Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Justine"(1968)d/Jesus Franco

Photobucket
Tonight we examine the screen adaption of a book once called "the most abominable book ever engendered by the most depraved imagination"(that's a tall order,shorty) by no less than Napoleon Bonaparte, resulting in the thirteen year imprisonment of its author;a man known the world over as the father of Sadism, the Marquis DeSade.An ambitious undertaking for any director, granted, and somewhat ironic that none other than Jesus Franco would helm the project during one of his more prolific and respectable periods of work.Perhaps the true irony here is that Franco doesn't bung the whole production down the lavvy, despite his signature eternity-long zooming hand held shots that often end up blurred and out-of-focus, or more often, on some broad's hairy gravy boat, on display for all to see.In this film, the bush just happens to belong to the daughter of silver screen swashbuckler,Tyrone Power,whose fatal heart attack came ten years earlier in 1958, and not directly after screening Romina in her birthday suit here as one might deduce.Also lending credibility to the Italian production are performances by Franco regular Maria Rohm, the one and only Klaus Kinski(who's kind of wasted here, only bagging silent screen time as DeSade himself), the actress behind the husky screen voice of Pazuzu in The Exorcist, Mercedes McCambridge, and even local great Jack Palance, who's not only appropriately off-the-chain as a sexually deviant libertine here, he also levitates for anybody interested in seeing that sort of thing.Nothing would surprise me at this point after checking out some of the search topics that bring readers to the Wop every day.Y'never know.So does Franco do the literary pornography of DeSade any justice?Read on for my verdict.
Photobucket
DeSade(Klaus Kinski)lets his quill do all the talking.
As we begin,the Marquis DeSade(Kinski)relates the sad tale to the viewer from the confines of prison, tortured by hallucinogenic images of, well...bare-assed women being tortured(I'm pretty sure he grooved on this sort of thing IRL).Juliette and Justine(Maria Rohm, Romina Power)get thrown out of a nunnery when their father unexpectedly dies.When Juliette's friend, Madame de Buission, turns out to be a brothel madam, the more virtuous and pure sister, Justine, bows out gracefully, while her nasty whorish sister Juliette willingly sets up camp in the whorehouse, learning all the carnal skills to make herself the apex prostitute.Meanwhile, things for Justine go from bad to progressively worse.A passing priest jacks her up for her gold doubloons and passes her on to a fat old scumbag named Du Harpin, who frames her with a gold amulet stolen from his master, Monsieur Derroches, ultimately landing her in prison.There she is befriended by Dusbois(Mercedes McCambridge),a gravelly-voiced she-assassin who takes pity on her for her innocent looks, and incorporates the young girl in a daring escape plan involving a set fire.Her sister, meanwhile, has honed her treachery to a fine point, adding murder to her growing list of unscrupulous talents; killing her madam and a rich client to boost her own pile of duckats.When Dusbois' henchman vie for dibs on deflowering their new young accomplice in the forest, she makes her escape, finding shelter and love for a short time in the home of a painter named Raymond.
Photobucket
Dusbois(Mercedes McCambridge),a condemned virago, still manages to set aside some quality gypo dancing time.
Her happiness with Raymond is short-lived though, as the police inquire as to her whereabouts, forcing her to flee into the woods, coming upon the shrewd and loafer-light Marquis de Bressac, who hires her as an attendant to his wife, the Marquise(genre fave Sylvia Koscina), that he's been planning to eighty-six all along.When she refuses to kill the woman for him, he kills her himself with poison and frames Justine anyway, branding a huge M(for murderer) between her smallish(but appetizing just the same!) busom.At the same time, her sister Juliette has amassed a small fortune from her wicked ways that she no longer fancies sharing with fellow prostitute Claudine, so she sinks her in the drink while bathing in a river.Just when things seem to be looking up for Justine as she finds herself in a chateau occupied by a monastic brotherhood led by Father Antonin(Jack Palance), she discovers in horror that the men are perverted hedonists in search of the highest forms of physical pleasure, torturing women that they keep as sex slaves.During a ceremony where Antonin plans to reward Justine for rapidly learning their philosophy by releasing her through torture-killing her(Englebert Humperdinck would not be amused), things go wrong and she escapes once again.Her brief lover Raymond rescues her again only to have Dusbois abduct her again, forcing her to appear nude in a stage show where the crowd notices her murderess brand, causing her to be dragged off by the police again(Phew!).Before the King's men can enforce their justice though, she is noticed by a minister's mistress who saves her life.The woman of position turns out to be Juliette herself, confessing that her life of big black evil badness turned out be less fulfilling than she thought, and her sister Justine would finally be rewarded despite her long-standing misery.Justine takes up at the palace with her sibling, and is reunited with her lover, Raymond.Awwww, that's nice.
Photobucket
The sweet and virtuous Justine(Romina Power), willing to break it all out for love and art.
Surprisingly, the movie is as reasonably close to the book as one could expect here, sparing audiences Justine's death at an untimely lightning bolt after confessing her sins to her sister(!).I dunno, I woulda dug seeing that, to be truthful.Franco sandwiched this release between 99 Women and Eugenie, The Story of Her Journey into Perversion, before moving on to Venus in Furs, and two Christopher Lee vehicles, The Bloody Judge and Count Dracula, the following year.The oft-nude Power would continue on in Italian film for decades, adding singing, writing, and painting to her already impressive repertoir.She does an adequate job here(though she's at least five years older than the literary model fyi), always looking the right mixture of innocence and untapped sex appeal.McCambridge, who also landed a part in 99 Women as Franco-philes will already know, bagged herself a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1949 and was once called the greatest living radio actress by none other than Orson Welles himself.Tonight's review will finally break the string of three wop movies we've had here recently, though it should be noted that a two wop Franco movie is like a three wopper for other directors, in most cases.Worth a look!
Photobucket
Jack Palance's portrayal of Father Antonin is based entirely on a chunk of Prosciutto di Praga...believe it....or not.
Photobucket

