Tuesday, February 14, 2017

FRANCO FEBRUARY! MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE (1969) (Blu-ray Review)



MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE (1969) 
3-Disc Limited Edition BD/DVD/CD

Label: Blue Underground 
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 124 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Audio: English DTS-HD Mono 2.0, Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 with optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Romina Power, Maria Rohm, Klaus Kinski, Akim Tamiroff, Howard Vernon, Rosalba Neri, Jack Palance



Synopsis: Romina Power (18-year-old daughter of Tyrone Power) stars as Justine, a nubile young virgin cast out of a French orphanage and thrust into a depraved world of prostitution, predatory lesbians, a fugitive murderess (Mercedes McCambridge), bondage, branding, and one supremely sadistic monk (an outrageous performance by Jack Palance). It's a twisted tale of strange desires, perverse pleasures and the ultimate corruption of innocence as told by the Marquis de Sade. JUSTINE is one of the most lavish and bizarre erotic shockers ever made by the notorious Jess Franco (SUCCUBUS), bursting with wanton nudity, sexual perversion, and an all-star cast that also includes Akim Tamiroff (TOUCH OF EVIL), Maria Rohm (EUGENIE) and Klaus Kinski (NOSFERATU) as the Marquis de Sade. Also known as JUSTINE AND JULIET and the heavily-cut DEADLY SANCTUARY, this infamous film is presented completely restored and uncensored in a gorgeous new 4K transfer from the original camera negative!

More Jess Franco in HD will always be a good thing for us lovers of Eurocult and '70s cinema sleaze, praise be to cult movie distributor Blue Underground for bringing one of Franco's most lavish '70s productions to Blu-ray for the first time in North America! The first of Franco's partnership with producer Harry Alan Towers spawned an adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's story of Justine, wherein sisters Justine (Romina Power) and Juliette (Maria Rohm, Venus in Furs) are orphaned after the death of their father. With no money to pay for their education the young women are booted from the convent and sent out into the streets with only a small amount of gold to see them through. The more lascivious sister Juliette takes refuge as a whore at Madame de Buission's brothel where she becomes the lesbian lover of whore Claudine (Rosemary Dexter, Eye in the Labyrinth). The younger and more virginal sister Justine chooses not to live the life of a whore and puts her faith in a priest she meets n the streets, only to be cheated of her gold by the frocked bastard, and so begins her descent into a series of unfortunate depravity and corruption. 


Justine finds shelter as a maid working for an innkeeper named Monsieur du Harpin, but when she refuses his direct orders she is framed for the theft of an amulet and sent to prison as a thief. In prison she encounters an aged murderess named Monsieur Derroches (Mercedes McCambridge, 99 Women) who enlists the young woman's aid to free themselves from the prison prison, which she does, the daring escape involves a fire which burns to the prison ground, killing both guards and prisoners. Once freed Justine is betrayed by Derroches who offers the nubile woman to her lecherous henchman as a reward for their service, she only narrowly escapes the rape when the men begin to fight among themselves, quarrelling over whom should have the honor of deflowering the young woman first.As viewers we are privy to the parallel adventures of her sister Juliette (Rohm), who along with her lover Claudine have murdered Madame de Buission and made off with her gold, but Juliette turns on her lover in a moment of greed, drowning her for her share of the gold. Meanwhile Justine finds herself a servant to the Marquis de Bressac who asks for her help in poisoning his wife, when she refuses the Marquis proceeds to frame her for murder of hs wife, branding Justine with the mark of a murderess on her breast. Afterward the suffering Justine end up at a monastery where she feels she may have finally found salvation, only to realize she's ended up amidst a cult of sex-crazed Monks lead by deviant Father Antonin, actor Jack Palance (The Shape of things to Come)in one of his most crazed performances, and that's no small feat my friends, drunk and slurring his words, chewing-up the scenery like you won't believe. Spotted amongst the cult members are Franco regular Howard Vernon (She Killed In Ecstacy), whom torture the poor young woman, before she escapes their clutches and into the awful hands of fate who continue to deliver blow after blow to the virtuous young woman.In true Sade form those with vice profit from their deviancy while the virginal Justine only finds cruelty and betrayal at every turn, each vignette of her story further worsening her situation as she slips from one corruption to the next. Unfortunately actress Romina Power is a bit too doe-eyed and non-expressive in the role of the tortured Justine, she's truly not as awful as Franco recounts in the Blu-ray supplements, but she is not on par with Rohm, or the revered Soledad Miranda (Vampyros Lesbos) either, though she does exude a certain naive innocence. At times she looks like she might me a be strung-out or otherwise emotionally disengaged. Madman Klaus Kinski (Jack the Ripper) appears in a weird and unnecessary framing device as the imprisoned Marquis de Sade, the white-wigged author who seems to be penning the story of Justine as he paces around his cell looking bored and more than a bit little frustrated. At over 120-minutes long I think the movie is a bit of padded with fluff that could have been excised, but it's always nice to see Kinski in a Eurocult-classic, the guy's face is worth a thousand lunatic word and he exudes madness, even in a wordless role. 

