Monday, August 17, 2015

Les gloutonnes (1973)

With the French productions The Lustful Amazons (1973) and Les gloutonnes, Jess Franco wrote and directed two brazenly erotic takes on Italy’s own Hercules counterpart Maciste, a recurring cinematic hero from the peplum genre with respectable origins dating back to the silent film era, starting with Cabiria (1914). A different character altogether, Franco’s Maciste, played by Wal Davis, is more of a medieval playboy, adventuring to new lands full of sex hungry Amazons, randy mythical queens, and horny Atlanteans, saving the day, satisfying entire tribes, and living to tell about it.
The Lustful Amazons contains some of the most entertaining comedic sex scenes, with top tier Franco babes Alice Arno, Kali Hansa, and Lina Romay, that are quite arousing to watch, and they manage to keep an otherwise underwhelming film lively enough to sit through with a minimal level of enjoyment. On the other hand, the longer sex interludes in Les gloutonnes manage to drag down what is actually an intriguing erotic fantasy/adventure film. The settings for some of the more detached porn scenes, seemingly edited into the film, are dark and surreal (done with Franco’s tendency for up-close body worship) but couldn’t be more unnecessarily drawn out, even in a Jess Franco film, where I’m usually conditioned for such lengthy interludes.

Les gloutonnes and The Lustful Amazons share a lot of the same cast and were both shot back to back. The production values for both films are on the same level, for the most part, but the low budget costumes and natural locales seem to serve Les gloutonnes better, with the exotic, rocky, almost isolated, Madeiran coastline making for a convincing and even surreal mythical realm. Something about the background ocean immensely complements the Atlantis theme.

The good and evil dichotomy that is the base of the film’s central conflict is embodied by the benevolent Atlantean queen, Arminda (Alice Arno), and her people against the wicked sorceress, Parqua (Kali Hansa) and her accomplice, Caronte, (Robert Woods). Maciste is a sort of chosen champion, commissioned by the magician Cagliostro (Howard Vernon), to aid the refugees in their time of need. Maciste is guided to their land through a mystic water passage by a young nymphet, Bianca (Lina Romay). Needless to say, Maciste’s heroic prowess doesn’t show until much later, as he spends a lot of his time copulating with the queen and her sexy subjects.

With her sinister beauty, gothic fantasy look, and long sinewy figure, Kali Hansa’s evil, dark sorceress, Parqua, has become emblazoned in my memory. She’s like something out of a Frank Frazetta painting.

This one in particular:

She’s initially in some kind of powerless state, a mystical blind lady living alone in a clearing deep in the woods, who’s, in a way, pure evil in the guise of a beautiful woman. When a traveler, Caronte (Woods) comes along and discovers her, he is quite besotted with her and willing to guide her on a journey to some sort of magic spring, which will restore her eyesight and assumedly her power. Caronte, seduced and corrupted by Parqua, aids her in an attempt at conquering the Atlantean refugees and their realm. To achieve this aim, they will need to capture the queen and sacrifice her in a ritual that will summon Parqua’s army of creepy sheet-men, the exact same ones used in Franco’s The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, who despite being a near humorous representation of otherworldly hooded beings, actually manage to be quite haunting.

Oddly, comic relief comes in the form of the magician Cagliostro (Vernon) and his buffoon servant, Bigotini (Richard Bigotini). Cagliostro calls on Maciste to send him on his adventurous quest to save the lost race of oversexed Atlanteans. He lives in a castle, but the inside of Cagliostros’ abode, for some reason, reminds me of a hobbit hole. There’s a comedic talking jug that’s not all that funny, but what is really curious is Cagliostro’s magic ball that lets him view what is happening in the realm of the Atlanteans, and like most people, Cagliostro uses it to watch porn, seriously. What makes his magic ball better than the typical porn streaming device is that it can summon up an Atlantean woman, Bianca (Romay) in this case, who’ll willingly go to bed with the user. When Cagliostro’s servant sees this, he abuses the magic ball to summon a girl for himself but mistakenly bites off more than he can chew by accidently conjuring up two women (Franco’s stepdaughter Caroline Riviere and Pamela Stanford), who take an apprehensive Bigotini to bed and basically tickle him to sleep. It’s a fun scene, and I like the way Riviere and Stanford each take a turn to wink at the camera after removing their garments.

