22 April, 2007


A Golden Films Internacional Production
Cast: Vicky Adams [Muriel Montosse'], Robert Foster [Antonio Mayans], Ida Balin [Asuncion Calero], Carmen Carrion, Tony Skios [Antonio Rebello], Juan Soler, Angel Ordiales.
Music: Pablo Villa [Daniel J. White, Rebecca White, Alain Petit]
Directed by Clifford Brown [Jess Franco]

"Puta...golfa..." The Marquis de Altuna

During his daily constitutional with his dog Sultan, Antonio Jamie Morales Marquis de Altuna, "Tony" to his friends, reflects on his recent encounters with several sexual partners, including the vivacious, troubled Emmanuelle...

In my encounters with Jess Franco, over transatlantic cable when he was kind enough to take time out of his busy production schedule to share his enthusiasm for cinema with me, I found him to be bascially a very humble, gentle artist who looks at the dubious aspects of life with brutal honesty and a curious type of humor. And that pretty much sums up this bound to be misunderstood attempt to merge a near plotless softcore sex romp with a very thoughtful and serious contemplation of the cultural and sexual attitudes of a modern Spanish aristocrat (Catholic in the broadest sense of the term) who still harbors 19th Century mores and manners.

The structure of the film is nonlinear in that the runtime of the film is exactly the length of the Marquis' daily dog walk while vignettes from the recent past flash through his consciouness. It's a softcore sex film which is also a sly contemplation of its own genre and narrator.

In the view of such an anachronism, women are troublesome property, pets.

The women in the Marquis' life, his stripper girlfriend (Calero) and the always restless tourist Emmanuelle (Montosse') are "whores", "sluts", inferior even to his faithful dog and he states this belief as if it were Holy Writ in the film's final moments.

This is a thinking man's (and woman's) sex film. Jess Franco takes sex seriously and examines it without hypocrisy or judgement. As Jess notes in the David Gregory documentary interview he wanted to make a film about the choices women face in the real world where unrealistic expectations are placed upon them. He didn't want to make an "Emmanuelle" film, that title and the character's name was forced upon him in post production by the distributor. Don't even bother comparing it to the French or Italian series about that character, it's a different kind of animal (no, the Marquis' dog does NOT become a player here!). But in the final Spanish dubbing Emmanuelle is the character's name so we are engaged despite Franco's protests. A lot of lesbian action and a rape don't seem to have any effect on Emmanuelle but one has to note her choices seem limited to the "freedom" Franco speaks of and sexual servitude (or at least fidelity) in marriage. CECILIA (1981), with Montosse' and Mayans, also contrasts "straight" versus "open" marriage.

My favorite scene is a very hot striptease performed by the feral Balin/Calero at the Marquis' club. Emmanuelle ends up performing oral sex on the dancer while Alain Petit's outrageous song "Life is Shit" (first performed by the film historian/actor in Franco's 1975 THE MIDNIGHT PARTY) is covered by an offscreen jazz combo. The rest is very stylishy lensed melodrama set in Almeria (where Sergio Leone once directed Clint Eastwood in his first Spaghetti Westerns) and the windswept Belearic Islands. Juan Cozar's relentlessly tracking camera drinks in these locations and seems to acknowledge no vanishing point.

The entire film can be experienced as one grand 360 degree arc from the artfully sculpted sand hills in the palm desert to the Marquis' adobe hometown which seems built into the local rock strata and back again to those hills in the final image. If I dote on the visual style of the film, Severin's 2.35:1 transfer finally allows the multilayered texture to emerge from decades of pan and scan videos, from the 1980s era Spanish language MDV Caliente label to the cable version EMMANUELLE EXPOSED. This latter incarnation is the possible source for the perfectly dreadful English language track which not only wipes much of Daniel J. White's delightful flamenco guitar score but also Alain Petit's signature "La Vie Est Une Merde"! This is replaced with unlistenable muzak style cues, the kind you might have heard if you were trapped in an elevator throughout the 1980s. Horrendous voice casting and an omnipresent hissing adds to the irritation. But I'm grateful that Severin included this track, along with the original Spanish language one (optional English subtitles are available). One really can appreicate Franco's use of music as an ironic counterpoint and his use of dialogue to advance his theme of the sexist illusions of the Marquis. "I'm a Spanish gentlemen," he tells two of his women whom he catches in bed together. On the English track he is awkwardly dubbed as saying, "I'm a discreet gentleman." What the English soundtrack does is to destroy the film's uniquely SPANISH character. And we must remember, given his worldliness, Jess Franco is first and foremost a Spaniard.

Antonio Robello has a subtle charm as the self deluded Marquis. Robello became a familiar face in Franco's 80's films.Future French TV actress Montosse, praised by Franco in the interview, pretty much leaves me cold here and in several other Franco films she appeared in during this time period. But Robello and Asucion Calero more than make up.

