Written by: Christopher O’Neill on May 13th, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: France, 1979
Director: Jean-Claude Roy
Writer: Jean-Claude Roy
Cast: Brigitte Lahaie, Daniel Berton, Marcel Charvey, Muriel Montossé, Sandra Flower
DVD released: April 27th, 2009
Approximate running time: 82 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1:66:1 anamorphic widescreen
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono French
Subtitles: English (Removable)
DVD Release: Naughty DVD
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £12.99
Written and directed by prolific filmmaker Jean-Claude Roy, SCANDALOUS PHOTOS is without pretension an erotic film foremost that delivers the elements expected of such a picture, yet is crafted like as an old-fashioned B-movie crime drama that does not outstay its welcome since within its modest means the picture exhales in ingenuity over limitation: the direction is efficient, with a sampling of stock footage and appropriately-decorated sets to suggest various international settings when the production seemingly never left France; the screenplay keeps within the confines of its modest intentions yet contains ripples of social commentary and presented tongue-in-cheek with its hard-boiled dialogue; there is a sufficient amount of nudity for titillation, yet rarely at the expense of the brisk pace.
One intriguing element is the film’s structure since it is essentially split into three sections, the first being the blackmailers in action, then the private eye’s investigation, and finally the fate of a scheming high-class prostitute who extracts confidential information from her clients. In a conventional sense, this strategy is sloppy and uneven since it requires characters to drop suddenly in and out of the narrative without much development. Yet, in its own unpretentious way, these shifts illustrate the various levels of corruption involved in this sordid tale, and the means that the seemingly respectable characters take to cover up their indiscretions.
Among the most alluring actresses of 70s erotic French cinema, Jean Rollin regular Brigitte Lahaie is impossibly beautiful as always, and is excellent as Juliette, the mastermind behind the blackmail plot. She is a joy to watch whenever on-screen – while indulging in erotic scenes or otherwise – and her disappearance from the narrative midway through is regrettable. Likewise, the other female members of the cast are attractive and deliver capable performances. Seasoned thespian Marcel Charvey (whose most acknowledged film role is probably his appearance in BELLE DE JOUR) is compellingly believable as a man of power not to be crossed, while Daniel Berton puts in a capable turn as private eye Jim Ravel, who almost always appears in trilby and trench coat while spouting comical Raymond Chandler-like dialogue.
Naughty DVD, the erotic sub-label of Nucleus Films, presents SCANDALOUS PHOTOS at its original aspect ratio of 1:66:1 and is windowboxed on this DVD for anamorphic enhancement. Unfortunately only a dated master was accessible since, according to the rights holders, the original film elements are long lost. The image is rather scrappy, with constant dirt, debris and scratches throughout while the texture is soft and grainy with dull colors. Despite these flaws, the transfer is very watchable and, based on the company’s track record, if better elements were available for this release Nucleus would have made the extra effort to track them down. It is also worth noting that this version of SCANDALOUS PHOTOS runs over ten minutes longer than the UK video issued in the mid-nineties of Jezebel video.
The audio track contains the original Mono mix of the French language soundtrack and, like the image quality, is far from perfect – there are a few instances of hiss and mild damage – but ultimately none of these flaws distract from the viewing experience.
Removable English language subtitles have been included with this DVD. With the exception of one minor error – gun at the ready one character warns his assailant “One more movie and I’ll blow your knees off!” – they are more than adequate, although certain French phrases translated with a distantly British flavor – “I must have been pissed as a fart” one female character announces – occasionally adds amusement missing from the original material.
The extras are limited to a trailer which, rather than being from the film’s original theatrical run, has been created for this DVD release. There are also trailers for HOUSE OF LEGS and other Jean-Claude Roy films released by Naughty: EDUCATION ANGLAIS, DRESSAGE and JUSTINE’S HOT NIGHTS.
The complete version of SCANDALOUS PHOTOS makes its welcome English-friendly debut on DVD thanks to Naughty/Nucleus Films. Brigitte Lahaie admirers rejoice!