Movie Review: Justine (1969 – Blue Underground 4K)
On the eve of his imprisonment within the formidable confines of the Bastille on charges of obscenity contained within his work, the notorious Marquis de Sade (played by actual lunatic Klaus Kinski) sets about jottin’ down the tit-filled tale of sisters Justine (Romina Power) and Juliette (Maria Rohm) raised in a convent.
Speaking of said convent; with it’s funding run dry the sisters are soon out on their asses… and soon up to their asses (and beyond) in various manners of perverts all hungry for some of that sweet lovin’!
Along the way, Juliette spends her days in a brothel pursuing a sapphic love affair with Claudine (Rosemary Dexter), while Justine becomes a maid at the local inn… but she gets canned after being wrongly accused of nixing the goods from one of the guests.
After a brief fling with lesbian crime-lord Madame Dusbois (Mercedes McCambridge) and her horny hooligans, not to mention a murder plot, Justine falls in with a sex cult lead by Antonin (Jack Palance)… but will she be able to escape their creeper clutches?!!
Coming from prolific off-beat cinema maestro Jess Franco, 1969’s Justine adapts de Sades work in suitably decadent and opulent fashion, with many randy set-pieces humpin’ away before our eyes in softcore resplendence!
This may be surprising given how far the director would go later on, it nevertheless tickles the horny bone well enough… and everything is presented with some rather solid cinematography (though the Jess-isms such as those wacky zooms he loves so much are present if a bit more sedate), and accentuated by a fantastic score courtesy of composer Bruno Nicolai.
In the acting department, Power makes for a comely heroine that displays a believable naivete that plays nicely against the more worldly performance from her on-screen sister Rohm.
The supporting cast is equally entertaining, with Kinski making for an intense de Sade (in what amounts to a cameo performance), and McCambridge going a tad over-the-top and stealing scenes here and there… but the real chef’s kiss acting job here goes to Palance who is clearly drunk-as-all-fuck and soaring through the stratosphere during every second of his screen-time!
Thankfully, you won’t miss a single detail of his alcohol-powered performance thanks to the gorgeous transfer utilized here by Blue Underground which features a near flawless image quality; with natural film grain, amazing color (which makes those Bava-esque colored gels pop like fireworks), natural skin tones, and rich blacks.
Adding to the enjoyment here are a number of bonus features both old and new!
Things get underway with a new audio commentary courtesy of film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth that presents a scholarly yet highly personable journey through the film’s production and legacy, as well as the film’s French trailer.
On a separate Blu-ray disc we get the aforementioned commentary and trailer along with featurettes featuring interviews with Franco and producer Harry Alan Towers (an archival, anecdote packed, warts and all chat), film historian/Franco expert Stephen Thrower (who speaks on the film’s place in Franco’s oeuvre as well as many facets of it’s production in an archival conversation), and actress Rosalba Neri (who provides musings from her time on set in a new interview).
Rounding out the release are a newly expanded poster and still gallery, and the truncated U.S. release of the film (under the title Deadly Sanctuary).
Lavishly costumed, handsomely filmed, and filled with memorable performances, Jess Franco’s adaptation of de Sade’s Justine is a beautiful (and at times surreal) masterpiece, and deserves high status in the man’s impressive filmography!