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
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
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
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
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
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.
A little blood.
Several topless scenes and some implied sex.
Who is it for?
Highly recommended to Franco fans and the perfect film for a newcomer.
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)
Original English audio track - sounds good.
Feature: 1hr 26m 07s
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)