There’ll never be another actress like Lina Romay. Known for a long string of exploitation horror flicks full of nude sex scenes involving genres of comedy and the sleaze favorite “women-in-prison”, I guess the reason she stands out from the crowd is because of how bold she is. Willing to do pretty much anything to make a film work, she mostly starred in pictures directed by her husband, the legendary trash filmmaker Jesus Franco. Not undermining her astounding looks, complete with dark, gorgeous eyes, attractive, alluring lips, and a beautiful body, her excellence in acting is ultimately what sticks out for me. Although I don’t think she’s to be compared with the absolute greats, there’s something about her unique set of skills that worked almost perfectly for the films that she performed in. Needless to say, she played a big impact in the success of her pictures, and without her, sleaze would really not be the same. With that said, here is the list of top Lina Romay movies.
1. Wanda, The Wicked Warden (1977)
In the ’70s, there was a string of women-in-prison flicks that followed a title character who went by the name of Wanda (or Ilsa or Greta, depending on the dubbed version of the feature that you got to see), a warden who found pleasure in torturing as well as heavily embarrassing the inmates in her prison. Interesting if only for the sheer ballsiness in the way it shows its violence and nudity, Wanda, The Wicked Warden feels a lot different from other flicks of the same kind, and I think that’s because here, there’s some actual urgency to the seriousness in which the violence is handled. Oh, and it’s really fun. There’s a particular shower scene that I think is one of the greatest ever shot on film, because it’s all raw, and it feels very realistic, despite the dialogues being corny and unbelievable. Romay plays an inmate in this feature, and despite Dyanne Thorne leading the flick (playing her part extremely well), the subject of this article steals the limelight. She’s very good in this.
2. Celestine, Maid at Your Service (1974)
This was one of Jesus Franco’s relatively few funny comedies, and like most of his attempts, the jokes come out of how obnoxious the characters are or how completely bonkers a particular situation is. Celestine is a maid at a huge mansion who performs various services to its many residents and visitors. Most of these tasks require her to be in the nude, and the residents are all dopey, stupid-serious character-types, easily distinguishable and almost cartoon-ish. That being said, there’s quite a bit of enjoyment to be had here, because the film is so energetic and fast, with some pretty colors lighting up the screen, and Romay looking her best, spewing snappy dialogues (most of them being as campy as they get) in a film that surprisingly has a lot of heart. I love the enormous sex scene midway into the feature (simple to notice because it’s long and all over the place) and the ending, because it is actually kinda sweet.
3. Female Vampire (1973)
Female Vampire marks Lina Romay’s first time playing the lead in a film, and is much closer to a hardcore sexploitation feature than pretty much anything else the actress has accomplished in her career. Loosely based on Bram Stoker’s classic but with Romay taking Dracula’s place as Countess Irina, the film sparks interest with its distinctive approach to the subject material. Jesus Franco knew very well how to set the tone for necessary effect, and he followed suite here, taking advantage of foggy forests and eerie locations to encompass the frightening, surreal, almost dream-like atmosphere set by the plot. Romay’s character sustains herself not by sucking blood, but by… I’ll leave the rest to you. There are many cuts to this flick, and I do believe that the softer ones triumph over the distastefulness and numerous deviations in the hardcore ones. Scored almost as creepily as the imagery to this feature, Female Vampire may very well be considered grindhouse material, what with its bloody, violent, and immoral core.
4. Barbed Wire Dolls (1976)
Sometimes the best women-in-prisons are those formulaic ones, trying something that has already been done numerous times prior. Barbed Wire Dolls is about an inmate named Maria (Romay), arrested for the killing of her father (Jesus Franco, also the director) who tried to rape her. Now before I get into anything else, the rape scene presented here is done so awkwardly that it comes off as a cheap joke, but that makes it captivating, in a sleazy sort-of way. This may very well be Franco’s sleaziest flick, in fact. It’s pretty gory, but there’s a sense of innocence to the way everything’s been realized. The cardboard supporting characters are played fine, but the successes of this picture, at least for me, lie in how absolutely filthy and disgusting many of its scenes are. Unlike the Wanda series mentioned above, Franco’s execution is a tad merciless, and Lina Romay is a lot more memorable in her performance here.