There are certain dramatic tones in the story. The Atlantean Purpure (Chantal Broquet) betrays her people to Parqua for her love. Purpure’s plan is to use her womanly lasciviousness to lure Maciste to the woods and sexually de-energize him (which you can’t do because he’s freakin’ Maciste) so Parqua can begin her domination. What actually diverts Maciste’s attention instead is the more personal and mental connection he begins to develop with another girl, Marie (Montserrat Prous), curiously another blind character, who is practically the only celibate character in the entire story. The chemistry between Davis and Prous develops a little as Maciste helps Marie to regain her sight in the magic spring. As this distraction has nonetheless driven Maciste’s away from the city of the Atlanteans, Parqua and Caronte are able to kidnap the queen and begin the film’s climactic sacrificial ritual. Will Maciste arrive in time to save the queen? And will viewers care enough amidst all of the intercourse on display?

It’s rather obvious that Les gloutonnes, as it’s known, is missing a number of scenes, as it does feel like there are gaps in the story (at one point Purpure talks about her sister Alba whom I don’t believe we ever get to meet) that were likely replaced with the aforementioned dark, up-close sex scene padding. Its original shooting title was The Erotic Exploits of Maciste in Atlantis,* which would likely have been more focused and complete.

It’s reasonable to believe that The Erotic Exploits of Maciste in Atlantis was modified to become Les Gloutonnes with the additional sex scenes and modern day shots of Alice Arno reading a book in bed, writhing around, and fantasizing about the story that makes up the main narrative of the film (a la The Hot Nights of Linda (1975)) being added at a different time. I like to think of the sporadic sex tangents as being a part of the narrator’s (Arno’s) sex fantasies that tend to diverge from the story. Because she’s so titillated, it’s like the adventure story in her mind keeps loosing focus to more carnal passions. 

A massive thanks goes out to rulesofachia (Terence) and Aloysius 70 for putting together the English subtitles for this curious Franco fantasy/adventure film. It’s still in need of restoration, preferably in the form of The Erotic Exploits of Maciste in Atlantis, yet at this point we can only hope, because as it stands today, its existence is unconfirmed. 

© At the Mansion of Madness
*Thrower, S., (2015). Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco. Strange Attractor Press.


  1. A lot of people consider this to be one of the worst but I really adore it despite its current state. The Atlantis setting is enchanting, I'm surprised this film wasn't the main Maciste feature. According to 'Obsession: The Films of Jess Franco', peplum actor Mark Forrest was supposed to star in this but they couldn't reach him.

    Kali Hansa is so badass as the evil spirit Parqua. I especially love the Black Mass scenes where her veils trail in the wind (one French magazine praised these moments in an otherwise mixed-review). I believe Lina Romay's scenes in Rites of Frankenstein were shot at the same time. In addition to the phantoms, I also noticed the white chapel. Regarding 'Alba', I think that was supposed to be Lina Romay in the main story. The name 'Bianca' mainly pops up in the Cagliostro scenes (which were apparently comedic inserts shot later but I'm not too sure). The Alice Arno sex scenes also appear in Les Croqueuses, XXX edit of Countess Perverse. They're awfully... flaccid but the music is nice.

    Overall, I had a lot of fun making the subtitles for this. Definitely not a film I'd recommend to sane people but still good fun. ;) Lilliom Audiovisuel picked up rights to the original film a couple years ago. Really hoping they restore it.

    1. Yes, it seems to have the general label of “for the initiated only” which I can’t help but agree with. When I first watched it, I kept falling in love and out of love with it, as the film would just seem to forget itself on and off, but the overall feeling is one of love. I honestly wouldn’t have minded a third Maciste from Jess ;)!

      Everything about Parqua is just ‘on.’ It’s majestic and makes her seem more foreboding, but her trailing veils also makes it seem like she constantly has energy flowing through her. It has to be Kali Hansa at her most visually powerful, aside from her grandiose dance scenes in some of Jess’s other films with her.

      I suspected Alba might’ve been Lina. Perhaps it could be thought of as a dual role, since Bianca in Cagliostro’s realm seemed to have a different personality? That eyeshadow makes her seem a little different, but she is still wearing that headband.

      It’s hard to imagine anything with Alice Arno being flaccid, but those particular scenes somehow manage to be.

      I hadn’t heard of Liliom Audiovisual, but I hope they restore it too.

  2. You had me sold by the time I got to the mention of Parqua. But I will pretty much give anything by Franco a shot. Hopefully the above mentioned restoration happens.

    1. I used to be attached to certain eras, but nowadays I'm up for anything by Franco as well. And anything with Kali Hansa should be an easy sell, and fortunately in this case (and almost every other case) she delivers a good product.