“The Sadist of Notre Dame” & “Sinfonía Erótica” make for a depraved Jess Franco double feature

By on August 16, 2019

Today, we have a depraved and decidedly NSFW Jesús “Jess” Franco double feature to share with you, beginning with The Sadist of Notre Dame (El sádico de Notre Dame, 1979), a horrific serial killer saga starring the director as an “exorcising” defrocked priest on the prowl — “in a fever of violence, voyeurism, rampant nudity and S&M depravity” — for new female victims.

We’re coupling it with Franco’s Sinfonía Erótica (1980) — described by our friends at Severin Films as “one of the most sexually daring and boldly creative films of [Franco’s] entire career” — which was based on the depraved writings of the Marquis de Sade.

Watch both films on Night Flight Plus.

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Fans of Franco’s films likely already know that, during the later part of his career, he created brand new films using footage from previously-released films, Frankenstein-ing them together by  re-cutting and re-titling them for various exploitation film markets around the world.

Franco was only able to do this after moving back to his beloved Spain — following the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco in 1975 — because they’d relaxed some of their fascist attitudes about displays of sexuality in art.

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He also was driven by a desire to improve a few of his past projects, which is why his IMDB credits page is probably considerably longer than it needs to be (maybe IMDB should have asterisk-starred explanations about what’s really going on with his later films).

This one has previously existed in various edited versions with titles like Chains and Black Leather, The Ripper of Notre Dame and Full Moon‘s Charles Band dumped it onto a softcore-edited VHS home video as Demoniac.

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Franco (as “Jess Frank”) stars in the title role, playing a sadistic Jack the Ripper-style serial killer and former defrocked priest named “Mathis Vogel,” who in newly-shot opening scenes slinks around the dirty back streets of Paris, amid the derelicts and street-pissing winos.

He ultimately ends up stalking, torturing and killing BDSM swingers in Paris (who stage mock satanic rituals in between orgies), slicing away with his knife, guided by God, in an attempt to rid this world of “sinners” in need of redemption.

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Vogel then confesses his own sins to the local priest. We learn he was ejected from seminary school for his extreme religious beliefs and a particular incident involving an attack on a nun.

The film’s screenplay was essentially Franco’s comment on the control that the Catholic Church had over the lives of its practitioners.

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The Sadist of Notre Dame was an extensive reworking of Franco’s earlier mid-’70s film, released as Exorcisme et Messes Noir (Exorcisms) and L’éventreur de Notre-Dame, with twenty-five minutes worth of all-new footage — including hardcore sex scenes — shot by the director in the late ’70s.

These scenes led to one XXX release being titled Sexorcismes, which is why we’ve marked this one NSFW (if you do watch films like this at your job, let us know who pays you to do that!).

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There’s a few subplots involving lesbians, black mass rituals and graphic torture, but the main plot is mostly the same as Exorcisms.

The Sadist of Notre Dame features an appearance by Franco’s beloved muse, the lovely Lina Romay (credited here as “Rosa Almirall”), playing a sexy secretary named “Anne.”

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Also featured, in no particular order, are Pierre Taylou (“Pierre de Franval”), Olivier Mathot (“Chief Inspector Rochet”), Antônio do Cabo (“Priest”), Roger Germanes (“Deputy Inspector Malou”), Claude Boisson (“Bartholo”), Franco’s stepdaughter Caroline Rivière, and France Nicolas (“The Countess”).

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Severin FilmsThe Sadist of Notre Dame was scanned in 4k from elements of a Spanish 35mm exhibition print discovered in the crawlspace of a Montparnasse nunnery.

Read more about Jess Franco’s Sinfonía Erótica below.

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In 1980, Jess Franco released another Frankenstein-ed film, an erotic thriller titled Sinfonía Erótica, which in some parts of the world has been released as Erotic Symphony and Bodies and Souls.

This one was loosely based on one of the episodes in the Marquis de Sade’s novel Justine, and utilized footage previously part of Franco’s 1973 film Pleasure for Three.

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Lina Romay (have we told you yet how much we love her?) is credited here as “Candice Coster.”

She plays an unstable noblewoman, the “Marquise Martine de Bressac,” who who finds herself, as Severin Films describes it, “trapped in a web of unholy hungers and decadent perversions.”

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In the opening scene, the fragile Martine is returning to her family’s villa, the palace of the “Marqués Armando de Bressac” (played by Armando Sallent, or Armando Borges).

She’s accompanied by her psychoanalyst “Doctor Louys” (Albino Graziani, memorable from Franco’s Diamonds of Kilimandjaro).

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Martine discovers that while she’s been away she’s been replaced by “Wanda” (Aida Gouveia), a new lady-in-waiting.

She tells her the Marqués is also keeping company an effeminate young man named “Flor” (Mel Rodrigo), who loves fellating bananas.

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There’s also a subplot involved a bleeding nun (“Norma,” played by Susan Hemingway) who has fled from a convent.

She’s brought to the palace to become the Marquise’s personal maid, but she’s a wackjob too, poisoning her milk each morning.

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Sinfonía Erótica — which Severin Films says was scanned in 4K from the only known 35mm exhibition print of this version of the film, and admittedly says it does “exhibit some signs of wear & tear” — was mostly lensed in Sintra, Portugal, with many scenes shot at the Seteais Palace and its surrounding gardens.

Watch The Sadist of Notre Dame and Sinfonía Erótica and other titles from Severin Films on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.