Friday, 11 February 2011

EUGENIE DE SADE

"Pleasure is always at someone else's expense."


The late, great Soledad Miranda is joined by Franco regular Paul Muller for what is often cited as the most faithful celluloid adaptation of a Marquis De Sade tale. Based on the novella "Eugenie De Franval", Franco's take involves a most unsavoury relationship between Eugenie and her stepfather, Albert Radeck. In De Sade's story, their status was actually father and daughter, with a real sea change occuring on Eugenie's 14th birthday when Albert made her his mistress. Although Franco changed much of the original narrative - therefore falling well short of any claim pertaining to that 'most faithful' tag - his version is most certainly alive with the spirit of De Sade

The film begins as Atilla Tanner (Franco) sits at the bedside of Eugenie, who promises to relate her story on condition that Tanner kills her on completion. Tanner, an author who aims to write a biography on the Franval's, agrees and sits back to hear every sordid detail of their life and crimes.

Although Eugenie De Sade runs for less than 90 minutes, Franco crams an awful lot into his film; particularly during a remarkable first act, sowing the seeds of disgust as Albert introduces Eugenie to the delights of pornography, making it clear there are to be no boundaries. As the pair grow ever closer, Albert announces a business trip to Paris, where the couple will commit the 'perfect crime'.

Although Franco steered clear of replicating De Sade's father and daughter partnership, he undoubtedly succeeds in creating an unsettling air of familial perversity, with shots of Eugenie's teddy bear reminding us that a hitherto innocent young girl is now approaching the dark side of human nature; an entrance that is marked by Albert's confession that he was forced to kill Eugenie's mother, in order to raise and groom his intended one true love (Albert's wife, and a third party named Valmont, both figure strongly in De Sade's novella).Soon, Eugenie is a willing accomplice in Albert's quest for the ultimate in erotic entertainment, though his demands will eventually lead to the realisation of his worst nightmare.
The subsequent downwards spiral is, perhaps, too brisk to really catch fire - particularly during a most unlikely courtship between Eugenie and one of her intended conquests (musician Paul, played by weakest link Andre Montcall) but Miranda and Muller never miss a beat en route to the tragic conclusion.

As with most Franco films, there are a couple of scenes that really do linger in the memory: the De Franval's first murder is captured on camera as a young model (Alice Arno) takes part in a photo shoot that will culminate in her death. It's here that Eugenie makes her killer's debut, taking the part of make-up artist, producer and executioner. As Albert's camera approaches a frenzied climax, Bruno Nicolai's lyrical score suddenly mutates into disorientating free-form jazz; a head-spinning combination that will surely wipe the smile off the face of any Franco detractor. The second inspired set-piece occurs when the De Franval's develop a taste for hitchhikers; this time, it's Greta Schmidt (playing terminal chatterbox Kitty) who joins the ranks of Franco's 'slaughtered broads', taking centre-stage in a party game that must figure as one of Franco's most erotic creations. The man himself also plays a significant part in front of the camera, emerging as a directorial detective who loathes and admires his quarry.

Eugenie De Sade was the first major starring role for Soledad Miranda who, to avoid shaming her parents, used the pseudonym 'Susan Korday' (aka Korder): this disguise would be used again for Spanish language prints of films where Miranda was required to appear nude, and the name was a combination of novelist Jacqueline Susann and the great Alexander Korda. While it's a real pleasure to witness one of her most affecting performances, it's also a genuinely moving experience as one is rarely more than a minute away from remembering that her time amongst us was all too short.

Thanks to the wonderful medium of DVD, Eugenie De Sade has joined a growing library of choice cuts from the Spanish maestro. The Region 1 release - from Wild East Productions - apparently contains an acceptable transfer of this low budget film, with the added bonus of an "Unfinished Franco" supplement, comprising of 18 minutes of footage from 3 aborted projects shot in b&w between 1978-80 (one segment featuring Susan Hemmingway). While Oracle Entertainment's Region 2 UK release does not include this footage, their presentation of the main feature is nice and sharp, with strong colours. By all accounts, this is a far superior transfer though Franco completists may well look beyond this delicately balanced trade-off and purchase both.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

POSTER MAGIC

15 favourite live acts #3



Wembley Stadium. The home of English football and a venue I'd already experienced on 2 occasions, prior to this special concert.
Like all fans of The Who, I was saddened by the passing of Keith Moon and wished I'd had the chance to see him pounding the skins onstage. Still, when news came through the band were to play Wembley, I knew I had to bag a ticket and travel to London for what promised to be a top day and night of music.

