Customer Reviews: Marquis de Sade's Justine
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HALL OF FAMEon April 3, 2005
Jesus "Jess" Franco is a director that's sort of a secret amongst serious horror film fans. If you're the type of casual fan of the genre who thinks that "Friday the 13th," "Halloween," and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" are the best films the horror industry ever made, you have never heard of Jess Franco. If you think the "Leprechaun" franchise constitutes the apogee of the horror genre, you have never heard of Jess Franco. If you think collecting Wes Craven and John Carpenter films are as far as you need to go to balance out your DVD collection, you have never heard of Jess Franco. I don't mean to give the impression that Franco is the best directorial talent ever seen in the field, because he definitely isn't, but I have found that knowledge about some of this man's films is one of the best ways to distinguish the novices from the veterans. His most highly regarded--at least in some quarters--film remains "Vampyros Lesbos," a fascinating take on the age-old vampire legend. Then there is Franco's take on the Marquis de Sade's Justine, which doesn't exactly classify as a horror film as much as it does your typical Eurosleaze trash. Read on...

"Justine" (let's just call it that instead of putting de Sade's name in front of it; I'm feeling lazy tonight) stars Romina Power as the titular character, a young, naïve waif cast out into the decadent world of 18th century France. It all starts when Justine and her dissolute sister Juliette (Maria Rohm) must fend for themselves after being thrown out of an orphanage. The two head straight for Paris and a local harridan hotel where Juliette fits right in as the main attraction. Justine doesn't make the cut, however, and heads out into the world to find her own niche. What follows is a series of slightly bawdy and often boring romps involving all levels of French society. Justine first obtains employment at a small inn thanks to the grizzled owner Du Harpin (Akim Tamiroff!) only to find herself back on the street after rebuffing the overtures of a seedy nobleman. She then ends up in prison where she meets a tough, streetwise goon by the name of Madame Dusbois (Mercedes McCambridge!!) who has a date with the executioner she's planning on skipping. In between the woman's enormously hammy cackling, we learn that she needs Justine's help to escape her fate. They get away, and Justine falls in briefly with Dusbois's gang of ugly French thugs.

All is not lost, however, as Justine manages to escape from these vagabonds only to fall into a dismal situation involving the Marquise de Bressac (Slyva Koseina) and her good for nothing hubby. A murder plot and a lot of inherited wealth leads to a situation in which Justine decides to do the "right" thing by spilling the beans to the clueless Marquise. Oops. Hubby still gets what he wants but learns in the process that Justine's big mouth might have ruined his plans. Result? A big 'M' (for murderess) branded on Justine's chest in what is probably the film's best sleazy scene. What follows is rather tame by comparison, although I should mention none other than Jack Palance shows up as Antonin, the head loony of some crazed sect of debauched nut jobs. The film screeches to a halt as Justine, her morality in tatters and on her last leg emotionally and physically, somehow manages to find a personal savior who could care less about her soiled reputation. At least I think that's what happened. Oh, I almost forgot: none other than Klaus Kinski turns up as the Marquis de Sade himself, but doesn't do much except pace about in a prison cell and write down Justine's various adventures.

"Justine" is one of Franco's better efforts even though it ultimately disappoints in the sleaze department. The budget is bigger, the stars are recognizable and surprising to see in a Jess Franco film, and the musical score sounds wonderful. What went wrong? A lot. Considering the Marquis de Sade is one of history's most lecherous individuals, the movie is strictly for the milk and cookies crowd. Sure, a few whippings and some gratuitous nudity pop up from time to time, but such scenes are generally uninspired and tame compared to the stuff you'll experience in the Marquis's writings. Even more alarming are the performances. Akim Tamiroff in a Jess Franco film? Wow! Quite a drop from "Touch of Evil" to this, wouldn't you say? Mercedes McCambridge also should have known better; she's awful and grating in her part. As for Jack Palance, well, if you've seen "The Shape of Things to Come" you have a good idea of how far Jackie will go to prop up his faltering career. He lurches and screeches through his part jacked up on wine (according to the interview with Franco on the disc) and generally embarrasses himself at every opportunity. Still, despite all its flaws, I liked "Justine" for the mere fact that it's a quite watchable bad movie. I love bad movies.

