive. On the plus side, the lack of a significant digital overhaul means the 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is also largely free from digital artifacts, over-filtering, or other effects of careless meddling. The print may be scuffed up, but it looks entirely natural and filmic, with a visible layer of grain. (Grain spikes almost ridiculously during the flashback scenes, but this, according to Wood, was all part of Franco's intent.) Clarity is drastically improved from the DVD, and it's also clear that the print has been balanced out by an attentive colorist.
Nightmares Come at Night Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Kino gives us two audio options on the disc, the original French track and a more contemporary-sounding English dub, both presented in uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0 mono. The English dub feels a little off to me—it's not nearly as good as the ones for A Virgin Among the Living Dead or The Awful Dr. Orlof—so I'd recommend staying with the French mix. Like the picture, the track has its share of age-related damage—a low-level hiss at times, some pops and crackles—but given the film's age, budget, and background, this isn't unexpected. All thing considered, the the mix is still very listenable, with clear-enough dialogue, good projection, and a high end that doesn't sound overly brittle or harsh. The highlight is Bruno Nicolai's eclectic score, which goes from discordant horror cues to funk-jazz freakouts and back again. The disc includes optional English subtitles.
Nightmares Come at Night Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Nightmares Come at Night Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It's no forgotten masterpiece, but Nightmares Come at Night—which was presumed lost for three and a half decades—is well worth seeing for Jess Franco fans, who will find it evidential of many of the director's better qualities, like his ability to to conjure up dreamy, uneasy moods that leave us questioning his stories and characters. Kino/Redemption's Blu-ray release improves greatly on older standard definition versions, and the included audio track featuring Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas is essential listening for those seeking a more thorough understanding of the film and it's wider space inside Franco's career. It goes without saying that these Franco releases aren't for everyone—and even some diehard Euro-horror hounds may find them dull—but those who enjoy the director's erotic amalgam of arthouse and grindhouse will want to invest in this latest batch of titles. You know who you are.
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Nightmares Come at Night Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Redemption to Release Jess Franco's The Awful Dr. Orlof (Updated) - May 17, 2013
Redemption Films will bring to Blu-ray director Jess Franco's Gritos en la noche a.k.a The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962), starring Conrado San Martín, Diana Lorys, and Howard Vernon. The preliminary release date set by the studio is August 20th.
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