9 comments:

Nigel Maskell said...

I dunno why, but I cant remember a sodding thing about this film (well hardly anything)- Eugenie yes, 99 Women yes, but this one - err, well it was probably good as Franco was at the top of his game back then, Jack Palance performance seems to ring a bell but maybe even here I may be thinking of the Bloody Judge.

Wasn't this the one where Kinski is sort of writing the plot to provide some sort of structure, narration?

beedubelhue said...

Indeed,Kinski in a powdered wig,quill in hand.You're right, though, Franco near his peak, the easiest of his stuff for me to watch, though some of his more outrageous efforts are entertaining enough, with the shlock factor through the roof.I'm gonna tackle some Bava,some Soavi,and perhaps a bit more Franco in the coming days.Got to get back to the basics,haha!


-Wop

Nigel Maskell said...

I think its the same for me- its the easiest stuff to watch, as much as Lina is a joy to look at those films seemed to take on an increasingly cheap look about them- some of the WIP stuff I got here doesnt even look like Franco is trying at all, sort of like D'amato at his most disposable, speaking of which there is another one who can go from the sublime to the ridiculous from feature to feature.

On the other hand Succubus, Eugenie etc are simply magical- that ending of Eugenie... the Story of Her Journey Into Perversion, among so many classic moments- that just blows me away, every time.

beedubelhue said...

Agreed.I don't think Lina was enough of a draw in and of herself to make Franco's later films work in the same way his efforts from this period did, despite her exotic looks and sexuality, and he spiralled because of it.Have you seen any of the later XXX material they worked on together?As brutal to endure as any "mondo" animal violence, I assure you!Franco and D'Amato were both pretty hit and miss throughout their careers.Gotta love 'em though.


-Wop

beedubelhue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nigel Maskell said...

Not sure if I have seen any of the later xxx films- I may have seen the films but since I would have picked them up in HMV they would be sans xxx material, but I have a handful of wip films that look like made for late night tv softcore film, and have a shot on video feel- Lina looks incredible, but as you say its not enough to raise the films above red shoe diaries episodes, while I havent seen an awful lot of later Franco the only one that really stood out for me beyond the late 60s early 70s was Loveletters of a Portugese Nun.

beedubelhue said...

Love letters of a Portuguese Nun,ahhh,CLASSIC nunsploitation,and another excellent Franco film.Susan Hemingway was an angel back then.You're gonna make me dig that one out and revisit it now!


-Wop

Nigel Maskell said...

Do it! ha! I think I could easily do the same this weekend, in fact, since we are on the subject, I think I will,

beedubelhue said...

You're on,matey.We'll meet up afterwards and compare notes!



-Wop

 
Connect with Facebook