Extras on the disc include the aforementioned interview with Franco, one of the better ones I've seen, in which he discusses working with Kinski (they got along) to dealing with Palance's penchant for drink to his extreme dislike of Romina Power. A trailer, poster and still galleries, and a Franco bio also find their way into the supplements section. If you're looking for a truly disturbing and sleazy cinematic adaptation of de Sade, I recommend Pasolini's "Salo." Those looking for a gigglefest and de Sade lite would do well to give this one a spin.
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on September 15, 2003
This tale, like Eugenie, Her Journey Into Perversion, isn't bad, and fairly explicit, for the late 60's, but is still pretty tame, by today's standards. Has a weird appearance by Jack Palance, as a mad monk, or something. Also, a limited appearance by the late Klaus Kinski. Limited nudity and sex, but hey, what can one expect-it's fairly low budget. There are interviews and other features for the "technically" minded. Worth a look, but not worth the price I paid for it, or the other one-Eugenie. Minimal relation to the works of De Sade; which they, both, are supposed to be based on.
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on January 21, 2005
The first thing that struck me about this DVD was the very poor opening sequence, featuring Klaus Kinski in the role of the infamous Marquis. Yes, this movie will soon be 40 years old, but still, the technique is amateurish and uninteresting.

As for the rest of the movie, it fails to capture the novel's spirit. De Sade's characters are satyrical due to their extreme, impossible cruelty and depravation. Franco's are silly, whimsical, and they fail miserably to amuse or arouse me at all.

Power is indeed a sweet-looking, beautiful young girl, but a limited actress, and the rest of the cast is just plain dull. Except for Palance, who delivers a rather strange performance that, once again, betrays the spirit of the book.

In short, the movie is a big disappointment. While De Sade's novel was a harsh criticism of the morals of his time (which greatly benefited him), the movie, with its happy ending, is a rather short soap opera where the heroine endures some tribulations, but gets her reward in the end.
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on March 9, 2007
Be careful not to be fooled by the Anchor Bay version which is marked with 124 min but has only 119 min!

Spend some more and buy the Blue Underground version with the total 124 min of total fun.

Jack Palance is fantastic!
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on November 28, 2000
If you're not strong, you won't be able to see this film. Nudity and sadistic violence are present in the memorable story of two sisters, Justine and Juliette, adapted from a novel by Marquis de Sade. Living in a convent, they stood apart when their mother dies. Hopeless and without money, they take different ways. Juliette seeks pleasure and soon learn how to murder, to cheat, to do everything in order to get rich and powerful. Justine, on the other hand, lives a life of pain, despair, but keeping a virtuous behaviour. Throughout the film we are invited to answer a very delicate question: is it worth to be virtuous and suffering all the time instead of being wicked but happy at all? The answer remains on our minds, on our deepest values. Anyway, it's a good movie with a fine score by Bruno Nicolai.
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on November 15, 2002
To correct the editorial review. Romina was born October 2, 1951. The film was released in 1968. Even as prolific as Jess Franco was, a 60 day schedule from filming to release is unlikely. She had to be 16. This is another piece of cult erotica that the true Franco fan will enjoy.
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on December 18, 2002
Blue underground has done some magic with this DVD. The transfer is superb - it looks better than many movies today. The soundtrack is clear and live despite being mono. The voices seem dubbed at times - but I assume that's a fault with the original movie. The short (20min) review with the director & producer - is one of the best I've seen.
The movie itself is interesting at most times, with some boring (not too many) scenes. The movie is quite intriguing - although not to everybody's taste. ...
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on November 23, 2002
This film has nothing to do with the erotic story written by the Marquis de Sade. This would be rated PG-13 by today's standards. I wasted my money on this piece of your money to buy the new release of "The Story of O". Or, purchase the very erotic "The Image". If its nude women, erotic S&M scenes you are looking will be terribly disappointed with this loser.
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on July 12, 2007
Note that this version has been cut by 20 minutes (the full-length version is also available here on Amazon), i.e. there is no reason at all to be interested in this version unless, for reasons that can be known only to yourself, you have the truly wierd desire to see a Jess Franco movie with the squelchy bits cut out.
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on October 31, 2008
If you know what you are going to be seeing before you view it, this movie is well worth purchasing. I bought it for the campy, artsy quality that it possesses. But I think you really have to enjoy watching 60's type films to appreciate it as there are numerous disjointed leaps from one scene into another. The soundtrack is somewhat gravelly at times but it can be lived with. Romina Power is excellent as Justine and Jack Palance is hilarious in a creepy kind of way as the mad monk. Yes, the movie is downright strange, but that is to expected and lends to the beauty of this classic flick. The extras at the end are nicely put together. The poster and stills section is well done, as well as the French trailer.
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