Friday, August 5, 2011

Franco Friday #28: Marquis de Sade's Justine

Franco Friday #28

Once again, I return to the Franco fray but not for much longer. After 28 weeks, I have come to a decision about my quest. I have handpicked 5 Franco films for the next 5 weeks and they will be the last of the Franco Friday series. You see, I simply cannot continue with this. Every time I reach for a Franco film, it's more softcore porn garbage that I don't want to watch, much less review. This revelation came to me during an aborted attempt at watching The Sexual Story of O. I am so friggin' done with dry-humping and gooch zooms and I refuse to attempt to appreciate this nonsense on my blog anymore. So, instead of 52 films, I am going to pull the plug on this fucker at 33. Don't worry, the last 5 films are going to be good ones. That is one thing I know for certain. I just want to be myself again. Jess Franco is the most evil man in the history of the world. I'm not being melodramatic. You're being melodramatic!

Marqui de Sade: Justine
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Klaus Kinski, Romina Power, Maria Rohm, Rosemary Dexter, Carmen de Lirio, Jack Palance, Sylvia Koscina, Howard Vernon
124 minutes

"This is the story of Justine and the misfortunes of virtue."

In a prison cell, the Marquis de Sade (played by Klaus Kinsi) is tormented by visions and thus writes the story of Justine. Two girls, Juliette and Justine (Maria Rohm and Romina Power), find out that their father has fled the country in shame with creditors nipping at his heels, leaving them alone in the world. They get kicked out of the convent and sent along their way. Juliette takes up living a life of crime that includes but is not limited to working in a brothel and drowning people. Justine attempts to stay virtuous, ends up losing what little money she has, and goes on all kinds of terrible adventures.

Jess Franco knocks another one out of the park with Justine. This film is full of ribaldry, silliness, beauty and tragedy. It is also a visual spectacle. The lighting is very colorful and the camerawork by Manuel Merino is fantastic. The musical score by the always brilliant Bruno Nicolai is sometimes bombastic, always lush, simply amazing. Yes, my friends, this is very, very classy smut. And it's not all poisoned puppies and thorny roses either because the world is populated by lecherous creeps, whores, crooks, and murderers.

Horst Frank! Sylvia Koscina! Jack Palance! Rosalba Neri! Howard Vernon! (I don't know why I put an exclamation point after Howard Vernon's name.) This is a star-studded affair and everyone is good. Mercedes McCambridge is awesome as Madame Dubois an escaped convict and leader of a pack of ruffians. Klaus Kinski is like a caged animal, tormented by visions of women in chains and spectres. Romina Power is very good as the virtuous and tragic Justine even though, according to trivia, Franco was forced to cast her in the role and hated her performance. Maria Rohm is perfectly devilish as her naughty sister who is more than willing to follow her own wicked excesses to the bitter end. Palance is particularly unhinged in this movie. He gives me the fuckin' creeps, man. Jeez!

My only complaint about this sumptuous production is the running time is 124 minutes! I'm sorry but all the fish eye lenses in the world can't help a film like this stay interesting for that long. I thought Justine was supposed to be 90 minutes so when that came and went, I was kind of let down that this thing kept going. Even with it's bloated running time and meandering plot, I still think that Jess Franco fans will find plenty to enjoy here. According to IMDB, this was Franco's most expensive film and it really shows with it's lavish sets, huge cast, and decadent... um... everything.

"Now remember what I told you, virtue must be avoided. It is sure disaster. And poverty must be avoided at all costs."


  1. I'm now even more looking forward to Justine!

    I'm sad about your decision, but I do understand. I just watched Sadomania this week, and even though it's pretty hilarious it was my fourth attempt to watch it. Last time I tried I really had enough of Franco and took a break for three months. Now it was fun again.

    I'm looking forward to more horror stuff again now!


  2. A little Franco surely does go a long way. I did try watching this once but never got far with it, certainly nowhere near the end.

    I'd never heard of The Sexual Story of O before, and I'm kind of puzzled by it. As opposed to the NON-sexual story of O or something?

  3. I still bow to the commitment you have shown at now reviewing 28 of these flms! I can barely watch one! I can appreciate a lot of bad movies, in fact I even enjoy a lot of them, but Jess Franco is going too far even for me!

    Keep up the good work!


  4. @MLP - I just really want to go back to writing about what I want to write about when I want to write about it. I was fully invested in the Franco venture but the pain was outweighing the rewards. And who knows, there may be future Franco Fridays that pop up randomly even after the next 5 have come and gone.

    @james1511 - I was really surprised by Justine. It is waaaaaay too long but for some reason, I hung on. As for the Sexual Story of O, it is probably a great softcore porno but I just couldn't bring myself to finish watching it or write about it. The whole thing was just depressing. Maybe if it was the Asexual Story of Uh Oh...

    @Mick - Thanks, duder! When it is all over, I will make a list of my favorite Jess Franco films (I still have a few!) and the ones that I think folks should check out. I think the guy is more obsessive than talented and even more sleazy than people who champion him want to admit. I have my theories but they would probably be considered slanderous so I'll just keep my mouth shut.

  5. I actually liked The Sexual Story of O. It's not great by any means, but it's a bit different than his usual sleaze and I really dug the slow, unfolding sexual menace of the weird menage a trois. But hey, I liked Macumba Sexual, so I guess I've been Franco-fried already, hehe!

    A Franco list is a great idea!


  6. I'm glad you're moving on to something else. As long as you don't stop blogging completely! That would be bad.

  7. Amazing that you made it that far even.

    I assume and hope that one of the five good ones is my all time faves - Faceless.

    Seeing that particular movie as the first one from Franco sure fucks with one's head, making one even believe that there are plenty of equally good ones. I gave up after about 20 so called classics. :(

  8. @initforthekills - It would take something much worse than Franco to get me to stop blogging completely. But I am looking forward to a new focus.

    @Anonymous - Faceless will be here sooner than you think.

  9. Good to hear! And thanks for The Vibe! episode of Hello! This is the Doomed Show... Incredible that a nearly 3 hour long podcast can be so entertaining and interesting. Keep up the great work!!!

  10. I agree, Richard: Not even the final sadomasochistic denouement of 'The Sexual Story of O' can really save it. And I haven't seen 'Justine' for a long time, so I'll have to dig it out.

    "I am so friggin' done with dry-humping and gooch zooms and I refuse to attempt to appreciate this nonsense on my blog anymore."

    Like you, Richard, I can appreciate the artistry and talent behind (some of) Franco's films - but I'm glad someone finally piped up and said it! You're Eurocult fandom's own version of Travis Bickle from 'Taxi Driver', Richard!

    "Listen, you fuckers, you screwheads. Here is a man who would not take it anymore! A man who stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit. Here is a man who stood up!"



  11. I saw this one years ago and really disliked it. It's incredibly long and boring! Maybe someday I'll revisit it and end up digging it, which is what happened to me with The Diabolical Dr. Z, but I don't think it's likely.