Black Venus Lady Libertine
Spain - U.S.A. - France | 1983, 1984
Directors:
Claude Mulot, Gérard Kikoine
Starring
Josephine J. Jones, Florence Guérin
Karin Schubert, Jennifer Inch
Sophie Favier, Christopher Pearson
Color
| Not Rated
BLACK VENUS: 95 Min.
LADY LIBERTINE: 84 Min.

Format: DVD (R0 - NTSC)
Private Screening Collection
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Buy online

at Amazon
 

Buy online

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Review by
B. Lindsey
Black Venus
 
  4
Lady Libertine
 
  3  
  3    
SNEAK PREVIEW | DVD Release Date: October 31, 2006
The 1980s... I remember them well. Private Screening Collection, a DVD label specializing in erotic/sexploitation films of the "Skinemax" Golden Age, put it quite nicely in a blurb on their website: "There once was a simpler time. A time when acts of congress between a man and woman were emblazoned on pure celluloid, not cheap video. A time of more skin, less silicone — a place where a young lady's forbidden assets were God-given rather than man-made. Where a young man could earn his Master's degree in Immorality simply by watching cable TV on a late Friday night."
    Back in the day, there was no Internet. (Can you imagine...?) During most of the '80s the majority of people didn't own a VCR. The drive-in and grindhouse were dead or fast disappearing. Cable TV was relatively new in many parts of America
. HBO and (especially) Cinemax struck gold with their Friday late night broadcasts of skin flicks, filling a void during the transition to the technology we commonly enjoy today. Even if you didn't have a VCR (many of the Mom and Pop video stores in small towns wouldn't rent sex films anyway), you could still get a regular dose of nudie cuties as long as you had premium cable channels. Private Screening is now bringing some of the most popular T&A titles from this era to DVD, starting off with the direct-to-video, shot-in-Europe Black Venus (1983) and Lady Libertine (1984). Both of these films were written and produced by Harry Alan Towers, the British impresario behind the Fu Manchu flicks of the '60s.
    For awhile there Black Venus was in semi-regular rotation on Cinemax. I now recall seeing it at least three or four times, typically at two in the morning while half-wasted and flopped on the couch. I'd completely forgotten about it in the 20 years since, although while watching the DVD my memory was nudged to recollection by the plot involving the statue and the almost nonstop parade of foxy female flesh. A former Miss Bahamas, Josephine Jacqueline Jones stars as the titular heroine, an immigrant from Martinique newly arrived in Paris during the 1850s
. Venus quickly discovers that the easiest way to provide for herself is as a courtesan to wealthy, decadent sophistos. The possibility of a different life presents itself when she and a handsome young artist named Armand (José Antonio Ceinos) meet and fall madly in love. Armand becomes obsessed with sculpting a life-size statue of her; she comes to live with him at his studio apartment while he works feverishly on his masterpiece. Their happiness proves fleeting, however, as Armand turns out to be a brutish, possessive lout — when in his cups, which is often, he treats Venus like dirt. (Dumbass!) She has no choice but to leave him; otherwise he's liable to kill her, himself or the both of them during one of his drunken rages. Upon ditching Armand a modeling job at an upscale dress shop brings Venus to the attention of Marie (Karin Schubert), a wealthy lady who hires her as a "companion". (The German-born Schubert would turn to hardcore porn two years later, at the ripe age of 41!) Venus finds the gifts and attention lavished on her a fair trade for sharing Marie's bed, but her benefactor's asshole husband returns from abroad and immediately humiliates and degrades the Caribbean beauty, with Marie's apparent blessing. Venus flees the mansion never to return, hooking up with a naive young country girl named Louise (18-year old French actress Florence Guérin) whom she takes under a protective wing. The pair become fast friends and lesbian lovers, together finding employment at a high class bordello. Meanwhile, Armand — sick and destitute — is forced to sell his beloved statue to a wealthy patron to pay the rent and buy food. When the statue's new owner also 'purchases' Venus and Louise so that they may accompany him during a stay at his seaside villa in Spain, Armand follows with jealous rage in his heart. If he can't have Venus, no one will...
