We first meet teenaged Vanessa (Olivia Pascal) in a convent school, where she's sent to the Mother Superior's office to receive punishment for giggling through a book of animated cocks with her mates.
But the Mother Superior says Vanessa's punishment will have to wait: a telegram has arrived informing of the girl's last living relative's death. The good news is that Uncle Richard's fortune now belongs to Vanessa (or does it? More on that later).
From here, Vanessa is flown to Hong Kong to meet her late uncle's lawyer, Antony. When she gets to Antony's house he's not about, so she befriends his precocious niece Jackie (Uschi Zech). Jackie informs sweet young Vanessa that she's inherited a chain of bordellos and a farm plantation. The bordellos are particularly lucrative, she tells her, as people in Hong Kong are sex mad.
While the pair bathe together and talk about sex, Jackie's brother-in-law Cooper (Anton Diffring) rings looking for his wife Kaye. She's not around, and Jackie lets it slip that Kaye is up to no good - leading to Cooper tracking her down, shafting her boyfriend in a brothel. Not wanting to spoil his wife's fun, Cooper slopes silently away, scribbling "HORE" (sic) on a mirror as he leaves.
Later, when he confronts Kaye about it, she suggests Cooper needs an affair of his own - and recommends Vanessa.
Later that day, Jackie takes Vanessa to see his Antony at his office. He warns them that Richard's illegitimate son Adrian (Gunter Clemens) is contesting the will. He runs the plantation and believes it is rightfully his.
Meanwhile, Kaye befriends Vanessa and takes her shopping in a bid to give the innocent young thing a makeover. She then hooks Vanessa up with her horny husband, who she says will show her around the city.
So, with Vanessa's sexuality having been aroused by the feisty (and frequently naked) Jackie, an ever eager Cooper and a jaunt into one her own newly acquired women-only brothels, our young heroine visits Adrian to discuss the matter of the will … only to be turned on by spying on him getting it on with his Asian girlfriend.
Instantly turned on, Vanessa and Adrian share an instant chemistry that he almost ruins by suggesting they could share the plantation if he can pop her cherry - then forcing himself upon her, only to be interrupted by Cooper who turns up requesting a cockfight. Really.
But Adrian's not going to stop there. He wants the plantation. And now he wants Vanessa too … even if that means his girlfriend wants Vanessa dead. As if that's not enough to contend with, Vanessa starts to face up to her own feelings towards Jackie, while slowly realising that the other men around her also want a piece of her young, untouched flesh.
What can you say about a film like VANESSA? Not much really, aside from the usual observations: the cast are for the most part good looking, the scenery is often attractive and the colourful soft-focus cinematography makes you wish you were watching something more worthwhile.
For this is not good filmmaking. From its inapt dance score to the lifeless performances of anyone other than Pascal and Zech, this is a tired and depressingly conventional example of softcore exploitation. Nice locations and a well-framed shot or two cannot disguise the fact that this tame, aimless mess lacks the eroticism required to appeal to the Rain Mac brigade and the intrigue to generate intrigue from elsewhere.
Even so, it is good to see the film surface on UK DVD as one of Severin's maiden releases on these shores. Also, fans of Pascal - a stunning brunette waif at the time who was blessed with huge areolas - will no doubt lap up the numerous full-frontal nude scenes of her that are on offer. But there's no escaping the fact that VANESSA is a largely dull and pointless film.
The anamorphic 1.78:1 presentation of the film is a reasonably clean and sharp print, with subtle colours and only minor grain present. Some darker scenes are a little worn and faded, but by-and-large this NTSC disc proffers a decent picture.
The English mono audio plays back without problem.
A simplistic animated main menu includes a scene-selection menu offering access to the main feature via 15 chapters.
Extras begin with "High Life In Hong Kong", a 28-minute interview with director Hubert Frank and director of photography Franz X Lederle. Sat in a comfy-looking, stylish villa, they speak at ease about their memories of the production. Interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage, this is a good supplement.
"Vanessa Revealed" is 16 minutes of shaky on-set camera footage set to 1970s porn-type organ-led music, including some footage which we've already seen in the lengthier featurette above.
Finally, there's the original 3-minute theatrical trailer.
Most likely to titillate old men and young boys. VANESSA harks back to the days of softcore soap operas shown in shady cinemas.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Severin|
|Region All - NTSC|
|see main review|