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Sorry to disappoint, but Justine is by no means the welter of non-stop gore and perversion you might expect from a confluence of Franco, de Sade and producer Harry Alan Towers. Adapted from the Marquis's sublimely immoral 'moral tale,' it plays for much of its length as a bawdy 18th century romp in the style of Tom Jones. Naturally, with the added joys of cut-rate production values and dodgy acting.
We only hit familiar Franco territory when our heroine (a bland Romina Power
yes, Tyrone's daughter) is ravished by a coven of depraved monks. Cue
for lots of naked Eurotrash starlets, trussed up in chains. Gee, it's good to be home!
So Justine is not quite your typical Franco production. For a start, it has something approaching a budget. That means a lot of semi-big names (most of whom have seen better days) show up as 'guest stars.' Indeed, the film is best watched as a vast costume party, whose guests have been invited to Come-As-Your-Most-Embarrassing-Moment.
Hence we get Akim Tamiroff as a drunken pimp, Mercedes McCambridge as a lesbian brigand, Sylva Koscina as a cross-dressing noblewoman and Klaus Kinski as the Marquis de Sade himself. The grand prize must go to Jack Palance as Brother Antonin, spiritual leader of the above-mentioned depraved monks. His may be the most deranged performance in the annals of screen acting.
Weighed down by the baggage of an international tax-shelter epic, Justine never comes close to the dreamlike delirium of Succubus or Virgin Among the Living Dead or any of Franco's more extreme, smaller-scale works. Still, it's a lot of fun - in its utterly reprehensible way.
Franco himself even crops up as the ringmaster of a grotesque peepshow, where Justine is forced to appear after she survives any number of Fates-Worse-Than-Death. Now that's what I call typecasting!
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