Kino’s recent work with Redemption Films has been fantastic for genre and exploitation film fans, who finally have beautiful Blu-ray releases of films by Jean Rollin, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Jess Franco. While some of these films have been released in the States in various forms over the years, some of them are making their Stateside debut on DVD. The latest discovery by Redemption is Jess Franco’s nunsploitation epic The Demons. Made in the wake of Ken Russell’s The Devils, The Demons is a very Franco-esque take on a similar concept and less of an outright remake of Russell’s controversial film.
The Demons opens with a witch being tortured by Inquisitor Jeffries (John Foster) while his cohorts Lady De Winter (Karin Field) and Thomas Renfield (Alberto Dables) look on. The witch curses everyone responsible for her execution to die by the hand of her daughters, but none of them are sure whether or not she means literal daughters or fellow witches. From this point, the action moves to a cloister of nuns where two orphan sisters live. Kathleen (Anne Libert) has been stirring up trouble, being caught sleeping in the nude and writhing in ecstasy by another nun. Her sister Margaret (Britt Nichols) is at first ashamed of her sister, but before long Margaret also embraces her sensual nature, driving the other nuns to distraction and at least one to suicide. The sisters flee the nunnery and happen to fall in with the cursed inquisitors, Margaret moving in with the De Winters masquerading as a foreign princess and Kathleen encountering the revolutionaries who want to overthrow the crown. After some lengthy detours, Margaret begins actively carrying out her mother’s mission of vengeance, while Kathleen is powerless to stop her sister.
The random literary references and historical backdrop aren’t the only Franco standards that will tip off fans. There is plenty of bare flesh on display, including (of course) plenty of nude nuns and sexualized torture. Whereas other low-budget filmmakers asked to make a knock-off of Russell’s film would have been satisfied with putting a bunch of naked nuns on the screen with some demon possession hijinks, Franco takes the opportunity to make a surprisingly ambitious picture. The main storyline following Margaret is reminiscent of his earlier film Venus in Furs with an inquisition-era backdrop, and Franco veteran Britt Nichols is excellent as Margaret, starting the film as a repressed, pious sister and ending it as a wild-eyed monster. Franco fans will be happy to see other familiar faces here, including Howard Vernon as Lord Malcolm De Winter. The film looks spectacular, especially on Blu-ray, and Franco fans will find a lot to love here.
Kino Classics/Redemption released The Demons on DVD and Blu-ray on 29 April 2014. Special features include trailers for other Franco films, deleted footage, and an interview with the director about the making of the film.