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Published by David Carter on 2016/4/10 (364 reads)
Directed by Jess Franco
Review by David Carter

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Released by Blue Underground
Running Time: 87 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 1.0 DTS-HS Mono English/English, French & Spanish Subtitles
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 2.35:1
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: 3 Disc set includes Standard DVD of film and OST by Bruno Nicolai, interview with Jess Franco, Harry Alan Towers, Marie Liljedahl, & Christopher Lee; interview with Stephen Thrower, collectable booklet
Trailer Online: Yes

The early seventies were an intensely creative period for Jess Franco. It is during this time that some of his most famous works appear: VAMPYROS LESBOS, VENUS IN FURS and, the first of two De Sade adaptations of the same work, EUGENIE… THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY IN PERVERSION. Franco would follow up EUGENIE… with a more Franco-esque take the following year – EUGENIE DE SADE – but it is this 1969 version that we see Franco delve deeply into de Sade’s Philosophy of the Boudoir and first develop the elements that would become themes in his later work. Starring Marie Liljedahl and Christopher Lee, EUGENIE… (along with JUSTINE) represents Franco’s last flirtation with mainstream filmmaking. It’s now available on a gorgeous three-disc set from Blue Underground.

Franco’s take on de Sade’s dialogue-heavy and dreary Philosophy… is a beautifully-lensed, Technicolor look at late-sixties European libertines and their malevolent plans for the beautiful Eugenie. Barely a teenager, Eugenie’s innocence is protected by a pious and overbearing mother, but her immoral father is less interested in keeping his daughter pure. The stunning Madame de Saint-Ange has taken a liking to Eugenie and uses her charms to convince her father to permit her to stay the weekend with her in her palatial estate. Eugenie happily goes with the sophisticated older woman and the pair is joined by Saint-Ange’s brother Mirval for what appears to be a weekend of frivolity.

Saint-Ange and Mirval have other plans, however. Their interest in Eugenie is psycho-sexual: they want her body, but only after they’ve broken her mind. They play nicely during the day, but drug Eugenie each night at dinner and indulge in sadomasochistic brutalities with her unconscious body; informing her the next morning that she’s simply had a bad dream. The brother-sister/lovers duo are let by the enigmatic Dolmance (Christopher Lee), who arrives nightly to direct the action, but may have something far more sinister in mind for the completion of Eugenie’s education.

Franco had flirted with filming sadomasochism since his earliest works but it is in EUGENIE… that we see him make it the thematic center of the film. Liljedahl, star of the coming-of-age store INGA, is in a vastly different milieu here as Saint-Ange and Mirval are truly only interested in pain rather than just stealing her virginity. The film is at once sexual and non-sexual as Franco begins to abstract the sadism from any sexuality, instead focusing more on the violence than the bodies on which it occurs. No longer simply a means to an end, sadism is the end in EUGENIE… both for the film and one assumes Franco as well. Just as Dolmance indulges, Franco does too; presenting some of the most transgressive visions of his career here. The juxtaposition of the serenity and beauty of the European coast during the day and the perversions at night is jarring and effective, as the sexual werewolves Saint-Ange and Mirval sink their claws into the unsuspecting Eugenie night after night.

Blue Underground’s three disc set of the film is nothing short of amazing, containing a spectacular Blu Ray, a standard DVD, and Bruno Nicolai’s outstanding soundtrack on CD. Interviews with all the principles, including Christopher Lee, who once claimed not to know what EUGENIE… was about, are included as bonus features. Less fetishistic than the later EUGENIE DE SADE, EUGENIE… is a superior film and ultimately one that is also more transgressive. Liljedahl was never known for her acting, but her portrayal of the innocent (almost childlike) Eugenie fits the material well and plays off of Rohm’s gleeful evil well. EUGENIE… is an essential part of any Franco collection.
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