Friday, August 10, 2012
Marquis de Sade's Justine (1969)
Someone didn't want me to do a week of Jess Franco, but I told him/her to read another blog instead of Ninja Dixon - I'm sure they have yet another review of Evil Dead or Halloween there so he'll be happy. He claimed Jess Franco is oversaturated on the net, but hey... that's just not true. Not reviews that take Uncle Jess seriously and just doesn't mentions all the "funny bad details" they find in Franco's less-budgeted epics. Justine is Franco's most expensive movie, shot over seven weeks and with an all star cast. Produced by
Towers of course and shot in beautiful
We follow Justine (Romina Power) and her journey into adulthood. From being a maid at a perverted old dirty man, being accused of theft and thrown in prison - where she escapes with the help of crime queen Madame Dusbois (Mercedes McCambridge), almost raped but ends a while later at a rich couple where the man, Marquis de Bressac (Horst Frank), who's gay and having an affair with one of the servants, wants to kill his rich wife (Sylva Koscina) and uses Justine to do this, she escapes from there and finds a monastery lead by the crooked Antonin (Jack Palance) where she's tortured and... well, she's not a happy lady - that's for sure!
Justine is a series of small adventures, some more fun than twisted - and some more twisted than fun, based on the works of de Sade. Franco loved the script written by Towers, but the American financiers wanted a bigger name as Justine and cast 18 year old Romina Power, and suddenly Franco couldn't do the adult, dark, movie he wanted it to be. He describes her as furniture, furniture guarded by her mother and her Italian prick of a boyfriend. This was of course a letdown for Franco, but the movie turned out really good in the end anyway - even of it's a lot tamer than it was planned to be.
It's a big movie, or a "big fake movie" as Franco describes it. Lots of spectacular locations, hundreds of costumes and overall a very glossy look and one f**king amazing score by Bruno Nicolai. This is a classy production in every sense and Franco tells it like a master. The cast, especially, is great. My favourite Horst Frank is so cool as the greedy gay Marquise and Jack Palance - drunker then ever, something that's very visible, is over-the-top as the crazy monk. Franco stalwart Howard Vernon is brilliant has Palace's colleague and Maria Rohm is wonderful. Ah, Klaus Kinski is in it to of course, without any dialogue, as Marquise de Sade. He's great and it's the second Franco-movie I've seen him in where he only sits in a room saying nothing (the other being Count Dracula). Franco himself has one of his funniest roles, as a burlesque turban-wearing ringmaster!
Mercedes McCambridge is just hypnotic as the angry, tough, queen of crime. Imagine she did the voice for the demon in The Exorcist a few years later!
I also love how Franco's love for architecture shows, including two locations designed by Antoni Gaudí. The inclusion of his work gives the film another otherworldly dimension, a sense of a fairy tale, but still stuck in the brutal reality.
Justine isn't THAT tame by the way. It has some blood and a good amount of nudity, mostly boobs and an ass here and there, but imagine if Power didn't get the part and the cool Rosemary Dexter (who plays a smaller part, but first got cast as Justine) did it instead? I think we would have seen a very different movie, an even better and more brilliant production.