Exorcism/Demoniac

  • Reviewed by: Dr Adam Jahnke
  • Review Date: Oct 29, 2012
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

Jess Franco

Release Date(s)

1975 (October 16, 2012)

Studio(s)

Redemption Films/Kino

Review

Jess Franco is a pretty unusual character, even among other European exploitation filmmakers. The man’s directed almost 200 films under a dizzying array of pseudonyms. Many of these movies exist in multiple edits and go by as many different titles as Franco has names. I’ve seen quite a few of Franco’s movies and I don’t think I’ve ever walked away from one thinking, “Wow, what a really good movie that was.” But I keep watching them anyway, always hoping for some of Franco’s signature weirdness to pop up. I never know what I’m going to get with a Jess Franco movie and that’s a rare commodity.

Despite its title, there’s nothing remotely supernatural about Exorcism. Franco himself plays a defrocked priest named Vogel in Paris, writing articles for a men’s magazine called Venus. Besides the magazine, his publisher runs a Grand Guignol-style sex show that performs fake black masses for decadent rich folks. Vogel sees one of these and becomes convinced that the rituals are real. He starts a one-man crusade to save the souls of these poor (mostly female and mostly naked) sinners, exorcising their demons with a knife.

Exorcism falls squarely in that peculiarly 70s brand of sexploitation that gets right up to the edge of becoming a hardcore porno. There’s a little bit of male frontal nudity and more bush than a Japanese garden but no actual sex acts. Most of the sex is just grinding and groping. There also isn’t a whole lot of blood, apart from one notably graphic disemboweling. By Franco standards, the movie is relatively tame but does offer a few unintentional laughs, especially when the police turn up. I think there’s actually the germ of a good idea in a story about a disgraced priest performing his own unsanctioned exorcisms but this never comes close to finding it.

The new Blu-ray from Kino’s Redemption Films branch includes the complete alternate version of the movie entitled Demoniac. This is the straight horror version and it runs about 28 minutes shorter. Demoniac deletes all of the most sexually explicit material from Exorcism and substitutes alternate clothed footage of scenes featuring full-frontal nudity. Curiously, it also deletes much of the blood and gore, which seems odd for a horror-oriented edit. It’s an interesting companion piece but you’ll probably end up watching it on fast forward.

Image quality on the disc is a bit dicey. This is a fine HD transfer of a pretty ragged print. These elements have seen much better days, so there isn’t a lot of reason for this to even exist on Blu-ray. Still, Kino did the best they could with what they had. The mono audio track is OK and doesn’t have too much distortion. Apart from the alternate edit, the only extras are trailers for other Redemption titles. Synapse released Exorcism on DVD back in 2001 with a commentary by Franco but that track is not included here.

Jess Franco’s movies are an extremely acquired taste and I’m not even entirely certain that I’ve acquired it yet. But there’s something about movies like Exorcism that keep me coming back, even though I should know better. This is not a must-own Blu-ray but it’s certainly an odd curiosity piece.

- Dr. Adam Jahnke

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