Jess Franco. For those only familiar with the more popular of this director's achievements, this name summons images of fetishistic sadomasochist sex play, repetitive zoom shots (often of heaving breasts and pubic hair), and female vampires humping bed-stands. For those who can appreciate the director's unapologetic love for sensation, his emotional outbursts and love of atmosphere are wicked delights. As his penchant of celebrating effect at the cost of narrative continuity or logic. Mention of this truly original filmmaker brings to mind worlds of flesh and fantasy that challenge traditional linear logic and mainstream sensibility. In The Sexual Story of O, the newest offering from underground champs Severin, Franco's esoteric philosophies and pornographic preoccupations meet, flowering into a truly enticing and raunchy bedtime story of lust, betrayal, and doom.

Perhaps no other director would seem such an ideal fit to this story of sexual enslavement, sadism, and desire. The very subversive themes of the original story calls to Franco's aesthetic history and approach, begging him to maul its storyline like hands punish and mold human flesh in the novel. In fact, this film is related to the novel in question only in title, tacked on by producers. An examination of unrestrained lust, Franco's gorgeous and deadly narrative surmounts the cruelty and excess of the original novel, examining the sexual awakening of a different sort -- one that truly plummets the depths of desire and dread, pain and pleasure. Also dissected are the politics between the self and the soul, and the games played between lovers as each decides who gives and who takes, and to what extent. The plot features Odile, a young nymphet (played by Alicia Princ�pe) who submits to more than she expected -- and maybe more than she can survive -- when she is seduced into a deviant game of sexuality by her shameless, decadent neighbors. These 'games' and the emotional echoes played upon in the film question her identity and we follow her transformation with deliciously wet and salacious imagery. Such delights as afternoon threesomes lead to dens of physical and emotional degradation as eroticism descends into violence and truly disturbing (yet titillating sadism). How much can Odile handle before both her and her female tempter/guide/Dom reach a point of no return? Co-starring Daniel Katz, this 80s feature is a triple threat of searing philosophy and carnality, and is perhaps most effective in its examination of our human inability to truly understand the desires or emotional depths of one another (or ourselves). A love letter to Franco's continuous muse, the Marquis De Sade, this film is a beautifully decadent dream of corruption.

The Story of O, written by Pauline Reage, was published in 1954 -- a repressive era that almost equals our own . . . Almost -- to scant critical acclaim and much public outrage. Controversial and salacious, the book, its sexual intensity, and its thematic implications retains its ability to arouse and shock. More importantly it retains its ability to encourage readers to question their own sexual identity and desires. These elements were successfully translated to the screen in Story of O (Histoire d'O), wherein an alluring young fashion photographer is brought to the Chateau Roissy by her more experienced lover Rene (Udo Kier). Here she undergoes sexual transformation, suffering humiliation and erotic enticements that challenge her physical and emotional limitations. Wishing to please Rene, she then allows herself to be handed over to Sir Stephen (Anthony Steel), whose demands make her wonder about her safety. Just Jaeckin merged sensuality with suspense in his own version of the text. Franco combines graphic, tantalizing sexual excess with a harsher, more scandalous poetic vibrancy. This is Franco in a surprisingly poetic mood, directing his energies at celebrating the seedier elements of sado-masochism and S&M. Most effective is Franco's suggestion that our inability to intimately 'know' our own desires or the emotional dimensions of others leads to both pleasure and pain -- an emotional theme mirrored by the sex acts themselves as Odile suffers/enjoys the erotic tortures of S&M. When the act of sexual love and -games' lead to the troublesome and quite shocking finale, Franco suggests the unpredictability of love, and the danger of giving into another's desires. Yet instead of condemning any of the players, Franco's satisfying amorality simply depicts the consequences, suggesting perhaps that something in Odile was fated for these acts, and hungered for them in a masochistic manner.

The Sexual Story of O is presented by Severin in a 2.35/16x9 transfer. The picture is sharp and clean without any noticeable flaws. Imagery is crisply defined, colors are bold, and the overall transfer superb. Audio in mono Spanish and English features a moody score, and removable subtitles.

Just as in The Inconfessible Orgies of Emmanuelle, the only extra on this disc is "Franco's O," another rowdy interview with the outspoken director. Get ready for a 14 minute blitzkrieg of politically incorrect (thank god!) anecdotes and feisty opinions as the director recalls the cast, his decision to use different actresses, and his general opinion about the film.

Review by William P. Simmons

Released by Severin Films
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review