Monday, November 4, 2013

Nightmares Come at Night (1970)

Its interesting to look at the career of the late Jess Franco in stages, from his early documentary work in the late 1950’s which eventually led to his entrance in the horror genre with gothic masterpieces such as The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962), The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962) and The Diabolical Dr. Z (1965). Then there’s of course the Harry Alan Tower’s era where Franco certainly benefited from some of the largest budgets he ever had for his films. This particular era is where many feel Franco made some of his very best films for instance 99 Women (1969), Venus In Furs (1969), Eugenie… the Story of Her Journey Into Perversion (1969) and The Bloody Judge (1970) amongst many others. As any Francophile will attest too, as the 60’s progressed Franco’s films became more and more mind-bendingly surreal and would only become even more so entering the 70’s beginning with the now legendary Vampyros Lesbos (1971) staring Soledad Miranda. Nightmares Come at Night holds an interesting place within Franco’s body of work as it was one of the first films Franco helmed during his post-Towers era. It also happened to be one of Franco’s first films to feature Soledad and its very much a transitional film, one that is a clear stylistic sign of things to come from Franco as he would enter yet anther stage in his exhaustingly prolific directorial career.

Anna (Diana Lorys), a beautiful exotic dancer living with fellow dancer and lover Cynthia is being plagued by nightmares wherein she is committing a murder. The dreams always end the same, with Anna waking up to find her hands covered in blood and Anna plagued with feelings of guilt and fear. Both Cynthia and Anna’s psychologist Dr. Lucas (Paul Muller) reassure Anna that her dreams are just that, dreams and she has nothing to worry about. Still, the nightmares continue and soon Anna’s sanity begins to slowly deteriorate as the lines between reality and fantasy become increasingly blurred.

Nightmares Comes at Night (Les cauchemars naissent la nuit, and yes that title is rather redundant) is certainly a curious entry in Franco’s extensive body of work. Obviously this wasn’t Franco’s first head-trip into subconscious delirium as this film could be seen as somewhat similar to Succubus (1967) in the way Franco transitions from sequences supposedly taking place within reality into otherworldly realms and back again until eventually trying to distinguish one from another becomes tricky. While its true that this film is nowhere near as ambiguous as Succubus in that department, at least early on as Anna’s dreams are fairly distinguishable from what’s really happening to her, there are points in the film where Franco makes it unclear especially during one long segment presented via flashback, and the more the film moves forward the more esoteric it becomes particularly in the visual department, although a good portion of the film possesses a certain hazy ambiance. There’s even a classic prolonged nightclub striptease. Another unique thing about this film is the added crime subplot Franco included (where Miranda’s character factors in) which takes the film in some pretty unpredictable directions making it seem far less “plotless” than it might have originally came across especially in terms of the evolution of certain characters. Also alongside Paul Muller keep an eye out for Jack Taylor making an appearance as a literal man of Anna’s dreams during one of the films most memorable sequences, and of course the mesmerizing score from the always reliable Bruno Nicolai.

Again, Nightmares Come at Night was one of the first films of Franco’s featuring Soledad Miranda although it wasn’t the very first as she had a small cameo in Franco’s 1960 comedy Queen of the Tabarin Club. When the film first hit DVD in 2004 the DVD cover (shown above) was a classic case of false advertising featuring Soledad on the cover as well as giving her second billing which was a stretch to say the least. While she is indeed in the film her role is really a bit part, the film is truly Lorys’ show. Redemption recently re-released the film in August along with The Awful Dr. Orlof and A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973) as part of their Franco remaster series with a more accurate cover although Soledad still received second billing. Despite her small role in the film its one that led to her more famous turns in Count Dracula (1970), Vampyros Lesbos (1971), She Killed In Ecstasy (1971), The Devil Came From Akasava (1971) and Eugenie de Sade (1974) which is why this film is of particular importance in Franco’s filmography. Whether or not Nightmares Come at Night should be considered essential Franco or minor Franco in the grand scheme of things is debatable but for those among the Franco faithful who’ve yet to see it, Nightmares Come at Night is a worthy addition to any collection.

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