The Story of Her Journey Into Perversion
DVD Release Date: Nov.
= Highest Rating
This review contains nudity, lesbianism, sadomasochism,
and Christopher Lee.
Lee in an S&M
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
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!
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
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.
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
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
all accounts Blue Underground has done an outstanding
job bringing this "lost" Euro-Cult gem
to DVD —
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
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.
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!