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Mondo Macabro presents
Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay (1971)

"Now that I know you, I should be sad one day if you should die."
- Morgane (Dominique Delpierre)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: August 31, 2005

Stars: Dominique Delpierre, Alfred Baillou, Mireille Saunin
Other Stars: Régine Motte, Ursule Pauly, Michèle Perello, Nathalie Chaine
Director: Bruno Gantillon

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, lesbianism, torture, voyeurism)
Run Time: 01h:25m:51s
Release Date: August 30, 2005
UPC: 843276011697
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+AB- B+

DVD Review

One of the most intriguing characters in the Arthurian legends as recounted by Malory is the prime villainess of the piece, Morgan Le Fay. Arthur's half-sister and determined plotter of his downfall, she was reputed to have been tutored by Merlin. Although more recent literary works have tried to rehabilitate her reputation (a rather odd task for a fictional character, but there it is), she's thoroughly in the Malory mold of wickedness and temptation in this picture, an oft-overlooked and atmospheric French erotic horror from Bruno Gantillon.

Two young artists, Anna (Mich¸le Perello) and Françoise (Mireille Saunin) are traveling through France when they get hopelessly lost in the back woods and run out of gas. Finding refuge in an old barn, they spend the night. When Françoise awakens the next morning, there's no sign of Anna. Searching for her friend, she instead finds the hunchbacked dwarf Gurth (Alfred Baillou), who says he will lead her to Anna. But where he takes her is instead a mystical castle controlled by none other than Morgane (as she's named here) Le Fay (Dominique Delpierre). Surrounded by young and beautiful women, Morgane finds a particular attraction to Françoise and offers her eternal beauty and youth, at the cost of her soul and perpetual obedience. Françoise is repulsed until she learns that Anna is being kept in the dungeons below the castle and may have already succumbed to the witch's charms.

It's not clear why this film doesn't have the reputation of other French erotic thrillers of the period such as Jean Rollin's vampire series. Perhaps it's because it was never released in the United States, and where it was released it was heavily censored. Fortunately, a substantially complete version of the film is presented on this DVD (though several short scenes for which audio could not be located are relegated to the deleted scenes section). It's quite evocative in many of the same ways as Rollin's poetic horrors, and there's certainly enough softcore lesbian sex and endless female nudity to gratify nearly any sexploitation fan. There is not, however, much explicit horror content outside of Françoise's basic predicament, discounting a torture sequence that was slapped onto the opening at the producers' behest to start off with a bang. But one fond of such gothic material can hardly ever get tired of endless scenes of beautiful and scantily clad young women wandering a castle in diaphanous gowns.

Delpierre makes a quite credible Morgane, helped by a long, thin face and a slightly aquiline nose; she looks like a Mannerist painting come to life. Appropriately enough, she projects power and confidence with an air of disdainful boredom. Saunin makes Françoise a fairly intriguing character, simultaneously plotting her escape and feigning interest in Morgane (or is the interest genuine? The ambiguity adds to the depth of the character). But the film is truly stolen by Baillou, who takes the role of the pathetic and obsessive Gurth, tending to his mistress' demands and keeping order, all for the love of Morgane, which is hardly returned with anything but contempt. Régine Motte is also memorable as Yael, leader of a moody triumvirate of women who sees Françoise as an interloper and a threat to their prominence, and concocts a plan to both corrupt and destroy her. She has a veneer of sweetness that just barely conceals a vicious sharpness of character. Perello is capable enough, and would go on to have a notable career in hardcore French porn.

This was Gantillon's first feature film, but thanks to the use of a genuine chateau and fine photography by Jean Monsigny, it has superb production values and looks like the work of a seasoned professional. There's a brilliant use of color in the garb of the girl slaves, setting them off against the grey and browns of the aged castle. The pacing is deliberate but things never drag, and there's always something of visual interest even when the lesbian sex isn't in the forefront (which to be honest is fairly seldom). It nicely relies on mood to create chills rather than gore or violence, with vaguely Arthurian elements tacked on for good measure. An unforgettable example of the latter is the sequence in which Françoise stands in a boat that mystically transports her across the lake to Morgane's castle. There's a dreamlike quality to the proceedings that serves it well. This is a 1970s piece that deserves to be better known.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen picture is a revelation. It looks like high definition, with textures and details virtually popping off the screen. As noted above, the color scheme is important and it's vivid throughout. Skin in particular looks excellent which is good since there's so much of it on display. Occasional speckles and minor aliasing are present but hardly worth mentioning in such an exemplary viewing experience.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Despite the claims on the keepcase that the soundtrack is in stereo, it is in fact 1.0 mono. The optical track suffers from a fair amount of noise and crackle throughout, though dialogue is certainly clear enough and the eerily evocative score by François de Roubaix (under the pseudonym Carlo Elrubio) comes across well. Not performing extensive noise reduction was probably a good decision, since that would have deprived the track of much of the presence it has. So although the original track has some serious limitations, the transfer serves it appropriately.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:59m:16s

Extra Extras:
  1. Short film, An Artistic Couple
Extras Review: Mondo Macabro provides some thoughtful extras for this release. Prominent among them is an interview (10m:56s) in English with the director, dating from 2004. He touches on a number of influences, including Nosferatu. A set of production notes discuss Gantillon's background in television and the censorship issues the film faced even in the permissive 1970s. There are three short additional scenes missing audio; one seems to exist only in a poor tape recording off Italian television and certainly would have been distracting to drop into the film proper. Nonetheless, it's the kind of completist effort a collector of such material will appreciate. Gantillon's disturbing short film, An Artistic Couple, makes a good companion piece to the main feature. Wrapping up the set are a breathlessly hype-filled trailer, also in anamorphic widescreen, and a set of bios for some of the principals.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Attractive and glossy Euroto-horror offering, with a splendid transfer though a rather noisy soundtrack, plus some interesting extra materials.


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