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Kino on Video presents
Psychopathia Sexualis: Unrated Director's Cut (2006)

"In Vienna, Professor Richard von Krafft-Ebing studied cases such as these with intent interest. He sought to unlock the secrets of deviant sexual behavior that drive men to self-destruction."
- Narrator

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: January 04, 2007

Stars: Ted Manson, Daniel May, Bryan Davis, Daniel Pettrow, Lisa Paulsen
Other Stars: Jane Bass, Veronika Duerr, Sandra L. Hughes, Rob Nixon, Rachel Sorsa
Director: Bret Wood

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, extensive range of perversions)
Run Time: 01h:38m:33s
Release Date: January 09, 2007
UPC: 738329050320
Genre: experimental

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+BA- B+

DVD Review

In Victorian times, sexuality was hardly discussed, even in medical circles, let alone perverse sexuality. That all changed with the pioneering work of Richard von Krafft-Ebing, who studied sexuality in all its polymorphous perversity, and related some of these case histories in his ever-enlarging Psychopathia Sexualis, originally published in 1886. A number of those case studies are adapted in this kaleidoscopic view of Victorian life and medicine, which tells us nearly as much about ourselves as it does its subjects.

Through a series of interweaving vignettes, Dr. Krafft-Ebing (Ted Manson) and Dr. Gaudron (Bryan Davis) study a number of bizarre cases, such as that of J.K. (Daniel May), who has an affinity for sadism and drinking blood, leading his mother (Jane Bass) to put him under the care of Gaudron in an asylum. Xavier (Daniel Pettrow) is a homosexual whom the doctors decide to treat through hypnotism to become a heterosexual and lose his attraction to men. In the closing and one of the most substantial tales, lesbian governess Lydia (Lisa Paulsen) is morally opposed to her own predilections, but is constantly provoked by her curious young charge, Annabel (Veronika Duerr). In between are shorter episodes of lust-murder, necrophilia, masochism, fetishism, watersports and other oddities of the human nature.

On one level, the viewer is as curious as the doctors to see the Victorian freak show of sexuality, repressed in as many ways as possible and thus erupting into all sorts of bizarre manifestations. Virtually any sexual depravity practiced in the modern world is in the catalogue of Krafft-Ebing, all without the benefit of the Internet, Craigslist or personal ads. The prevailing morality is much powerful, however, in the 19th century, leading the participants to be treated as insane by others and to reproach themselves for their own moral laxness for such utterly natural conduct as masturbation. Conventional roles are central to the theory, equating masochism with femininity but hinting that the masochist, not the sadist, is the one with the true power. Much of the sexuality has to be expressed through prostitutes, leading to some particularly amusing segments as the bored and jaded women occasionally find themselves in over their heads in weirdness.

The flip side of this clinical view is the film's interest in the doctors themselves. Although painting themselves as men of science, they're quite as hidebound by convention as their patients. They endeavor to 'cure' their patients through any means necessary, deeming it a moral requirement. As a result, they're also a bit twisted themselves, and it's evident they also take a sadistic joy in administering their torments to their patients. Women in the asylum who complain of being sexually assaulted are brushed off with characterization as hysterical, even though they may be speaking the truth. While one may wonder whether court-appointed psychiatrists are being manipulated by being told what they want to hear, Wood suggests that this may not be anything new. And of course when all else fails, an onanist can always be cured by a crude lobotomy.

Writer/director Bret Wood is a frequent producer of silent DVD presentations for Kino on Video, and his taste for the silents are evident in his technique here. Expressionistic elements are common, there are several titles cards, and there's frequently a willingness to let events play out in tableau. One scene that was scripted but never shot was to be expressly in the form of a Griffith Biograph short, which would have been an interesting notion. Although it's quite low budget, the picture seldom betrays that nature, making the most of its production values. Wood takes what would ordinarily be considered unfilmable and creatively makes it into an interesting text, not steering away from sexuality, but seldom actually making the proceedings erotic. This slightly clinical treatment is certainly in keeping with the original, and makes for an intriguing approach. It also has a sense of fun, such as in depicting a sequence involving necrophilia and corpse decoration as a puppet shadow play. In this way, Wood keeps the truly disturbing from being overwhelming.

This unrated edition is about 2 minutes longer than the R-rated version, the restored omission being a brothel sequence featuring a simulated golden shower.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture generally looks pretty good, considering it was shot on digital video. Black levels are nice and rich, and there's a good sensation of depth to the picture. Colors are frequently quite stylized, suggesting the tints and tones of the silent cinema. Detail is reasonably good, though aliasing is present throughout.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Both a 5.1 and 2.0 stereo mix are provided. The 5.1 mix generally does the most for the soundtrack by Paul Mercer, which alternates Victorian style music with modern atonality and a decidedly Eastern flair, depending on the sequence. Frequently deep bass erupts from many speakers, giving the movie a disturbing edginess at times. At others, there is a delicate balance of the echo of voices and the foley effects that define the visual space well. It's a quite good track even though there isn't a great deal that one would expect to be aurally impressive. Hiss and noise are practically nonexistent.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
11 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
7 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:15m:49s

Extra Extras:
  1. Krafft-Ebing bio and guide to the writings
  2. Gallery
  3. Unfilmed sequences
  4. Two short films
Extras Review: It certainly doesn't hurt when the writer and director also produces DVDs for a living. This disc is provided with a substantial number of interesting extras, starting with nearly half an hour of deleted scenes, including three parallel sequences of newlyweds and the varying reactions of the new bride to her groom's fetishistic conduct. Half a dozen featurettes include interview with the cast and crew, mostly about 9-10 minutes in length, with some decent substance to them. A seventh featurette provides a behind-the-scenes look at the puppet theater, with the isolated puppet sequence in its entirety. A bio of Krafft-Ebing is supplemented by a guide to the case histories used in the movie, with quotations of relevant sections. A gallery of several dozen stills helpfully identifies the actors appearing in them. Three excerpts from the script of unshot sequences also include descriptions of why they were not filmed, and the provide additional glimpses into Krafft-Ebing's thinking. Finally, two short films, Judgement (2005) and Rapture (2006) by Wood are quite disturbing in very different ways.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

While its subject matter is often outrageous, Wood approaches it with humor, decent taste and a flair for irony. This festival favorite comes equipped with plenty of bonus materials.


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