Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 23rd, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1969
Director: Jesus Franco
Writers: Jesus Franco, Bruno Leder, Malvin Wald, Carlo Fadda, Milo G. Cuccia
Cast: James Darren, Klaus Kinski, Maria Rohm, Barbara McNair, Margaret Lee
DVD released: February 22nd, 2005
Approximate running time: 86 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Blue Underground
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
“I Runne death and death meets me as fast and all of my pleasures are like yesterday.”
Synopsis: Trumpeter Jimmy Logan’s (James Darren) life starts to unravel when he discovers the dead body of Wanda Reed (Maria Rohm) on the beach one day. He soon remembers that she was the woman at the party he attended a few weeks before. He had witnessed three of the guests as they sadistically beat and raped her. Now in Rio, Jimmy discovers that Wanda is still alive. Jimmy refuses to leave Wanda now that he has been given a second chance. Has Jimmy found happiness or will his obsession lead his demise?
Jess Franco is a prolific director who has directed around 200 films over the past fifty years. Several of his films were released in alternate versions which often contain footage not shot by Franco. His career as a director can be broken up into distinctive periods with his most successful films made in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Venus in Furs is has several alternative titles like Paroxsysmos and Black Angel. Venus in Furs is totally a product of its time the late 1960’s. Psychedelic music and films filled with surreal imagery ruled the pop culture landscape.
Venus in Furs bears similarities to two films from this time period Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up and Franco’s own film Necronomicon (known as Succubus) in the America. Venus in Furs main connection to Blow Up is their use of rock musicians for the films score. Both films also feature Protagonist’s who witness a murder that consumes them like an obsession. There is also a scene in Venus in Furs were Wanda Reed is photographed by Olga in Blow Up like stylized camera set ups. In Venus in Furs Franco expands the dream like tapestries that he had first explored in Necronomicon.
Franco has had to overcome many obstacles due to lack of budget on most of his films. Venus in Furs doesn’t suffer from this problem. In fact it is one of his most wide open films that used various locations including Italy, Rio and Istanbul. Cinematographer Angelo Lotti who also photographed the Umberto Lezni giallo Seven Blood-Stained Orchids uses every inch of the frame as he composes picturesque compositions. There is a car chase in the film that proves Franco can more then handle himself when shooting an action sequence.
Franco through the years has worked with his fare share of talented actors and the cast for Venus in Furs is one his strongest casts that he ever worked with. The casting of James Darren in the lead role of Jimmy Logan may appear like an odd choice on the surface. His subtle performance perfectly compliments Maria Rohm sexually charged portrayal of the films heroine Wanda Reed. Margaret Lee and Dennis Price are very good in supporting roles. Klaus Kinski does what he does best play characters with piercing eyes that have a tendency to be sadistic and charming at the same time. Unfortunately Kinski’s role in nothing more then a mere cameo as he makes an appearance at the beginning before returning briefly near the end of the film. The jazzy score by Manfred Mann and Mike Hugg helps add atmosphere to the films surreal images. Venus in Furs has many elements that Franco would use in many of his films and even with all these things in place there is something about the film that makes it feel unlike any other Franco film.
Venus in Furs is the good starting point for anyone who is just getting into the cinema of Jess Franco. Overall Franco made a nearly flawless film and outside of the overused slow motion technique everything else perfectly falls into place.
Blue Underground gives Jess Franco’s Venus in Furs its long overdue DVD début. The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This DVD transfer comes with a luminous color palette that captures the beauty of Franco’s psychedelic tapestries. Flesh tones look natural and the black levels remains solid through out. There is some noticeable grain and some print damage comes in the form of nicks & scratches, still nothing that ever becomes distracting.
This DVD only comes with one audio option the films original English dubbed track presented in a Dolby Digital mono. For a film that is nearly thirty five years old this mono track will surprise most listeners. Dialog is always easy to understand and the action especially the films score makes full use of the front channels. There are no problems with distortion or hiss and overall the source material used for this mix is in great shape.
Extras include the films original trailer, a poster & still gallery and Jess Franco’s bio. Other extras include an audio interview with the films lead actress Maria Rohm that has still photo’s in the background while she talks. The interview runs about eleven minutes in which she discuses what it was like to work with Jess Franco. Rounding out the extras is a twenty minute with Jess Franco titled “Jess in furs”. Jess as usual is candid and offers a lot of incite into the inner workings of his cinema. He discusses how he had to change the ethnicity of the lead character and rewrite the entire script. These are two of many subjects that he discusses. Blue Underground went back to the films original vault elements as the source for this DVD’s transfer and loaded this release up with extras making Venus in Furs one of this years most coveted euro-cult release.