So, on 18th August 1979, I joined 93,000 people to watch a trio of bands perform and lead us to the main event.
First up was Nils Lofgren who entertained the crowd for just under an hour and even threw a few somersaults. Next up was AC/DC who - as usual - provided great value for money. I'd already seen this band on 3 occasions in Derby, and while I preferred watching them in smaller venues, they certainly raised the roof here.

Just before dusk, The Stranglers took the stage and proceeded to play a large part of their forthcoming album "The Raven", which was released one month after this gig. Bit disappointing for those who wanted a 'greatest hits' set but they set things up nicely for the band we were all waiting for.

So, the scene was set. It was now dusk, searchlights swept round the arena and the band took to the stage and blasted straight into "Substitute" as the crowd went crazy.
Of course, Mooney was sadly missed but this was one hell of a gig with the crowd singing along to every word. Indeed, when the line "It's only teenage wasteland" came up, I swear just about everyone in England could hear the Wembley choir.
A memorable concert and easily one of my favourite live experiences for a ticket price of £8.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

EUGENIE... THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION

Written in 1795, the Marquis De Sade's 'Philosophy In The Boudoir' continues to court controversy to this very day, leaving a mark in the sand that no filmmaker could cross with regard to a completely faithful adaptation. Spanish auteur Jess Franco took De Sade's book and, together with Harry Alan Towers, made a film that, out of all his considerable filmography, he" hates the least".

Eugenie opens in suitably sordid mode when the titular character (Liljedahl) takes a telephone call from Marianne Saint-Ange (Rohm) who is part of a devious scheme to lure Marie to an island retreat owned by Mirvel (Taylor), her stepbrother. After seducing Maria's father (Muller), offering her body in return for his daughter's, the path is clear for Marianne and Mirvel to turn normality into a nightmare of Sadean excess. It's here on a beautiful island that Franco's film really catches fire, as drug-induced sexual abandon leaves Marie in a in a halfway-house, between reality and the black veils of sleep. When sinister narrator Dolmance (Lee) arrives with a colourful band of followers straight out of Jean Rollin's The Demoniacs, events accelerate Marie's downwards spiral, leading to a bloody crime of passion.

Liljedahl, best known for her role in Joe Sarno's Inga where a young woman is also corrupted by her elders, acquits herself admirably as the lead , while Taylor, Muller and Lee - all previous Franco players - excel in their respective roles. Best of all, however, is Maria Rohm whose cruel, seductive character tracks the spirit of De Sade in suitably outrageous fashion, whether she's making love or laying out the pain while Bruno Nicolai's score drones in the background quite superbly; doubtless influenced by the seminal debut album from Velvet Underground. Regarded by many as a career best for one of Franco's finest actresses, Marianne Saint-Ange provided Rohm with a wonderfully evil character, and is a fitting showcase for her considerable range; certainly, her partnership with Taylor and Lee demonstrates that De Sade was just as misunderstood by his own followers as by 'outsiders.'

Blue Underground's DVD release is a perfect home for this 'Holy Grail', offering refreshingly candid interviews with Franco, Towers, Liljedahl and Lee; the latter explaining why he chose to have his name removed from the credits. Still, that's another story. For now, potential customers should be aware this film looks fabulous, thanks to a sharp, colourful transfer with only intermittent grain. Sit back and drink in some gorgeous colour schemes that are often character-related, whether it's Rohm's green-for -jealousy dress or those colour-coded cigarettes which really are the stuff of nightmares.

UK Francophiles should note that Anchor Bay's Region 2 release is identical to its Region 1 cousin.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

COMING SOON


Dario Argento fans should look out for this forthcoming release of PHENOMENA, on SD and Blu-ray.
THIS AMAZING EDITION CONTAINS:
- 4 panel reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork
- Two sided fold out poster with new art work
- Exclusive collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on Phenomena by Alan Jones, author of Profondo Argento
- High Definition transfer of the Italian cut of the film
- Original English* & Italian Stereo Audio
- Brand new subtitle translation of the Italian and optional English subtitles of the English audio
SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Introduction by special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti (1080p)
- Dario's Monkey Business: The Making of Phenomena - A 50 minute long documentary featuring interviews with key talent behind the film including director Dario Argento, star Daria Nicolodi, underwater photographer Gianlorenzo Battaglia and more! (1080p)
- Music for Maggots - An Interview with composer with Claudio Simonetti (1080p)
- Creepers for Creatures - Sergio Stivaletti lives Q&A sessions from Dublin and Edinburgh (1080p)

Original art by Rick Melton

Presented in original 1.66:1 (16x9) Aspect Ratio with English & Italian Stereo Audio options

*The English Audio track has some portions of English audio missing. This was either never recorded or has been lost. Scenes without English audio automatically revert to the Italian audio with English subtitles.

Blu-ray Region ABC