Made during his busiest and most prolific years as an underground filmmaker of Euro-sleaze (from 1972 to 1977), Jesús Franco wrote, directed, and produced some of his most transgressive, eccentric, and highly unconventional movies of his career. Loaded with hundreds of ideas that he jumped on immediately whenever given the green-light, his blend of gothic horror and eroticism led to one richly surreal production after another. Granted, they were crudely-constructed and poorly executed with hilariously pretentious, labored dialogue and the wooden acting to match, but Franco clearly made each with a love and passion to entertain.
One of his weirdest and most unusual was 'The Hot Nights of Linda' (a.k.a., 'Les nuits brûlantes de Linda'; a.k.a., 'Who raped Linda?'), a strange concoction of gothic romanticism in the vein of Hammer Films, police procedural, comedy, and a murder mystery. Working under one of his many aliases, J.P. Johnson, it's never very clear what the heck is going on and why exactly all the characters are a bunch of perverted nymphos. Then again, in a softcore movie — there also exists a hardcore version — such as this, I suppose audiences would not likely expect much explanation or demand a reason for a voluptuous woman baring it all. And there sure is an abundance of that.
Anyhow, the movie instantly jumps into the middle of a conversation where a woman (Alice Arno) is hired as a caretaker for a wealthy man (Paul Muller) living on a remote island off the coast of Greece. The next day, she arrives at a castle-like mansion with stone walls, poorly-lit hallways and many large open rooms. Basically, Franco doesn't waste any time putting viewers into an eerie, dreamlike atmosphere with a strange, creepy man harboring a guilty conscience and where a mute, grumbling servant (Pierre Taylou) haunts the halls. While the woman wanders the rest of the property, an inspector (Angelo Bassi) and his assistant suddenly show up trying to solve a murder and injecting some comic relief. It's pretty silly stuff that not only frustrates the narrative into further nonsense but also goes nowhere or ever resolved, pretty much completely forgotten about halfway into the movie.
Franco's muse and collaborative favorite Lina Romay stars as a curious nymphomaniac virgin, which is a very odd thing, but doesn't play the eponymous Linda, as one would expect. That duty is given to Verónica Llimera, who spends much of her screen time pretending to be crippled, sunbathing and lying in bed naked. This is where the movie's confusing premise sets in because the title hints at one single scene in the entire 80-minute runtime and never referred to as a focal point of the plot — whatever that may be. As for that nympho thing, how exactly does Romay's Olivia know this of herself when her experiences are not limited with herself. Sure, she's a bit of a kook and weirdo, but she comes off more curious than someone with abnormal sexual desires.
Nevertheless, 'The Hot Nights of Linda,' in general, is one large pile of kookiness, weirdness and abnormal behavior — eroticism without the erotic run amok. The plot is both incredibly simplistic and one-dimensional but also confusing and mostly nonsensical. Yet, it tries to pay off with a surprise "gotcha" ending that's not very surprising. Still, Franco delivers his usual flair and penchant for turning smut into a poetic — however, crude and amateurish — dreamlike fantasy, an adventure of sorts through deep-seated sexual pleasures begging to be explored.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Severin Films brings 'The Hot Nights of Linda' to Blu-ray as a three-disc combo pack: one a Region Free, BD25 disc; the second a DVD-9 copy; and the third a DVD-5 copy of the more explicit alternate cut. All three are housed inside a blue eco-elite case. At startup, viewers are taken to a standard menu selection with full-motion clips and music.
The not-so hot nights expose it all on Blu-ray with a decent but far from excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. According to information on the back of the box, this transfer is made from a 35mm print discovered in Barcelona bordello, and from the looks of it, the source appears to be in surprisingly good condition for its age. However, the 2.35:1 image is presented "as-is," warts and all, meaning the transfer is littered with specks of dirt, vertical lines and various scratches. The video also comes with that faded, yellow tint that commonly plagues celluloid after so many years, which limits contrast and brightness levels. Still, whites are cleanly rendered and blacks are accurate, but a majority of the palette is dull and less than satisfying. Details and clarity are as expected from a low-budget production of this caliber, yet a few moments are pretty well-defined. Overall, the movie isn't half bad in HD, all things considered.
The DTS-HD Master Audio mono soundtrack is on a similar boat as the video — largely limited by the quality and condition of its source. Yet, the lossless mix is surprisingly pleasing, displaying an attractively wide and engaging soundstage. The mid-range is noticeably limited and restricted, but it remains clean and detailed throughout. It's in the score and the harpsichord music where dynamics and acoustics shine best, maintaining distinct clarity between each note and string. The ADR work done on the film is unintentionally hilarious, but it's precise and well-prioritized while other atmospherics are delivered with good definition. In the end, the high-rez track is nothing special yet gets the job done.
Made during his busiest and most prolific years, Jesús Franco's 'The Hot Nights of Linda' is a bizarre, dreamlike tale of mystery, comedy and eroticism. In Franco's canon, this is not one of his strongest features, but then again, we are talking about Franco, making this also typical Euro-sleaze with a one-track, albeit nonsensical mind. The Blu-ray from Severin Films arrives with the best possible audio and video presentation one could hope from such a micro-budgeted production. With a decent set of supplements and one additional DVD surprise, the overall package is definitely one for the fans and collectors of exploitation cinema.