The Sadist of Notre Dame Blu Ray Review (Severin Films)
The Sadist of Notre Dame (aKa El sádico de Notre-Dame, Chains and Black Leather, The Ripper of Notre Dame & Demoniac) is a 1979 (kinda) horror film directed by Jesús Franco (Count Dracula, Vampyros Lesbos, She Killed in Ecstasy, Sinfonia Erotica, & Bloody Moon). Franco decided to put the camera on himself in this. He had smaller roles & cameos but he rarely put himself in a major role like this in one of his own films. The Sadist of Notre Dame is a very controversial project especially for fans of 1974’s Exorcism which also had a sexed up XXX version titled Sexorcism a year later. It was also released in a shorter more horror focused version known as Demoniac (This film was also titled this to add to the mass confusion). Franco always liked to keep busy when it came to directing & making movies plus it was easy money. Sometimes, he took a previous production from himself & changed it up for a completely different film. Franco would re-edit them & add new footage to give it a fresh life compared to the other version.
It’s been done by various film makers in the history of the cinema but Franco was very fond of doing this his entire career. That’s how he was able to direct multiple films each year & ended up with a total of 204 in his credits. The Sadist of Notre Dame is a great example of this! He took a good chunk from Exorcism & directed lots of new footage to create this release. It’s actually a rare occasion where the alternate version didn’t include more sex & violence to amp up the entertainment. About 25 minutes of new material focus more on the backstory of the main character & other developments. It also rearranges & expands some scenes from the “original” version. Plus it has a new score from Daniel White (Oasis of the Zombies, Emmanuelle Exposed, Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein, & The Dracula Saga). Franco considered this to be his most personal film. Severin Films gives America the chance to revisit this forgotten experiment. Jess Franco could either be considered a genius or a lazy hack for this.
After staying hidden in a garbage truck, a lost weirdo Mathis Vogel (played by: director Jess Franco from Sadist Erotica, Strange Voyage, A Virgin Among the Living Dead, The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, & Ilsa – The Wicked Warden) ends up in Paris. He’s a former priest, he was kicked out of seminary school because of his extreme beliefs & he also attacked a nun while there. He was recently discharged from a mental hospital. He’s wondering around in the streets until he gets offered a ride from a beautiful woman. He thinks she is just helping him out but it turns out she’s a prostitute & she wants money. He starts to get angry at himself when she excites him so he makes sure to end that feeling real quick. The police think it was a drunken bum Bartholo (played by: Claude Boisson from Devil Hunter, Hitler’s Last Train, & The Man with the Severed Head) who killed the woman for now.
Mathis wants to save the souls of bad women so he kills them! He tricks some of his victims to go to his isolated place where it’s easier to do whatever he wants with them. He confesses his brutal sins at church to a priest (played by: Antonio de Cabo from X312 – Flight to Hell & Cecilia). He can’t help himself, he also confides in publisher Pierre Franval (played by: Pierre Taylou from Tender and Perverse Emanuelle, The Hot Nights of Linda, & Golden Jail) . He writes & sends stories to be used in “The Dagger and the Garter”. That’s where he meets his new obsession Pierre’s secretary Anne (played by: Lina Romay from Faceless, Women Behind Bars, Cannibals, & Female Vampire) who has a different life at night as a sex performer at a club.
Mathis finds out a dark secret about Anne & her roommate Rose (played by: Lynn Monteil from Elsa Fräulein SS) from dancer Gina (played by: Caroline Rivière from Lorna the Exorcist & Les gloutonnes). He follows them to look more into the situation. He can’t control his urges as he carries out God’s sadistic plan. His killing spree gets much worse. He has various investigators behind his every move with Chief Inspector Tanner (played by: Olivier Mathot from Maniac Killer, Cannibal Terror, Kiss Me Killer, & Devil’s Kiss) & Inspector Malou (played by: Roger Germanes from Tender and Perverse Emanuelle & Female Vampire) trying to catch up to the psychopath before more murders are committed!
I am probably looking at this in a different way than most because I am not very familiar & don’t remember much from Exorcism. The Sadist of Notre Dame gets real close to slasher territory despite it’s lack of gore. I wouldn’t consider it in that sub genre but it’s borderline & I can see others letting it slide into that with what’s executed in this feature. It’s more of a character study into a disturbed mind that thinks he is doing a job for God. Mathis Vogel never thinks he is killing for pleasure. He doesn’t go out looking for random victims to slaughter. Each prey has a specific reason why this loony predator hunts them down. Honestly, I was beyond impressed with Jesus Franco’s performance in this! Most directors can’t act if their life depended on it but Jess really pulled off this role. The sleaze factor is heavy with this one so you get a little fix of everything in this. I hope more horror fans discover this rarity with Severin Film’s new blu ray release.
Let’s talk about the video & sound for this. Before the high definition presentation starts, you get this warning from Severin Films. “The Sadist of Notre Dame was scanned in 4k from the only known print of this version. The element was a 35mm exhibition print and although we have restored some of the more egregious damage, this presentation does exhibit some signs of wear and tear. An element in superior condition is not known to exist.” I am not going to bore you with the “cliche” technical babble that you will see from nearly every other review of this release but I will give enough details to help you decide on checking this out. This transfer is the best it’s ever looked & it blows away the previous Spanish DVD release from Manga Films. I was curious about it’s older transfer so I checked it out for research while writing this up. This 1080 progressive widescreen (1.66.1) 4K scan from a Spanish 35mm exhibition print that was discovered in a crawlspace of a Montparnasse nunnery is on a dual-layered disc with the highest bitrate so it’s at it’s best possible quality for this new blu ray release. That last sentence is true but it’s also poking fun at those tech fiends that like to over-criticize anything that’s not “technical” enough in the review world. We all can do it, see? LOL Alright, let’s get back to being serious. It still has some print damage to it but overall it’s way better than you expect from something that was basically lost for a long time besides a DVD from overseas. Honestly, this film hasn’t been easy to find since the VHS days so it’s pretty amazing Severin Films basically saved this from obscurity. One of the coolest things about this release is the fact that it has 3 different Audio options for it. English, Spanish, & French, they all have completely different tones to them so it’s almost like having 3 different versions on here. Out of the 3 choices, English has slightly worse quality compared to the other two but honestly none of them are perfect & it’s still my preferred pick when it comes to The Sadist of Notre Dame. It’s really cool to have variations of this film through different languages & I definitely recommend you to check them all out to find your favorite version.
Let’s discuss the special features on this blu ray release from Severin Films. “The Gory Days Of Le Brady” is an almost 31 minute documentary on the Parisian horror world of cinema. It’s hosted by Jacques Thorens who talks about the theater getting a reputation from playing horror, grindhouse, & exploitation films back in the day. They kept on showing them for 40 years there. This feature is more related to the director rather than the featured film but it’s a entertaining watch. “Stephen Thrower on Sadist Of Notre Dame” is an almost 28 minute interview with the human genre encyclopedia & the author of “Murderous Passions – The Delirious Cinema Of Jesus Franco”. You most likely own lots of releases with this man on it so you know what to expect from this extra. He analyzes the film & throws in some facts about it to teach us a little more about the madness of Uncle Jess when it comes to this. Which means he chats about the difference between Exorcism & The Sadist of Notre Dame. I always enjoy his thoughts on genre films & I end up learning stuff I didn’t know before. “Selected Scenes Commentary” is basically a 6 minute 31 second visual essay from “I’m in a Jess Franco State of Mind” webmaster Robert Monell with some artwork thrown in between scenes. “Treblemakers” is a 5 minute interview with “Jess Franco Ou Les Prosperites Des Bis” author Alain Petit. He talks about the 3 different version of this film. It is in French with English subtitles. As always, Severin Films provides us with another quality genre release! It’s available everywhere right now, check it out!!!!