Based on the reputedly semi-autobiographical 1961 novel by Agnethe Thomsen, 1965's Danish-Swedish co-production I, A WOMAN (a.k.a. JAG - EN KVINNA; JEG - EN KVINDE) was a huge success overseas.
This was largely due to then little-known filmmaker Radley Metzger importing the film stateside via his distribution company Audubon Films and ending up with an unexpected hit on his hands. Arguably, the success of the film consolidated the route Metzger's own directorial career would subsequently take (CAMILLE 2000, THE IMAGE etc).
Unsurprisingly then, two sequels to I, A WOMAN followed in 1968 and 1970. This 2-disc package from Secret Key Motion Pictures (the softcore offshoot of After Hours Cinema) brings them together in one wallet-friendly package.
Disc 1 offers 1968's I, A WOMAN PART 2 (a.k.a. I, A WOMAN - THE MARRIAGE; 2 - I, A WOMAN PART 2; JAG, EN KVINNA 2 - AKTENSKAPET; JEG, EN KVINDA 2; ANCH'IO SONNO UNA DONNA).
Mac Ahlberg's first film set the scene with its tale of the sexually liberated nurse Siv (Essy Perrson), who grows frustrated when the men she shares her body with become possessive of her. However, when she meets a man as much into free loving as she is, she's forced to re-evaluate her own attitude as her emotions take over.
In this sequel, Ahlberg returns to direct but Perrson is replaced in the role of Siv by Swedish siren Gio Petre. She immediately fits the bill, as Ahlberg's camera lovingly zooms in on her naughty bits while she showers during the opening titles.
As she retires from the bathroom and dresses, we realise from her manner that Siv is less than content in her new married life. Before we even meet her husband Hans (Lars Lunoe, who has the look of a sickly Peter O'Toole), we watch as she regards his mail and narrates on how self-important he must be - his letters arrive with simply his name on them, as he believes he's too well-known to require an address on there.
But, for all that Hans is respected locally as an antiques dealer, he has a tendency to speak down to the lesser classes - while refusing to pay back the money he owes to shops in the area. While he's at his own store being rude to customers, Siv answers the door at home to angry butchers and launderettes, desperate to have Hans pay off his debts.
Siv becomes so distressed that she races round to her mother-in-law (Hjordis Petterson) for a whinge. Siv begins to tell the old hag how her life was so much better before she met Hans - but the mother-in-law doesn't want to hear about Siv's promiscuous past.
Meanwhile, Hans pops into the jewellers on his way home and buys gifts for his wife ... before refusing to pay the bill. As he explains to the teller, money is no problem to him - but if the shops need his business (they do), then they must allow him to do as he pleases.
When Hans gives Siv her latest gift, she reveals all the other jewellery he has previously bought for her. She suggests that they sell some to pay off their mounting debts. "Those hyenas will have their money when I'm ready to pay", Hans retorts - and instead takes a series of photographs of Siv cavorting naked save for her copious diamond gifts, draped across her privates.
But the sneaky shit Hans sells the photographs on to sweaty customer Richard (Bertel Lauring), who harbours designs on meeting with Siv. For a fee, Hans is happy to arrange this ... So that's how he's going to pay off his debts!
The following evening, Hans invites Richard round to dinner. Siv quickly realises that she is there to satisfy Richard's sexual fantasies. Despite initially objecting, reasoning with Hans that what he's getting her into is prostitution, she ends up going along with it anyway. After dinner, Siv makes out with her greasy guest as Hans watches on impassively.
That night Hans tries to have his wicked way with Siv in bed, but she's far from in the mood. Shortly afterwards, Siv decides she's had enough - she lambasts Hans to his mother-in-law and then returns to work as a nurse in a bid to regain a modicum of independence. It's here that Siv meets a new man and has a chance conversation with Hans' ex-wife Ulla (Kate Mundt) - who reveals Hans' dark secret.
A surprisingly linear, fluent script keeps this sequel ticking over nicely throughout its 80-minute timeframe. It never deviates from its central storyline, and wisely keeps the focus on Siv for almost all of the running time.
Although the English dubbing hampers the dramatics, it's fair to say that the caricature-like characters come across well. Petre plays the bitter wife suffering from sexual frustration in a convincing manner, while Lunoe steals the show as the creep who's fun to hate.
More sombre in tone than anticipated, this is a cheap but never tawdry film: it doesn't quite meet it's aspirations of examining the psyche of a woman who's moved from youth to a humdrum married life, but achieves an autumnal despondency at times regardless.
