TOP> Von Klaus (Albino Graziani), the Nazi agent.
BOTTOM> Moira (Lina Romay) and PI Al Crosby begin a search for gold bars hidden in the Las Palmas desert.
Antonio Mayans and Lina Romay in Ricardo Bofill’s La Muralla Roja in Calpe (Alicante). This unique structure also appears in Franco’s LA COMTESSE PERVERSE, EUGENIE, HISTORIA DE UNA PERVERSION, among other titles. Its style fits right into the director’s unique aesthestics.
LA NOCHE DE LOS SEXOS ABIERTOS can be literally translated into English as THE NIGHT OF THE OPEN SEX, implying a specific display. But given that this is a Jess Franco film, the title may have a double meaning. The secondary one being a sarcastic put down of the entire explicit genre, particularly the hardcore genre, which this film never drifts into, despite a harrowing scene of genital torture visited upon a female agent by two other agents. The search is on for Nazi gold hidden in a remote villa. A search for Nazi gold set in the Canary Islands also formed the plot of a very different early 1980s Franco film, LA TUMBA DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTES (1981), aka OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES.
ABOVE: Nazi zombie attack in LA TUMBA DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTES. Interesting factoid: Canary Island native Albino Graziani plays Von Klaus, a contact who holds the key to whereabouts of Nazi treasure in both LA TUMBA… and LA NOCHE.. Graziani plays villain roles in such other Canary Islands shot Franco films as OPALO DE FUEGO (1978), MANSION OF THE LIVING DEAD (1982) and MIL SEXOS TIENE LA NOCHE (1982).
Some of the Las Palmas desert locations recall Franco’s LAS TUMBAS DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTES (1981). Only that was a typical Nazi zombie horror film. Franco would often return to shoot entire films in the Canary Island during the early 1980s (MANSION OF THE LIVING DEAD, MACUMBA SEXUAL), often using the stark desert-scapes and wind whipped palms to create an eerie atmosphere. LA NOCHE… is composed in a quite different key though. It’s slyly humorous, fast moving (for a Jess Franco film) and full of typical Franco in-jokes, such as the director appearing as the abused Count Dejardins, whom Crosby keeps bound and gagged behind a couch in his apartment. It’s also likely that the production received a tax break by filming in the Canary Islands, which was a picturesque, low-cost destination popular with European tourists.
The fact is that LA NOCHE … manages to satisfy the requirements of CLASIFICADA S/work for the raincoat crowd, as well as acting as a self-satirical, stylistically experimental genre piece. The core genre being what the director called his “Black Cinema” = Film Noir. Planning it as a film filled with as much simulated sex as possible gave him an immediate market in Spain at the time, the Clasificada S circuit.
I first became familiar with LA NOCHE … via the above KING HOME VIDEO Spanish VHS. It wasn’t subtitled but there isn’t much dialogue and I could easily follow what I thought was the plot, but what one thinks the plot is in a Jess Franco film is often just a ruse for something else. Jess Franco never showed much interest in linear plotting or airtight narrative structures.
LA NOCHE…. is a particularly fluid exercise in multi-genre cinema from a maestro of Euro-bis. Style is everything in this film, the plot resembles a sexy comic book about spies, strippers, PIs and Nazi gold. Of course comic strips and cartoons are the main inspiration in such key Franco titles as LOS BLUES CALLE POP… LUCKY, THE INSCRUTABLE, KILLER BARBYS VS. DRACULA, THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN, DR. WONG’S VIRTUAL HELL, THE GIRL FROM RIO and many more.
It opens with an exercise in parallel montage as the nighttime drive of Al Crosby up the coastal road is intercut with Moira’s striptease as she also drives a prop car in the nightclub. This bravura opening credits sequence is scored with a bossa nova beat by Pablo Villa, Jess Franco and Daniel White, a Portuguese language chorus singing over her act at the club. Also heard is the laid back rhythm of singer “Carloto Perla”, who may or may not be a beard for the Tenor voice of Jess Franco. Perla is also heard moaning in voodoo-style rhythms in LA ESCLAVA BLANCA, MACUMBA SEXUAL, the Spanish language track of LA TUMBA DE LOS MUERTOS VIVIENTES and DEVIL HUNTER.
The approaching headlights of the cars on the highway and the phosphorescent colored lights in the club bathe the sequence in a delirious, candy colored glow. The film has unique aesthetic, a hallucinatory visual style and an unpredictable sense of humor. One extended strip club performance features Moira writhing around on the club floor, licking porno shots from a slick magazine, accompanied by a singer blasting the lyrics “taste, taste, taste, taste, taste of your sperm”! The wildly enthusiastic strip club audience shouts “Mas, mas, mas” as she strips. She’s good at her job but she’s also a double agent who helps Al figure out the linguistic code which will lead them to the gold. This element seems to refer to Poe’s THE GOLD BUG, which the director filmed several times, including the abortive JUNGLE OF FEAR.
Musical and linguistic codes play a significant role in the Franco filmography. Secret codes, in-jokes, arcane references and deeply buried subtexts are embedded throughout his 6 decade filmography. Moira has to play a Liszt piece on the electric piano to trigger the mechanism which will open the wall enclosure, hidden behind an abstract painting, containing the gold. The codes may be classical or modernist, depending on the director’s mood of the day. In this case, the idea of a musical code which unlocks a secret chamber goes all the way back to the formula found in the windmill in the 1967 Franco Eurospy, KISS ME MONSTER.
LA NOCHE teases the eye, the mind, if not the libido, with its insistence on both its allusive density while celebrating its own triviality as a low budget, Clasificada S spy/noir film. It closes as Al and Moira copulate while stimulating themselves by staring at their new found cache of gold bars. Franco does one final telezoom into Moira’s private parts as the ultimate image, over which the final credits are printed. The “money shot” and final payoff in the Black Cinema of Jess Franco.
PART 2 will feature Nzoog’s account of experiencing this film on the big screen at a Spanish cinema in the mid 1980s.
(C) Robert Monell, 2016