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'Marquis de Sade's 'Justine'' (1968) is easily Jess Franco's most
accomplished film, esp. from a technical
standpoint, backed by the biggest budget he would ever have. Rich,
brilliant colors, skin aplenty, a few perversities, and strange
from Klaus Kinski, Jack Palance and Mercedes Mccambridge make for an
entertaining but relatively tame Franco outing. To boot, Jack Palance's
performance ranks as possibly the most bizarre ever seen on film. The
includes a revealing 20-minute 'making of' documentary featuring an
extensive, contemporary interview with director Franco, and he doesn't
back. Franco states that Palance was sauced during the entire shoot,
drinking red wine all day, each day, starting around 7a.m.
Kinski's role (as de Sade) was originally handed to Orson Welles, but once Welles read the script, he claimed that he simply could not play the part because it included scenes of erotica. In reality, Welles would have had to do a scene with several totally naked women, and this may have made him uncomfortable and nervous. Interestingly, the de Sade character has no lines, and Kinski's scenes are just a bunch of cutaways of him sitting/pacing in a prison cell, mentally tortured, trying to write 'Justine'.
Franco intended to create an explicitly nasty, masochistic film faithful to de Sade's writing; however, according to Franco, he was forced into a watered-down, `Snow-White-lost-in-the-woods' direction because of the producer's decision to cast Tyrone Power's daughter, Romina Power, in the title role. `She was a passenger, wandering around,' Franco scoffed. `She was like a piece of furniture. It was as if I was making Bambi 2'. The role was intended for Rosemary Dexter, who appears in the film in a lesser role.
Franco's version of 'Justine' is not as grim or as depressing as Chris Boger's 'Cruel Passion' (1977), starring Koo Stark, but it's also not as nasty or as perverse. Too bad for Franco fans. --- david ross smith
Sorry to disappoint, but Justine is by no means the welter of non-stop
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!
In a word; terrible. The actual story "Justine" is a somewhat perverted
morality tale that has a very shrewd understory; de Sade is well known in
spite of his fascination with the perverse - he truly was a gifted
Would that the same could be said of Franco's "Justine". According to Franco on the short interview included on the DVD, Romina Power was basically forced on him to be the "star", and he does not hide his disgust at her performance in the interview. Franco didn't want her, Power didn't seem to care either way (he said she rarely even knew when the camera was rolling; basically, she'd have a hard time even playing convincing furniture) and to things even better, Romina's Mom tagged along.
If you're looking for S&M, you're not going to find it here. If you're looking for nudity, you will find it here, but you quickly won't care. If you're interested in the Marquis de Sade, you won't learn anything about him by watching this. If you're on Death Row with two hours left, then this truly is the film for you; but all others should really steer clear.
Klaus Kinski was listed as the star of the film in Europe, and yet he speaks no lines and interacts with none of the other characters in the film. The first few minutes of the film (around 10 minutes, but it seemed like 30) show Kinski as the Marquis. He appears to be swimming in a sea of writing compulsions and drifting beyond the bounds of reality, or he's simply in dire need of a strong laxative. Either way, his segments are interspersed throughout the film, and they add absolutely nothing.
Jack Palance is wildly flamboyant, but it's hard to tell what the heck is going on with him anyway. In one particularly bizarre sequence he's gliding around on some sort of a wheeled dolly like a wax statue. According to Franco, Palance was always drunk, but he was pleased with his performance as Antonin.
It's not erotic. It's not sensual. It's not alluring. My wife and I watched it anticipating something like "The Story of O", but ended up with "The Story of O No". Definitely NOT recommended.
I watched this last week, my sixth Jess Franco movie. After the
relative disappointment with EUGENIE DE SADE (1970), I had hoped that
the next Franco would relight my initial admiration for his work. In
this respect, I was not a little wary of trying JUSTINE, as its
reception on the Internet since its DVD release has not been exactly
positive! But since it was the only thing available at the moment
Well, I wasn't wrong about my reservations regarding this film, as I
must say that I found it truly abysmal! Not so much a waste of time as
a wasted opportunity: as Rod Barnett had said in the recent FEMALE
VAMPIRE (1973; a film I haven't watched yet, by the way) thread, I
think that Franco fails even here to bring out the full potential of
the definitely intriguing plot - despite having the biggest budget of
his entire career to work with!
Still, what I find most disconcerting about the film is the ongoing parade of embarrassing performances from some interesting (i.e. formerly respectable) actors: Akim Tamiroff, Mercedes McCambridge and, worst of all, Jack Palance. The other notables from the cast - Klaus Kinski, Sylva Koscina and Howard Vernon acquit themselves far better, also because they were already practiced at this sort of thing. McCambridge's raspy voice is given a thorough work-out here, as though she were already attempting to 'find' the demon voice for THE EXORCIST (1973)! Palance, on the other hand, gives new meaning to the expression 'chewing up the scenery' - the fact that he was drunk all through the shooting of the picture could hardly bode well for some form of coherence in his performance and, while I couldn't help (or indeed stop) laughing when he was on screen, deep down I felt really sorry for him as he clearly did not belong there!!
