5.9/10
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35 user 44 critic

Venus in Furs (1969)

Paroxismus (original title)
A musician finds the corpse of a beautiful woman on the beach. The woman returns from the dead to take revenge on the group of wealthy sadists responsible for her death.

Director:

Jesús Franco (as Jess Franco)

Writers:

Jesús Franco (screenplay), Malvin Wald (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview:
James Darren ... Jimmy Logan
Barbara McNair ... Rita
Maria Rohm ... Wanda Reed
Klaus Kinski ... Ahmed Kortobawi
Dennis Price ... Percival Kapp
Margaret Lee ... Olga
Adolfo Lastretti ... Insp. Kaplan (as Aldo Lastretti)
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Storyline

In Istanbul, a jazz trumpeter pulls the murdered body of a young woman from the surf. He remembers her from the night before, when he saw her at a millionaire playboy's party and then later watched as she was assaulted by the party's host and two of his friends. In confusion, Jimmy, the musician, leaves for Rio where he finds the sympathetic ear of Rita, a singer who invites him to live with her and helps him recover his equilibrium and his musical ability. Then, into the room walks a woman who looks like Wanda, the murder victim. Jimmy pursues her, not caring if she's alive or dead. What's going on? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The coat that covered paradise, uncovered hell! See more »

Genres:

Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | Italy | West Germany

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 August 1969 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Venus in Furs See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jess Franco wanted the film to be titled "Black Angel" but distributors changed the title for marketing reasons and also altered the director's original ending. See more »

Quotes

Jimmy Logan: She was beautiful, even though she was dead.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The Italian release lists Hans Billian as a director instead of Jesus Franco. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Fear and Desire: Stephen Thrower on Jess Franco (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Aggressive Jazz Theme
Written by Keith Mansfield
Performed by Keith Mansfield
See more »

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User Reviews

VENUS IN FURS (1968) ***
2 December 2004 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

Finally, I managed to watch what many consider to be Franco's masterpiece and I must say that I pretty much agree with this opinion.

So far, the only Franco films I have watched date from 1965 to 1971 which means that I have barely scratched the surface as Franco's career can be divided into various phases, all of which are very different from one another but which would seem to be equally important to a full understanding of his oeuvre. In any case, among the films I have watched are some of his finest work in which Franco effortlessly creates a perverse yet captivating world where too often sex and violence dominate and which come to irrevocably influence the life of their protagonist. Also, all of the films I have watched so far are relatively slick (if obviously created on a low budget) with an eye for attractive locations, equally beautiful women, and generally 'respectable' casts – all in all, very typical of their time, especially with regards to European cinema.

More than anything, VENUS IN FURS is somewhat similar to Franco's SUCCUBUS (1967) but here, for the most part, the director forgoes the pretentiousness that marked that earlier film in favor of a more intimate (if still basically fantastical) story and he even manages to create some genuinely interesting characters. This is Franco at his best: apart from the stylish 'look' of the film, his direction is extremely confident and efficient, the result being any number of effective (and often memorable) scenes.

I have come upon some quite severe criticism as to the film's hip (for the time) 'beatnik' dialogue. While certain lines do come off as unintentionally amusing, I think this putdown is somewhat exaggerated; somehow, the anachronistic dialogue fits the mood of the picture perfectly which, being for the most part a series of monologues by the main character (played by James Darren), seems to be drawing more from 1940s film-noirs (the ramshackle variety, like Edgar G. Ulmer's DETOUR [1945]) than making a deliberate attempt to capture the truth of the 'moment' (and that this aspect was, then, merely 'inserted' into the script for purely commercial reasons)!

Despite its introspective nature, the film moves at a fair clip throughout and very rarely loses its footing – that is, until the rather confusing and abrupt finale (more about this later). The camera-work here is quite flashy (another remnant from the late 1960s), though I feel it to be entirely appropriate in this case. Ellipses, juxtaposition of images, negative-printing, out-of-focus shots and slow motion are freely used throughout, but this actually encourages our identification with the main characters (Darren and Maria Rohm, the 'Venus' of the title), as we are made to 'feel' their disorientation and the impending fate of their impossible relationship!

I think that, perhaps more than in any other Franco film I've seen, the music score for VENUS IN FURS – a heady fusion of jazz and pop – is a key contributor to the film's overall accomplishment (which is saying something)! I may be wrong about this, but I had a feeling that the entire film was somehow conceived around the rhythm of the Manfred Mann/Mike Hugg soundtrack; its style of editing, in particular, seems to be uncannily in tune with the music's frequent changes of tempo!

The casting of the principal actors would seem to be unlikely at first glance but soon we begin to realize how perfectly suited they are to the film's generally offbeat tone: Maria Rohm is appropriately enigmatic as the unwilling 'Angel Of Death' (another reference to SUCCUBUS), though I might still prefer her decidedly more 'human' turn in EUGENIE…THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION (1969); James Darren, seldom used properly, here makes for a compelling screen hero so much so that, by the end of it, I could not envisage any other actor in the role; Barbara McNair as Darren's secondary love interest in the film comes off as something of an intrusion at first but, faced with a fuller understanding of his obsession with Wanda Reed/Maria Rohm, her character suddenly comes alive and McNair manages to be quite effective in portraying this difficult aspect of her role (of course, she just shines in her two musical performances in the film); Margaret Lee is beautiful and very moving as the lesbian fashion photographer whose pangs of conscience over the death of Wanda Reed are all too apparent; Klaus Kinski's brief appearance is given a slight edge by having Franco concentrate (almost to the point of obsession!) on his face, as the numerous close-ups throughout the course of the film will attest; Dennis Price, here in the twilight of his mostly disappointing screen career, seems to be slightly bemused by all of this (the first of 5 films he made for Franco) but his unusual death scene is undeniably one of the highlights of VENUS IN FURS; Paul Muller is once again saddled with an insignificant role, yet he still manages to effortlessly put some color into his portrayal of the typically 'decadent' bourgeois.

Among the film's memorable moments: Darren's discovery of Rohm's mutilated body (which becomes a recurring motif throughout the film); Wanda Reed's bizarre rape/murder (especially the sight of Margaret Lee sadistically whipping Rohm's fragile body); Price's demise at the hands of Rohm, as I already mentioned, involving the girl's mirrored reflection as she strikes a number of sensuous but apparently deadly poses; the lesbian scenes between Rohm and Lee, which are sensitively handled by Franco, leading to the former's bloody bath-tub suicide; Kinski's recounting of the sado-masochistic tale (the only direct allusion to Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novel 'Venus In Furs'); the last 15 cryptic minutes of the film when it seems to go completely off-the-rails: what was that re-enactment of the rape sequence – in an entirely different setting! – all about? Does James Darren's own body washing up ashore (discovered by himself no less!) mean that he too is already dead? If so, how and when did he die?

The VHS copy which served as my introduction to VENUS IN FURS was fairly satisfactory in the video/audio stakes, indeed surprisingly so. I'm not sure what the film's OAR is supposed to be, but its compositions did not seem to be greatly compromised in this full-frame version. Similarly, the dubbing is quite acceptable and, in any case, most of the dialogue is thankfully left to the likes of James Darren and Barbara McNair.

Well, all that we need now is a 'Special Edition' DVD from Artisan – along with the rest of their Franco catalogue. I wouldn't bet on it for the present time (particularly in view of their notoriously hit-and-miss record), but they only have to take a good look around them to see the stellar work companies like Blue Underground, Image, Mondo Macabro and Synapse have been doing these last few years, which has definitely led to a re-appraisal of sorts for the past work of this important yet maligned cult film-maker!


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