As Stephen Thrower notes in a featurette on Mondo Macabro’s new blu-ray of The Night Has A Thousand Desires, this film was part of a multi-picture deal that filmmaker Jesus Franco had with Golden Films. They didn’t have much money to offer and weren’t so good with the business of distribution — the latter aspect would hasten the end of the relationship — but they were willing to allow Franco to make whatever the hell he wanted.
The Night Has A Thousand Desires came fairly early in the glut of pictures that emerged from Franco’s deal with Golden. It’s the kind of lusty, surreal moodpiece that he loved to make when left to his own devices. The wisp of a plot revolves around Irina (Lina Romay), a woman who does a nightclub psychic act with her lover/partner Fabian (Daniel Katz). She doesn’t know that he’s in the thrall of Lorna (Carmen Carrion), a witch who uses her psychic powers on Irina to transform her a seducer and murderess of several people that she wants dead.
As was his wont, Franco dispenses with the basic requirements of the narrative as quickly as he can and pours his effort and inspiration into its atmospherics. He uses the sleepy, lusty European beachside community as a kind of oddly timeless backdrop for a series of minimalist art-house setpieces that revolve around sex and murder. Romay makes a compelling foil for Franco’s sleaze-surrealist tendencies, digging into the somnambulistic, haunted quality of her role as well as near-constant nudity and sex.
The highlight is a memorable scene where Irina seduces a one man/two woman trio, a slow burner that shows off Franco’s skills to get a lot of effect from a meager amount of elements. Using a series of carefully-composed Cinemascope frames, he makes Romay the focus of a wordless scenario that starts with casual toking, moves to sex and climaxes with murder. The space dialogue would fill is taken by lo-fi jazz that starts in a lounge-ish mode and mutates into a frenzied musique concrete that keeps the pace with Romay’s uninhibited carnal antics.
The style of the aforementioned scene is the key to the appeal of The Night Has A Thousand Desires. Franco’s artsy, no-narrative-frills approach to horror and erotica isn’t for all tastes but his approach shows a frenzied style that can work quite well if you’re willing to allow it to wash over your synapses.
Blu-Ray Notes: Mondo Macabro recently rescued this title from obscurity and delivered a beautiful blu-ray edition of it. The transfer offers a stunningly colorful and clear presentation of this title and the English mono dub does well by this functional mix.
The presentation is bolstered with a few choice extras. The first is an episode of Eurotika (24:41) that offers a brisk overview of Franco’s career with testimonials from cast and producers as well as film clips galore and soundbites from Franco himself. It does a nice job of paying tribute to the director’s style of determined “amateurism” — and Franco makes for a bold yet wryly humorous interview subject.
The second extra is a new sitdown with critic/Franco expert Stephen Thrower (33:12) that explores The Night Has A Thousand Desires in the context of Franco’s career. It goes into detail on his deal with Golden Films, Franco’s repertory players and locales from this era, where the music comes from, the film’s mind control theme and how Franco weaves different threads of his cinematic universe through the film. It’s a skillfully prepared, thoughtful piece that mixes insight and enthusiasm in an illuminating manner. The usual Mondo Macabro preview reel rounds things out.