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Marquis de Sade's Justine

For those who felt Philip Kaufman's 2000 Marquis de Sade biopic Quills was far too prude for its subject matter, this revival of Spanish director Jess Franco's loose 1968 adaptation of de Sade's scandalous novel Justine is a step in the right direction, if only a tiny one. Romina Powers (daughter of Tyrone) stars as Justine, an orphaned teenager struggling to maintain her virtue in the cruel society of 19th Century France. While her sister, Juliette, opts for the sociopathy of prostitution, crime, and murder to survive and flourish, Justine innocently throws herself at the mercy of a series of unscrupulous deviants, from dirty old men, a callous gangstress (Mercedes McCambridge), and homorific dandies, to a cult of secluded monks with a divine taste for poo-tay (led by an, er, unrestrained Jack Palance). Hardly a literary adaptation in the hands of exploitation master Franco, and incredibly tame by today's standards, Justine spends a good deal of its time dwelling on the bared breasts of various young things, but never broaches Sade's darker side. However, it's well made for a nudie film of yore, and a curious piece of fluff. With Klaus Kinski in a brief and unimpressive appearance as de Sade. Image Entertainment's Justine looks fairly good for a film that probably was not carefully maintained over the years, and it receives a good anamorphic transfer (1.66:1) and a decent monaural audio track. Better than the feature, however, is the 20-minute featurette "The Perils and Pleasures of Justine," during which an aged and candid Franco doesn't hesitate to slag off his leading lady, reveal Palance's drinking habits, and express his displeasure with censors. Poster and still gallery, French theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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