Color, 1982, 77 mins. 46 secs. / 106 mins. 51 secs.
Directed by Carlos Aured
Starring Ajita Wilson, Lina Romay, Ricardo Díaz, Kati Ballari, Emi Basallo, José Ferro
Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

The explosion of envelope-pushing Fata Morganasoftcore films in Spain classified with an "S" rating was a brief but glorious detour in European exploitation history, with Jess Franco leading the charge with a number of films that have recently been restored and given a great deal of reappraisal. A wild film that caused more than its share of confusion back in the gray market VHS days, 1982's Apocalipsis sexual (or Sex Apocalypse) Fata Morganafeatures two unforgettable cult stars tied to Franco around that time, regular muse Lina Romay and the magnetic Ajita Wilson, but it was actually directed by Carlos Aured, who had made his name with beloved Paul Naschy titles like Horror Rises from the Tomb, Curse of the Devil, and Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll, but the shift in local audience tastes circa 1981 led to him switching gears to softcore erotica instead like La frígida y la viciosa. What sets Sex Apocalypse apart is the extreme nature of its sex and violence, as well as numerous enigmas about its creation including the longstanding claim that it was co-directed in some capacity by Sergio Bergonzelli of Blood Delirium and In the Folds of the Flesh fame. (It wasn't.) Drawing heavily from outrageous crime stories in the headlines like the Manson Family (which gets name checked at the beginning) and Patty Hearst, the film turned up sourced from European VHS in at least two distinct cuts, the Spanish director's cut and a much stronger hardcore variant made at the request of the Italian licensor. Romay and Wilson certainly had no issue going all the way in front of the camera on many occasions, but the other women involved only agreed as long as that version was never shown in Spain. Apart from one brief orgy sequence, the two male actors were doubled by an uncredited performer while some of the more outlandish moments of transgressive imagery were done in close-up by a female performer who may or may not have been one of the main actresses. Fortunately those bootleg copies can go in the trash now thanks to a 2024 Blu-ray release from Mondo Macabro, including a limited slipcover edition that will mark the only release of the longest possible Fata Morganacomposite version of the film in existence at a whopping 106 minutes!

When they find out a lush villa complete with swimming pool is going to be vacant for an Fata Morganaextended period while its owner is abroad, five career criminals decide to set up camp there to plan their next job: kidnapping an heiress and holding her for ransom until her millionaire dad pays up. Wilson, Romay, Ferro, and Basallo all have sex in every free second and work with the ringleader of the group (more or less), softcore and Spanish western vet Díaz, to abduct the innocent Ballari, who's held captive in the villa and exposed to a variety of forced group deviant activities -- mostly involving lesbianism and any long objects within reach shoved in places they really shouldn't. Of course, it's just a matter of time before cracks form among the various allegiances within the group, leading to a final frenzy of sex and violence.

Bookended by brief and not even remotely convincing moralistic statements about the dangers of turning to a life of crime, Sex Apocalypse is mostly a vivid showcase for its two most famous participants and really works best in the quick and dirty Spanish cut. However, the extended version is still worth a view due to the wild extremity of some of the material (the two knife bits in particular are the kind of thing you can't imagine ever got projected in a theater anywhere), but don't be surprised if you feel the need to fast forward a few times given how insanely padded it is. The Spanish version looks marvelous here throughout with a pristine restoration from the original negative, featuring optional English subtitles and DTS-HD MA 2.0 Spanish mono audio, while the extended version uses that same scan as the base while incorporating the extra half hour(!) from three different VHS sources as film materials couldn't be located. Claims about the hardcore bits Fata Morganaindicate it was shot later in one very busy day with some of the actors, but that isn't the case here with a lot of the material clearly part of the original shoot as it involves extensions of already existing Fata Morganashots and some alternate angles. The close-up insertion bits were done separately (and maybe Bergonzelli was around as part of the Italian contingent to advise), but they're really just a small portion of what's new here.

The Spanish cut comes with audio commentary with Troy Howarth and this writer so that obviously can't be appraised here, while the video extras begin with "Cinema for Survival" (30m45s) in which Carlos Aured biographer Miguel Angel Plana covers the director's entry into filmmaking, the earlier Hearst-inspired Secuestro from 1976 (starring Naschy and directed by León Klimovsky), the Sadean concepts of this film, and the connection to Triumphs of a Man Called Horse! An interview with established Spanish writer and director Ricard Reguant (45m42s) goes through the history of "S"-classified films as well as his own filmgoing experience prior to that going back and forth between France and Spain, where the progression of erotica on celluloid accelerated quickly circa 1976 with filmmakers like Ignacio F. Iquino (for whom Reguant worked on the infamous Los violadores del amanecer). The limited edition also comes with new art by Rick Melton and a 20-page booklet with an essay by Spanish film expert Ismael Fernandez about this film's peculiar place in Aured's filmography.

Reviewed on May 11, 2024.