Succubus (1968) is not entertainment; it is purely of historical interest. Many things you might associate with the late 1960s are here; LSD, spontaneous promiscuity; and far-out film making. Indeed this film might have the longest dream sequences you may ever see, and as for a story? There is one yes but it is secondary to the word association, lascivious female body-waggling, and Buffon haircuts. And of course the dancing midget; it would be nothing without the dancing midget.
Lascivious 1960s Craziness in Succubus produced by Adrian Hoven
This is the work of Jess (or Jesus) Franco – and as a viewer you would be forgiven for not knowing that the film concerns some of his major pre-occupations of the period, including film makers Lang, Bunuel and Godard, all of whom are mentioned, and some pretty groovy S&M scenes, which were complete taboo in 68, I don’t know if they are now. And say what you like, Jess Franco, still going in 2011 has directed 192 features, which even by Fassbinder’s standards is pretty good going; although their quality is dubious, to anybody other than his fans. But Franco is not to be trifled with and it was impossible for him to make as many films as he did without even by accident, producing some beautiful, high art.
Adrian Hoven, who appears as the Svengali like Ralf Drawes in Succubus, is a psychiatrist at an LSD party. Hoven was not just appearing as actor here, but of course as the producer of this film, which was shot in German and filmed in Lisbon and Berlin. Perhaps – and this is a common Franco scenario – when reality and illusion become confused in the mind of Lorna, the lead, we have the producer to blame; he is indeed the one handing out the drugs, and his close up addresses to the camera are unique in the confusing audio and visual landscape of the film.
Adrian Hoven in Succubus (1968)
The thing is, that with Franco, anything goes. So don’t worry about narrative lapses, and the fact that everything is weird and cultish – both of these things never really go out of fashion, meaning that Jess Franco films are always still popping up on people’s fave sex/horror flick lists. Curiously, later in the film, in the Berlin sequences, a man says that all movies have to be old-fashioned because it takes weeks before the audience sees what got filmed. But the girl that he’s talking to replies that "Bunuel, Fritz Lang and Godard yesterday made movies for tomorrow".
Deep! And Adrian Hoven certainly seems to be enjoying it; whether it is art or sleaze, nobody knows, but he is both. It’s not horror, and it’s all but plot-less. It’s sort of sexy and it’s very messy and it confounds rather than surprises.The opening torture scenes (pictured below) are among the most traditional in the film, especially in terms of their key surprise, and yet, more than most Franco films of the time, Succubus seems to be making an attempt to wangle its way intot he minds of certain characters, particularly the one played by Janine Reynaud.
And just because most every movie has a plot, and has defined characters, doesn’t mean this one should. It also goes without saying that it doesn’t matter if characters are awake or dreaming, or if we as viewers can tell; killers or victims, who knows? Kinky and hip – yes. Ancient history — also.
Janine Reynaud in Succubus
You may never know when you are going to be in the mood for Succubus — but good luck to you on the evening that you are.The pundits say that Succubus is a transitional film for Franco because after this his work came to feature eroticism until in the 1980s it is indistinguishable from pornography at times. It pays to read about Succubus beforehand just so that you know what’s going on, once again the fact of this movie is that it isn’t entirely entertaining, but exists for historical analysis and the sort of games some aesthetes like to play with its many references to paintings, literature, cinema and music. The two S&M scenes are pretty striking and would have been complete taboo at the time of release, and the sensual dream sequences — in soft focus of course — are presented with complete conviction. Watch out for a brief appearance by Howard Vernon also.