Director: Chris Boger
Redemption USA

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Marc Morris has notified us that this DVD presentation, aka CRUEL PASSION, is a heavily censored BBFC X version) Between 1969 and 1980, over a dozen films were made based on the literary works of the Marquis de Sade, with the majority being adaptations of “Justine ou les malheurs de la vertu”. Mac Ahlberg (JUSTINE & JULIETTE), Claude Pierson (JUSTINE DE SADE) and Jess Franco (MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE), who has helmed ten de Sade adaptations to date, would all illustrate the torrid tale of Justine to varying effect. Rounding out a cycle of “Justine” adaptations, all of which saw release within eight years of each other, Chris Boger’s THE MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE features an impressive and realistically naïve performance from lead Koo Stark but in the end feels far too pedestrian in comparison to its litigious source material.

Justine (Koo Stark, EMILY) and her sister Juliette (Lydia Lisle) are kicked out of a nunnery with but 40 pounds between them after the sudden suicide/death of their parents allows for no one to maintain their upkeep. While the dominating, lesbian Mother Superior (is there any other kind?) has several suggestions as to how young Justine can continue to pay for her room and board, the two wisely turn their backs on the church, fleeing to London. Hungry and poor, Juliette suggests that they enter into a life of prostitution, in hopes of meeting a well to do gentleman who will see to it that neither has to worry about money issues again. Upon arriving at Madame Laronde's (Katherine Kath) the two are quickly introduced to their new trade via a series of demonstrations from their future coworkers. Horrified by the prospect of such a sacrilegious and defiling occupation, Justine takes flight of the brothel, absconding back to the familiar church where her mother and father are buried. Having been cloistered for so long, Justine naively accepts the invitation of a local Pastor to eat and rest for the night. Justine is barely able to catch her breath, when the Pastor forces himself on her, leading to a chase that inadvertently results in the priest’s death. Devastated by her predicament and the actions they have caused, Justine again finds herself in harms way when she is kidnapped by a band of thieves who plan on using the beauty as bait in their money making schemes. Concerned for her sister's well being, Juliette sends her new beau Lord Carlisle (Martin Potter, FELLINI SATYRICON) in search of Justine unaware of the consequences that face such a request.

Chris Boger’s THE MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE is like a 5,000 piece puzzle. It’s amusing for about 15 minutes but after that it just feels like work. What begins as a solid nunsplotatoin entry quickly turns it a convoluted, boring mess as Justine gets passed around like a joint at a Phish concert. If the main goal was to see how many potential rape scenarios can be designed and executed in about an hour and a half, then the film succeeds brilliantly. If however it was also supposed to be entertaining, then the film falls short. It is too easy to lose track or have any concern for Justine as it's hard to fathom the idea of someone being so green as to repeatedly place themselves in harms way, seemingly on purpose. Koo Stark is a striking presence with an angelic face and a natural ability to seem inexperienced and youthful, but it is hard to maintain sympathy or compassion for character when they keep repeating the same bonehead move over and over. How her character lives as long as she does is simply a testament to the dumb luck and determination of stupidity.

THE MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE's only memorable elements, beside a minimal amount of nudity, are several blaring holes in its continuity. One scene in which Madame Laronde makes her way from to room to room, ensuring that her house of ill repute is running smoothly, features a glaring error in the film's construction as one busty prostitute somehow finds herself servicing two different rooms at the same time. In one room she is giving a rather dandy young chap a good once-over, only for Madame Laronde to walk across the hall to find the same exact pro in a completely different, albeit still compromising position. The error is so obvious and the picture so tedious, that I eventually found myself caring more about how the call girl could be in two places at once than I did the meandering plot. Was there a sexy, secret trap door that she slid through? Does she have a twin and if so, does that cost extra? Another scene finds Lord Carlisle attacked by a dog that, much like the prostitute, can somehow duplicate itself at will. One second the Lord is running for his life, being chased by two vicious dogs in hot pursuit. The next he is tackled and mauled by only one dog ,who appears to drool red paint all over his face.

Redemption USA presents JUSTINE with an anamorphic transfer in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Print blemishes are frequent, with an often heavy rain of dirt and debris. Colors are sufficient and black creditably dark but such darkened scenes only help to highlight the numerous vertical green line scratches that permeate throughout the picture. The only audio option is an adequate English mono track that fair far better than the film's visual presentation.

Extras include a brief interview with director Chris Boger, who would go on to document the concerts and carriers of a number of notorious musical groups including Led Zeppelin, and an extended interview with writer Ian Cullen. A handful of stills and the film's British theatrical trailer are included alongside three other Redemption USA releases, NATURE MORTE, SATANIC SLUTS and Jean Rollin’s FASCINATION. Ultimately forgettable, if you’re looking for torture you will certainly find it. It’s just not the same brand of torture the Marquis originally wrote about. (Jason McElreath)