Les possédées du diable AKA Lorna, the Exorcist (1974)

Lorna the Exorcist was shot in the early 1970s, during one of director Jess Franco’s busiest periods. Over the course of four years, he made a whole series of films for producer Robert de Nesle, working more or less non stop in Spain, Portugal and the South of France. Despite his intense work load, this film, as with Sinner (also available from Mondo Macbro [sic]), is one of his very best. The acting is of a uniformly high calibre and the scenario draws on the intense claustrophobia and nightmarish excess that are a feature of all Franco’s most interesting films.

There was something “in the air” in European popular culture at the time. The new explicitness (just on the very cusp of hardcore) was allowing directors greater freedom than ever before. The waves of late 60’s psychedelia were only just ebbing away and their traces were everywhere. In horror movies there was a certain dark negativity. The Exorcist had been a global smash hit and, deprived of its Catholic justification (which would have been banal for most Europeans), its legacy of possession, scary voices and demonic children was very much the model for a new wave of Euro exploitation. There was no more hiding in the shadows.

Now, if you had something scary or bizarre happening in the story, you had to show it on screen. And Franco had plenty to show.

For Lorna, Franco drew once more on his reading of adult comics — the “fumetti neri” that came out of Italy, in particular. Some of the more startling images in Lorna — the infamous “power transfer by dildo” for exmaple — could have come straight out of the pages of Zora la Vampira or Oltretomba. The setting too, contributes immensely to the stories [sic] effectiveness. Franco has a deep interest in architecture and environments. He knows how a special place can create mood and atmosphere and provide production value to his threadbare budgets. In La Comtesse Perverse, he used to great effect the resort of Xanadu, designed by Ricardo Bofill. In Lorna, it was the strange new city of la Grande Motte, built on reclaimed marshland in Camargue by architect Jean Balladur. Franco treats this urban space, as Godard did with Paris in Alphaville, like a creation of science fiction. The city in Lorna becomes almost a character in the film. And in some ways Franco manages to turn this inchoate city of white pyramids into one of the most claustrophobic spaces of his entire filmopgraphy.