    Lady Libertine, AKA Frank And I, is also set in the 1800s. It concerns Charles (Christopher Pearson), a British gentleman of means who, out riding one day, comes across a homeless teenage boy wandering along the road. An orphan, young "Frank" has been thrown out of school and has nowhere to go. Charles takes him in, resolved to bring the poor lad up as his ward and provide him with an education. When he catches Frank peeking at his collection of Victorian erotica, Charles decides that the boy needs a good whipping and while caning his bare buttocks discovers that Frank is, in fact, a girl! (Her real name is Frances.) They keep this secret between them, even from the servants, once Charles pops her tender young cherry and they become lovers. The waif's innocence and fresh-faced beauty leads Charles to fall in love, and he contemplates ending his long-standing relationship with a 'kept' woman he maintains in London (played by the ravishing Sophie Favier). Then he learns that Francis has a dark secret in her past, one which explains why she took to the road disguised as a boy. That secret leads to the door of a high-priced cathouse frequented by diplomats and other members of the upper crust...
    Production values are quite good in both Black Venus and Lady Libertine, especially since they involve a lot of period costumes and sets. They are neither imaginatively nor badly directed. The major eye candy on display Jones and Guérin in Venus, Stephanie Inch (as Frances) and Favier in Lady is unquestionably hubba-hubba hot. (Particularly the very sexy Guérin, who's reminiscent of a young Jane Seymour only a bit plumper... like I like 'em. Inch may have the face of a 12-year old but also the body of a nubile coed.) Unfortunately a 'Masterpiece Theatre Goes Softcore' attitude prevails, which means that there's probably too much damn talking, ballroom dancing and simulated sex for the average Internet smut-saturated twentysomething horndog to sit through. (Being an old geezer, I didn't even have a fast-forward button, much less TiVo or DVR, when getting my first youthful jollies with softcore cable porn... Had to remain just sober enough to stay awake through all the dull parts.) You can dress sexploitation up in a winged collar and a bustle but, once the clothes come off, you've still got a skin flick. Why put on airs? This is especially true of Black Venus, which purloins oft-used (to the point of cliché) pieces of classical music for its entire score. At any moment I expected some old guy in a tweed jacket, smoking a pipe, to step into the scene, look into the camera and say, "Yes, you too can fornicate to the beautiful melodies of the world's great masters, immortalized in this new CD collection..."
    These flicks were originally aimed at couples rather than the all-male raincoat brigade, but I suspect the filmmakers hedged their bets with Venus given its memorable scenes of lipstick lesbianism. It also wastes no time getting to the nude scenes. (Less than three minutes in.) Lady Libertine contains considerably less sex and nudity than Black Venus, although it adds an element of kink with the (initially) androgynous nature of its heroine and the bare-ass spanking that's a recurring theme. The problem with Lady is not just the interminable narration of the snobby Charles (whom we could give a shit about), but by the ridiculous conceit that anyone could believe for a second that the shapely young "Frank" was actually male ... even with the silly Dutch Boy wig. And, oh yeah... Sophie Favier doesn't get naked enough. (After becoming a well-known TV personality in France, she later sued — unsuccessfully — to prevent the movie's video release.)

The first titles released on the Private Screening label, both Black Venus and Lady Libertine are presented 1.33 fullframe, which, since they were originally made for cable/home video, would appear to be the correct aspect ratio. Venus is in the best condition of the two, apparently taken from a pristine source; Lady exhibits a bit of damage here and there but it's quite minor. Both discs display vivid colors and sharp detail (within the parameters of the soft-focus cinematography, that is), as well as a sheen of light grain that's never too distracting. Clear, distortion-free mono audio tracks compliment the features.
    Neither of these DVDs comes with any extras. Still, they're decent enough presentations for anyone wanting to experience the glory days of Skinemax erotica... provided you don't mind the cost. At 27 bucks a pop (at Amazon, at any rate) I feel these barebones discs are way too pricey thus my DVD rating of "3". 10/15/06

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