15 October, 2007

What's Your Favorite Franco-Marquis de Sade Film?

The image above is one of the surreal structures designed by Ricardo Bofill where the action of Jess Franco's 1980 version of EUGENIE is set. This labryrinthe structure boggles the eye and teases our sense of perspective. This interior can be seen, shot from a radically different angle, in 1973's THE PERVERSE COUNTESS. This 1980 production is a very loose remake of EUGENIE...THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION (1970), but done in a totally different visual style and has a uncanny, dreamlike atmosphere. I have the old fullscreen CALIENTE video of this rather hard to see film.

Above is another vintage advert for a Jess Franco Sade film, PLAISIR A TROIS (1973) adapted by Alain Petit. Alice Arno is a twisted artist who kills her models and makes them part of her basement chamber of horrors. Odd, cubist camera angles and a demented score are Franco's signature touches here.

PLAISIR A TROIS is one of the mid 1970's Robert De Nesle productions which have never had a US video release on any format. I was told by featured actor Robert Woods that it did have a UK theatrical release, but there was no theatrical play of this in the US. Jess Franco has had a lifelong obsession with the visionary writings of the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814). The films he has made from them include some of his most personal and best works. I thought it would be interesting to take a reader's poll ranking Jess Franco's Marquis de Sade films. Would your favorite be the lavish period adaptation of the famous 1791 novel, JUSTINE (1968)? Or would it be his lower budgeted, yet very personal, contemporary updating of the 1788 novel "Eugenie de Franval", EUGENIE DE SADE, the 1970 Soledad Miranda vehicle? Perhaps it would be EUGENIE...THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION, his elegant, modern day adaptation of the 1795 text, "Philosophy in the Bedroom". Filmed in 1969 but released in 1970, with Marie Liljedahl as Eugenie as Christopher Lee as the Sadean master of ceremonies, Dolmance, the Bruno Nicolai score defines an epoch.

Other Jess Franco Marquis de Sade film adaptations include 1973's PLAISIR A TROIS, a very rare title featuring Alice Arno and American actor Robert Woods. 1982's GEMIDOS DE PLACER is yet another version of that story in which Franco experimented by filming the action in a limited number of plan sequences/very long takes. In between he made two even more difficult to see Sade films, a hardcore remake of "Philosphy in the Bedroom" COCKTAIL SPECIAL (1978), with Touxa Beni as Eugenie, and SINFONIA EROTICA (1979), a sort of unofficial remake of PLAISIR A TROIS. Then there is the visually surreal EUGENIE, HISTORIA DE UNA PERVERSION, the 1980 rarity featuring Katja Bienert in the title role. Then there are such unclassifiable oddities as DE SADE'S JULIETTE, the 1975 film which no one seems to have seen and was reedited by Joe D'Amato in 1980 as JUSTINE. It's quite an accomplishment just to have seen all of Jess Franco's Sade related films.

You can just name your favorite or rank them all in descending order.

Of course, only two of these important Franco films are out on quality R1 DVD presentations, JUSTINE and EUGENIE...THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION, both from Blue Underground. EUGENIE DE SADE is reportedly on the way. But the rest are in dire need of rediscovery, restoration and proper R1 DVD presentations.

My own favorite would be EUGENIE DE SADE, mainly for the searing performances of Soledad Miranda and Paul Muller, not to mention Jess Franco's own ambiguous presence. And I love the Bruno Nicolai score, which is partially recycled from the Marie Liljedahl EUGENIE... .

I will return with the rest of my ranked list.

Since I originally posted this blog we have had several suggested additions from readers: THE SEXUAL STORY OF O (1982), which does seem to have some imagery and plot which evokes EUGENIE...HER JOURNEY... ( which Franco himself says was Sade influenced in the Severin DVD documentary) and HELTER SKELTER, the more recent shot on video One Shot production which has Sade's writings read on its soundtrack. BTW, I have seen HELTER SKELTER and wondered exactly what book those passages come from. Anyone know?

Ecom throws TENDER FLESH into the flaming pot of our consideration here as a possible Sadean film.

Thanks for the participation, everyone. It looks like EUGENIE DE SADE has the most votes so far.

For a fascinating look at the man behind the EUGENIE DE SADE poster at the top of this blog check out David Z's TOMB WHO IT MAY CONCERN blog:http://david-z.blogspot.com/

(C) Robert Monell, 2007


ecom said...

You left out SEXUAL STORY OF O which has more in common with DE SADE 70 (the title I prefer which also helps distinguish it from the other EUGENIE) than Pauline Reage and Just Jaeckin.

