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March 9, 2016

Movie Review: Marquis de Sade's Justine (1969, Blu-ray)

I actually have this book somewhere but I haven’t read it yet. I’m well aware of who the Marquis was but not sure how the subject matter will be treated as a film. Strictly exploitation? Titillation? Porn? Only one way to find out… Though from what I understand, Justine is one of the MdS’s early works and isn’t as graphic and sexual as what comes later (see what I did there?). 

The Marquis de Sade’s Justine is a 1969 film (SIXTY NINE, DUDE!) directed by Jess Franco (writer and director of everything from B horror to porn) and starring Klaus Kinski as de Sade and Romina Power as Justine. We begin our tale with the Marquis being hauled off to prison. As he spends his days in the Bastille, two weeks before the French Revolution, he is tormented by imagery of two young women and their plights in life. 

And by tormented I mean as someone who needs to create literature that speaks to humankind or makes a statement on the world around him. In this case, de Sade want to tell us how virtue always seems to be punished while evil is constantly rewarded. He by no means committed the atrocities against Justine - he just created them. As he scribbles furiously in a blank book, the movie develops, showing us the story of Justine as the Marquis writes it. 

Justine and her sister, Juliet, are two beautiful young women being raised in a nunnery - for their education, of course. Lord knows Juliet is a whore and Justine is pure innocence. When their father is forced to flee the country, the girls are kicked out of the convent and forced to find their own way in the world. While Juliet is totally cool with moving to a brothel and earning her keep, Justine is just too morally innocent to stay and must leave.

And it is from this moment on that Justine suffers every cruel trick, scheme, and lascivious attention people can throw her way. She’s basically sold into slavery, framed for theft, tricked into a gang of criminals, framed for murder, tricked (again) by a group of hedonists, escapes, finds love, loses it, finds it again, kidnapped by the leader of that gang of criminals from before, whisked away by an angry mob, then finally saved by her sister - who’s lived a life of thievery and murder to become the mistress of one of the King’s advisers and now lives very comfortably with money, jewels, and everything she could ever want.

What do you mean...I don't get to have sex with ANYBODY in this film??
But don’t you dare change, Justine. Juliet’s life has been completely empty and meaningless. And though you’ve lived through Hell because she wouldn’t stick by you, at least your everlasting soul will go to Heaven. You know, when you’re dead.


This was probably the most depressing and silly movie I’ve watched in a long time. With the name de Sade attached, I was expecting AT LEAST some sexy kinky shit that I could possibly rub one out to, even if it was more Skinamax bull shit. But son of a bitch if this wasn't just a lot of almosts and nearly happens and close calls and absolutely no sex. We don’t even really get to see the WHORES having sex. I mean, COME ON!

Oh sure, sure. There was a little titillation with some bare breasts and a flash or two of naked bush and some girl on girl kissing and wrestling. But hardly enough to even be called interesting. It’s not like I watch these kinds of films on a regular basis and have become jaded. This whole movie just felt very shallow and meaningless. And did I mention no sex? IN A MARQUIS DE SADE MOVIE.

Ooooh! Right in the eye. So sorry, my dear.
The style was a lot of artsy shots and filters, dramatic music and heavy sections of no dialogue, crappy acting, terrible voice overs. Every character was predictable and Justine was so frustratingly innocent - you’d think by the third time she got screwed over she’d pick up on some clues of the evil surrounding her. Or perhaps innocence = low bell curve?

Klaus Kinski was probably the best asset but all he did was furrow his brow and scribble in a book for the whole 10 minutes he was even in the damn film. Even Jack Palance felt like she should have been in a silent feature with all the scene chewing he did.

For those aficionados out there that enjoy Jess Franco’s work, and perhaps because this can be seen as an exploitation film of sorts (more like Exploit-lite), this movie might be worth a watch. Even those who are fans of the Marquis might be interested in this adaptation. But two hours of trite crap just puts me to sleep. Dear gods don’t let the book be this boring.

.5 Hatchet (out of 5)

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