Eugenie... The Story of Her Journey Into Perversion
U.K. - Europe / 1969
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring
Marie Liljedahl
Maria Rohm
Christopher Lee
Color / 87 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD (R0 - NTSC)
Blue Underground
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Fifty Shades of de Sade Collection
(April 23, 2013)

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Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
7
    8   10 = Highest Rating  
SNEAK PREVIEW | DVD Release Date: Nov. 22, 2002
Warning: This review contains nudity, lesbianism, sadomasochism, and Christopher Lee.
    Christopher Lee in an S&M sex flick? Yep... though thankfully he's not the one getting undressed. That distinction belongs to Marie Liljedahl and Maria Rohm, whose luscious naked forms will doubtless appeal to the prurient. That's not to say Jess Franco's notorious Eugenie... The Story of Her Journey Into Perversion is strictly a T&A flick far from it. As Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas asserts in his liner notes to Blue Underground's new DVD release, it's "unmistakably an art film in exploitation guise." This is easily the best Franco film I've seen to date. And it's not just because of all the highly erotic sequences featuring beautiful, naked, non-surgically enhanced women. Honest!
    A modern interpretation/embellishment of the Marquis De Sade's 1795 novel Philosophy in the Boudoir, the film's narrative concerns the transformation of a naive, sexually innocent teenage girl at the hands of decadent and depraved sophistos. Eugenie Mistival (sweet 'n' sexy Liljedahl) accepts an invitation to spend the weekend at a private island owned by Marianne (Rohm), a rich older woman who recently befriended her. Little does Eugenie know that Marianne seduced her father (Lady Frankenstein's Paul Müller) in order to arrange the trip. Arriving at the secluded island mansion, Eugenie is introduced to Marianne's creepy stepbrother Mirvel (Jack Taylor), who makes no secret of his desire for her. (And who has a decidedly Austin Power-ish sense of fashion, by the way.) Before long Marianne invites her guest to share a bath, and, stretching languidly in the sun afterward, introduces Eugenie to the joys of sapphic love. (An intensely erotic scene, which Franco pulls off nicely.) Before the girl has any time to absorb this she's drugged during lunch by the two scheming step-siblings also lovers, of course who take advantage of her stupor to engage in a menage a trois. Next morning, Marianne convinces her that it was all a dream, one which Eugenie admits was "terrible, so cruel... but wonderful." Later the drugging continues, this time courtesy of some "Turkish cigarettes" enjoyed after an elegant dinner. The sex games continue, too... but with the arrival of some strange people to the island they escalate to whipping and flogging, with a terrified Eugenie receiving the blows at the hands of Mirvel and Marianne. The strangers, led by the mysterious, red-jacketed Dolmance (Christopher Lee), are approving voyeurs to Eugenie's beating; they, along with Eugenie's hosts, are members of a cult of De Sade devotees. Eugenie is the night's entertainment.
    The situation couldn't possibly get worse for our young heroine, but after recovering from her "initiation" she stumbles upon the dead body of Marianne's maid. Murder is now a part of the game. Things take a few twists from this point on, as both Marianne and Dolmance have some hidden cards to play. That their game will result in Eugenie's total degradation and the destruction of her world is merely one of the delicious aspects that make it all worth playing. The Marquis would doubtless approve.
    Eugenie... proved to be an eye-opening experience for me, since my previous exposure to Franco left me rather indifferent to his work. An early effort by the Spanish director, The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus, proved a mildly interesting but ultimately dry, overlong murder mystery which promised more than it offered. Vampyros Lebos and She Killed in Ecstasy are weird, psychedelic movies that, while containing things of merit (notably the presence of Soledad Miranda!), aren't exactly the sort of stuff I pop into the player on a regular basis. At the other end of my Franco experience is Lust For Frankenstein (1998), positively one of the worst pieces of crap I've ever seen. So Eugenie... came as a nice surprise.
    Now I'm not going to deny that there's plenty of naked female flesh on display to pique the baser interests of any red-blooded heterosexual male; the two leading ladies (particularly the tenderlicious Marie Liljedahl) are certainly gorgeous to look at. But there's more here than just a plethora of skin. Franco fashions a number of artful compositions, especially astute in his use of color using purely visual means of communicating Sadean themes beyond the actions/dialog of the characters. (Some sequences are drenched in a solid shade of blood red, almost overpoweringly so.) Save for some apparently bungled shots that are out of focus (the director wanting to get things done now as opposed to right, perhaps), the film can be considered a notable technical achievement. Contributing in no small way to the decadent ambiance is composer Bruno Nicolai's memorable score. In turns haunting and swanky, its motifs range from lounge lizard cool to psychedelic rock. Christopher Lee's appearance is certainly a plus, too. An almost Mephistophelean figure, his role as Dolmance is admittedly small little more than a cameo, really but crucial. And I can't think of a better choice for reading the passages of De Sade's work featured in the film.
    In sum, there's some honest-to-goodness art here to complement all the nudity and sleaze. Scenes meant to be erotic actually are. I never thought I'd find myself saying this, but... Way to go, Jess! (Did I mention that Marie Liljedahl is hot?)

By all accounts Blue Underground has done an outstanding job bringing this "lost" Euro-Cult gem to DVD the film has never before been available in North America on any video format. Die-hard Francophiles will be defecating bricks in abject delight. The 2.35:1 (anamorphic) transfer looks terrific, with wonderfully bold colors and very little print damage. Grain is kept to a minimum. The digital mono audio track is hiss and distortion-free, even during the wilder, loudest portions of the eclectic score. Colorful animated menu screens, using assorted snippets of Nicolai's music, accentuate the feature nicely.
    As I've come to expect from Blue Underground, the disc is handsomely complimented with extras. In addition to the aforementioned liner notes by Tim Lucas, there's the trippy original theatrical trailer, an extensive image gallery showcasing movie stills and international promotional materials (under a variety of titles, to include De Sade '70 and Die Wildkatzen), and a step-through Talent Bio of Franco. The new 17-minute featurette, Perversion Stories, is a real treat.
Franco, speaking in subtitled French, is interviewed about the making of the film, as well as producer Harry Alan Towers and stars Marie Liljedahl and Christopher Lee. Liljedahl (barely recognizable after the passage of over 30 years) pretty much disowns the flick, having obviously become more morally conservative in the interval. Towers and Franco relate the amusing way in which Lee was basically "tricked" into appearing in a sex film his scenes, shot over a brief two day period, were edited in such a way as to make it appear his Dolemance character is voyeuristically partaking in the carnality. Surprisingly, Lee doesn't seem to bear any ill will on his part, despite being shocked at the time to learn his name was prominently displayed on the marquee of a seedy grindhouse theater in London. 10/20/02
UPDATE This disc went OOP in 2009. In April 2013 Blue Underground is re-releasing the DVD as part of the bargain-priced Fifty Shades of De Sade Collection. This 4-disc set will also contain Marquis de Sade's 'Justine' (1968), Eugenie de Sade (1970) and Justine de Sade (1972). An excellent deal!
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