The Incredibly Bad Film Show


Katja Bienert, Ursula Fellner, Raquel Evans, Antonio Mayans.

While most films on Sky Movies have been out on video for ages and are Hollywood dross in varying flavours, the odd one does get through – and ‘The Story of Linda’ can certainly be described as ‘odd’. Though shown in “slashed by the BBFC” format, it’s not the sort of film you’ll find 50 copies of in Blockbuster Video and it is at least European dross (which we’d better get used to, as come next year, we can expect lots of it!) and, what’s more, dross of a surreally tacky nature.

The film starts with a girl being chased along a beach by two men in a land-rover. They catch her and drag her off into the Rio Amore, a high-class sex club (decor heavily influenced by ‘Emmanuelle’, all wicker chairs and hammocks). There, for the amusement of the patrons, she is whipped – or at least, I assume so, there’s barely an edit in the first 10 minutes where the hand of the ever-vigilant Jim Furman can’t be detected. We are introduced to the madame, Sheila, and her lover, whom she found playing piano in a gay bar and who rejoices in the decidely un-Hispanic name of Ron Medford, despite looking the epitome of a Mediterranean type, right down to the Zapata moustache.

He’s currently having a fling with Betsy, the receptionist at the nearby hotel, who is awaiting the arrival of Linda, her convent educated sister. But when Sheila finds out about the Betsy and Ray, she arranges for hotel manager Zorro(!) and his 6 ft plus, bald, psychopathic side-kick to charge Betsy with stealing $10,000 from the hotel safe. We also learn that Sheila keeps pet scorpions (hint, hint).

Ron gives Betsy money for a plane ticket, but her escape attempt is foiled when she gets into a taxi driven by the same 6 ft plus, bald, psychopathic side-kick who was intimidating her in the previous scene. In mitigation, it has to be said he is now cunningly disguised – or at least, is wearing a hat. Betsy is taken to the brothel to work off her ‘debt’, and Sheila greets her with “We have a special treatment for calming rebellious girls. It’s one that all my customers appreciate as well!”

The next thing we see is a nun, and I briefly wondered whether Shiela’s “special treatment” would be a medley of songs from ‘The Sound of Music’. However, I’d forgotten convent educated Linda, and in a flash of religiously inspired insight, it becomes crystal clear how the rest of the film is going to turn out. Linda will find her sister missing, try to locate her, end up in the Rio Amore as well, be forced into depravity and corruption, and eventually the pair will escape and live happily ever after.

And initially the film runs straight down the expected line. Like all convent schoolgirls in movies, Linda:
a) is cute (though she could shave her armpits better),
b) posseses an interesting selection of lingerie,
c) demonstrates a fondness for lesbian love scenes,
and d) has the ability to go from nought-to-moaning-orgasm in about thirty seconds, though this may be due to Mr. Furman again, more than any inherent skills.

Back in the Rio Amore, we discover that the special treatment is Betsy writhing about inside a plexiglass cube filled to a depth of about three inches with dry ice fumes. Meanwhile, Ron and Sheila make love and there’s a close-up of the scorpions (hint, hint). Arriving at Funchal airport, Linda is waiting for her sister when her bag is stolen. Fortunately, the thief is tripped up by Juan, a passing student, who cheerfully returns the bag, but makes no effort to detain the thief, despite said criminal hanging around for a fair while before mumbling “bastard” and wandering off.

Quicker than you can say “gratuitous travelogue”, Juan is giving Linda a tour of Tenerife (“I’ve never seen anything so beautiful! It looks like paradise!”), which suggests the local tourist board put up half the budget. Juan lives with his sister, or maybe it’s sisterS, the script (or at least the dubbing) tends to confusion on this point. And indeed several others – Linda’s holiday varies between one and three weeks long as the mood takes her.

Sheila and Ron have sex again – “It’s like making love to a scorpion”, he says (HINT, HINT!), and in the light of this remark takes things appropriately gingerly, attempting to mount the outside of Sheila’s thigh. In the club, one of the punters is talked by Betsy into delivering a note to Ron, but they’re overheard by Annie, another of the girls. When the client leaves, Annie follows him and, we can only assume, mugs him, because she eventually delivers the note to Ron. They are spotted by the hat-wearing psychopathic thug and a fight ensues. Annie runs off, Ray steals the thug’s car – call it a no-score draw.

Linda and Juan find a nudist beach, where to no-one’s surprise (except possibly Linda’s), they engage in the sort of writhing in the breakers last seen in David Bowie’s “China Girl” video (or more accurately, last seen in ‘Return to the Blue Lagoon’ – er, not, of course, that I actually saw that!), even though the beach looks painfully rocky. Betsy is chained up by two other hookers who say “We’re going to teach you not to scream, once and for all” before reaching for a plank of wood and…well, we never discover what they do – while it may or may not have been a fate worse than death, it certainly was worse than the BBFC would allow.

Ron storms in to Sheila’s room, slaps her round a bit, but ends up, yes, making love to her. After blow-jobbing him into unconsciousness, she takes her pet scorpions and drops them onto the floor, before returning to the sex, as the creatures scuttle menacingly across the carpet.

Yes, in some territories, the film’s title translates as “Naked Superwitches of the Rio Amore”

However, Annie bursts in, shoots Sheila, and squashes the scorpions before vanishing from the film without saying a word. The viewer can, I think, be pardoned for going “Eh?” at this point, but no explanation at all is offered. It does let Ron free Betsy, and the film ends with them accidentally bumping into Linda, on her way home. Betsy doesn’t mention that she’s been kidnapped, tortured, forced into prostitution and rescued (she does Hint Darkly, in the 90 seconds they’re together before parting again), and Linda doesn’t ask the obvious question, “Hey sis, why are you wandering round Tenerife in bloodstained lingerie?”. This scene is crucial as it foils the otherwise convincing theory that Linda and Betsy were originally characters in two totally different films, joined in the editing suite to form an incoherent whole.

I’ve seen better soft-porn. I’ve seen funnier soft-porn. I’ve seen sexier soft-porn. But for weirdness, incoherency and jaw-dropping relentlessness – the longest period without some form of sex or nudity is roughly 3 minutes 50 seconds – ‘The Story of Linda’ is definitely hard to beat.

I’ve carefully withheld one piece of information, of which I was ignorant when most of the above was written, and which means the whole film suddenly makes sense – or at least helps explain it’s nature:

‘The Story of Linda’ was directed by Jess Franco.

Ta-raaa. Now, the person who recommended ‘Linda’ to me was unaware, not only of the ‘real’ director, but also of Franco’s reputation as a maker of deeply bizarre crap. But my friend knew ‘The Story of Linda’ was classic badfilm and having watched it, I heartily concur.

When you know that Jack Griffin is a Franco pseudonym, a lot of things about the film click into place: the nudity, the plot consisting of a series of tenuously linked holes, and the dialogue – I didn’t think people said things like “I want to feel you deep inside me”, even in badly dubbed foreign schlock movies. All that’s missing is a few of his trademark fades-to-black-by-zooming-in-on-the-leading-lady’s-pussy.

By anyone else’s standards it’d be awful, but for a Franco movie it’s ok; at least it doesn’t sink beyond “so bad it’s good” to “so bad it’s unwatchable”. While the main emotions provoked in the viewer may be bafflement and annoyance, this is two more than most Jess Franco films generate. I look forward to Sky’s Franco season, with showings of ‘Ilsa, the Wicked Warden’ and ‘Faceless’. But I’m NOT holding my breath…