Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 29th, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: France, 1974
Director: Walerian Borowczyk
Writer: Walerian Borowczyk
Cast: Lise Danvers, Fabrice Luchini, Charlotte Alexandra, Paloma Picasso, Pascale Christophe, Florence Bellamy, Jacopo Berinizi, Lorenzo Berinizi, Philippe Desboeuf, Marie Forså, Sirpa Lane
BluRay released: September 8th, 2014
Approximate running times: 103 minutes (Theatrical Version), 125 minutes (Uncut Version)
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono French
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £15.99 (UK)
There are four (five if you include The True Story of the Beast of Gevaudan) which make up the narrative for Immoral Tales. Also each of these tales are set in a different time period, starting with modern day and working their way back to the fifteenth-century.
Content wise, though Borowczyk’s films have always dealt with provocative subject matter, Immoral Tales at that moment in his career was by far and away his most graphic in regards to its depiction of sexuality.
The Tide: A young man takes his cousin to a private beach and once they have arrived he uses the tide to teach his inexperienced cousin the pleasures of oral sex.
Thérèse Philosphe: To curb her sexual desires a woman is locked in room and once inside she lets her mind run wild as she uses the various objects in the room to satisfying her unfilled sexual desires.
The True Story of the Beast of Gevaudan: One day while strolling through the woods, a woman comes face to face with a beast who devours her sexually instead of killing her.
Erzsebet Bathory: In order to retain her beauty a countess rounds up virgins and baths in their blood.
Lucrezia Borgia: Unable to conceive a child due to her husband’s impotence a young woman enlists the help her father the pope and her brother a cardinal who help in her quest to have a child.
From a visual stand point all of these films are impeccable shot and the production design on each is astounding. Every frame has been composed with the utmost care and for the maximum effect. A few of the standout moments include the moment when the tied arrives and the characters in the first story simultaneously reach climax. Another exquisite moment is the scene in the fourth story where Erzsebet Bathory baths and caress her flesh with the virgins’ blood. Of course the short titled The True Story of the Beast of Gevaudan is a visual feast for the eyes that has to be seen to be believed. And this sequence would later be expanded into Borowczyk’s next feature The Beast, with the footage that comprises the short serving as a dream sequence in the feature film.
Subject matter in these film’s leans heavily towards the taboo as two of the film’s deal with incest, another involves the aforementioned beast who fornicates with a woman and another involving mass murder. Not surprisingly the second short Thérèse Philosphe involving the young woman pleasuring herself is the weakest of these five tales. Though without giving too much away it does end with an ironic twist. While the opening The Tide and closing segment Lucrezia Borgia would be neck in neck for the strongest out of these stories. With that being said the best performances come from the remaining two stories Paloma Picasso in the role of Elisabeth Bathory (her one and only screen appearance) and Sirpa Lane (Beast in Space) who portrays the object of desire in the story titled The True Story of the Beast of Gevaudan.
Immoral Tales comes on a 50 GB dual layer (45.2 GB) BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. This another superb 2k transfer that has solid color reproduction, black and contrast levels look consistently strong throughout and details always look crisp. Grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in French and removable English subtitles have also been included with this release. The audio sounds great throughout as dialog is always clear and everything sounds balanced. Considering the source limitations, range wise things sound extremely good and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented throughout.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (2 minutes 20 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen), an introduction to the film by Daniel Bird (5 minutes 14 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen) that gives a well-rounded overview of this film and its alternate longer version, a segment where several Walerian Borowczyk collaborators get together and discuss him titled ‘Boro Brunch: Crew Reunion’ (7 minutes 37 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in French with English subtitles) and a featurette titled ‘Love Reveals Itself: Making Immoral Tales’ (16 minutes 42 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in French with English subtitles) with comments from producer Dominique Duvergé-Ségrétin and camera assistant / cinematographer Noël Véry.
Topics discussed in ‘Love Reveals Itself: Making Immoral Tales’ include, the origins of Immoral Tales and each of its segments – including The True Story of the Beast of Gevaudan which was later expanded into the feature film The Beast, the look of the film is discussed and why there were multiple cinematographers, casting and how Isabelle Adjani was considering for the lead role in The Tide, props and special effects – pigs blood was used during the scene where Erzsebet Bathory baths in blood, and how Borowczyk wanted his films viewed as a while and not just for their erotic moments.
Other extras include two versions of a documentary about erotic artifacts titled ‘A Private Collection’ (12 minutes 12 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in French with English subtitles) and ‘A Private Collection: Oberhausen Cut’ (14 minutes 31 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in French with English subtitles).
Also included with this release is the alternate version of Immoral Tales titled ‘Immoral Tales: L’Age d’Or Cut’ (125 minutes 25 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in French with English subtitles). This version of the film includes the segment titled ‘The True Story of the Beast of Gevaudan’.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible covert art and twenty eight page booklet that contains information about the cast and crew, contemporary reviews for the film and three essays, the first one titled ‘A Plate Full of Cucumbers’ written by Daniel Bird, the second one titled ‘Immoral Tales’ written by Phillip Strick and the third one titled ‘A Private Collection’ written by Michael Brooke and information about the restoration work done for this release.
Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release.
Immoral Tales is also part of a box set entitled Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection which also includes the following films, Walerian Borowczyk Short Films and Animation, Goto, Isle of Love, Blanche and The Beast. This box set also included a generously illustrated book edited by Daniel Bird and Michael Brooke featuring new essays, landmark articles by Raymond Durgnat, Philip Strick, Patrice Leconte, David Thompson and Chris Newby, Boro’s Dictionary, an account of the restoration of Borowczyk films and Anatomy of the Devil, a collection of Borowczyk’s short stories translated from the original French by the filmmaker’s assistant, Michael Levy. This release was limited to 1,000 copies and is now OOP. Fortunately the five release which make up this set are available in standalone releases and they contain the exact same content that their counterparts from the box set included. Overall another solid release from Arrow Academy that comes with a wealth of extra content and two versions of the film, highly recommended.