With the recent and tragic passing of Jess Franco’s muse, the lovely Lina Romay, it seems only appropriate to look back on her body of work and as that happens, we’re inevitably drawn to some titles more so than others. Available for ages only as a poor quality bootleg, 1974’s Lorna The Exorcist stands out as one of Romay’s finest performances, as brave, as bold and as daring as anything she made before or after and, save for maybe Female Vampire, likely her most notorious. Seeing the film in good quality turns out to be imperative to appreciating it and this is where Mondo Macabro’s DVD comes into play. Restored from three different sources, the film was saddled with a title intent on cashing in on the box office success of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist but outside of that key word, the films have little in common.
Presented on DVD without the hardcore inserts, the film still packs a serious sexual wallop and the bulk of the credit for that goes not to Franco but to Romay who, in her role as Linda, smolders on the screen. As she travels with her parents, Marianne (Jacqueline Laurent) and Patrick (Guy Delorme), on vacation for her eighteenth birthday she becomes plagued by strange dreams of lesbianism with a mysterious blonde woman named Lorna (Pamela Stanford). As the story unfolds we learn that Patrick had a sexual encounter with Lorna eighteen years ago and that she offered him a night of pleasure and a lifetime of success in exchange for the daughter she knew his wife would provide him. Now that Linda has come of age, Lorna has come to collect on Patrick’s debt.
While this film isn’t a high mark in terms of narrative structure or storytelling, the plot does allow for Franco to play voyeur on our behalf and to document the one way ticket to Hell that Lina’s character is handed by her father. While the movie is, on a surface level, not a whole lot more than yet another retelling of Faust, it gives Romay ample room to get into character and really show off her skill in what had to be quite a challenging role. As she did in other pictures like the aforementioned Female Vampire and Doriana Grey, here Romay finishes the film for Franco, using those incredibly expressive eyes of hers and some intense facial expressions and body language to say more to us than scripted dialogue ever could. There’s no need for special effects here, this is just solid filmmaking on the part of the cast, crew and director – something Franco’s many detractors will no doubt deny, as they are apt to do – the kind you just do not get in Hollywood.
There are technical flaws to be sure, no Franco film would be complete (or as interesting as they tend to be) without them, but as a showcase for the talents of the movie’s director and leading lady Lorna The Exorcist is a pretty indispensable entry in their collective catalogue. Truly transgressive and equally searing, the film is set to a score as disturbing as it is evocative and which only serves to darken an already bleak psychosexual journey into the shadows of the id. An explicit morality tale if ever there was one, Lorna The Exorcist isn’t ever going to gain mainstream acceptance, nor should it, but for those daring enough to explore the bizarre places that Franco has strived over the years to take us, it is essential.
Ian lives in New York City with his remarkably tolerant wife where he runs Rock! Shock! Pop! and writes for DVD Talk. In the past he has contributed extensively to AV Maniacs and X-Critic and written liner notes for Mondo Macabro, Synapse Films and Media Blasters. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.