Nightmares Come at Night

  • Reviewed by: Dr Adam Jahnke
  • Review Date: Oct 02, 2013
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

Jess Franco

Release Date(s)

1970 (August 20, 2013)

Studio(s)

Prodif Ets. (Kino/Redemption)

Review

I’d like to think I’ve seen quite a few Jess Franco movies.  And I suppose I have, if we’re comparing it to the average person you might stop on the street and has no idea who Jess Franco is.  But if we’re comparing it to the number of films Franco actually directed over the course of his career, I’ve barely scratched the surface.  The man redefined the word “prolific”, cranking out movie after movie in a variety of exploitation genres, using enough pseudonyms to fill a phone book.

Franco’s movies share a number of common themes and obsessions.  For me, perhaps the single greatest common denominator is that every single one of his movies has left me wondering what the hell I just watched.  All of Franco’s movies (or at least those I’ve seen) feel like they were materialized into existence from a dream.  Naturally, that feeling of unreality is only heightened in a movie like Nightmares Come at Night.

Diana Lorys stars as Anna, a striptease artist who becomes entranced by a mysterious blonde named Cynthia (Colette Giacobine).  Anna moves into Cynthia’s secluded estate, only to begin having bloody nightmarish visions.  Cynthia calls on psychiatrist Dr. Lucas (Franco mainstay Paul Muller) to care for her but the situation only gets worse.  At the same time in the house next door, a pair of jewel thieves (Soledad Miranda and Jack Taylor) hide out and spy on the odd goings-on at Cynthia’s house.  Eventually this all comes together in an abrupt and rather unsatisfying conclusion, which is unfortunately another thing a lot of Franco’s movies have in common.

Nightmares Come at Night ultimately doesn’t add up to much but its individual moments make it a trip worth taking.  The performances are surprisingly good, particularly Lorys and Muller, and that’s not often a prerequisite for a movie that requires its two lead actresses to be nude 90% of the time.  The movie isn’t all that scary but it is eerie and erotic.  Franco establishes a mood from the very beginning and never veers off course.  I can’t say this is a great movie but it’s stayed with me in a way that technically superior movies have not.

The movie was thought to be lost for many years, so the fact that Nightmares Come at Night is available at all is something of a surprise.  Visually, this is an excellent HD transfer of a pretty ragged, beat-up source.  The disc includes an interesting look at the work that went into creating the HD master, so be sure to check that out if you’re disappointed in the video quality.  The bottom line is that this is as good as it’s ever going to look.  Both French and English audio tracks are provided.  The English dub is OK but I’d recommend sticking with the French.

The key bonus feature is a top-drawer audio commentary by Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas.  As usual, Lucas is informative and insightful, once again proving himself to be one of the best commentators in the business.  The disc also includes a good 20-minute documentary on the making of the film, a brief “homage” to the late Franco by his friends and collaborators (a feature that appears on several other Franco discs from Redemption), and trailers for five other Franco films.

If you’ve never seen a Jess Franco movie, Nightmares Come at Night may not be the ideal place to start.  It’s a bit slow and more than a little confusing at times.  But if you’ve developed a taste for Franco’s bizarre dream universe, this rarity fits in nicely and it’s a pleasure to see it on Blu-ray.

- Dr. Adam Jahnke

 

Be sure to read more of my reviews in this year's Hell Plaza Oktoberfest! by clicking on the image below...

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Adam Jahnke

In 50 years or so, the @Criterion edition of The Interview will make a nice bookend with The Great Dictator.

by Adam Jahnke