Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 3rd, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1964 (Fanny Hill), USA, 1967 (The Phantom Gunslinger)
Directors: Russ Meyer (Fanny Hill), Albert Zugsmith (The Phantom Gunslinger)
Writers: Robert Hill (Fanny Hill), Blair Robertson, Albert Zugsmith (The Phantom Gunslinger)
Cast: Letícia Román, Miriam Hopkins, Ulli Lommel, Chris Howland, Helmut Weiss, Alexander D’Arcy, Karin Evans, Christiane Schmidtmer, Hilde Sessak, Walter Giller (Fanny Hill), Troy Donahue, Sabrina, Elizabeth Campbell, Emilio Fernández, Carlos Rivas, Germán Robles, Pedro Armendáriz Jr.
BluRay released: December 10th, 2013
Approximate running times: 104 minutes (Fanny Hill), 99 minutes (The Phantom Gunslinger)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive (Both Films), 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Both Films)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English (Both Films), Dolby Digital Mono English (Both Films)
BluRay Release: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Coding: Region Free / NTSC
Retail Price: $29.98
Fanny Hill is an eighteenth century erotica themed novel that has gone onto to be filmed numerous times as a film. And though Russ Meyer’s 1964 film adaption is not the most remembered adaption, it does hold the distinction of being first big screen adaption Fanny Hill.
And who better then Russ Meyer one of the founding fathers of erotica cinema to bring Fanny Hill to life for cinema-goers. On paper everything seemed to be aligned and yet somehow the end result is not what one would have hoped for knowing what Russ Meyer is capable of as a filmmaker.
Structurally the film’s narrative is well laid out and things moves long at a brisk enough pace that there are not that moments that are lacking or drags things to a halt. And when it comes to the characters which populate this film one of the enduring assets this film has is that everyone boldly wears their true intentions on their sleeves. Well everyone except Fanny, who at times comes off as almost too naive.
From a visual stand point things look very good throughout, especially when it comes to showcasing the women cast members more than ample assets. A few of this film’s standout moments include a scene where Fanny tries to keep her virtue from a wealthy aristocrat who is pretending to be sleepwalking as he tries to deflower her. The other monumental moments is this film’s finale that does a superb job wrapping everything up!
Performance wise the majority of the cast are all very enjoyable in their respective roles. With this most memorable performances being Miriam Hopkins (The Story of Temple Drake) in the role of Madame that takes Fanny under her wing and Walter Giller in the role of aforementioned perverted sleepwalker. While this film’s most disappointing performance coming from Letícia Román (The Girl Who Knew Too Much) in the role of Fanny Hill.
As mentioned before Fanny Hill did not turn out as it was intended to by its creators since sometime during the filming Russ Meyer walked away from the project when it became apparent that the film’s producer Albert Zugsmith (Touch of Evil) wanted to make a slapstick comedy, while Meyer’s wanted to remain more faithful to the book’s erotic tone. With that being said creative differences aside there is a wealth of content in this film that is undeniably Meyers and for that reason alone this film is worth watching.
If ever there was a film that rode its one trick pony into the ground, then that film would be The Phantom Gunslinger. Essentially the film is nonstop barrage of slapstick comedy and the film’s main joke a gunslinger that won’t die grows old very fast.
When it comes to things like character development things are a bit dicey in this regard. To this film credit is does at least firmly establish the difference between who is good and who is evil.
Also being that this film relies so heavily on humor, it is unfortunate that the humor on display often falls flat. With a lot of the reason for this falling back on the shoulders of the film’s insistence to retread ground that is well worn.
Performance wise things fair slightly better as the cast do their best with what little they have to work with. If anything good can be said about this film it would that at least the cast look like they are giving it their all and having a good time.
Ultimately The Phantom Gunslinger is much too long of a film and if it had been made into a more manageable short film, then the end result would have been more effective.
Disc one (Blu-Ray) contains Fanny Hill and The Phantom Gunslinger and both films are presented 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen.
Both film’s are sourced from their original negatives and the end results are extremely good. There are no issues with compression and when there is print damage it is very mild.
Disc two (DVD) contains Fanny Hill and it is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that retains the film’s intended aspect ratio.
Disc three (DVD) contains The Phantom Gunslinger and it is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that retains the film’s intended aspect ratio.
Each film comes with one audio option English and outside of some minor instances of background noise. All of the audio mixes sound very good, especially the DTS-HD Mono mixes that are present on disc one of this combo release.
Also included on disc three are the following extras two interviews, the first one with actor / filmmaker Ulli Lommel (11 minutes 33 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and the second one with film historian Eric Schaefer (20 minutes 16 seconds – anamorphic widescreen).
Topics discussed in the interview with Ulli Lommel include how he go cast in Fanny Hill, Russ Meyer and producer Albert Zugsmith and their rocky working relationship which led to Meyers leaving the film and the cast. While the in the interview with Eric Schaefer is a well rounded overview of the careers of Russ Meyer and Albert Zugsmith. He also discusses in-depth their only collaboration Fanny Hill.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art for The Phantom Gunslinger. Overall this combo release is yet another exceptional release from Vinegar Syndrome, highly recommended.