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MGM Studios DVD presents
Lady Chatterley's Lover (1981)

"How to ruin an evening...invite a German to a party."
- Clifford (Shane Briant)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: February 01, 2006

Stars: Sylvia Kristel, Nicholas Clay
Other Stars: Shane Briant
Director: Just Jaeckin

MPAA Rating: R for (strong sexual content, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:44m:11s
Release Date: July 26, 2005
UPC: 027616925749
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- D+C-C- D

DVD Review

Many a soft-core porn film has filled the pay cable airwaves over the years. Lady Chatterley's Lover is the Citizen Kane of that genre, bringing as much class to the proceedings as possible. Such class is even more surprising, given that it's the product of legendary producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, the men behind the schlocky gems that are Cyborg and Masters of the Universe. They first unleashed Lady Chatterley's Lover upon us in 1981, but the semi-cult classic status came about once it hit Cinemax a bit later in the decade.

The story was already around before the film, thanks to D.H. Lawrence's novel, which adapter Marc Behm stayed fairly true to. We initially see Lady Constance Chatterley (Sylvia Kristel) as she is struggling to cope with a husband, Clifford (Shane Briant), who has just been crippled in the war. Since Clifford is no longer able to satisfy his wife sexually, let alone have a child with her to carry on the family name, he encourages Lady Constance to have an affair. At first reluctant, Constance's desires overwhelm her when she sees Mellors (Nicholas Clay), the gamekeeper at the Chatterley estate. When Clifford learns of the affair, this once encouraging husband suddenly becomes jealous, especially when he sees that his wife's lover is of a much lower class than her.

The intentions of Lady Chatterley's Lover can be summed up by its director's name: Just Jaeckin. Clearly not a master director (or skilled at coming up with a decent stage name), Jaeckin has crafted Lawrence's novel into 105 minutes of B-movie quality, atmospheric ribaldry. The film comes from an era where pornography, be it of the softcore or hardcore variety, was chic. This meant surprisingly large budgets for such projects, so Lady Chatterley's Lover has a very polished, theatrical look. While the moody fog and atmospheric gloss is a bit overdone, for the first half hour or so, it's easy to mistake the film for something other than an erotic romp.

Once Lady Chatterley meets Mellors, the passion begins, but surrounding that and a handful of other sequences, the on-screen sex is kept to a minimum. Instead, there's far too much cheesy, cerebral dialogue that never really makes much sense. We do get to see quite a bit of Sylvia Kristel (this wouldn't exactly be the first time she would bare it all), but her body gives a far better performance than she does. She has an overall wooden demeanor to her acting, but none of her supporting cast is any better. Shane Briant seems to have more makeup on than his on-screen wife, and Nicholas Clay has definitely let his beefcake appearance go to his head.

Lady Chatterley's Lover will always be remembered as a late night cable staple. With such fare these days being fare more graphic, sexually, the film, despite far less actual on-screen sex, is still a pioneer for the industry. Unfortunately, its cult classic status is really all the picture has going for it. Lady Chatterley's Lover is a decent blend of genres, but if you're looking for a moody period piece, pick up Sense and Sensibility instead. If a more sex-filled romp is up your alley, simply flip to Cinemax at the wee hours of the evening.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: This disc offers both a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and a full frame version of Lady Chatterley's Lover. The widescreen transfer is the version to choose, since none of the picture is compromised. Image detail could have been better, but the film has an intentionally soft look to it, so it's no surprise that this aspect of the transfer suffers a bit. There's quite a bit of grain too, although the source material seems to have been in relatively good shape to begin with.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is mono, and is naturally pretty drab. The dialogue is nice and clear, blending in nicely with the rest of the mix. With everything up front, the music and sound effects don't have any room to breathe, but there aren't any standout problems.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extra feature is the theatrical trailer for Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Lady Chatterley's Lover is early soft-core porn without much eroticism. Director Just Jaeckin went the style over substance route, which will disappoint many viewers who go into the film looking for a bit more heat. MGM's DVD is as basic as it gets, delivering average audio and video presentations along with a trailer as the lone extra feature.


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