I like EUGENIE DE SADE a lot and its the more sophisticated and complex work but my favorite is DE SADE 70 (which more than lived up to my expectations when I got the DVD - one of the most satisfying pre-orders of my life - I've since ditched JUSTINE).

COCKTAIL SPECIAL is just dreck but SINFONIA EROTICA, EUGENIE 80 and PLAISIR A TROIS are definitely worth rediscovery.

Mirek said...

I've yet to see EUGENIE DE SADE, which I'm aching to view, but right now my greatest impressions come from the outrageous meditation on pain and pleasure JUSTINE, with the equally outrageous Jack Palance.

Anonymous said...

Although I admit the movie as a whole is flawed and probably ended up much tamer than Franco intended (mostly due to the presence of Romina Power in the lead according to the Blue Underground DVD), I still remember how blown away and outright impressed I was by Justine's (1968) wonderfully evocative and fantastic opening sequence. Rarely have the torments of the imagination been so well visualized. When that author happens to be the Marquis De Sade, well...it just goes to show that imprisonment may succeed in containing the body, but the mind is free to roam to whatever pleasant or, in this case, dark places it can fathom. De Sade (Aguirre, er...Klaus Kinski) responds, in his inimitable way, by inviting lots of nubile, yet tortured, young beauties to keep him company. Horrible images for some, comforting ones for him (and us? Dirty Franco fans...). The combination of Franco's garishly elegant camerawork, with its fantasia of colors, and Bruno Nicolai's unforgettable score created a piece of art that is permanently lodged in my mind and something I think Franco was truly inspired by. At that time, during an acknowledged creative high point for him, I believe he percieved the possibilities of cinema to be wide open.

Nice post, Robert. Keep up the great work!


Douglas A. Waltz said...

Hey what about Helter Skelter (2000)? That is based on DeSade as well.

Mario said...

of what I've seen my favorite one is EUGENIE DE SADE (Soledad Miranda)

Robert Monell said...

ecom: Thanks for reminding me of O, which is indeed very Sadean and does have direct visual and plot quotes from EUGENIE...HER JOURNEY... . It also has plot and visual elements from THE PERVERSE COUNTESS, but it's definitely Sade related. I still haven't seen COCKTAIL SPECIAL, but would like to. Where did you get it. Thanks for your notes and vote.

Robert Monell said...

Mirek: You must see EUGENIE DE SADE. It's essential Tier 1 Franco. Hopefully, the upcoming BU disc will have the crucial French lang track. JUSTINE I'm more negative than positive on, but Palance and Kinski are value added extras.

Robert Monell said...

Matthew: Thanks for the compliment, Matthew. Maybe I need to rewatch JUSTINE. I haven't seen it since the BU DVD first came out several years ago. Thanks for your vote.

Doug: I've added HELTER SKELTER to the original blog. I'm still interested in knowing what Sade texts those are that are read on the soundtrack. I'm interested in what your pick would be for the #1 Jess Franco Sade film.

Mario: Thanks for your vote. That makes 2 votes for EUGENIE DE SADE, 2 for JUSTINE and one for DE SADE 70.

ecom said...

Don't forget TENDER FLESH. Amber Newman's Eugenie stand-in is a bit more knowing (like Eugenie in Philosophie dans le Boudoir) but still an innocent victim.

Bill Todd said...

EUGENIE DE SADE is my favorite for the lead performances and the very intimate relationship the movie creates between two characters of such extreme natures and the audience. It's probably the bravest Sade adaptation made by anyone.

Bill Todd

Anonymous said...

I would say Eugenie: The Story of Her Joureny Into Perversion. It's in my opinion, Franco's best directed movie. Poetic and beautiful. Besides, Maria Rohm never looked better!
Close behind would be Gemidos de Placer. I love it also. Lina gives one of her best performances in that one, and Franco's camera work is amazing.

Cinebeats said...

I'd have to choose Justine as my favorite Franco-Marquis de Sade do to the great opening, which Matthew above me describes so well, and I confess to having a weakness for anything with Klaus Kinski in it. I also love Jack Palance's over-the-top performance in the film as well.

I haven't seen all the films you mentioned though (including Eugine, de Sade sadly) so once I do, my opinion might change.

mike said...

