The film opens with everyone's favorite Euro cult stalwart Klaus Kinski pacing around in a cell tormented by the visions of some naked blood spattered females manacled in the adjoining room. He opens a book and starts to transcribe Justine's story - and so the fun begins
Young innocent Justine (Romina Power) and her more worldly sister Juliette are ejected from their cosseted French Orphanage to fend for themselves after their father flees the country. Left with a small amount of money Juliette suggests they go stay with her friends, Justine discovers that these so called friends are actually the inhabitants of the local brothel. Being the pure young lass she is Justine decides this is not for her and decides to do her own thing. Sadly the young girl is swiftly conned out of the little money she has by a corrupt monk and ends up working as a house slave for a local hotelier. Things go from bad to worse when one of the lecherous residents upset by her disinterest to his sexual advances frames her for the theft of his gold brooch. Poor Justine is thrown into jail sentenced to death but just when you think things couldn't get any more dreadful for the poor girl (well surely you can't get any worse than the death sentence surely?) life does indeed go from ghastly to downright disgraceful!
Beaten, branded, tortured and enslaved by a sadistic band of monks (led by Jack Palance in what is without doubt his finest ever role) it looks as though the pitiful Justine will soon be wishing she had never been born. What will become of Justine? How does she mange to keep going through the endless brutality? Will it ever end? Well, fans of exploitation cinema will be salivating in delight at the onscreen perversions hoping that it won't!
Released on the heels of Blue Underground's other Franco release (Eugenie), 'Justine' is perhaps Jess Franco's most gratifying exploitation extravaganza to date. Sick, twisted and gratifyingly perverse 'Justine' is an absolute delight of degenerate genre viewing.
Perhaps the most satisfying element for fans viewing this gem is the fact that the downward spiral of Justine's torture just keeps going and going, all unraveling graphically in front of your eyes for you visceral voyeuristic pleasure. I'll be the first to admit that I've generally found Franco's output pretty much middling but this film is indeed a stand out treat that in time will rightly become known as an exploitation classic.
Franco's direction is very impressive throughout and manages to keep the pace of the story running along nicely with some fine editing (you'd never guess that this film runs for over two hours). Cast wise, although Franco himself was never entirely sold on Romina Power's casting in the lead role she actually delivers a decent enough performance portraying the virginal young Justine (well how many ways can you act pained and tortured?) but it is the performance by Jack Palance that really steals the show as he keenly deconstructs every preconception of his work with one riotously stunning performance in this deviant role.
The print on show here is similarly stunning in delivery and is perhaps Blue Underground's most impressive presentation to date. Available here for the first time ever with 30 minutes of footage restored the print is pretty much immaculate throughout; the anamorphic widescreen image is sharp, colourful and pristine - just beautiful. The audio is presented in 2-channel mono and is clear and audible also. So full marks for this alone.
On the extra front, the fun kicks off with an engrossing 20 minute documentary 'The Perils and Pleasures of Justine' that similarly to the 'Eugenie' release contains some great interview footage with Franco and producer Harry Alan Towers as they literally spill the beans on the real deal behind the movies production. Always fascinating and often amusing Jess Franco in particular is refreshingly honest in telling exactly how it was dealing with the likes of the aforementioned Powers, Palance and Kinski, Spanish censorship problems and more. The only downside being that it feels all to short at 20 minutes and leaves you wanting for more (let's hope we get just that in future Franco releases)
Also on offer on the disc is the salacious French trailer for the movie under the titles 'Misfortunes of Virtue' and looks as equally impressive as the main print itself. And wrapping things up is a nice extensive selection of related stills and promo materials for the movie and a lengthy illustrated biography section by Perry Martin and some brief but welcome liner notes by the ever present Tim Lucas that makes interesting reading also.
'Marquis de Sade's Justine' is one of Franco's finest movies and is dementedly perverse and cruel enough to sate the desires of most demanding genre fans. Blue Underground's release is very impressive, in fact nigh on impossible to fault. If you've yet to discover the wonderful world of Franco then this is your ideal starting point, if you're an old fan of his work then this is definitely an essential addition for your collection. Highly recommended - check it out!
Review by Alan Simpson
|Released by Blue Underground|
|Region All - NTSC|
|Ratio - 1.66:1 (anamorphic)|
|Documentary, Theatrical trailer, Stills gallery|