There's some visible grain here and there but the sunsplashed colors of Southern Spain are well rendered and the image is generally razor sharp. You have to take this film as a kind of imitation of life (Douglas Sirk would have understood it very well). Franco himself signals this during the scene near the beginning set in the local wax museum where Bogart, Liz Taylor, Liza Minelli, John Wayne and King Kong seem to watch our passionate couple as they make love on the floor while Don Quijote (10 years before Franco would attempt to complete Welles' Quijote project) seems to lord it over his fellow wax figures. I find it a fascinating film which rewards multiple viewings and it's clear Franco put a lot of personal touches into what could have been a by-the-numbers operation. With telling subterfuge Franco signed the film with his "Clifford Brown" cover.

Franco fiddles with a pack of his favorite cigarettes while discussing such matters as the defects of Just Jaeckin, Sylvia Kristel and American sexual mores in the inteview THE INCONFESSABLE ORGIES OF JESS.

Another worthy Golden Films Internacional obscurity finds safe refuge on another high quality Severin Films DVD.

(C) Robert Monell, 2007


scott said...

This one was my least favorite of the early 80s spanish period. Will be interesting to see it subtitled though and with improved quality.
but where is GEMIDOS DE PLACER and EUGENIA?? those have to be the best of that period, alongside MACUMBA SEXUAL of course!! :)

scott said...

Hmm, what is CECELIA like? It's a different film right???

Robert Monell said...

I like it for what it is, a commercial sexploitation which subverts itself. I hope GEMIDOS DE PLACER is next. I don't know if the rights to EUGINIE 1980 have been cleared yet.

CECILIA is yet another softcore melodrama with "Vicky Adamas" which plays a lot like EMMANUELLE. It's the English language version of a Spanish language film. It's OK but way down the list.

Anonymous said...

totally agree about EUGENIE 80/EROTISMO.

Robert Monell said...

Francesco Cesari, an Italian critc, seems to be very well informed on rights holders. He may know who has the rights to EUGENIE...THE STORY OF A PERVERSION (1980)

scott said...

I wondered if Katja Bienert's age might complicate Eugenie from getting released. she looks really young in it..

I had seen Cecelia on the IMDB and wondered if it wasn't just THE INCONFESSABLE ORGIES OF EMMANUELLE
under another title..was it made at the same time??

Robert Monell said...

CECILIA is the English language version of another film: Aberraciones Sexuales de una Mujer Casada. It was made right before INCONFESSABLES... withe the same two leading plaeyrs and a very similar story line and characters. I much prefer INCONFESSABLE... . The direction is credited to Claude Plaut (sometimes indicating Olivier Mathot). The Spanish version was made by JE films, the same company which produced EUGIENE...1980.

Anonymous said...

"The Spanish version was made by JE films, the same company which produced EUGIENE...1980."

Perhaps the licensors of this title to BU also have EUGENIE 80.

Robert Monell said...

CECILIA doesn't have the tone or feel of a JF film for me. It's gorgeously lensed, but the Eng dubbing ruins it for me. Some have indicated it's the Eng dub of Aberraciones... The version I have has French credits. I'd rather see Aberraciones with Eng subs and the Spanish track. But CECILIA may sell better.

EUGENIE..UNA HISTOIRA.. is one of JF's best 80s films though different in tone from his GOLDEN FILMS INTERNACIONAL titles. It's not 2.35:1. If it were subtitled, packaged and presented in the right way it could see well, but there was never an English version as far as I know. I think the rights holder may be Spanish but I'm not sure. Marc Morris of MONDO EROTICO would know this.

Anonymous said...

I've never had much respect for Casey Scott, but his review of this and the other recent Severin/Franco title really seal the deal:

Robert Monell said...

I don't like to criticize other reviewers who disagree with me. I've read a number of negative online reviews on these. I seem to be one of the few who finds both of these titles to be better than average in terms of the early 80s films. They're not as good as GEMIDOS DE PLACER, EUGENIE..UN HISTORIA... but they are worth seeing.

scott said...

The review at that link is too harsh on THE SEXUAL STORY OF O, but admit it's going to be rough going watching this other title. I am hoping the Severin disc will be much better than the bootleg I watched 10 years ago. No matter how great Vicky Adams looks.. one has to feel they should have released this title later - GEMIDOS DE PLACER, LILLIAN or EUGENIE 1980 would have all been better appreciated first. I fear with this lesser title not selling well they may scrap releasing the other ones. Kind of why I bought this anyway to support the Franco releases on Severin.

Robert Monell said...

You might find it better, as I have done, on repeat viewings. It's probably better known than the titles you mention because it showed on US cable TV and the name EMMANUELLE in the title. I don't know how it's selling at this point. These aren't Eurohorror titles like the recent BCI Paul Naschy releases which were well known on previous video and seem to be selling suprisingly well. Franco collectors will want them for the high quality transfers alone. There's also the Adult Movie market which is a huge one and very different from the Euro one. If these can crossover into that market they can do very well. But I don't know if the Adult market has a high awareness of them.

Robert Monell said...

...And it will be interesting to see how CECILIA with "Vicky Adams" does when BU releases it. I find ORGIES OF EMMANUELLE far superior.