As mentioned previously we have Jack Palance as Father Antonin, on the extras Franco says the actor would start drinking red wine at 7 a.m. and not let up from there, and it shows in his performance, he is unhinged and completely unrestrained. Maria Rohm (Franco's Venus in Furs) doesn't get a lot of screen time but she's solid, I can see why Franco used her more prominently in Eugenie just a few months later, she has a classic old Hollywood beauty about her, but is also sexy and charming.This is a lavish production from Franco and producer Harry Alan Towers with wonderful period costuming and some great locations, with some great lensing from cinematographer Manuel Merino who lensed a few of Franco's finest, notably Vampyros Lesbos. There's also a great symphonic score from Ennio Morricone acolyte Bruno Nicolai (All the Colors of the Darkthat complements the movie with a wonderfully dramatic score with sweeping orchestral compositions. This might mark the beginning of a familiar Sade theme among the movies of Jess Franco, tales of the elite and powerful of society corrupting the innocent and the naive, themes we've seen in How To Seduce a Virgin (1973) and the even more erotic (and x-rated) The Hot Night of Linda (1975), but it was the movies with producer Harry Alan Towers that were the most lavish and beautifully shot. If you're only familiar with Franco's more cash-strapped productions this might be an eye-opener for you, he was a a capable craftsman when give the proper resources and this is proof of that. 

Audio/Video:Marquis de Sade's Justine (1969) arrives on Blu-ray with from Blue Underground a brand new 4K transfer from the original camera negative and the results are outstanding. Grain is nicely managed, colors are vibrant, and there's some wonderful clarity and openness to the image with loads of fine detail accenting the period costuming and the tender flesh, this is a fest for prying eyes. Onto the audio we have a solid English DTS-HD Mono 1.0 track that has a nice fidelity about it, balancing the dubbed-dialogue and the symphonic Bruno Nicolai score very nicely, optional English SDH subtitles are provided.



Blue Underground offer a few informative bonus features, beginning with carrying over the The Perils And Pleasures Of Justine featurette, with interviews with Co-Writer/Director Jess Franco and Producer Harry Alan Towers, Franco goes into the tone of the screenplay, the shooting locations, how this was an expensive production for him at the time and touching on the various cast, including the notoriously drunk Jack Palance, his unhappiness with the casting of Romina Power and her performance, and how he found it rather easy to work with Klaus Kinski, who is famously portrayed as one of the most tyrannical actors of cinema by directors such as Werner Herzog (Aguirre, the Wrath of God) and David Schmoeller (Crawlspace). Franco also speaks about the censorship the movie faced and the various cuts of the film.

There's a new 18-minute interview with author Stephen Thrower on Justine who speaks about the movie and the differences in the source materials and what ended up onscreen, and for someone like myself who is not well-versed in the literary works of Sade I found it very interesting. He also puts the movie into context among Franco's other movies, this being one of his largest budgeted productions at the times, also speaking about the cast of the movie, though he doesn't savage Power's performance quite a much as Franco himself.
Additionally on the disc we have a gallery of 70-images featuring various production stills, international poster artwork, and the video releases. There's also a French language trailer for the movie. separate from the disc we have a 20-page booklet with writing on the film from Thrower adapted from his book "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco", featuring promotional images and poster art, a CD track listing, and production credits for the movie.  Additionally there's a DVD featuring the movie with the same extras, plus a CD of the Bruno Nicolai score, and a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the original 2004 Blue Underground DVD artwork and an alternate option.

Special Features: 
- The Perils And Pleasures Of Justine - Interviews with Co-Writer/Director Jess Franco and Producer Harry Alan Towers (20 Mins)
- Stephen Thrower on JUSTINE - Interview with the author of "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco" (18 Mins) HD
- French Trailer (4 Mins) HD
- Poster and Still Gallery (70 Images) HD
- 20-Page Collectible Booklet includes writing by author Stephen Thrower
- Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD by Bruno Nicolai (27 Tracks, 58 Mins) licensed from Beat Records

Marquis de Sade's Justine (1969) gets a top-notch release from Blue Underground with a fantastic 4K transfer from the original camera negatives, the A/V presentation is one of the best I've seen this year, with some great extras and the added bonus of a Bruno Nicolai score on CD. Franco-philes and Eurocult lovers are in for a real treat, this may not be my favorite Jess Franco movie but this is one of the best Franco releases on Blu-ray to date, on par with Severin's superb Blu-rays of She Killed in Ecstasy and Vampyros Lesbos, it's has been a banner year for Jess Franco in HD.3/5

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