Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 10th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: Italy / USA / West Germany / Liechtenstein, 1969
Director: Jesus Franco
Writer: Harry Alan Towers
Cast: Klaus Kinski, Romina Power, Maria Rohm, Rosemary Dexter, Akim Tamiroff, Mercedes McCambridge, Sylva Koscina, Howard Vernon, Jack Palance, Rosalba Neri
BluRay released: December 15th, 2015
Approximate running time: 124 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
BluRay Release: Blue Underground
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $39.98
Synopsis: After living their lives in the lap of luxury, sisters’ Justine and Juliette are forced to leave behind the life they once knew. And though they originally intended to stay together. Unforeseen circumstances would present them with two choices. With Juliette choosing the easier path of vice, while the virginal Justine decides to continue on a path of virtue.
Though Marquis de Sade’s Justine marked Jesus Franco’s first full fledged adaptation of the literary works of the Marquis De Sade. There are traces of De Sade which can found in other Franco films as far back as The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus. Also though there was o denying the influence that the De Sade had on Franco as a filmmaker, it should be noted that the screenplay for Marquis de Sade’s Justine was written by producer Harry Allan Towers under the pseudonym Peter Welbeck. With that being said, Franco still manages to infuse his undeniable imprint on the final product.
Whenever someone attempts to adapt the De Sade there are just going to some things that are never going to translate well or moments due to their graphic nature would fall victim to various forms of censorship. And though this adaption does a good job retaining the essence of the source, it also is far from a faithful adaption. With one of its most glaring changes being the handling of a character named Derroches.
From a production stand point Marquis de Sade’s Justine would give Franco the largest canvas that he ever got to work with as a filmmaker. With the film reported budget being one million pounds. Needless to say he would take full advantage of this rare opportunity as this film is a period drama set in 18th century. When it came to customs and set designs this film does a superb job maintaining the intended look of this era. Another area where this film far exceeds its expectations are the actually Barcelona locations featured in the film and some of them are considered landmark locations.
When it comes to moments of sadism this film actually holds up very well in this regard. With the most satisfying moments in this regard involving the perverted priests whose only quest in life is that of finding absolute pleasure. Of course this is Franco film and nudity is something he has never shied away from. And to there are a bevy of beauties in this film who are in various stages of undress.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this film is its incredible cast of who’s who from Euro-Cult cinema. Cast in the role of the Marquis De Sade is the ever intense Klaus Kinski (The Great Silence, Nosferatu the Vampyre) and though his role amounts to not much more than a cameo. His presence is still felt throughout the film. Other recognizable faces include, Akim Tamiroff (Touch of Evil), Mercedes McCambridge (All the King’s Men, 99 Women), Sylva Koscina (Hercules), Rosalba Neri (Top Sensation), Howard Vernon (The Diabolical Dr. Z) and the ever delirious Jack Palance (Companeros) in the role of perverted priest named Antonin.
Unfortunately the casting of Romina Power in the role of this film’s protagonist Justine proves to be the thing that hurts this film the most. She gives an expressionless performance that never fully captures the other side of the charter where she starts to enjoy the pain being inflicted on her. Then there is Maria Rohm’s (Venus in Furs) performance in the role of the other sister Juliette. And once again here is another character who is underused. Which is shame since she delivers a pitch perfect portrayal of Juliette.
Marquis de Sade’s Justine comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. When compared to all previous home video releases for this film this brand new transfer vastly improves upon all that has come before, as colors have never looked more vibrant and nowhere is this marked improvement more apparent than when it comes to image clarity. Also there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release has one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English. There are no issues with distortion or background noise and everything sounds balanced. Also dialog comes through clearly and the film’s soundtrack always sounds robust. Also included with this release are three subtitle options, English SDH, French and Spanish.
Extras for this release include, a poster & stills gallery, a French language trailer for the film (3 minutes 46 seconds, in French with English subtitles), a featurette titled ‘The Perils and Pleasures of Justine’ (19 minutes 58 seconds, in English and French with English subtitles) and an interview with author Stephen Thrower the author of ‘Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco’ (17 minutes 32 seconds, in English).
The extra titled ‘The Perils and Pleasures of Justine’ include comments from director Jesus Franco and producer / screenwriter Harry Allan Towers. Topics discussed in this extra include, Towers first became aware of Franco after seeing his film Necronomicon, Franco and Towers on updating Marquis de Sade’s Justine, how this was the most expensive film that he ever directed, censorship in Spain, casting choices and who Franco wanted in the role of Justine, the cast and Franco’s thoughts in their performances, collaborating with Klaus Kinski and Bruno Nicolai’s score for the film.
Topics discussed in the interview with Stephen Thrower include, how Marquis de Sade’s Justine was the largest budget Franco ever worked with, Towers and why he frequently adapted from literary sources, De Sade’s overall influence on Franco’s cinema, how Marquis de Sade’s Justine was shot primary in Barcelona, the cast and his thoughts on their performances, the differences between Towers adaption and the literary source.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art, a CD that contains the score for the film and a twenty page book with cast & crew info, a lengthy essay about the film titled ‘Bambi Meets the Monsters: Jess Franco’s Justine’ written by Stephen Thrower and information about the CD that contains the film’s score. 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. Overall Blue Underground gives Marquis de Sade’s Justine its best home video release to date.