"Je ne mange jamais mieux, je ne dors jamais plus en paix
que quand je me suis suffisamment souillé dans le jour
de ce que les sots appellent des crimes."
Marquis de Sade - Philosophy in the Boudoir
Eugiene (Marie Liljedahl) is a young, innocent girl invited to stay the weekend on the island of Madame Marie-Anne de St. Ange (Maria Rohm). On arrival she discovers that Marie-Anne's step-brother Mirvel (Jack Taylor) is also there and he admits to having lusted after Eugenie over the past year. After bathing and sunning themselves in the garden the women return to the house for lunch where Eugenie is drugged and Mirvel proceeds to have his way with her and Marie-Anne. Later when Eugenie awakes, Marie-Anne puts the memories down to a dream-like desire. That evening she is drugged again and the red suited Dolmance (Christopher Lee) along with various Sadean followers in period dress arrive, subjecting Eugenie to a sadistic whipping but she awakens with no wounds and again is told she was dreaming. However, Eugenie's enrollment into the world of Sadism has just begun and when Dolmance returns, his punishment will be real...
Eugenie is an adaptation of Philosophy in the Boudoir, a very interesting work by the notorious 18th Century French writer The Marquis de Sade. It concerns the 'education' of the young, virginal Eugenie by several Libertine characters and contains extensive passages on discussions of philosophy and ethics as well as some very vivid and detailed sexual experiences. For this film, producer Harry Alan Towers (under his usual nom de plume of Peter Welbeck) has taken the basic premise of the text and turned it into a narrative storyline. He retains the character's names although the script relegates Dolmance to a supporting role while Marie-Anne's brother (step-brother here, presumably to avoid censorship problems) becomes a more important figure. On the whole the script remains faithful to the tone of the text, even including De Sade's written introduction, while removing the lengthy and unfilmable philosophical discussions and the rather explicit sexual sequences that would have left the film an exercise in hardcore pornography.
The scenes on the island are bookended by newly written sequences including Eugenie's parents at the beginning of the film which provides some neat background to her character, as well as a very clever epilogue. Towers also adds some nice symbolism - Eugenie's doll represents her childhood and in an early sequence, she turns her back on it, rejecting it, to gaze at a photograph of Marie-Anne; while later, after her sadistic beating at the hands of Dolmance, she attempts to return to her child-hood innocence by hugging the doll, although without sucess. Unfortunately the alterations are not all positive, the addition of a death/dumb servant is rather pointles, as is her eventual murder, while the arrival of Eugenie's mother as per de Sade's text, would have made a more interesting and twisted climax than the one presented; more importantly, the philosophy that turns Eugenie from saint to sinner is completely removed, making her change of character rather surprising. The script's pacing is deliberately languorous and dream-like - a long way from the comparatively break-neck speed of Franco's Venus in Furs (1969). Ultimately, although the script is not without problems, it is a clever updating of the De Sade work, and provides a good basis for the film.
Franco's direction lifts the film considerably - the script had the potential to produce a work that would rank as mere pornography, but the artistic presentation, of the sexual scenes in particular prevents this. The camera views the action from behind chairs and from a distance with frequent reaction cutaways - the hardcore 'anatomical' shots of Franco's later work are certainly not on display here, neither are his infamous 'zoom' shots - however, his over-used 'out of focus' look can be rather distracting at times. Bruno Nicolai provides a solid and very varied soundtrack to the film ranging from religious chanting to jovial singing, although the use of weirdly uplifting music during the sadistic whipping scenes is a little odd. The sets all look very good, as do the period costumes (possibly left over from earlier Franco/Towers/De Sade production Justine (1969)).
While Franco's earlier De Sade work, Justine (1969) had boasted an all-star cast (including a silent Klaus Kinski and drunk Jack Palance) and suffered as a result, Eugenie has a much more suitable and low key cast. Christopher Lee was a last minute casting after the unfortunate death of the previous actor who had been suggested for the role, he fits very well as the creepy narrator Dolmance and his voice, retained in the English dub, is perfect for reciting de Sade. Franco regulars Maria Rohm and Jack Taylor have an unnerving and suspicious air to them, suiting their roles as Eugenie's experienced tutors well. Marie Liljedahl seems ideally suited for the title role with a child-like innocence and cherubite looks. Look out for Franco regular Paul Muller as Eugenie's father, a role he would similarly reprise in the same year in Franco's adaption of De Sade's Eugénie de Franval called Eugenie de Sade (1970) starring Soledad Miranda. Oft recurring euro-cult star Herbert Fux makes an appearance as one of Dolmance's silent followers, while Franco himself puts in a cameo early on during a cult ceremony.
Eugenie is an impressive attempt to update and film de Sade's explicit work, without it becoming mere pornography - Franco describes the film as an adult fairy tale and fantasy. Tower's script is strong, although not without flaws, but Franco's direction really lifts the film, giving it a very dream-like atmosphere and artistic feel. Franco refers to Eugenie as the film of his that he hates the least and it does rank as one of his best pictures, along with Venus in Furs (1969), at the top of his creative peak in the late 1960s. Franco fans will certainly want to see this film, while newcomers to Franco, or his Harry Alan Tower's period, might be best sampling the more accessible Venus in Furs (1969) or Count Dracula (1970) first.
|Anyone famous in it?||
Christopher Lee - Brit-Horror mainstay and frequent euro-cult film star, working with Franco several times.
Marie Liljedahl - young Swedish siren who first turned heads in Jag - en oskuld (1968)
Jack Taylor - a regular Euro-cult star who also worked with Franco and Lee in Count Dracula (1970)
Maria Rohm - a top name in many of the Franco/Towers films, including 99 Women (1969)
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Jess Franco - the biggest name in Euro-Cult cinema with over 180 films to his credit, everything from black and white horror The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962) to DTV softcore horror Lust for Frankenstein (1998)|
|Who else was involved?||Harry Alan Towers - the British exploitation producer with whom Franco worked extensively in the 1960s.|
|Any gore or violence ?||Lots of blood and a couple of gore scenes.|
|Any sex or nudity?||Lots of soft female topless and nude scenes, some Sadean whipping and sex scenes (containing hints of incest).|
|Who is it for?||A must see for Franco fans, especially of his Harry Towers period, but its inherent surrealism means it is not the best for first time viewers.
|Visuals||Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The disc decent visually, lots of grain but only a few speckles and lines, frequent lack of focus is part of Franco's direction.
Note: The cheap widescreen lenses used on this film mean that the edges of the picture are slightly distorted throughout, this dates from the original print and is not a problem with the disc.
|Audio||English and French mono.|
|Extras||The disc includes:
|Region||Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC|
|Other regions?||Region 2 UK release from ABUK; mostly the same, no French audio or Easter Egg.|
|Cuts?||The film is believed to be completely uncut. English language print.|