Director: Jess Franco
Blue Underground

After a string of international, bigger-budgeted productions for exploitation mogul Harry Alan Towers, director Jess Franco entered the 1970s with more modest, but sexually flavored films like this. One of several works that Franco based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade, this one is based on his "Eugenie de Franval," and it's reportedly a very faithful adaptation. EUGENIE DE SADE is one of Franco's best collaborations with Argentinean-born Soledad Miranda (here using her Susan Korda alias), a beautifully captivating actress whose life was soon to be cut short in an auto accident.

The story begins with the director himself watching a film of Eugenie (Miranda) frolicking around in the bedroom with an unidentified woman, after which a man comes into the scene to strangle her to death. We then cut to Eugenie, beaten and on her deathbed. She is relaying the events that led up to her ruin to Attila Tanner (Franco). The sadistic man seen in the film was Eugenie's stepfather Albert (Paul Muller), a famous writer whose specialty is sexual perversion.

In flashback, we learn that Eugenie has become fascinated by her stepfather's written works, and he lures her into a world of perverted deviance and sadism. Not only is Eugenie's relationship with Albert incestuous, but she also becomes obedient to the point of assisting in murder. Their first victim is an S&M prostitute (played by Franco regular Alice Arno) whom they take kinky photographs of and strangle. Next is a flaky blonde hitchhiker who is also killed after some twisted activities. When Albert's next target is a jazz musician, Eugenie winds up falling in love against her stepfather's wishes, and this ultimately leads to her doom.

Shot in scenic Germany and France, EUGENIE DE SADE is a favorite amongst Franco fanatics, and it remains that way for several reasons. First of all, there's Soledad Miranda, Franco's best leading lady, in one of her finest, most engrossing roles -- a beautiful flower blooming from innocence into total decadence. Franco's direction also has more of a narrative than usual, and the sex scenes are not as overbearing as they would be in his subsequent, crotch-zooming exploits with Lina Romay. Franco agreeably casts himself as Tanner, the man obsessed with the hedonistic couple, and Muller is given one of his few leading parts, as he's usually a background performer. Bruno Nicolai's score is very lively, sounding almost like it could be the work of Ennio Morricone.

Wild East Productions had released EUGENIE DE SADE on Region 1 DVD some years ago in a full frame transfer (now OOP), but Blue Underground’s new release is far superior in quality. Culled from the original negative (sporting the onscreen title “Eugenia” and a 1984 copyright date), the film has been presented anamorphic in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The image looks fantastic, with bold colors, excellent clarity and no grain in sight. The film elements are also in impeccable condition. Both English and French language tracks have been provided in clean mono presentations, as well as optional English subtitles.

Extras include “Franco de Sade,” a 20-minute video interview with the director. Franco discusses his early fascination with the writings of the Marquis de Sade, the taboo subject matter of the film (it couldn't be shot in Spain at that time), and addresses the subject of Soledad Miranda at length, making a point of denying that they were ever lovers. As usual, Franco never gives a bad interview, and though he is speaking English, his heavy accent is supplemented with English subtitles. An English-language theatrical trailer is loaded with highlights as well as spoilers, so watch the feature before you peruse the extras menu. (George R. Reis)