The film begins with grainy archive footage of a mother taking her own life with a pistol to the mouth. Unfortunately this is witnessed by her young daughter.

Fast-forward to the present day, where a softly spoken male narrator brings us up to speed - the dead mother's husband, kooky preacher Dr Bernard (Zalman King) was left to bring up their children alone. The children are now adults - Francis (Charles Koutris) and his sister Soul (Dita Von Teese).

And so, SAINT FRANCIS follows the siblings through a rather traumatic passage of time. Francis is an agoraphobic junkie with self-harm issues who relies on his sassy, well-presented coke fiend sister to help him out in times of need.

Through disjointed, episodic scenes - and with the help of the fairytale-like narrator linking these images together, we see how Bernard has committed himself to his intense cable TV show rallying for people to join his cause, while his grown-up children live lives dominated by the loneliness and debt that come with drugs.

In fragmented, photo negative-style shots, we see Francis lying comatose on a surgical table awaiting operation. Withdrawing into his drug-addled psyche, we learn just how messed up he is as we explore his father and sister from his point of view.

In what is presumably Francis's imagination, Soul makes money towards her high-class drug habit by shooting lesbian porn flicks. Bernard meanwhile, becomes ever more intense - a parody of the zealous TV evangelists he aspires to swan among.

It all builds towards Francis anticipating a violent crime that he believes will be perpetrated by his beloved sister Soul. Lying on the hospital table, Francis's visions become confused between dream and reality, and all he really knows is that he must save Soul from herself if he himself can attain redemption ...

I apologise for the above synopsis. This film is a strategic mess. Fair enough, it's not restrained by the conventions of a linear plot. I respect that, and I do appreciate its Lynchian aspirations. But, if you're going to fuck around with timescales and populate your film with characters that appear and disappear at random, seemingly only to mutter some half-hearted pretentious dialogue prior to getting their knockers out, then you've got to have a modicum of skill when going about it.

SAINT FRANCIS has no hook, no momentum. It never threats to be going anywhere, and successfully gives the impression that everyone concerned was on hard drugs while making it. To watch it, that's not a good thing. This is uneven, slow, and damned-near incomprehensible.

Oddballs appear onscreen at regular intervals and invariably get naked, while the colours and camera angles smother them in an attempt to reach David Lynch's weird universe. But this is not David Lynch. Unbearable as he is, he's far more relevant than this (that was painful to type).

There are interesting camera angles employed on frequent occasions, and colour schemes seem to be carefully considered. Director Ezra Allen Gould has undoubtedly put a great deal of thought into the visual presentation of his film. But that's not enough. It doesn't constitute intelligence, and winds up meaning nothing in a film that tries to be a lot cleverer than it's capable of being.

Still, Gould's also lucky enough to have scooped King and - in particular - Von Teese to appear in his little film. But when they're the only interesting characters in it (King because he's just as hyper as he was in BLUE SUNSHINE three decades earlier, and Von Teese merely because it's her - even though she does next to nothing in the film), you know you're on to a bad thing.

It's canny how King and Koutris do really have that look of father and son. But again, if I'm having to point that out as a highpoint, how bad is this film overall?!

Answer: pretty bad. In fact, did it not have the potential marketing ploy of Von Teese in her acting debut (I use the term loosely), I doubt Salvation - or anyone for that matter - would have picked this up for distribution.

Even the sex scenes are too tame to score with those afraid to reach for the top shelf. A bit of plastic boobs here and there (not Von Teese's, I must add) and that's your fill. As for the thriller element, there's a severe lack of energy in delivery that deprives the film of any tension whatsoever.

SAINT FRANCIS is an occasionally good-looking but ultimately hollow and boring experience. 72 minutes has rarely passed so slowly. Hey, I say that as a fan of Michael Haneke films - be worried!

The film is presented in a fairly soft 1.33:1 transfer. Detail is murky but colours and blacks remain strong, and excessive grain is not an issue. The cover does state that the transfer is 16x9 widescreen, but this is not the case. Framing appears to be correct so I would put the aspect ratio - and subdued visual clarity - down to the low budget film origins, rather than any specific defect in the mastering. If I'm making it sound like a travesty, it isn't - but it clearly isn't HELLBOY either, you know?

The English 2.0 audio is good, offering consistent and clear playback.

The disc comes with static menus, including a single-page static scene-selection menu offering access to the main feature via 12 chapters.

Extras begin with two trailers for the film. Both are presented in full-frame, and last around the minute-and-a-half mark.

A stills gallery is measly at only 7 stills in strength, but does at least offer a couple of glimpses of bronze breasts.

Trailers for other Redemption titles also make an appearance, and include KILLER'S MOON, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTED, SATANIC SLUTS: THE BLACK ORDER COMETH and NATURE MORTE. All are presented in full-frame, aside from the KILLER'S MOON trailer which is anamorphic 1.78:1.

Best by far in terms of extras are three extended scenes from the film. Also presented in 1.33:1, these offer more bare female flesh for anyone still left hungry after viewing the main feature.

"Shower Abduction" comes first, offering a much longer account - 6 minutes, in fact - of a relatively brief scene from the film's final cut. Lots of female nudity on offer here (tits 'n' bums - any flashes of flange are kept fleeting).

Then there's "Photo shoot" which is a lengthier take on a scene where Von Teese watches a lesbian porn shoot (2 minutes).

Finally, we get 7 minutes of Storm and Stephanie Swift in an alternate cut of their big scene from the film, which is given the title "Fugly Show" in the extras menu.

Rounding out the extras is a painful music video for Jon Ben Berger's "The Devil Is Laughing". It's mercifully short at 2-and-a-half minutes in length, and does at least largely comprise of scenes from the film. Unlike the film though, this is presented in non-enhanced 1.66:1.

SAINT FRANCIS is best suited to a Channel 5 screening at an obscure time of the night.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Redemption Films
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review