Friday, September 9, 2022


Looking for steady employment after the end of his working relationship in 1977 with Swiss producer Erwin C. Dietrich, Jess Franco quickly accepted an offer from Robert De Nesle’s poverty-stricken distribution / production outfit Comptoir Français du Film Production (C.F.F.P.), a move which made for a rather hasty and unsatisfactory substitute. Although Franco had already worked with De Nesle earlier in the decade, his most recent three-picture deal with the veteran producer encompassed a threadbare trio of films, which included COCKTAIL SPECIAL (1978), ELLES FONT TOUT (1978), and the film in question, JE BRÛLE DE PARTOUT (1978), which made its unexpected HD debut earlier this year thanks to France’s Pulse Video and the ever-prolific Vinegar Syndrome. 

While dancing away at a Lisbon nightclub, virginal ‘nice’ girl Jenny Goldstone (Susan Hemingway) is oblivious to the fact that she is being shadowed by a pair of ruthless, smooth-talking sex-traffickers (Brigitte Lahaie and Didier Aubriot). After a night of sex (Susan saves her virginity with a request to go “the other way”), she is eventually ensnared in their net and sold like horseflesh on the white slavers’ black market. Forced into a house of ill-repute led by the sadistic, sex-hungry Madame Flora (Martine Flety) and her bisexual assistant Robert (Mel Rodrigo), Jenny spends most of her time locked away in a squalid basement with the other so-called ‘product’. Heavily drugged with an aphrodisiac gas (conveniently pumped through a pipe in the ceiling), the women become slaves to their own desires like lost, drugged-out junkies writhing amongst each other in a sea of naked flesh, which instills a nightmarishly pornographic tone, even if the film itself remains decidedly softcore. 


Upon discovering that Jenny is the daughter of a prominent businessman and “far more valuable than they thought”, Lorna, one of the kidnappers (who comes in the alluring – and frequently nude - shape of French porno superstar Lahaie), hatches an impromptu plan to blackmail the father, intending to collect a hefty ransom for the return of his daughter. Elsewhere, Al Pereira (Jean Ferreré), a taciturn gumshoe wearing an Andy Capp hat is hot on Lorna’s trail as he tries to discover the whereabouts of Jenny. Not unexpectedly, the film’s final indignation is an appropriately effective twist ‘revelation’, which amps up the deviant criminality even further…


Attesting to this film’s quickie status, most of the film unfolds in cramped hotel rooms, cargo holds, and a dingy, minimally-furnished basement, which turns out to be a memorably downbeat locale of utter hopelessness. In keeping with the film’s title (“I burn everywhere”), actresses lounge around in constant partial or total undress while cries of ecstasy (“That’s it. That’s it. Moan. Moan.”) or agony reverberate throughout the hollow room; you can almost smell their sweat as Franco’s voyeuristic camera looms precariously from above. Proceeding from a similar rudimentary premise as Franco’s earlier DIE SKLAVINNEN (1975), JE BRÛLE DE PARTOUT’s steadily mounting themes of sexual malaise (a theme also more readily explored in Franco’s essential SHINING SEX [1975]) reaches its logical crushing crescendo by film’s end, which compensates for the film’s rather hurried approach. 


Although oddly credited to Paul Aicrag in the opening credits (which, to save money were simply spoken over the film’s introductory nightclub sequence!), this is an archetypal Franco film, which includes recurring characters (i.e., detective Al Pereira), a pencil-thin pulpy scenario, and a wonderfully seedy jazz score from Daniel J. White, one of Franco’s most trusted collaborators. And as with most similarly-themed Franco films, it doesn’t pretend to suggest any solutions to a grim and complex sociosexual problem, even if, however furtively, it offers some comeuppance to the traffickers and procurers of the world’s oldest profession.


Barely released on home video outside of France (the film also turned up on edited French-Canadian VHS in a less-than-stellar transfer), Pulse Video’s new 2K restoration of this underseen film adds considerable luster to its messy, somewhat indifferent photography. Presented in its original full-screen aspect ratio, some intermittent flickering still occurs (inherent in the film’s original negative), but everything looks remarkably good for such a cheap and scrappy film, with Franco’s unorthodox shooting style creating a uniform tone of ugliness, which perfectly captures the queasy voyeurism on display herein. Pulse Video only offers a DTS-HD Master mono soundtrack in French with optional English subtitles, which sounds perfectly audible despite the film’s post-synched dialogue and limited soundscape.


Extras are limited, but Pulse Video includes a couple of very worthwhile on-camera interviews beginning with I Burn Over Franco (13m00s), a candid discussion with Brigitte Lahaie wherein she talks about her time working on JE BRÛLE DE PARTOUT, and how Franco “didn’t leave a good impression” on her during her time on the Portugal set. More importantly, she talks about her reconciliation years later on Franco’s DARK MISSION (1987) and her great affection for this little-known picture, her time working on Franco’s big-budget FACELESS (1988) and Franco’s constant clashes with producer René Chateau. In the second interview, Murderous Passions and Flowers of Perversion author Stephen Thrower (25m15s) goes into great detail about this period in Franco’s career with a particular emphasis on the present film (he regards it as the “best”  in this late ’Seventies trilogy he did with producer De Nesle) including the director’s dislike for it (“He almost washed his hands of these films.”), it’s downbeat tone, the “dark side of desire”, and its similarity to Franco’s BLUE RITA (1977). All in all, it’s another terrific discussion worthy of your time. Rounding out the special features is the film’s unique trailer (“A film that doesn’t need publicity!”), which further emphasizes the cheapness of this entire endeavour. Nevertheless, it’s great to have one of Jess Franco’s more elusive films finally available and looking so good.


The Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray is currently sold out, but an alternate Blu-ray (which also contains DARK MISSION) is currently available from Pulse Video here. A digipack collector Blu-ray is also forthcoming from Pulse Video.

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