Despite his brief and silent appearance, Klaus Kinksi makes for an appropriately moody Marquis De Sade, who grows increasingly paranoid as the story he is writing unfolds on the screen; actually this linking sequence is quite atmospheric: one online review even compares it to the Gothic horror films of Mario Bava, and I can certainly see where he is coming from with such an argument. Maria Rohm again proves to be an asset to the film (though she isn't nearly as effective here as she was in EUGENIE THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION ): a clearly intelligent woman who possesses both great charisma and genuine sex appeal. Perhaps the film's best sequence is her heartless drowning of the Rosemary Dexter character, formerly her mentor and lover (needless to say, the fact that both women go through the scene stark naked made it all the more memorable!).
As for Romina Power, this may come as a surprise to you but I didn't think she was as bad as most online reviews would have it. Of course, apart from her constant innocent demeanor, she never really captures Justine's essential personality (especially her gradual acceptance of masochism). However, you may remember that in my review of EUGENIE, I had similar reservations about Marie Liljedahl - though, to be fair to her, she certainly came off as less 'wooden'; then again, most of the performances in JUSTINE are terrible anyway, so it really doesn't matter! Perhaps, for someone like Francesco and me, we are more responsive to her 'acting' because we are used to watching her on Italian TV whereas the rest of you will probably have to make do with this single, admittedly unimpressive performance! Still, echoing another review I read of the film, I'm not sure that Rosemary Dexter (apparently Franco's personal choice) could have done much better with the title role, though one cannot really judge her talent from the thankless role she was relegated to playing!
(Useless bit of trivia: Romina Power regularly comes to Malta on holiday perhaps the world's largest collection of her father Tyrone's ephemera resides in our country, believe it or not! - and it is said that she often takes a villa at Naxxar to live in; Naxxar, of course, is the village in Malta where I live!)
For me, the best thing about the entire film is Bruno Nicolai's masterful score, which is perhaps wasted here! At the very least, however, one could say that JUSTINE is good to look at and that it is packed with incident, so it does not really feel slow (like EUGENIE, for instance) throughout its lengthy duration if only what was on screen were more genuinely compelling!
As of now, I stand about 50/50 on Franco (from the very few titles that I have sampled) and, in all honesty, I'm beginning to despair of ever finding another film to equal EUGENIE or THE DIABOLICAL DOCTOR Z (1965). Still, I have high hopes for SUCCUBUS (1967) which will be my next venture into Franco's endless canon as well as VENUS IN FURS (1968) and LORNA THE EXORCIST (1974), though I'll only be able to watch the last two if the local censors deign to release them from their clutches!
This movie took place in France around the 17th century and focused on two sisters, one of them innocent and good and the other not so innocent and caniving. Their father is sent to exile and they are each left a small amount of money to take care of themselves and are asked to leave the convent in which they had lived. The bad sister tries to pursuade the other good sister to live with her in a whore house with her but the good sister would have nothing of that and she dicides to go off on her own away from her bad sister. Like an Alice in Wonderland adventure the good sister goes from place to place in search for a place to live and at each doorstep awaits unspeakable tourture and mayhem. Jack Palance plays a rather strange character as a leader of a sadistic cult that takes pleasure in watching and performing rituals of torture. His performance was short in this film and I wish that it could have been a longer role, not because he was good in it (because he lacked in character ) but because it could have made more sense with him in it. Klaus Kinski who also has a short lived role in this movie as the Marquie De Sade is exiled in prison and does nothing but sit at a table and writes the whole story about the two sisters and their adventures. His role makes no sense as he just gets tired of writing all those pages and calapses. The bad sister ends up getting hooked up with a rich Aristocrate and later finds her poor sister in a carnival in the midst of public humilitation after being branded a murderess by another person she seeked at one time in need for asylum. The bad sister listens to her poor sisters story and takes care of her in the end. There is a moral to this tale: You may endure many hardships, but in the end, you'll find the treasures you are given in the end.
Jess Franco's interpretation of the Marquis de Sade's Justine, seems a
bit tame for my taste. I really wasn't expecting much going into this
(it IS Jess Franco, after all...) so I can't say I was that
disappointed. I was expecting a pretty average sleaze film, and that's
what I got...
Justine and her sister are banished from a private school when their father dies and leaves them no money for tuition. The one sister goes to a whorehouse to work, Justine decides that ain't her thing. The rest of the film is pretty much comprised of Justine being subjected to different forms of exploitation that would have been way worse than what she would have experienced in the whorehouse...
