Venus in Furs (1969)

Klaus Kinski and Dennis Price star in Jess Franco's top notch supernatural film from the Towers period. Blue Underground USA R0 DVD.

The Film

Jimmy Logan (James Darren) is young trumpeter who finds himself on a beach in Istanbul, a body is washed up on the shore and he recognises it as that of Wanda (Maria Rohm) who he had seen tortured and beaten at a jet-set party months earlier. Trying to escape from her memory, Jimmy heads across the world and finds himself in Rio where he falls in love with Rita (Barbara McNair) a young black singer who helps him forget about Istanbul. However, while playing in a Rio bar, Jimmy watches as Wanda walks in and chasing her, he begins a surreal and dangerous romance. Meanwhile, Wanda is avenging her death on the killers from the party and threatening to tear Jimmy and Rita apart. Despite the dangers, Jimmy tries to love Wanda but events turn dreamy and surreal until he finds himself back in Istanbul...

Although often hailed as Franco's masterwork, the end film Venus in Furs is a long way from Franco's original concept of Black Angel which was to be a surreal love affair between a black jazz musician and a white fantasy woman whom he conjoured up during solo playing. However, the American distributors refused to fund a film with a black man/white woman romance and Franco was forced to rethink the whole story - even the title was a commercial insistance of the American International producers who wanted to capitalise on the sucess of the Leopold Sacher-Masoch book even though the film itself was little related. As it stands, the storyline of Venus in Furs is very interesting and unpredictable with the curious recurrent themes of a jazz piece and the langurious pacing and jumps of a dream. However, the film takes a turn for the worse at the end with a completely unnecessary car chase and police investigation that destroys the dream-like atmosphere of the rest of the picture and seems to serve more as padding than part of the plot. The ending is very strong, although it would probably be more powerful without the final line of dialogue.

Venus in Furs shows off some of Franco's best direction: Dennis Price's character's death in a room full of mirrors is a highlight of Franco's entire cinematic oeuvre; like Eugenie (1970), the sex scenes are filmed very artistically, avoiding the film becoming porographic; a remembered jet-set party has a cartoon feel with completely stationary extras in the background; even the car chase is well shot - handheld cameras in the cars are far superior to the rear-projection work seen in too many Hollywood films of the time. It is worth noting, however, that the final film was not edited by Franco, and many of the curious editing choices were made in post production by someone else - this is evidenced by the frequent use of the same shots in different scenes (notice how the shot of the band at the jet-set party early on is actually from a later sequence in the Rio nightclub), some of the cuts between jazz bar and carnival stock footage are rather jolting to the soundtrack and flow of the film. Generally the soundtrack is very jazzy, with several long sequences in night-clubs - there are several reccuring character themes and some nicely used Middle-Eastern music on the Istanbul scenes.
Like most of the Towers/Franco collaborations, Venus in Furs has a strong cast. American actor James Darren was unusual casting for the lead role, a popular American TV star he was little known in Europe, Franco agreed to cast him after discovering that Darren was a former jazz trumpeter which lends some real autheticity to the musical sequences. Barbara McNair was similarly well known in America as a singer, which allows her character to seem much more authentic (no need to dub the singing seperately) while Maria Rohm as her supernatural love rival was Tower's top name actress and very popular, although probably intentionally she gets little range here, usually appearing mute. The tragic Dennis Price and legendary Klaus Kinski give good but almost mute performances as Wanda's torturers and victims, although with little screen-time. Look out for Franco regular Paul Muller as a bar owner, and jazz musician Manfred Mann as himself, even Franco himself puts in a turn on the piano in one scene.

Although not Franco's original vision, with script and editing being taken out of his hands, Venus in Furs shows off some of Franco's best cinematography and sequences and is bolstered by a strong cast. Recommended to any Franco fans, and a good place to begin an exploration of euro-cinema's most active and varied director.

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? Klaus Kinski - Top name in Euro-cult who also worked with Franco on Jack the Ripper (1976).
Dennis Price - A former top British star who appeared in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949).
Maria Rohm - Harry Alan Tower's top actress who also worked with Franco on 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 Secret of Dr. Orloff (1964) to DTV softcore horror Tender Flesh (1998)
Who else was involved?Harry Alan Towers - the British exploitation producer who brought Franco to the mainstream.
Any gore? A little blood.
Any sex? Several topless scenes and some implied sex.
Who is it for?
Highly recommended to Franco fans and the perfect film for a newcomer.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 widescreen. Anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
The film is decent visually, very grainy and some print damage (notably bad in a few scenes) but never unwatchable. A long way above public domain/VHS prints.
(note this film was probably shot 1.66:1 and there is some slight cropping evident in a few scenes)
Audio Original English audio track - sounds good.
Subtitles None.
Run-timeFeature: 1hr 26m 07s 
Extras The disc includes:
  • Interview with Jess Franco in which he talks about the film, actors and script problems. French, subtitled. (20m 27s)
  • Audio interview with Maria Rohm talking about this film and her other work for Franco and Towers. English.  (10m 51s)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer - same condition as the film, very nicely edited and worth a watch.  (2m 53s)
  • Stills and poster gallery - manual scrolling.  (2 posters, 53 b&w stills, 31 colour stills)
  • DVD-ROM: Jess Franco biography by Tim Lucas (.pdf)
Region Region 0 (All) - NTSC
Other regions? No other releases.
Cuts? The film is believed to be fully uncut. English language print.



Return to main menu.

All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 26th June 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

Please contact: