Jess and Lina Made No Mistakes, But Everyone Else Did
"Justine" is the re-edited (by Joe D'Amato)1979 re-issue of Jess Franco's apparently never-released 1975 film "De Sade's Juliette". D'Amato gutted about half of Jess' original footage and replaced it with scenes from Franco's films "Midnight Party" and "Shining Sex" and re-dubbed the entire film with new dialog. Why he tampered with Franco's first true hardcore (XXX) film is anybody's guess, but fortunately the end result is still quite good, which is testimony to Franco's talents more than D'Amato's, although D'Amato's adding of the Nico Fidenco soundtrack to the film (replacing the Daniel White original) gives the film an edgy element that other Franco films lack. This film, besides being confused with Franco's 1968 film "Justine" (the one with Romina Power), has apparently been confused here with Claude Pierson's 1975 "Justine De Sade", which stars Alice Arno and is a totally different film in which Franco had no involvement. To further insult Franco and Lina Romay, Alice Arno is given star billing in Franco's "Justine" (the re-edited version), despite the fact that she is not even in the film, and Lina Romay is downgraded to supporting billing, despite the fact that the entire film revolves around her and she is in virtually every scene. Again, this appears to be a total slap in the face to this creative duo -- perhaps the producers were unhappy with Jess and Lina's intent to film a truly interesting adult film as opposed to a frothy one.
Whatever the case, "Justine" is as grim and depressing as any of Franco's S&M sex dramas, and is really only for Franco fans. I innocently showed this film to a friend who promptly stopped being my friend as he was so offended by the film's sadistic content! Lina Romay's performance is as outstanding as always, and Jess Franco's cameo as an impotent john is quite compelling and real. The film features lots of whipping and lesbian sex scenes, which apparently were more fully realized in the original version. The tension in the story of the sadomasochistic relationship between Romay and Alain Petit remains, but is not fully explained, probably thanks to D'Amato's editing scissors. Unlike most Franco films, "Justine" does not take place among beautiful, high-class settings, and this gives the film a further edge in that it is a hardcore porn film that does not titillate as much as it depresses, and forces the viewer to experience the ugliness of these characters' relationships and sexuality.
"Justine" is bleak and for the bold, and for those who are not afraid of the concept of an adult film that may actually make you think and react to the characters' lives as opposed to the characters' private parts that are on constant display. The film ends in what is probably the most depressing ending in any Franco film, and it will definitely shock some viewers.
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