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(aka "La Comtesse Perverse" or "Sexy Nature" or "Les Croqueuses")

 

directed by Jess Franco
France 1973

 

Spanish tourist Silvia (Lina Romay, FEMALE VAMPIRE/LA COMTESSE NOIRE) falls for dashing Bob (Robert Woods, LADY LUCIFERA), but his wife Moira (Tania Busselier, ILSA THE WICKED WARDEN). Little does Silvia know, but Bob is a procurer of "meat" for gourmet cannibals Count and Countess Zaroff who live in a abstract art pagoda on a jungle island. Countess Ivanna (Alice Arno, JUSTINE DE SADE) hunts her victims for sport while Count Rador (Howard Vernon, THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF) cooks them, but first they'll indulge in some more traditional libertine "pleasures of the flesh."

Director Jess Franco's (billed as Clifford Brown) LA COMTESSE PERVERSE was part of the director's collaborative period with Comptoir Francais du Film producer Robert de Nesle following his Harry Alan Towers period (99 WOMEN, COUNT DRACULA etc) and preceding his overlapping collaborations with Marius Laseoer's Eurocine (EXORCISM, FEMALE VAMPIRE, OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES, etc) and Erwin C. Dietrich (JACK THE RIPPER, DORIANA GREY, VOODOO PASSION, etc). The slight story is a kinky take on THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, and could have functioned as a long-short film had it not been padded with an extended prologue featuring Kali Hansa (THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF) as a woman who travels to the Zaroffs' island in search of her missing twin sister. Related in flashback, it spends more time on sex scene padding than setting up the plot (not that extended displays of writhing bare flesh are unappreciated in a Franco film). TENDER FLESH - Franco's last shot-on-film production dating from the beginning of his nineties DTV period - a virtual remake of this film, is entertaining but not as impressively staged. Another noted influence on the film (noted in the disc's liner notes) is De Sade's PHILOSOPHY IN THE BOUDOIR. The extremely loose framework of an innocent girl initiated and victimized by libertines (although Sade's heroine was a much more willing and enthusiastic participant) had already adapted Franco as EUGENE/DE SADE 70 and later as EROTICISMO/EUGENIE 80 and COCKTAIL SPECIAL; and Franco would restage the denouement of LA COMTESSE PERVERSE in his even looser Sade adaptation THE SEXUAL STORY OF O.

The striking exterior of the Zaroffs' lair is Ricardo Bofill's Xanadu (which Franco first used in SHE KILLED IN ECTASY) while the interior is from Bofill's nearby La Muralla Roja (which he used again in EROTICISMO/EUGENIE 80). The photography was most likely the work of Franco himself (in another interview, he had admitted that he had met credited Gerard Brisseau - who would be credited as cinematographer on a number of Franco's de Nesle productions - only once in his life). Possibly in awe of the locations, Franco restrains his use of the zoom lens here, and favors wide angles to off-kilter effect (the scenes in the circular dining room have a fishbowl feel to them). The score is credited to Olivier Bernard and Jean-Bernard Raiteux. Presumably Bernard provided some original compositions, but Raiteux's tracks were pulled from a couple of his albums of the period (some of his tracks also appear in Franco's de Nesle productions SINNER/DIARY OF A NYMPHOMANIAC and LES DEMONS). The effect is disjointed (and not in the thrilling way of the Franco films scored by Bruno Nicolai, Jerry Van Rooyen, or the pair VAMPYROS LESBOS and SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY scored by Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab), but some sequences are ideally accompanied (for instance, the lengthy and suspenseful climactic hunt). The dialogue is credited to de Nesle's wife Elisabeth Ledu de Nesle; and that may be true since Franco did not work on the film's post production (he sent silent workprints to Paris where they were dubbed and scored under the supervision of editor Gerard Kikoine).

Producer de Nesle objected to the dark nature of the film and asked Franco to shoot some additional scenes (with Lina Romay and Franco's stepdaughter Caroline Riviere) that frame the story as a nightmare resulting from the heroine's consumption of too many pulp horror novels. This is not unlike the framing device of Franco's THE BRUTAL NIGHTS OF LINDA, which was shot around the period of additional reshoots featuring hardcore inserts (with Romay, Arno, and Pierre Taylou, and Monica Swinn [the latter two were not part of the original cast but were collaborating regularly with Franco by the mid-seventies) for the adult version LES CROQUEUSES ("The Devourers"). The Italian version SEXY NATURE also featured hardcore inserts, but also positioned one of the Romay/Taylou/Swinn scene inserts in a different place from the French cut (which inserts it rather arbitrarily). Both of these versions ran roughly 95 minutes.

Eric Cotenas

Poster

Theatrical Release: 1974 (France)

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DVD Review: Mondo Macabro - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution

Mondo Macabro

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:16:15
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.77 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Mondo Macabro

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Introduction by Stephen Thrower (4:3; 16:02)
• Interview with actor Robert Woods (16:9; 15:55)
• Cast & Crew Profiles:
• - Robert Woods
• - Alice Arno
• - Tanya Busselier
• - Howard Vernon
• - Lina Romay
• About the Film (text screen liner notes essay)
• Mondo Macabro Promo Reel

DVD Release Date: June 12th, 2012
Amaray

Chapters 10

 

Comments

Although the back cover promises a "brand new anamorphic transfer," Mondo Macabro's dual-layer, progressive transfer is presented in its original 1.33:1 fullscreen aspect ratio in 4:3 (there is even a framing guide before the film for viewing on a widescreen monitor). The HD-mastered restoration is exquisite and it represents Franco's original cut of the film (the French and Italian hardcore variants ran twenty minutes longer, and this mostly-XXX footage is understandably not included in the feature or extras). The French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio is clean and renders the score and post-dubbed voices nicely (as well as an unsettling "sawing" sound effect late in the film).

Extras include an interview with actor Robert Woods. Woods worked with Franco on seven films and lived with co-star Kali Hansa during the period. He fondly remembers Franco but was less-than-pleased when learning about the hardcore variants of his films. He also talks about his work on Franco's PLAISIR A TROIS and AL OTRO LADO DEL ESPEJO. Stephen Thrower - whose book on Franco should be available by the end of 2012 - proves an introduction comparing the film's reception to that of one of its influences Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack's pre-Code horror flick THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (based on the short story by Richard Connell). An informative ten-page text screen "about the film" essay sheds light on the alternate versions of the film and its troubled distribution history. The deceptively rote "Cast & Crew Profiles" section is worth a read as well. The disc closes out with Mondo Macabro's promo reel.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Mondo Macabro

Region 0 - NTSC

 

 

 




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