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Blue Underground presents
Justine de Sade (1972)

"I am but a poor orphan girl, already well acquainted with ill fortune. I was scarcely twelve years old when I was abandoned by my protectors and delivered quite defenseless to the world."
- Justine/Thérèse (Alice Arno)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: August 29, 2007

Stars: Alice Arno
Other Stars: Yves Arcanel, Georges Beauvilliers, Christian Chevreuse, Diane Lepvrier, Dominique Santarelli, France Verdier, Jean Topart
Director: Claude Pierson

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexuality, violence, rape, torture, animal cruelty, thematic material)
Run Time: 01h:55m:06s
Release Date: August 28, 2007
UPC: 827058112895
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The relaxation of censorship in the late 1960s and early 1970s led to many formerly taboo materials being adapted for the screen. Among the more outré of these were the writings of the Marquis de Sade, which hit the screen in such items as Saló and the Jess Franco version of de Sade's Justine (1968). French director Claude Pierson took another turn at that same work a few years later, with a less all-star cast but a more determined approach to the subject matter.

Justine (Alice Arno), brought to an inn by constabulary who have charged her with murder, arson and theft, tells her woeful tale to a courtesan (France Verdier) and her companion. Orphaned and abandoned by the convent in which she was reared, Justine takes the name Thérèse and tries to live a virtuous life. That's easier said than done, however, as she runs into one group of perverse and opportunistic men and women after another, ranging from rapist nobles and a leader of a gang of bandits to a murderous young man and a count who is sexually excited by bloodletting, with predictable results. The highlight of Thérèse's picaresque journey is when she falls in with four Benedictine monks who keep a group of women as their sexual slaves while masquerading as devout holy men. Despite the crimes committed against her, those who commit them invariably prosper, and Justine ends up suffering.

Where Franco's Justine played with de Sade's theme of virtue rewarded by punishment, Pierson takes it far more seriously. Even though there are numerous moments where Justine, ever optimistic, believes that she will ultimately rewarded for her virtue, it merely makes her a more attractive target. Even the denouemént is grim, with no Hollywood ending. Nevertheless, the main attraction is the sex and nudity, and the picture doesn't disappoint. Arno gets dressed only to get her costumes stripped off her almost immediately, and the sex, while not explicit, is reasonably erotic (though much of it will probably be a bit too twisted for mainstream viewers).

Arno has a suitably vacant look to convey the innocent dimness of Justine/Thérèse. She offers a nice comic timing as she relates her tale of woe—always in exactly the same words, as if she is utterly lacking in imagination. The other characters tend to be only things that happen to Thérèse, so there's not a lot of depth to them. The closest are Georges Beauvilliers, a counterfeiter, and Gernande (Christian Chevreuse), the blood-obsessed count. Beauvilliers has a demented intensity, favoring whippings alternating with autoerotic asphyxiation (don't try this at home, kids). Chevreuse is similarly obsessive, giving some life to the fixations against a background of bisexuality and a fascination with buttocks, with a few moments of kind lucidity and vicious cruelty. Also notable is Diane Lepvrier as the long-suffering Countess, quickly being depleted of blood.

The production values are fairly slim; a number of the settings appear to be identical despite ostensibly being located in entirely different areas of France. Period costuming is adequate but not particularly flashy. Dark humor is frequently in view; in a particularly hilarious sequence, Thérèse is on her knees near a pond thanking God for her escape, only to have a sack dropped over her head and get dragged into captivity. There are a few moments of visual imagination, such as Roland's massive wheel, pushed by four or five nude women. The purpose of the wheel is never quite explained, but it is an image that sticks in the mind through its sheer audacity. And if de Sade is about anything, he's about audacity.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Despite being cut to ribbons around the globe, Blue Underground has managed to find good and apparently complete source materials. While the photography has significant amounts of grain, it's rendered exceptionally well and no video noise is evident, nor do I observe any edge enhancement or artifacting. It's not a particularly spectacular film visually, but the transfer here should please just about anyone. Only the most occasional speckle detracts from the anamorphic widescreen presentation, and considering its age and history, that's exceptional.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: English and French 2.0 mono versions are included, though they both seem to be rather ineptly dubbed; neither one matches the lip movements particularly well. The English dub is for a shorter version so a few sequences are only in French, with English subtitles. Both are quite acceptably clean, though range and impact are singularly lacking. It's a sufficient audio track, but hardly a showpiece.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Alternate clothed sequence
Extras Review: There are two extras. The first is a short prologue, never used, which provides several illustrations of de Sade; there was never any audio track but one can imagine what it might have been like. The other extra is an alternate version of the orgy with the monks, with the women clothed instead of nude. It's hard to imagine what the purpose was since the film seems unlikely to have obtained a television airing, and the balance of the movie is packed with nudity. But here it is.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

A fairly faithful and bleak adaptation of de Sade, though it's a bit lacking in production values. Blue Underground supplies an excellent transfer.


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