*** Out of 5
Tagline- Haunted By Bloody Nocturnal Visions, Anna Fears She is Going Insane
Release Date- 1970
Running Time- 85-Minutes
Writer/Director- Jesùs Franco
Starring- Diana Lorys, Paul Muller, Colette Jack, Jack Taylor
Nightmares Come at Night was released in 1970 and for a long time was something of a lost film only having a brief theatrical release in Belgium though it isn’t entirely sure it was this film and according to records it apparently played in a couple of other countries, but again this isn’t known for sure and than it went missing for decades making it a lost film and it wasn’t until 2004 when the film was rediscovered and released on DVD by Media-Blasters and than in 2013 Redemption Films released this movie on blu-ray. When it comes to Jess Franco I can’t say I’m a huge fan as I find the bulk of his work below average with a few above average. The good portion of his films even the ones I like can be a bit shoddy, but there was a decent filmmaker in there somewhere and when you get past the flaws of this film, which there are many you can sort of see it here in Nightmares Come at Night. My favorite Jess Franco film was the Awful Dr. Orlof, which was released in 1962 and while a bit rough around the edges was highly enjoyable and in my opinion by far his best film and its too bad what followed never came close to matching Orlof. Lets get one thing straight Jess Franco was a unique filmmaker with a unique vision, which is why some hail him as a great filmmaker, but being different doesn’t make you good at what you do. Many of Franco’s films could be quite terrible though perhaps entertaining as films like Sadomania come to mind, but like I said there was a decent filmmaker in Franco, but being unique doesn’t make you great at what you do.
Anna (Lorys) a stripper meets Cynthia (Colette Giacobine under the name Colette Jack) and the two get into a relationship with Anna moving in with Cynthia who becomes abusive and controlling. Not long after Anna begins suffering from terrible nightmares where she kills a man and she fears she’s going insane.
The screenplay was written by Jess Franco and had a very interesting idea, but very poorly plotted, which makes the film a bit confusing at times (though not in a way to where you don’t know what’s going on, perhaps its just overly complicated). The script is just a bit messy in spots and it does hinder the film. We also get some random scenes that I really don’t know what it has to do with the film and if anything seemed written to get the script to a certain page count. Dialogue at times seems to aim at being poetic at least to me and it doesn’t work and these scenes are voice overs and there is a reason why voice overs in films if used are kept to a limit. There is also a subplot with spying neighbors (Andre Montchall & Soledad Miranda under the name Susan Korda). This plot seems pointless, but does tie into the film at the end. Speaking of the scenes with the neighbors, some claim the footage was from an unfinished Franco film edited into this and some say it may have been shot afterwards to pad out the running time. Franco’s idea is no doubt interesting, but the actual writing is never as interesting as the idea. Too much of the film lacked a deeper explanation and it was again just overly complicated.
As director Jess Franco crafts a very uneven film and the pacing is quite sluggish, which is an issue I have with the good portion of Jess Franco films even the ones I liked. Of all the films I’ve seen by him really the only exception in terms of sluggish pacing was the Awful Dr. Orlof. Nightmares Come at Night is no exception as the pace can really lag in spots. When Cynthia and Anna first meet the set up is several minutes, which is long enough, but it felt like 20-minutes as it seems never ending. In many ways Nightmares Come at Night reminds me a bit of A Virgin Among the Living Dead with its dream like feel and even if I gave each film the same rating this isn’t nearly as good. This also reminds me a bit of Female Vampire in regards to both films have some strong moments, but are also extremely sluggish in pacing to where it can be difficult to keep focus. Despite running at just over 85-minutes Nightmares Come at Night does feel overly long and probably would have been better served at 70-75-minutes. However there is also plenty good here as well, Franco does stage some eerie and mysterious atmosphere with a dreamlike feel. Like I said there is no doubt Franco was a unique filmmaker and I hate to keep saying it, but there was a good filmmaker somewhere inside him as films like Nightmares Come at Night have a lot of great ideas, but it Franco in general just wasn’t good enough to develop these ideas. Perhaps I’m not giving Franco enough credit and the writing, which was weak, but perhaps not everything was meant to make sense in order to create the dreamlike quality.
Visually the film is quite interesting and at times it works well and others it seems like nobody knows what they’re doing. There is a girl on girl sex scene, but the way it was shot it isn’t very erotic and add the out of focus shots, which at first I thought was a mistake, but seeing as a lot of Franco films have out of focus shots it must have been some weird creative choice. However the lesbian sex scene is still a lot of fun, but not very erotic.
My review may not sound very positive, but despite my issues in some weird way I enjoyed the film thanks in part to the stunning Diana Lorys and the dreamlike feel the film has going for it. While most of the films I liked by Franco are mostly 3-star ratings (Awful Dr. Orlof is the highest with 3.5), but I’m really slowly starting to dig his work and offbeat vision. Nightmares Come at Night can be quite sluggish and quite easy to dismiss as another subpar film, but it does have more going for it than people realize including myself until I thought about it some more.
There are plenty of notable faces here such as Diana Lorys who starred in Jess Franco’s the Awful Dr. Orlof. Jack Taylor who appeared in Franco’s Female Vampire and is probably best know to fans of cult cinema as Professor Brown in Juan Piquer Simon’s so bad its good cult classic Pieces. Paul Muller was another Franco regular and than there is Soledad Miranda who was a Franco regular appears under the name Susan Korda. The year this film was released Soledad was tragically killed in an automobile accident. However she still had a few films shot with the last being released in 1974 and was directed by Jess Franco and came 4-years after her death.
Nightmares Come at Night was released on blu-ray by Redemption Films and looks fantastic though not in the typical way. The grain structure is quite high (though some of this was intentional by Jess Franco) and there is a lot of print damage and while there seems to be more print damage than other Franco releases by Redemption it fits and really captures that Grindhouse feel. Bret Wood who works for Kino-Lorber and Redemption explains why the picture quality looks as it does and no complaints from me. There are some excellent features including an audio commentary from Tim Lucas. My advice is watch the film with the French track as the English dub is atrocious and at times has an echo like sound.