Jess Franco’s Polar Erotica: CRIES OF PLEASURE (1983) + NIGHT OF OPEN SEX (1983)

July 5, 2020 | By

If Jess Franco’s own self-assessed filmography of 160 titles up to 1993 is correct, there’s simply no way his entire output up to that marker, or to his death in 2013, can possible ever exist on home video, making Stephen Thrower’s quest to document as much of the late genre filmmaker’s work admirable, and insurmountable; yet in measured stages, the noted author has managed to see, assess, and catalogue a substantive amount of Franco’s work to the extent that a portrait of this feted / denigrated exploitation maverick is possible.

A man feverishly moving on to the next production during pre- or production of a current work, never happy unless he was on a movie set; a writer-producer-director-editor-cinematographer-composer-actor-narrator who tackled a variety of traditional genres and sexploitation offshoots, including porn with his longtime partner and muse, Lina Romay.

And a filmmaker whose output may well have been too much; in the second part of an archival interview from 1993, Franco admits 10 movies in one year was not such a great idea.

It is possible to tell when Franco just didn’t care or rushed through a patched together idea and committed it to film almost as though to prove he could be fast and economical. That’s often the case in Night of Open Sex / La noche de los sexos abiertos (1983), whose title suggests smut (which is present), and night activities (of which there are, in carnal, cruel, verboten, and absurd form); but also looks and feels like an opportunity to kill a week in the Canary Islands between other planned shoots.


Jess Franco’s NIGHT OF OPEN SEX (1983).


Roger Corman infamously made Little Shop of Horrors (1960) as a dare using sets slated for striking after a weekend, and for The Terror (1963), he made similar use of ephemeral sets, a loose script, and ‘interpretations’ by ‘guest’ directors  for his wonky tale of a wandering Napoleonic soldier (Jack Nicholson) and an ooky-spooky castle owner (Boris Karloff), but Franco’s style of working with a small crew, his favourite stock company of actors and technicians, a multitude of pseudonyms to fluff up the credits roster, and delivering what Thrower suggests was sometimes a completed movie in a week (or less than 3) to Franco’s producers was something else.

The audacity and productivity has to be admired, and amid a mass of weird, loosely assembled or erotica larded into incoherent nonsense, once in a while something clicked, and one could see Franco took extra time to develop and shape material, maximize his striking locations with actual 2.35:1 ‘scope cinematography, and a score that actually fits the tone of a story and its characters.

Night of Open Sex was technically preceded by Cries of Pleasure / Gemidos de placer (1983), his take on a De Sade tale, and although both feature a ridiculous quantity of nudity, cruelty, and shrill sexual performances, only the latter is a complete film; a simple story that does capture the essence of Sadean behaviour and obsession with voyeurism and libertine wallowing; the former is just plain nuts.

Both also share striking locations, similar cast members (Romay and Robert Foster, aka Antonio Mayans), ‘scope cinematography, and a particularly gorgeous guitar and vocal cue which even to fans passingly familiar with Franco’s voice will swear is Franco himself. (Thrower theorizes as much, and one hopes this meditative cue might become part of a Franco soundtrack CD compilation.)


Jess Franco’s CRIES OF PLEASURE (1983), featuring a centerpiece image that’s not in the film whatsoever. Shenanigans!


Adapted from stills and the original poster art, Severin’s sleeve art for Cries of Pleasure is indeed an accurate collage of the near-hysterics boffing within that film, and along side Night of Open Sex the two films offer a sunlit sampling of Franco during his prolific Golden Films Internacional S.A. period, plus Thrower’s “In the Land of Franco” series, which continues in Severin’s next couplet, Shining Sex (1977), and Bahia Blanca (1984), slated for mid-July-ish release.

Coming soon is Cult Epics’ lush coffee table book Women of the Sun: Bunny Yeager in Mexico, and a trio of Delmer Daves westerns starring the venerable Glenn Ford – Cowboy (1958) from Twilight Time, and from Criterion 3:10 to Yuma (1957) and Jubal (1956).

Thanks for reading,



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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