DVD Release Date: Jan.
= Highest Rating
EC's review of the 2002 Wild East edition
most Euro-Cult fans, the chief appeal of Jess
Franco's Eugenie de Sade
— a modern adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's
Eugénie de Franval — will be the
presence of Soledad Miranda, the enigmatic Portuguese
beauty most famous for her role in Franco's Vampryos
Lesbos. In Eugenie
she's treated as a fetish icon, striking numerous
poses throughout (often in the nude) while Franco's
camera worships her. One such image is integral
to the film's theme and mood, used as an oft-repeated
motif: that of Miranda hugging her knees to her
chest, an expression of childlike innocence in
her large dark eyes.
this is a '70s
Franco film which actually has a coherent plot...
not much of one, mind you, but it is there.
Albert Radek (Paul Müller of Nightmares
Come at Night) is a well-to-do writer celebrated
in European intellectual circles. A widower, Radek
shares a manor house in the Berlin suburbs with
his twenty-something stepdaughter Eugenie (Miranda),
whom he's raised from infancy. (Her mother died
shortly after giving birth.) Eugenie thinks of
him as her true father. A shy, distant girl without
friends, Eugenie's life is totally wrapped up
in her adulation of him. She has a keen mind,
nurtured by Albert, but no real human experience
beyond her interaction with him. As for Albert,
he's a successful author but frustrated that the
world at large doesn't recognize his genius. He's
made it his life's work to explore the cultural
and philosophical aspects of eroticism —
and dedicated himself to pushing its boundaries
and violating its taboos.
day Eugenie discovers a pornographic novel hidden
in Pop's study. Reading it unleashes strange stirrings
within her body and psyche.
Albert is pleased when he learns that Eugenie
has read the book, encouraging her to explore
the subject further. In perhaps the film's most
erotic scene, Miranda strips off her undies and
hikes up her dress, languidly writhing on her
bed where Albert can see her through the open
door. He chooses not to take her then; however,
he judges it the right time to propose a little
the two of them will "revel in the secret
knowledge of having done something savagely beautiful,
they embark on a string of homicides, beginning
with that of a nude photo model in Brussels, then
killing a ditzy blonde hitchhiker they pick up
one day on the road. The hitchhiker is seduced
by both Albert and Eugenie, who get her drunk
and topless, then kill her. In celebration stepfather
and daughter have sex. (In de Sade's novella,
Albert is Eugenie's natural father —
Franco wasn't permitted to go that far by the
producers, for fear of censorship.) Their "perfect"
crime spree continues after the deadly duo dispose
of the corpse without a trace in a nearby lake.
Police are never seen in this movie; the Radeks
are never suspected by the authorities. But someone
else does seem to know about their strange relationship:
Attila Tanner (played
by director Franco himself), an eccentric writer
who approaches them about chronicling their lifestyle.
Tanner, too, is amoral —
he has no intention of going to the police with
his suspicions. He merely wants to record their
experiences... and the inevitably tragic outcome
he predicts will occur.
de Sade is not a "thriller" aiming for
nail-biting suspense. Franco's intention isn't
to put viewers on the edge of their seats breathlessly
awaiting the next twist in the plot. Like its
source material, the film is a tale of amorality
and the objectification of human beings. The homicides
aren't stylized. What murders we're shown aren't
at all gory but are nonetheless quite disturbing,
especially the slaying of the hitchhiker. There
isn't any mystery here; we know who's doing the
killing from the outset.
It's the why that's so unsettling. To Albert
and Eugenie it's just a game —
lives are snuffed out purely for their own sensual
amusement. Even so, the viewer will likely come
to feel sympathy for Eugenie despite the fact
she's a cold-blooded murderess. She's the twisted
product of her stepfather, who's raised and molded
her from childhood to join him in his nihilistic
still not quite sure where I stand on this film.
It has things to say about the extreme side of
the human condition, and does so effectively and
even intriguingly without a lot of violence or
any gore whatsoever. Its exploitation elements
are limited to sex and nudity. (This is a
Franco film, after all. Women do get naked a lot,
starting exactly three seconds in.) Soledad Miranda
is a goth-mod goddess as the title character;
much of the running time is devoted to lingering
shots of her. Even
dubbed (though the character doesn't actually
have many speaking lines) she's an incredibly
beguiling actress —
one moment looking like a heroin addict, the next
a little lost child —
a Dark Angel you'd willingly follow down paths
best not tread. Franco certainly seems spellbound,
using de Sade's story and his film to render her
an objet d'art.
are aspects of Eugenie
that I like. There're also things which I don't.
Franco has a habit of letting some scenes go on
too long, others are tedious or lethargic. (At
least he doesn't go totally ape-shit with the
zoom lens here.) One particular scene would be
a good time to visit the john or raid the fridge:
a nightclub sequence in which Albert and Eugenie
scope out their final victim, a jazz musician.
It seems to go on bloody forever. And though some
folks seem to like it, I find the score by Bruno
of the Bloody Iris) mostly sappy or annoying.
The "Eugenie Theme" is recycled ad nauseum.
de Sade was released on North American
DVD in 2002 by the small
niche company Wild East Productions, in a limited
pressing that quickly sold out. For most of that
interval the disc has been available only at auction
sites like eBay. In January 2008 the Euro-Cult
specialists at Blue Underground will unleash their
own version of the film, taken from the original
camera negative and completely uncut. (The print
uses the alternate title Eugenia.) Francophiles
and Miranda admirers have good reason to be ecstatic
the Blue Underground disc
blows the old one away.
Wild East's presentation was fullframe, grainy
and overly dark, with color smearing marring
scenes with strong red lighting (as in the jazz
club), the BU edition can boast of a pristine,
gorgeous-looking 1.66:1 anamorphic transfer,
devoid of any print damage. Detail is sharp (except
in shots that are deliberately out of focus —
remember, it's a Franco flick!) and colors quite
vibrant. Two audio options are offered: English
and French mono, with optional English subtitles.
Both are pleasingly clean and clear.
serves up the English
language trailer and what must be their umpteenth
interview featurette with director Jess
Franco. He covers some familiar ground in this
20 minute talk —
notably his personal discovery and appreciation
of de Sade's writings and his working relationship
with Soledad Miranda —
but, as always, he's fascinating to listen to.