Thursday, December 31, 2020

SINS OF THE FLESH (1974) (Mondo Macabro Blu-ray)


Label: Mondo Macabro
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 88 Minutes
Audio: French & English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional Newly Created English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Claude Mulot
Cast:  Anne Libert, Francis Lemonnier, Gerard Kikoine, Patrick Penn

Benoît Landrieux (Francis Lemonnier) is the jet-setting son of a wealthy pharmaceutical industrialist, who at the top of the movie is cruising the streets of Paris in his convertible seeming living the life. When he stops off at a café for an espresso an attractive young woman comes on strong and picks him up. It turns out that she and her free-spirited friends are playing a game, each of them laying strange men and making off with the button to their trousers as a souvenir of their sexual conquests. He drives her out to a secluded spot in the forest and she undresses inviting on a picnic blanket, but it turns out that he is impotent and cannot rise to the occasion to the displeasure of the woman, whom laughs and  chastises him for his inadequacy, leading to him angrily driving off and abandoning her in the middle of the forest. As the day continues we learn that his father is cutting him off from his usual handsome allowance, to thwart that he approaches his strangely sexual step-mother, offering her a nude massage while asking her for help in securing funds from his father, but it is made clear that the outlook is none to promising. 

That night he encounters a young man attempting to steal his car, instead of calling the authorities he recruits the would-be car thief, Jean-Pierre (Patrick Penn), to drive him around town. While driving around they encounter and rescue a young woman named Isabelle (Anne Liber, Jess Franco's The Demons) from being raped on the side of the road by her sleazy step-father. Afterward the impromptu trio head drive out to the countryside cottage of Benoît's father where Benoît plays the part of Pierre's manservant, preparing them dinner and attending to their needs. There Pierre and Isabelle hit it off rather quickly, skinny dipping in the pool and after dinner being served a mushroom laced sangria by Benoît, before engaging in a lively and well-shot hallucinatory sexual encounter, with Benoît revealed as a kinky voyeur watching from the sidelines.

As the character of Benoît is fleshed-out we come to see that he is not only a spoiled son of aristocracy but an impotent, violent psychopath prone to outbursts of anger, and one who enjoys controlling others. When Isabelle returns to her father's home to gather her belongings the next day the step-father once again attempts to rape her, but this time both Pierre and Benoît interrupt the attack with Benoît unleashing his inner-anger upon the man, killing him with blunt force trauma.  Requiring cash to leave town in a hurry Benoît cajoles Pierre into robbing a safe at his father's factory, but when that goes sideways Benoît attempts to unsuccessfully extort money from his father. He then sets his sights on his step-mother, having Pierre seduce her and filming the encounter. As the film plays out we see the threesome lead by Benoît go down a path of demented manipulation leading to some potently doomed psycho-sexual tensions.

The flick is artful and plenty erotic with softcore sex scenes that edge into the realm of hardcore with out going full-tilt fucking, but it gets darn close! This is the first film I have seen from director Claude Mulot, whom I am aware of as the director of the horror film The Blood Rose (1970) and the xxx feature Pussy Talk (1975), which was the inspiration for Chatterbox (1977), the latter of which I have seen, I saw it on VHS after finding it in my parent's bedroom when I was probably about 12, hahaha, it was the beginning of my moral ruining. This psychological and erotic thriller has certainly whet my appetite to see more of his films, in fact I only just realized I have a DVD of his film Black Venus (1983) sitting on the shelf I have never cracked open, so I will be watching that next. I love the mixing of hallucinatory arthouse lensing of Jacques Assuérus with the sleazy euro-cult subject matter, it all makes for an enthralling watch for lovers of strange, sexual and offbeat Euro-cult thrillers. 

Audio/Video: Sins of the Flesh (1974) arrives on region-free Blu-ray presented in 1080p HD framed in 1.66:1 widescreen. This is a new 4K scan of the original camera negative with digital restoration, with the 'Les Charnelles' title card. It looks marvelous with vibrant well-saturated colors, natural looking skin tones, and a filmic looking sheen of film grain that carries with it pleasing amounts of fine detail. Audio comes by way of both the original French and English-dubbed DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono with optional, newly created English subtitles. Both language options sounds great, the English-dub is well done, and the score from Eddie Vartan sounds terrific, there are no issues with hiss or distortion. 

We get some lengthy extras for this title, there is over and hour and a half of interviews with actress Anne Libert (21 min), actor Gerard Kikoine (27 min), Distributor Francis Mischkind (24 min), and an updated version of the interview Assistant Director Didier Philippe-Gerard (26 min) that appeared on the 2007 Mondo Macabro DVD release of The Blood Rose. The extras are great, not only do we get tales of working with Mulot and the censorship and distribution of the film, but tales of of working with Jess Franco! 

The disc is buttoned-up with a pair of British and French trailers under the alternate titles of 'Les Charnelles' and ‘Sex Without Love' and a pair of alternate title sequences under the titles ‘Émotions secrètes d'un jeune homme de bonne famille’ and 'Nevro', the latter of which looks to be an alternate home video VHS title based on the video toaster graphics. The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork that looks to be the a home video artwork from the VHS days. The flick was previously issued by Mondo Macabro as a limited edition of 1000 red case version with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring both this artwork and a new Justin Coffee illustration, plus a booklet with writing on the film by Pete Tombs. This standard release does not have reversible artwork or the booklet, but all the disc extras are the same, and you do get a taste of the Justin Coffee artwork on the main menu of the disc. 

Special Features:  
- Brand new 4K Transfer from film negative, digitally restored.
- Interview with Anne Libert (21 min) 
- Interview with Gerard Kikoine (27 min) 
- Interview with Distributor Francis Mischkind (24 min) 
- Interview with Assistant Director Didier Philippe-Gerard (26 min) 
- French Trailer (4 min)  
- British Trailer (4 min) 
- Émotions Secrètes d'un Jeune Homme de Bonne Famille Alternate Title Sequences (2 min)
- Nevro Alternate Title Sequence (2 min)
- Mondo Macabro Trailer Reel (11 min) 

Sins of the Flesh (1974) is a terrifically sleazy and lurid French thriller that might just be one of my favorite discoveries of 2020. This would make a great double-feature with Seven Women For Satan (1974), which is another French Euro-cult title that was made the same year, and also features a deranged main character, hallucinatory visuals, and chance meetings that lead to provocative sexual encounters, and it was also released by Mondo Macabro simultaneously with this film. 

More screenshots from the Blu-ray: