Written in 1795, the Marquis De Sade's 'Philosophy In The Boudoir' continues to court controversy to this very day, leaving a mark in the sand that no filmmaker could cross with regard to a completely faithful adaptation. Spanish auteur Jess Franco took De Sade's book and, together with Harry Alan Towers, made a film that, out of all his considerable filmography, he" hates the least".
Eugenie opens in suitably sordid mode when the titular character (Liljedahl) takes a telephone call from Marianne Saint-Ange (Rohm) who is part of a devious scheme to lure Marie to an island retreat owned by Mirvel (Taylor), her stepbrother. After seducing Maria's father (Muller), offering her body in return for his daughter's, the path is clear for Marianne and Mirvel to turn normality into a nightmare of Sadean excess. It's here on a beautiful island that Franco's film really catches fire, as drug-induced sexual abandon leaves Marie in a in a halfway-house, between reality and the black veils of sleep. When sinister narrator Dolmance (Lee) arrives with a colourful band of followers straight out of Jean Rollin's The Demoniacs, events accelerate Marie's downwards spiral, leading to a bloody crime of passion.
Liljedahl, best known for her role in Joe Sarno's Inga where a young woman is also corrupted by her elders, acquits herself admirably as the lead , while Taylor, Muller and Lee - all previous Franco players - excel in their respective roles. Best of all, however, is Maria Rohm whose cruel, seductive character tracks the spirit of De Sade in suitably outrageous fashion, whether she's making love or laying out the pain while Bruno Nicolai's score drones in the background quite superbly; doubtless influenced by the seminal debut album from Velvet Underground. Regarded by many as a career best for one of Franco's finest actresses, Marianne Saint-Ange provided Rohm with a wonderfully evil character, and is a fitting showcase for her considerable range; certainly, her partnership with Taylor and Lee demonstrates that De Sade was just as misunderstood by his own followers as by 'outsiders.'
Blue Underground's DVD release is a perfect home for this 'Holy Grail', offering refreshingly candid interviews with Franco, Towers, Liljedahl and Lee; the latter explaining why he chose to have his name removed from the credits. Still, that's another story. For now, potential customers should be aware this film looks fabulous, thanks to a sharp, colourful transfer with only intermittent grain. Sit back and drink in some gorgeous colour schemes that are often character-related, whether it's Rohm's green-for -jealousy dress or those colour-coded cigarettes which really are the stuff of nightmares.
UK Francophiles should note that Anchor Bay's Region 2 release is identical to it's Region 1 cousin.
Legendary director of predominantly sex-and-horror-based material, Spanish-born Jesus Franco had as many as 200 directing credits to his name. Trained initially as a musician before studying film at the Sorbonne in Paris, Franco began directing in the late 50s. By using the same actors, sets and locations on many films, Franco has maintained an astonishing workrate, and while the quality of his work has sometimes suffered because of this, films such as Virgin Amongst the Living dead, Eugenie, Succubus and She Killed in Ecstasy remain distinctive slices of 60s/70s art-trash.
Most of his films have been released in multiple versions with wildly differing titles, while Franco himself has directed under a bewildering number of pseudonyms. Actors who have regularly appeared in his films include Klaus Kinski, Christopher Lee and wife Lina Romay; fans should also look out for his name on the credits of Orson Welles' Chimes of Midnight, on which he worked as assistant director.