05 December, 2023

SEXUAL STORY OF O (Jess Franco, 1981)

Historia Sexual de O 1981 86 MINUTES European Trash Cinema and Video Search of Miami (U.S. import)/Severin Films Blu-ray. DIRECTED BY JESS FRANCO WITH: ALICIA PRINCIPE, CARMEN CARRION, DANIEL KATZ, MAMIE KAPLAN, MAURO RIVERA ======================================= Features Reviews* One might think of another S&M tinged Franco film while watching SEXUAL STORY OF O. That would be the 1982 BLACK BOOTS, LEATHER WHIPS. Both films deal with sadomasochism gone beyond a recreational form of sex. That film was a Jess Franco Neo-Noir with a downbeat ending. SEXUAL STORY OF O is even more downbeat and nihilistic.
Odile (Alicia Principe), a beautiful but naive young woman vacationing in Spain, attracts the attentions of a voyeuristic couple who live across from her hotel. The couple spy on her as she lounges around naked, and when they invite her over for a session of grou sex, Odile gives in immediately. Odile's fate is telegraphed with reading from Norman Mailer's downbeat war novel, THE NAKED AND THE DEAD. After spending days enjoying this menage a trois, the couple take Odile to the villa of the wealthy Wanda Von Karlstein (Carmen Carrion), where the sex continues. Wanda's sadistic husband (Daniel Katz) drugs Odile's drink and rapes her. When she awakens, Odile is chained to a bed, and her captors have sado-erotic torture and death in mind. One of her abductors has a sudden attack of remorse after finding her mutilated body, murders the Von Karlsteins, and walks into the ocean carrying Odile's dead body, shades of the ending of the Val Lewton-Jaques Tourneur masterwork, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE.
HISTORIA SEXUAL DE O is quite a bit better than some of Franco's rather tedious sex-a-thons of the 1980s. The flowery, tropical locations and gorgeous cinematography offers a counterpoint to the downbeat melodrama. A melancholy female vocal sets a sombre tone throughout, which Franco maintains until the very last shot of the blazing sun beating down on the aftermath of violence and death. There are many effective visual and aural touches throughout, which amplify the theme of corrupted innocence. For instance, Odile is first seen wandering in an idyllic garden reading excepts from Norman Mailer's gritty World War II novel, "The Naked and the Dead," literally foreshadowing her own fate. It is also significant that her voyeuristic abductors use Beethoven's famous chorus from his Ninth Symphony to seduce her attention, underscoring the theme of Old World decadence preying on Odile's gullibility. As Odile, Alicia Principe (a.k.a. Alicia Pedreira) offers sensuality and modernity with a tragic ignorance of the brutal ways of the world. Exotic looking Carmen Carrion and the gaunt, sinister Daniel Katz are well-cast as the wealthy tormentors. Katz's impotent freak-out while raping Odile is especially blood-curdling. There is also a subtle sociological subtext similiar to the situation in Franco's 1973 THE PERVERSE COUNTESS, wherein upper caste villains use a financially struggling lower-class couple to provide victims for their bloodlust. This inequity creates a further irony in which a henchman turns on his vicious employers. The final sequence is shot with filters which spectacular light halations, colorful erutions of primary color patterns over images of torture and murder. With the players masked up and costumed for predatory S&M, it moves the action into a surreal plane, a taboo dimension as in a sequence from Sade's writing. If it uses the context of a snuff film, it's one made by a poet, elegantly shot, edited and scored, with a palpable emotional impact. Franco had blended S&M imagery with horror as far back as his early 1960's Gothics such as THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF and THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS and he would continue into his post 1990s digital era, with films such as FLOWERS OF PERVERSION.
Scenes and images from earlier Franco films are recycled throughout but in altered contexts, such as the scene in which the only survivor of the massacre carries Odile's body into the ocean, reenacting the end of THE PERVERSE COUNTESS. The long, excruciating sequence detailing Odile's torture and death is painful to watch, as chains, whips, and studded medieval-style weapons are used. Franco encourages us to become emotionally engaged with Odile, often taking her point of view, which ratchets the level of intensity even higher. The stuff of a sex tourist's nightmares, HISTORIA SEXUAL DE O is highly recommended. (C) Robert Monell 2023 =======================================

No comments: