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"Justine: Cruel Passion" is much better than expected. This 1977 film version turns out to be very faithful to it's source material, in this case the writings of the Marquis De Sade. His tale of a young innocent, cast into the cruel, corrupt World when her parents die, is certainly a grim one. Koo Stark does surprisingly well at portraying virginal innocence, disgusted by the violence and vice surrounding her. The more she resists, the harder she is pursued by the corrupt people in her midst. Stark really is good here; she doesn't overplay it, she never comes across as unbelievably naive and innocent. Overdoing it might have made it seem silly to care for Justine. I was rather expecting a trashy excuse to show wall to wall soft core sex, but "Cruel Passion" turns out to be rather tame in that regard, which probably explains the low ratings here. Any viewer looking to get a lot of nudity and sex out of this production might be a bit disappointed. What we have instead is a very handsomely filmed, Gothic/Victorian "bodice ripper," only with a surprisingly bleak and grim conclusion, that I was not expecting. Beautiful sets and costumes, mist shrouded countrysides, and a fine utilization of it's classical soundtrack, all come together to make an above average film that is essentially about the loss of innocence. Entire passages are taken verbatim from the Marquis De Sade, resulting in dialog that is at times poetic. The story of Justine was filmed several times, but this 1977 version remains the most faithful to the original writings. Recommended for anyone interested in the writings of Sade, as well as fans of Gothic and erotic films.
The version I own is the unrated De Sade's Justine, proudly displaying Kook
Stark's name on the cover. While she's tender and lovely in this movie,
there is room for an exciting and tantalizing plot which never
The acting is mediocre, sets/scenery are good but the dialog is contrived making the whole thing a bit of a disappointment. There's not even enough nudity/debauchery to excite much more than a 12 year old male.
Yes, there was some really, really bad acting in this film, but it wasn't done by Koo Stark. She was beautiful, demure, and a pretty decent Justine. (It's often hard to judge an actor in a really bad movie.) i have never seen Stark elsewhere, and would need to do so before deciding if she were a hack. About the material itself, I have read some Sade, (although not "Justine") and it is some really vile stuff. Someone mentioned that the sex scenes were depressing and un-erotic. That describes Sade's stuff on a very mild day. He was a fanatical atheist, and took great delight in portraying sex as sacrilege, and all religion as hypocritical.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Loosely based upon the notorious novel Justine by the Marquis de Sade,
and made eight years after Jess Franco made his big budget version
Marquis de Sade's Justine and just two years after Pasolini's rather
more radical revisioning of The 120 Days of Sodom as Salo, Cruel
Passion aka Marquis de Sade's Justine is a rather toned-down version of
divine Marquis, with mere hints of his Satanic philosophising and nods
towards his all-encompassing sexual depravity. The film is nearer to
being a low-grade Barry Lyndon or Tony Richardson's contemporaneous
Joseph Andrews than other 60s and 70s screen versions of Sade.
As ever, two young sisters are orphaned and left at the mercy of a morally corrupt universe. Juliette, the older sister, is pragmatic; Justine, her younger sibling, is full of notions of purity and virtue. In this version, we meet the sisters in the care of a local nunnery, Juliette giving herself sexually to a hypocritical lesbian sister but Justine refusing the advances of the frantically groping Mother Abbess. Juliette's residual protectiveness towards Justine causes them both to be thrown out, and they make their way to London and a brothel where a saucy relative works. In the carriage on the way they meet a young nobleman, Lord Carlisle, who falls in lust with Juliette.
An extended brothel sequence shows Juliette being inducted into the ways of whoredom, all of which repulse Justine so that she runs back home. Taking up the offer of the local Pastor of a roof over her head, she find that her beauty inflames the old lecher; Justine flees to the roof, and in pursuing her the Pastor falls to his death. Justine flees once more, into the arms of a gang of cut-throats. Meanwhile, Carlisle has taken Juliette as his mistress and is sent to recover Justine. As ill-luck would have it, the cut-throats attack the coach that Carlisle is travelling on, kill his fellow passengers (including a child) and holding him to ransom.
Up until this point in the film, there have been the odd effective moment in between some poor acting, atrocious editing and rather lacklustre pace. But the final fifteen minutes plunge us into a world without a moral anchor. Justine helps Carlisle escape and is rewarded with him raping her; the cut-throats catch up with them both, set the dogs on them, gang rape her and murder him. This is all done in a nicely frenzied sequence beautifully filmed at a swan-haunted lake. Our final vision is of the cut-throats triumphant, Carlisle dead and Justine's body floating Ophelia-like down the river. Virtue, purity and hope are all down the swannee, and the film raises itself to some kind of effectively Sadeian level.
The performances range from the adequate to the hammy, with Koo Stark as a nubile Justine and Martin Potter as a hunky Carlisle pleasant on the eye if not giving masterclasses; a nod should be given to Barry McGinn's crazed brothel trainer George, who at least does something pretty barmy with his part. As a product of the 70s British film industry, Cruel Passion gets marks for offering some alternative to the usual sniggering, smutty sex romp; it's a shame that apart from the odd moment, the dizzying ending and an effective integration of classical music on the soundtrack, the film falls short of its ambitions.
Cute girl, somewhat shocking for its' time. Captures a little of the dark humor and irreverence of de Sade's story. Lot's of nudity. Somewhat similar to Caligula but not nearly as good as that movie. Naughty lesbian nuns frolic in this r-rated romp. You get the picture, like a soft core porno with a b-movie plot and acting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the more accomplished albeit liberal adaptations of the writings
of the Marquis de Sade, maligned during his deeply troubled lifetime
predominantly spent within the walls of jails and loony bins though
subsequently canonized as an enlightened anarchist, CRUEL PASSION
ultimately suffers most - rather appropriate, considering the source -
from being a British sex film from the 1970s. Don't get me wrong, I
have tremendous fondness for the genre's general saucy wink, nudge in
the rib naughtiness and there obviously has never been a better decade
for it but the template generated expectations, nay demands, soundly
crashing with the intentions of both author and one time filmmaker
Chris Boger whose obvious art-house aspirations were similarly thwarted
by the modest means at his disposal. Justine yet again then, though
fashioned more as bodice-ripping melodrama than poker-faced
Their convent education cut short by the death of their parents, leaving them practically penniless, sisters Juliette (Lydia Lisle, who was to become one of those reliable TV talents rarely recognized by name, also briefly if memorably appearing as the unfortunate John Merrick's mom in the haunting pre-credits sequence to David Lynch's ELEPHANT MAN) and Justine (Koo Stark, daughter of venerable veteran producer Wilbur) are forced to seek fortune in the streets of London, the action transposed across the pond so as not to further alienate an audience already weary of having to deal with culture over carnality. At the behest of their friend Pauline (adorable Ann Michelle, sister of TV's 'ALLO 'ALLO!'s Vicky), forging livelihood by catering to the base desires of men, the siblings take up residence at the brothel of Madame Laronde (Katherine Kath, sporting a real French accent rather than the overdone "ooh la la" Brit variant, who had perhaps most famously appeared as La Goulue in John Huston's MOULIN ROUGE) who's thrilled at the prospect of putting up two maidenheads for auction. As the pious Justine quickly exits, stealing a jewel box to pay her way, Juliette fully embraces the lascivious lifestyle in a series of scenes that unfortunately play closer to Benny Hill than the sophisticated Continental carnal iconography they seek in vain to emulate, including an inbred nobleman played by Barry McGinn (another actor to find his niche in TV walk-on bits) whose mad cackle seems to have served as inspiration for Tom Hulce's annoying giggle on Milos Forman's AMADEUS. The sole benefit of this section - considerable if you happen to be a genre aficionado such as myself - consists of the minute plethora (again, the budget...) of contemporary skin flick starlets on display such as Canadian-born Glory Annen, soon to gain immortality as John D. Lamond's allegedly Australian FELICITY, and Jeannie Collings from Trevor Wrenn's wall to wall shag-fest EROTIC INFERNO.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, or the rectory anyway, Justine comes looking for sanctuary from the revered reverend Father John (Louis Ife) whose weakness for her womanly charms lead to his accidental death and another "crime" weighing down the girl's conscience. Going on the lam as the forces of law edge closer, she's accepted into a gang of thieves spearheaded by the seemingly maternal Mrs. Bonny, a full-blooded turn by popular comedienne Hope Jackman, who wants to employ the girl as a faux innocent decoy in their stagecoach robbery attempts. Handsome Lord Carlisle (the mostly mainstream Martin Potter, then fresh off TV's ROBIN HOOD !) has taken a shine to Juliette and, heeding her worries about her kid sister's whereabouts, sets off in search of our increasingly notorious nubile heroine. It's most definitely a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire for poor Justine however as she's successively subjected at film's climax to group rape by her repulsive partners in crime, violation at the hands of her would be savior as he "forgets himself" in the face of her fleshy delights, attack by bloodhounds and death by drowning as the image thankfully freezes on the girl's lifeless waterlogged form, a haunting image informed by both John Millais' famous painting of Hamlet's Ophelia and Sandra Cassel's indelible death scene from Wes Craven's notorious LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.
Like French filmmaker Claude Pierson's superior JUSTINE DE SADE before it, CRUEL PASSION proves far more convincingly acted than one would expect from what's generally if wrongfully dismissed as fodder for the dirty Mac brigade. Captivating Koo Stark never managed to surmount her subsequent reputation in the eyes of the world as one of Brit Prince Andrew's more high profile girlfriends, a reputation ironically informed by her "shady past" as a sexploitation siren, which is a crying shame as she had screen presence to spare, suggesting resilience under a vulnerable exterior in her three landmark performances of which this was the last, following Henry Herbert's EMILY and Pedro Maso's hard to see LAS ADOLESCENTES. Hindsight's a beautiful thing but no one could have predicted that homegrown DoP Roger Deakins, on an early assignment, would go on to become an Oscar winner and regular Coen brothers collaborator, were it not for the glossy patina of his cinematography belying the film's frugal funds, especially his atmospheric handling of a frightening fever dream sequence straight out of Hammer horror.
This is another adaptation one of the better Marquis de Sade stories
"Justine" which tells the story of two sisters, Justine and Juliette,
who are orphaned and expelled from their convent school. Juliette
becomes a prostitute and rises to a position of power by freely
indulging in vice. Her sister Justine, however, tries to remain
virtuous and is victimized by nearly everybody. This film was adapted a
number of times by European directors of the late 60's and 70's and
then, strangely, never really touched again. The best adaptation was
Jesus Franco's "Marquis de Sade's Justine" even though it was marred by
the wretched over-acting of "name" American actors like Mercedes
McCambridge and Jack Palance, and the wretched non-acting of "daughter
of an American name" lead actress Romina Powers. It is nevertheless one
of Franco's best movies. "Justine" with Alice Arno and the Swedish
hardcore film "Justine och Juliette" were less successful; both are so
drenched in graphic sex that they lose the fascinating spirit of de
Sade, and ultimately any kind of coherent plot at all.
This film actually works pretty well for awhile and is quite faithful to the original story with only a few digressions into the then popular "nunsploitation" genre as in one lurid scene where Juliette makes it with one lesbian nun while her sister is nearly raped by another. The end is kind of abrupt, and not terribly effective though.
The lovely lead Koo Stark who plays the TITular character is definitely a real ASSet here, not because she was a great actress but because she was one of the few European sex stars who genuinely could portray an innocent character. (Some might describe her as a "girl next door" type, but few people were probably lucky enough to have a girl like HER living next door to them). The actress playing Juliette was actually pretty good, making it all the more regrettable that she kind of disappears halfway through the movie. And as others have said, there is also an early cameo appearance by another English cult actress, Glory Annen.
Not a great movie, but worth seeing I guess.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Pain takes many forms - in this case just watching this flick. Based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade. Distinguished by uninteresting screenplay, and pretty wooden acting - by the whole cast. Koo Stark plays the virtuous heroine, is molested, raped, chewed by dogs, and raped again before finally meeting her end in a pond - not a moment too soon (far too late, in truth). Good thing Miss Stark seems to have abandoned such productions.
I have read de Sade and read about him and so was a little excited when
I saw the title but couldn't wait for the end, fast forwarding through
the last 15 minutes.
The acting is not even second rate, the script poorly conceived and written, the direction is amateurish and the production values almost non-existent. The story line is convoluted and doesn't follow any rhyme or reason as far as script writing techniques. Characters are not clearly introduced nor is their relation to each other and it's hard to care about the characters much less sympathize or empathize with them.
A difficult book to translate into even a watch able movie, this fails in every aspect.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Here is yet another of the various exploitation flicks based on De
Sade's Justine (the best of which are credited to the prolific Jess
Franco). This one is an English production starring Koo Stark, onetime
girlfriend of Prince Andrew.
Set sometime in 18th Century England, two sisters, 16-year-old Justine and 17-year-old Juliette, are expelled from their convent school after they are orphaned and can no longer afford the fees. Juliette comes up with the brilliant idea of going to the London whorehouse where their cousin works and learning the "tricks of the trade", regardless of the fact they are both still virgins.
At the whorehouse the older and more worldly Juliette gets on fine and embraces the brothel lifestyle while the naïve & innocent Justine can't handle it and runs away back to the convent, into Pastor John's welcoming arms. Although, after the good Pastor has had a few wines he can no longer contain his lecherous urges and attempts to rape poor, pure Justine. Luckily she escapes with her virginity intact but Pastor John ends up dead and she is now wanted for murder.
Whilst escaping through the church graveyard she encounters a gang of graverobbers who kidnap her and force her into their way of life - she becomes their bait for luring stagecoaches to a halt so the thieves can rob & murder the occupants. Meanwhile, Juliette has become concerned by the absence of her sister and sends her heroic aristocrat boyfriend, Lord Carlisle (Martin Potter of Fellini's Satyricon fame) out to search for her. Lord Carlisle eventually catches up with the thieves as they use their ploy to rob his stagecoach and murder all the occupants, only sparing him after Justine's pleading. The two soon escape only to be hunted down by dogs and brutally slaughtered (and in Justine's case gang-raped).
Compared to De Sade's original story (and indeed even Jess Franco's adaptations) Justine is pretty tame, there's the odd splatter of blood, infrequent nudity and even some non-graphic rape & necrophilia but overall - even with those acts included - there's still not much for exploitation aficionados to get excited about. The film focuses more on Justine's plight and the eventual tarnishing of her innocence.
Strangely enough this film is included as part of Redemption's Nunsploitation box set but it's only really the first twenty to thirty minutes that are set in the convent - the rest is either in the countryside or the brothel - although, aside from the downbeat ending and Justine's surreal catholic guilt nightmare sequences, the convent scenes are the best & sleaziest parts of the film, with the usual forced lesbianism and debauched Mother Superior.
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