I haven't seen all of them yet (and I will surely immediate have to re-order my list once I get around to watching EUGENIE, HISTORIA DE UNA PERVERSION, COCKTAIL SPECIAL (which I can send you a copy of if you'd like), and PLAISIR A TROIS (all three sitting in my "to watch" pile!), but as it stands, I'll go with these:

01 - TIE
As it stands I have a slight preference for SEXUAL STORY..., but that preference only arises from how affecting and caustic dialogue in the final scene is. I have only seen GEMIDOS... in Spanish and have no comprehension of the language, so that's why I feel confident in leaving them equal.
This flick holds a special place in my heart due to the fact that it was about the third or fourth Franco flick I saw, and probably the first to really catch my attention (I didn't become a dedicated fan until seeing VENUS IN FURS several months later on a bootleg VHS tape, but it was EUGENIE that planted the seeds of love)
Soledad is stunning, and I have a feeling if I ever see this with the French soundtrack it might bump up to number two.
Kinski is great in this, and the sets are great, but it's too literal for me to really enjoy; it left me a bit cold.

Robert Monell said...

Cinebeats, I'd be interested to hear your reaction to EUGENIE DE SADE. Maybe you can check it out on the DVD. I would recommend to you, though, to watch it in French language option. If you are a Kinski fan, try to read his autobiiography which has many wild and crazy stories. He was a very good writer.

Douglas A. Waltz said...

Favorite would have to be Eugenie DeSade because it's great to watch Soledad and Paul Mueller interact with one another in a seriously twisted little flick. The new HELTER SKELTER is pretty cool too becuase it's more freeform Franco and the juxtaposition of the DeSade readings coupled with the gyrations of the gorgeous Analia Ivars make for interesting viewing.

Cinebeats said...

I first read the Kinski bio some 15 years ago and loved it!

Robert Monell said...

Mike: That's an interesting list. I'm glad that I was reminded that SEXUAL STORY... is essentially a Sade film, and Franco discusses it that way. I feel the French soundtrack is essential to getting the full impact of EDS. It stands so far out front for me and I like PLAISIR A TROIS, GEMIDOS... and EUGENIE...UNA HISTORIA all so much that I'm having a hard time placing one at #2! All three of those need to have Eng subs on a DVD release, but I like the fact that they are all so dialogue free, especially GEMIDOS.. .

Robert Monell said...

Cinebeats: I also have that original Kinski aboutbio.... It's now a fairly rare cover since it had to be withdrawn and I've seen the update.

Doug: I'll have to rewatch HELTER SKELTER. I'm still trying to ascertain which Sade works those reading are from. Thanks for your votes.

Robert Monell said...

So far EUGENIE DE SADE leads the voting with 4 votes, including mine, as #1.
DE SADE 70: 2

Damian P. said...

EUGENIE DE SADE is a long time Franco favorite of mine. I will be getting the BU disc even though I have two other DVD editions.


5. EUGENIE, HISTORIA DE UNA PERVERSION (this may rank higher but I only have a poor looking copy of the film)

There seems to be a bit of De Sade in most if not all of his sex-oriented films. Thanks for the link to TOMB IT MAY CONCERN, Bob.

scott said...

For a long time, my opinion on EUGENIE DE SADE was kind of patchy when I first bought the region 1 version. But earlier this year I re-watched it and enjoyed it much more than when i first received it, prompting me to get the superior region 2 version without the trashy dubbing and what a difference it makes!! It's very hard to rank these but here I will try it anyway.


scott said...

..i too will buy the upcoming Region 1 BU version of Eugenie De Sade since they've reconsidered the French language option on the dvd. Maybe my mails and others as well as all the comments made on latarnia opened some eyes to the issue?

Robert Monell said...

Damian: Good point about there being a lot of Sade in many Franco films. SUCCUBUS/NECRONOMICON even mentions him by name in the word-game. Thanks for your list.

Scott: I think the online comments about wanting a Fr track for EDS may have indeed had some influence on BU's decision to include one. Thanks for your list. Beyond EDS, my top choice, they are hard for me to rank also.

David Zuzelo said...

I agree with Damian, even though some of his films aren't straight adaptations of De Sade, they certainly feel informed by Franco's interest in them.

I have a tie for favorite. EUGINE DE SADE wins by a long shot and is easily in my top 3 Jess Franco films. Just a perfect "Franco Film" for sure. However, I've watched EUGENIE, HISTORIA DE UNA PERVERSION several times and just love it. The only reason it does not get the top honors is that I've only seen it in Spanish. I lucked out and have a Spanish pre-record in my collection-but I'm knee capped by my monolingual problem. If the visuals and feel of the film have drawn me back so many times I can only hope that once I see it translated it will become even better as an experience.

I've watched Cocktail Special and that is pretty watchable-again I'm hampered by language issues however.

scott said...

..still need to see COCKTAIL SPECIAL I recall reading some bad things about this one...

Bob, I'm glad that all of our bitching and ranting on the Latarnia forum made BU open their minds a bit. maybe they were unaware of that awesome Region 2 version already out there?