Artistically bankrupt, the film nevertheless works on a flimsy soap opera-style basis. The final moments are darker in subject matter than you may expect, and the shift in tone is handled well. Ultimately though, as a softcore flick, this is perhaps not as flighty or as explicit as people will require it to be. Still, that didn't stop it from being banned in Norway until three years after it's release (I wonder how much of that was down to the political shift in the climactic moments).
Disc 1 presents I, A WOMAN PART 2 in anamorphic 1.78:1. The image exhibits natural grain and the occasional wear-and-tear of its print (specks, dirt, vertical lines). Age issues aside, it's an impressive rendering of such an old film. Colours and blacks are strong throughout, while images are slightly soft but never to the detriment of detail.
The English dubbed mono soundtrack holds up fine, playing loud and clear despite infrequent minor hiss.
There is no scene-selection menu but the film can be navigated through via your remote control, by way of 9 chapters.
The only "extra" on disc 1 is a link to an address to order an Alternative Cinema catalogue.
Disc 2 is home to THE DAUGHTER: I, A WOMAN PART 3 (a.k.a. 3 SLAGS KAERLIGHED; KOLMENLAISTA RAKKAUTTA; TROIS FOIS PLUS D'AMOUR).
A ludicrously long opening titles sequence at least serves to demonstrate how this film, again directed by Ahlberg, is a far more artier affair - climaxing in a lesbian dream that incorporates red lights, studio photography-type compositions and a snake bizarrely caressing the lovely Inger Sundh's naked flesh.
Sundh portrays Birthe, daughter of Siv (Gunbritt Ohrstrom - credited here as Gun Falck). She's a teenage girl confused by her own sexuality, who becomes even more messed up when she returns home early one evening to catch Siv fucking her lover Loe (Klaus Pagh) on the living room floor.
From there, the gorgeous blonde teen (who was actually 24 at the time of filming ...) becomes more aware of her own anatomy, and embarks through an uneasy sexual rites of passage - beginning with her listening at Siv's bedroom door and listening in disgust as she hears her mother humping her lover.
A young doctor called Stephen (Tom Scott) has his heart set on Birthe when he meets her at a nightclub but she rejects him initially, falling instead for the wily charms of his sister Lisa (Ellen Faison). But eventually, Birthe finds what she wants - what she perhaps needs - in the arms of Stephen ...
Less a continuation of the first two films, this third instalment feels much more like a cash-in on the title. It trades in on inter-racial sex to hit its 'controversy' mark for the audience of its time, but dispenses with the attempted psychology of its predecessors.
DAUGHTER is a lesser film than it's predecessor on disc 1. Despite what seem to be bigger production values and aspirations of a more artistic veneer, this is a less satisfying dramatic option. It's got a more chaotic early 70s vibe to it, treating narrative more flimsily and finding it all too easy to fill time with segues into pointless scenes of go-go dancers jiving along to bad jazz music.
Performances are instantly forgettable, the storyline never engages and the softcore set-pieces are moribund. But Sundh is pretty.
Disc 2 also presents its main feature in anamorphic 1.78:1, with a healthy amount of specks, natural grain and vertical lines to boast. Having said that, the wear of age is expected and the state of the film is perfectly watchable - try finding a superior version!
Again, English dubbed audio is provided in a largely agreeable original mono mix. Although it must be said, the dubbing is especially awful in this film.
Once more bereft of a scene-selection menu, the film is graced with remote-controlled 8 chapters.
Extras on disc 2 consist of the following trailers: ABIGAIL LESLIE IS BACK, LAURA'S TOYS, BUTTERFLIES, GIRL MEETS GIRL, HIDEOUT IN THE SUN, THE SEXPERTS and THE SEXPLOITERS.
Always a welcome addition to any After Hours DVD are the booklets that accompany their releases. In this case, we get a good 8-page offering replete with well-read liner notes from Michael J Bowen. Decorated by colour stills from both films and some great theatrical poster reproductions, the book's a very nice supplement indeed.
Perhaps of greatest note to readers of SGM is that director Ahlberg went on to act as cinematographer on quite a few contemporary horror films of note: RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, INNOCENT BLOOD, PRISON and so on ...
Secret Key/After Hours have produced a highly decent package of two films that are more interesting than essential. The serious sexploitation lover will no doubt be familiar with these films already, and seek this release out sharpish on a matter of pure historical importance alone.
For anyone else ... well, the films are likeable enough, but don't expect anything too exciting. They're incredibly tame, and not entirely engrossing. Although PART 2 has it's undeniable charms, and PART 3 works in a bizarrely dated fashion.
Incidentally, if you take a fancy to these two films and want to complete the trilogy on DVD, just take a peek on Amazon UK, where the deleted Image disc is currently selling for £147!
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by After Hours Cinema|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|