Review by Troy
= Highest Rating
blushing bride (Uta Köpke) really turns red when she's forced
into a prison camp run by a brutal wardress (Ajita Wilson).
It's up to her husband to free her and her friends...
Franco's Sadomania is easily one
of the Spanish director's most infamous films. Heavily influenced
by the Italian fumetti (sexy comic strips) he loves so
much, the film is a goofy compilation of sleaze, sleaze and...
more sleaze. The poetic touch typical of his best work is nowhere
to be seen; instead, the film delivers the goods where it counts
in a refreshingly straightforward, albeit tongue-in-cheek, fashion.
Franco enters into the spirit of the thing by playing a gay
white slaver seen at one point having sex with one of his lackeys;
I'd like to see Steven Spielberg try something like that! Like
his earlier experiments in the Woman in Prison (WIP) genre,
the film offers a bevy of beautiful women in various states
of undress, but it pushes the envelope further than, say, Ilsa
the Wicked Warden or Women
in Cellblock 9 (both 1977) in its depiction of sexual cruelty
— there are copious whippings, beatings and a woman is even
forced to have sex with a dog! (Animal lovers, be assured I,
too, would be appalled by such a scene were it for real, but
Franco isn't a crass opportunist like Sergio Martino; the scene
is all too clearly faked and is more campy than shocking.) Though
clearly produced with meager means, Franco brings his usual
rough-edged style (natural lighting, lots of zooms, and a basic
disregard for "neat and tidy" filmmaking) to bear and the film
is usually convincing in its depiction of the seedier side of
human nature. What isn't so convincing, apart from the aforementioned
"rape by dog" sequence, are a rather rubbery alligator head
used to provide menace and a laughably fake mustache worn by
Franco regular Antonio Mayans (billed under the name Robert
Foster) that's about as phony as any fake facial hair this side
of TNT's Gettysburg miniseries!
These elements to one side, the film is a lot of fun. It's sexy
where it's supposed to be and is done with heavy irony and humor.
The cast is dominated by the beautiful Ajita Wilson, a transsexual
sex film star who popped up in the odd "mainstream" Italian
feature (e.g., Lucio Fulci's Contraband,
1980), and here plays the role of the sadistic hyper-sexual
wardress to the hilt; it's very much akin to Dyanne Thornton's
recurring Ilsa character, with perhaps a little less camp.
The end result isn't really one of Franco's best efforts — other
films he made in Spain around that same time are more coherent
and compelling, notably the Sadian Eugenie
(1980) and Mil Sexos Tiene la Noche
(1981) — but it should serve as a pleasant enough introduction
to his anarchist form of cinema.
Blue Underground's DVD presentation of Sadomania
must be counted as their first botched attempt.
On the plus side, they managed to procure a nice print which is,
for once, fully uncut and uncensored. But, despite this, the print
seems to have been 'corrected' in the transfer process, resulting
in bland, overexposed images. Nobody will ever mistake Franco
for Kubrick in the technical perfection process, but the director
was indeed attempting to evoke the look of the fumetti
in the film, and comparisons to a Dutch Region 0 DVD release reveal
that BU's transfer is washed out, much too bright and basically
lacking the aesthetic Franco brought to the picture. The transfer
will surely prove satisfactory to those who are not familiar with
this defect (it was only brought to the attention of this reviewer
shortly before I sat down to write this review), but once it's
apparent, one must chalk this up as Blue Underground's worst DVD
release to date. The dubbed English soundtrack is laughable, and
though it's in decent shape without distortion, etc., one wishes
that BU had provided the option of the original Spanish track.
Having established that BU dropped the ball
on the film itself, they are to be commended for providing yet
another fascinating featurette-length interview with Franco. A
spry, intelligent and funny man, he holds court and offers up
observations on the film, its stars, censorship and his own personal
sense of morality (though raised Catholic, he obviously has, shall
we say, little time for church doctrine). This marvelous interview
makes purchasing the disc worthwhile for Francophiles (and who
else is likely to buy something like this?) but it doesn't quite
make up for the quality of the transfer. Spanish and English trailers
and a poster and still gallery are included, as is the same Franco
biography included on other BU DVDs.
As of June 2004, Blue Underground is offering free replacement
discs which correct the color balance and day-for-night sequences.
to contact BU.