Nothing really notable about JUSTINE, other than the beautiful women that show far too little skin. Don't get me wrong - there is nudity in the film - even some brief full-frontal - but it's never long enough or in the right situation to be arousing or memorable. The acting is decent - the sets and costumes are very well done, and the story is relatively entertaining - but it tends to drag. It actually took me three viewings to watch it all the way through, because I kept falling asleep (though I partially blame that on the bourbon...). Not a horrible film, worth a look to exploit fans, just don't expect too much...6/10
I went into this film expecting lots of nudity and bad acting, as it turned
out I got the opposite of both. The star of the film Romina Power is
wonderful as well as beautiful. Some other reviewers have said she appeared
dull and uninterested, but I don't think that is the case. I think her
spaced out look was a cunning ploy to take advantage of situations when
needed. Of course she was a virgin and untrusting of men which also lead to
The beautiful setting and costumes should have won the Academy Award. :) Look for Jack Palance over-acting as a sexual deviant monk, who attempts to free young Justine. Jack and his fellow monks are studying the power of PLEASURE!!! They should have shown this at the Academy Awards the year after Palance won for City Slickers, and the whole place would have fell down laughing. I liked this movie, the uncut version runs 2 hours on DVD and is well worth it. I never got bored with the film. 5/10 Average, but better than I thought it would be.
On paper, this looks like THE greatest exploitation idea ever! The
vicious writings of Marquis de Sade brought to the screen by no less a
person then the Godfather of sleaze: Jess Franco! And starring the
fabulously outrageous Klaus Kinski as the Marquis. And there are
several other aspects about this film that indicate that you're about
to see a triumph in the euro-exploitation field. Like the rather big
budget. Franco normally makes the most out of small budgets but here he
actually had the chance to work with decent set pieces, costumes and
actors. The cast is more than decent with Jack Palance, Howard Vernon
(Franco regular) and the ravishing Maria Rohm and Romina Power. This
latter one plays the title role and as well as the entire film
disappoints. The movie is a series of unspectacular events and I never
saw Franco this tame! Marquis de Sade: Justine is low on violence, low
on nudity and extremely low surprises. Kinski is dreadfully underused
and the whole thing is just too correct! Which is NOT Franco's
Of course, it's very stylish and guided by brilliant music. The sets are gorgeous and the two leading ladies remain a joy to stare (preferably when they keep their mouths shut). This certainly isn't Franco's finest film but I'll still prefer it over 99% of the amateurish crap that is brought out nowadays. Franco rules, but he had a bad day here!
Not correct to call Jesus Franco's interpretation of MARQUIS DE SADE: JUSTINE as "drama" or "horror".It is very soft kind of exploitation cinema for easy viewing in the evening.This is not bad kind of movie.Because it's unexpected version of De Sade's world.With some soft humor and romantica.No straight violence and brutality.No much nudity?Fogget it!(so many good another porno-movies at 60-70-th)!There are two alter egos of marquis personality at film.First:Klaus Kinski - suffering convict writer.Happy drunker mad poet(Jack Palance no named De Sade at the movie?-Who cares?!)- second alter ego.Feverish work of cinematographer to memory of surrealistic cinema.This is good trash-film!Don't be boring!
Marquis De Sade: Justine is a long way from being unwatchable as there
are a number of things that are good. It is however a very strange film
and not a very easy one to rate.
Starting with what is good about Marquis De Sade: Justine, coming off best is the music score which is outstanding, if on occasions overpowering, very stirring and rich in sound and it fits the film very well. The film also looks good, the sets are simply gorgeous, the plentiful costumes are certainly attractive and a lot of care was clearly put into the cinematography which is beautiful. The crowd scenes are tense and rousing and while he sometimes overdoes with the fading in and out Jesse Franco does give some of his most competent directing ever, though it does feel very different for him. While I was not very impressed with the acting generally, the charming Maria Rohm makes the most out of her brief role and Mercedes Mccambridge is an absolute hoot.
Romina Power is very wooden in the lead role on the other hand, while Klaus Kinski is criminally underused and pretty much wasted, spending his entire screen looking remote, and Jack Palance is embarrassingly over-the-top and out of place. I like Palance but not here, he's not as bad as he was in Che! and Outlaw of Gor but this is one of his worst performances. While the film is undeniably fun there are too many times where the story is episodically disjointed and lethargically paced, sometimes not as cohesive as it could be. It also feels very tame and toned down by today's standards and not sleazy or sensual enough, the story is one where those qualities are necessary and it just felt bland and agreed too correct. The ending is very heavy-handed when you can actually hear the dialogue when it's not being drowned out the stilted way it's written and uninvolved line delivery from most makes it not really worth listening to.
In conclusion, not unwatchable but very strange and not easy to make of. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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