Saturday, February 25, 2017

FRANCO FEBRUARY! JESS FRANCO'S MARQUISE DE SADE (1976) (DVD Review)

JESS FRANCO'S MARQUISE DE SADE (1976) 

Label: Full Moon Entertainment
Region Code: Region-FREE NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 79 Minutes.
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0, French Dolby Digital 2.0
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Martine Flety, Sarah Strasberg, Pamela Stanford, Olivier Mathot

Synopsis: A lonely aristocrat Miss Gray has a twin sister who's in an asylum. They share a strange bond. Miss Gray is rational but frigid while her sister is insane yet feels sexual pleasure for both of them. Soon, a female reporter arrives at the mansion - Miss Gray possesses vampire like qualities and lives alone when new reporter comes to do a story on her. It appears Doriana needs to suck the life out of various men and women - in a sexual way, in order to stay young. However, she gets no sexual feelings or pleasure out of it. Those ‘feelings’ go to her TWIN sister who is locked up in an asylum. There she goes through various sexual ‘violent and sexual fits’ whenever Doriana is pleasing and killing.
In this erotic death-obsessed slice of Euro cult we have Jess Franco muse Lina Romay (The Hot Nights of Linda) starring in a dual role, first as the somewhat frigid aristocrat Lady Doriana Gray who lives alone in her sprawling seaside mansion, keeping to herself and cursed with the inability to feel sexual pleasure, oh no. On the flipside we have her nymphomaniac twin sister (also played by Romay) who's been cloistered away in an asylum from a very early age, a woman consumed by passion and carnal delights, she's in a state of constant orgasmic arousal while locked away in her room where she cannot help but diddle herself, preferably while being watched by the asylum staff. It is explained through narration that the two women were born Siamese twins and were separated at a young age, during the surgical procedure a shared nerve was damaged, thus devoiding one of pleasure, while wholly consuming the other with lust, with a lasting psychic bond between them.

Lady Doriana keeps to herself at her mansion until one day a journalist (Monica Swinn, The Duke of Burgundy) arrives at her mansion hoping to secure an interview with the liberated woman for a tabloid magazine article, the recluse is reluctant at first but eventually opens up to the woman, revealing her preference for women and her inability to experience sexual pleasure, in addition to a strange side effect of her pleasureless love, it seems to kill her lovers, which while not really explained in full, the movie sort of hints at some weird vampyric angle, which enables Lady Gray to maintain her youthful visage by draining the sexual essence of her lovers. We also learn that her twin sister experiences all the pleasures of sex that she cannot, which seems to have contributed to her sister's madness.
At this time in the 70s Lina Romay was in her prime, a sexual nymph of the highest order, the epitome of cinematic lust, with those big sultry eyes, and there's something about her mouth, the way her lips frame her teeth, the way she licks her lips, she always manages to do a number on me, damn. She portrays Lady Doriana with some appropriate restraint, she has a aristocratic air about her, but she's still a knock-out, wandering her mansion in little more than a sheer pink gown that only thinly veils her voluptuous assets, the movie certainly plays to her physical strengths. Romay plays the nymphomaniac sister with an animalistic sexual abandon, a child-like wild woman who more often than not is rubbing one out in her room at the asylum,  while in the presence of a nurse (Andrea Rigano) and Dr. Orloff. Unable to control her sexual desires she is in a constant state of arousal, wild eyed and orgasmic, screaming with pleasure, maddened by her own uncontrollable, naughty impulses.

Lina Romay and pretty much everyone else struggles with the awkward dialogue, which is not helped by a poor English dub, particularly the over-tanned Peggy Markoff (Barbed Wire Dolls) who seduces Lady Gray early on in the movie. I sniggered a bit when her super-trashy character says things like "I'm going to make you cum", and "now I'm going to show you how horny I can make you", but the sex is pretty damn hot, even if the close-ups get in the way at times, there's only so much close-cropped glistening clit-licking I need to see, you know. At times I wasn't sure if there was a hair on the camera lens or if it was just more fuzzy 70s muff, but guess what, it was always just the fuzzy 70s muff, haha. Also getting in on the sex-action is Lady Doriana's man-servant Ziros (Raymond Hardy, Women Behind Bars) and his cute blond lady friend (Martine Stedil, Swedish Nympho Slaves), who was very easy on the eyes.

For his part director Jess Franco is both directing and doing the camerawork on this one himself, while I think it lacks when compared to the early 70s work we saw for Franco from cinematographer Manuel Merino (Vampyros LesbosShe Killed in Ecstasy) the movie is nicely framed and makes nice use of the value-added scenic mansion and the gorgeous women, particularly Romay who is pure eye-candy. Franco lays on a heavy veneer of voyeuristic shots of sapphic love and hardcore sex, this one goes beyond an r-rating with numerous scenes of straight up sex of both the woman-on-woman and man-on-woman variety, including scenes of full-on penetration and Romay with a mouthful of uncircumcised cock, so cum into this one knowing what you are getting yourself into. As stated before Franco goes in for maybe a few too many extreme zoom-ins for my tastes but I like the surreal atmosphere the Spanish auteur conjures this time around, and this is just so Lina Romay-centric that I cannot help but love it.

Audio/Video:Marquise de sade (1976) arrives on DVD from Full Moon Entertainment as part seven of their ten-part Jess Franco Collection series, of which the spines form a portrait of Franco, which is cool, but look a bit awkward on the shelf as part of an incomplete collection with no large title on the spine. The movie is known by several other titles in various regions, these include Die Marquise von Sade (which is what the title card reads for this release) The 1,000 Shades of Doriana Grey, Doriana Gray and The Portrait of Doriana Gray.

The movie is framed in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and looks very nice, there are some slight DVD compression issues, the grain is not as finely resolved as I would like, but it is sourced from a very nice print with very minimal print damage,a few specks and slight scratches can be seen. Audio on the disc includes both English and French Dolby Digital 2.0, there are no subtitle options. The dubbed English track is a bit boxy at times with some occasional hiss, but for the most part this is a solid track, and has more depth that the French audio option. The movie also benefits from cool sitar-tinged score from composer Walter Baumgartner (Barbed Wire Dolls).


Extras on the disc are slim, but appreciated. These include about 12 minutes of interviews with producer Erwin C. Dietrich, director Jess Franco and star Lina Romay, plus a Jess Franco trailer reel with full frame trailers for Oasis of the Zombies, Demoniac, A Virgin Among the Living Dead, The Screaming Dead, Erotikill, and The Invisible Dead.

Special Feature:
- Interview with Producer Erwin C. Dietrich, Director Jess Franco and Star Lina Romay (12 Mins)
- Vintage Jess Franco VHS Trailers(7 mins)

Jess Franco's Marquise De Sade (1976) is a hot little number that straddles and crosses the line between hardcore sex-film and just another slice of Franco Eurocult from the 70s. While not the most opulent of Franco's 70s films, it is stylish and surreal, with a minimal story and loads of voyeuristic sex. If you're a hardcore Franco fanatic this will be fun watch with the usual amounts of surreal erotic artiness, but for everyone else this might be some rough stuff, a bt too light on the hardcore sex for the porno freaks and a bit too much sex for the Eurocult fans who have not been consumed by Franco's brand of sleaze, sex and death euro-cult cinema, definitely an acquired taste, but one that once you develop a taste for will require frequent revisits. Would love to see a Region A Blu-ray, I know there's a German Blu-ray out there, but this slice of naughtiness is in need of a serious HD upgrade here in the US, but for now this uncut release from Full Moon will do just fine. 

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