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Blue Underground presents
Marquis de Sade's Justine (1968)

"This is the story of Justine, and the misfortunes of virtue."
- Marquis de Sade (Klaus Kinski)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: November 03, 2002

Stars: Romina Power, Maria Rohm, Klaus Kinski, Mercedes McCambridge, Akim Tamiroff, Jack Palance
Other Stars: Sylva Koscina, Horst Frank, Harald Leipnitz, Gustavo Re, Howard Vernon, Rosemary Dexter, Rosalba Neri, Carmen de Lirio
Director: Jess Franco

Manufacturer: Ritek Digital Video
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, sadism, torture, violence, language)
Run Time: 02h:04m:03s
Release Date: November 05, 2002
UPC: 014381193022
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Those familiar with the often-delirious Eurocult works of Jess Franco that were made with zero budgets and stars of questionable competence, heavy with exploitation elements but often barely comprehensible, may well be astonished by Justine. Working with the highest budget of his entire career, Franco not only pulls off a costume drama, but manages to tell a clear, linear story with satirical and cynical bite.

As the Marquis de Sade (Klaus Kinski) is incarcerated for his writings, he is tormented by phantasmal nude and tortured female figures who compel him to write the story of Justine (Romina Power). Justine and her sister Juliette (Maria Rohm) are expelled from the convent where they have been studying upon their father's bankruptcy. Juliette takes the route of prostitution and wickedness, and becomes wealthy. Justine, however, is trusting and virtuous. As her reward, she is robbed by a priest, abused, tortured, branded, framed for robbery and murder, imprisoned and sentenced to death. Along the way she meets the wicked Madame Dusbois (Mercedes McCambridge) and a group of libertine monks who contemplate the ultimate pleasure under the leadership of mad Brother Antonin (Jack Palance).

The cast is excellent for the most part; Kinski in his brief screen time makes for a memorable de Sade. Palance wildly chews the scenery but appropriately so, and he's hugely entertaining. The statuesque Maria Rohm, a frequent Franco collaborator, does a fine job as the vice-ridden counterpart to the heroine, and such Eurocult favorites as Howard Vernon and Rosalba Neri make appearances to boot. The one unfortunate bit of casting is the heroine herself; Romina Power (daughter of Tyrone Power) was thrust upon Franco unwillingly. She's quite wooden and doesn't provide any sort of credible reaction to her situations. As Franco discusses in the supplements, she was incapable of portraying Justine as eventually succumbing to the pleasures of masochism.

This inability leads to the principal fault of the film. Throughout most of its duration, a bleak and utterly cynical view of the world prevails. No good deed goes unpunished, and no vice goes unrewarded, in a brutal answer to Richardson's Pamela. Then suddenly at the end, this whole theme is dispensed with under a few platitudes, producing an intellectually dishonest conclusion that is quite unsatisfying, though I suppose it's appropriately Hollywood.

The sets and costumes demonstrate enormous production values; Franco clearly got the most out of the money that was made available here, recreating the 1790s wonderfully well, though the presence of some Gaudi architecture is a bit jarring. Bruno Nicolai contributes an effective Mozartean score that is highly appropriate. The camera work is quite restrained here, without the excessive reliance on the zoom lens that afflicts Franco's 1970s work. While the de Sade sequences go in and out of focus, this is clearly intentional to demonstrate the Marquis' fevered mind. In one bravura shot, the camera swings violently and comes to rest in perfect focus, demonstrating a total control over the process. Heavy use of colored lights and gels prefigures such visually compelling films as Argento's Suspiria.

This edition is the first time the uncensored film has been seen in America. About 30 minutes of running time is restored to the picture, which was previously offered in the US under the silly name of Deadly Sanctuary.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Blue Underground provides an incredible transfer for this visually compelling picture. From the main titles, it's clear we're in for a treat as a closeup of a straw hat displays a gorgeous, lifelike texture. Colors are incredibly vivid, and even the red-filled brothel scenes are fully saturated without inducing noise. The print is practically pristine until the last minute or so, when some damage becomes visible. It's always nice to have 1.66:1 films presented anamorphically, and this is thoughtfully the case here. Mild compression ringing in very high contrast sequences is the only thing keeping this from the very highest mark.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono track is in English; although the dialogue all appears to be looped in later, it's clear that nearly the entire cast is speaking English, so the use of that track is quite acceptable. Again, an excellent result is obtained, without the hiss or noise that one might expect here. Dialogue is quite clear throughout. The only issue relates to the music; in louder passages the sound is distorted and compressed, but I suspect this is a problem resulting from the original recordings.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Eugenie...the Story of Her Journey into Perversion
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:06m:02s

Extra Extras:
  1. Poster and still gallery
Extras Review: A nice selection of extras accompanies this film, unlike most of Franco's output on DVD to date. A 19m:57s documentary provides interviews with Franco and producer Harry Alan Towers that cover the making of the film in good detail. Tim Lucas of Video Watchdog supplies lengthy liner notes, though they do duplicate the documentary to some extent. In addition to the French theatrical trailer, an easter egg hides the trailer to another of Franco's de Sade adaptations (also released by Blue Underground), under the title Philosophy in the Boudoir. A set of 20 black & white stills and half a dozen poster and video cover designs wraps up the package, along with a short bio and extremely abbreviated filmography for Franco.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

An extraordinarily fine effort by Jess Franco as he tackles the works of the Marquis de Sade for the first time. Fully restored, in a beautiful transfer, with some valuable extras, this is a must-buy for the Eurocult fan.


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