The titular dame is better known to close ones as Emma (Edwige Fenech), an aristocrat who married the eminent doctor Charles (Gerhard Riedmann) in her youth, but is bored now that her dowry has gone and his rural practice isn't bringing in the money.

Charles is so wrapped in his job that he's happy for the locals to pay for his services with homegrown groceries and livestock. But despite having fowl literally running up and down the stairs of her country home, attention-starved Emma longs for another kind of cock.

With the aid of elderly housemaid Anastasia, Emma adapts her wedding dress into a new gown for a forthcoming ball that she and Charles have been invited to. He compliments her efforts, but makes no attempt to hide the fact that he is far more interested in his patients' well being than his wife's marital needs.

Little wonder then that, when he spends the entire ball sitting round a poker table with a pal, Emma is only too happy to dance with a debonair Viscount. Sharing a stolen kiss at the close of the evening, Emma rushes back guiltily to her oblivious husband - but harbours hopes of one day falling into the Viscount's arms.

She's devastated, then, when Charles returns from a late-night duel where he had the task of proclaiming the loser dead. The losing party was in fact the Viscount - much to Emma's visible horror. But nice-but-dim Charles still doesn't recognise his young wife's frustrations; she has to spell it out to him shortly afterwards, insisting that they move to a bigger practice and get a younger maid.

Eventually Charles relents and the pair move to Jonvilles, where they have a baby daughter and for a while are raking the money in. It's here that Emma meets local fashionista Adolphe (Franco Ressel) who allows her to run up a tab for his services, keeping her in only the best frocks. For the first time, Emma seems happy.

But, as her sultry narration soon explains, she still yearns for male attention. And it's not long before she's surrounded by fresh suitors - including a young wannabe by the name of Leon, and the wealthy playboy Rudolf (Peter Carsten).

Alas, affairs of the heart never run smoothly for Emma and before long she's caught up in all manner of awkward predicaments: lying about attending piano lessons so she can sneak off for bouts of afternoon delight; succumbing to blackmail; running up huge debts; plotting to steal from her lover's uncle's safe, and more.

Visually sumptuous and quite elegantly shot, MADAME BOVARY takes a classic literary source and treats it rather faithfully, while simultaneously giving it one of its more cinematic outings. It helps that the interesting cast are all imbued with degrees of charisma.

Fenech looks good, having been a mere 20 years of age when this was shot. She gets to pout in all manner of Victorian garbs, and even goes topless in a few scenes that must've been pretty eyebrow-raising at the time of the film's 1969 theatrical release.

However, the character of Emma simply isn't likeable. She's greedy, miserable and selfish at the start. Charles is portrayed as a well-intended fool, so it's not like we can sympathise with Emma or feel that her tantrums are justified. She comes across as plain unpleasant. And of course, from there she courts deception and self-preservation, while ignoring her husband and almost entirely absent child throughout the remainder of the film. And we're supposed to root for this bitch?

In fairness, her character arc does provide some moral redemption at the end of the day - but not before she has become hardened to affairs of the heart, used a besotted lover for her own gratification, and then given her body away to protect her home. It's a curious message that this tale seems to be putting across.

Directed in soap opera style by Hans Schott-Schobinger (static shots, uninspired editing, histrionic waves of acting accompanied by melodramatic score), THE SINS OF MADAME BOVARY is a curious period piece that is most likely more suited to old spinsters than the average SGM reader. But it's not without its charm, or a few interesting faces in the cast (Fenech and Carsten are good starting places).

Another point of interest is surely that the assistant director on the film was Sergio Martino, who went on to cast Fenech as lead in films of his own such as THE STRANGE CASE OF MRS WARDH and YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY.

MADAME BOVARY's disc is one of One 7 Movies' better propositions.

The film itself is presented uncut in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and this transfer is enhanced for 16x9 television sets.

Despite a couple of moments where motion blurring occurs, the transfer is a decent one. Colours appear to be a little faded in general but, for a film that is over 40 years of age, that's a small gripe. By and large, the attractive cinemascope photography is served well by this bright, reasonably clean presentation. A couple of the 'uncut' moments (Fenech going topless, mainly) appear to have been culled from an alternate print and are different in their colour coding as a result, but it's a small price to pay for having a film restored to its longest version.

Audio is provided in the original Italian mono and sounds good throughout. The score appears to run a little quiet but it's difficult to tell whether that's inherent of the original film presentation - and is hardly what you'd cite as a major distraction. The same applies for a couple of instances of mild synching issues.

Optional English subtitles are provided and represent the script well enough, despite the quality control going a bit off at times. Who's L@on, for example?!

This region-free disc opens to a static main menu page replicating the lovely photo of Fenech from the DVD's front cover art. An animated scene-selection menu allows access to the film via 12 chapters.

The only extra on the disc is a stills gallery.

THE SINS OF MADAME BOVARY gets a good release from One 7 Movies and, while not your average SGM fare, will no doubt prove to be of some interest for Edwige Fenech fans.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by One-7 Movies
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review