5. Lorna the Exorcist (1974)
Lorna the Exorcist has a gripping story, and I guess is a combination of ‘vampire-thriller’ and ‘family-drama’. Its plot is probably the most intriguing of all of Romay’s pictures, about a man who makes a deal with a female demon (named Lorna) for wealth and prosperity in exchange of his daughter once she turns 18. He takes the whole thing lightly until the day his little one comes of age (played by a young Lina Romay) and Lorna demands her captivity. The bizarre tale is complete with its odd make-up and hairstyling, aesthetically pleasing locations, lustful colors and vibrancy, and of course, nude scenes. Lorna the Exorcist is pretty graphic in its depictions of sex and violence, but everything seems vital for the plot to move as it does. There’s no doubting the sleaze factor here, but being one of both Franco’s and Romay’s best works, missing this would be a blow for fans of the legendary couple.
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6. Night Has a Thousand Desires (1984)
Okay, here’s a Lina Romay film that I feel deserves a lot more attention that what it’s getting now. It is sleazy, but let’s face it, what film of Jesus Franco’s has failed to check out in that category so far? The story is surprisingly good, going along with the director’s trademark plotstuff involving magic, surrealism, and violence. Just like his other great works, Night Has a Thousand Desires is a dream-like, sensual film with a strange art-house touch to it. The cinematography is undeniably beautiful, though it is at the mercy of questionable decisions like strange zooms and tilts, but the unnerving effect one gets from it lasts long, despite it partly being shrouded in campiness. Telling the story of an evil magician who uses the helper in his nightclub act (Romay) to perform vengeful acts under a powerful spell of hypnosis, the picture finds interesting ways to shove nudity and sex into its plot.
7. Women Without Innocence (1978)
Another reason the Franco-Romay duo worked as well as it did was because they knew their audience and they always delivered as promised. Women Without Innocence could’ve been a stark, edge-of-your-seat thriller, but it was reduced to an opportunity-misser with a couple of moments of intrigue so as to fill its plotline with excessive nudity and, well, blood (Franco was quite well known for his gory earlier films). Still, the story is very good, surrounding a murder mystery, introducing those cliche characters who aren’t revealed in their true forms until the end. Romay is without a doubt, the biggest reason as to why this feature clicks, because it is otherwise a fully ordinary trash feature. It isn’t what I’d call a Franco essential, but I love Lina Romay in this so damn much that I couldn’t resist including this title on the list.
8. Gemidos de Placer (1983)
This is a fun, enjoyable film in the shape of a thriller that mostly fails to thrill. Looking beautiful but carrying within a thin plot that doesn’t do anything for character development as much as it does for initiating lovemaking sessions (that aren’t exactly erotic), Gemidos de Placer is based on the work of Marquis de Sade (a writer whose work Franco often associated with himself) and follows a man who invites a woman into his house so as to trouble his already mentally unsound wife as and when she returns from the asylum. It doesn’t work too well, but it is harmless for the most part. Lina Romay looks alright, but there’s not much else to take home from this one. I guess it’s an easier watch than the majority of her filmography, despite their being comparatively little to it.
9. Swedish Nympho Slaves (1977)
This is a bad film, even by Jesus Franco standards, but it is an interesting watch because of Lina Romay alone. She plays the antagonist here, as the leader of a sex camp who tortures young woman. The police is on the lookout for her and they have but little leads, because her friends in high places help her in covering up the evidence. This film reeks of sleaze cliches, and wouldn’t have been a fun viewing had it not been for Romay’s presence. She too, gets tortured in this film (any lady not in uniform usually did get that coming for them in these formulaic women-in-prison films). There’s something of a mystery, or an attempt to create intrigue in this feature that I think makes it stand out, despite the end result being lazy and passive (I mean, look at the title). Lina Romay is in one of my favorite performances of her’s in here though.
10. Midnight Party (1976)
Midnight Party is one of Franco’s kookiest films, where nothing really makes any sense, but it’s entertaining anyway because of how outrageous it is. Taking advantage of a couple fourth wall breaks (that are actually funny) to tell the tale of a dancer and her drunken association with two men (who just so happen to be underground spies), which grants her an invitation to their midnight orgy. Nudity is pretty much a stable element in this film, which is one that isn’t too easy to come across these days. Romay is cheery and fun, just like the film is as a whole. It gets tiring at a couple of points and isn’t always an entertaining watch, but there’s something to be liked about the sedative atmosphere this film sets. I enjoy it quite a bit.
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