13th Mar2015

‘Die Marquise von Sade’ Blu-ray Review (Ascot Elite)

by Mondo Squallido

Stars: Lina Romay, Monica Swinn, Raymond Hardy, Peggy Markoff, Martine Stedil, Andrea Rigano | Written and Directed by Jess Franco

It’s that time again ladies and gentlemen! We are entering the sordid world of Jess Franco. My previous reviews have always been for the DVD versions of Ascot Elite’s releases. This time however, I have access to a Blu-ray player (yeah, one of those fancy modern contraptions!) and I’m going to use it goddamnit! This release is a joint one between Ascot Elite and Austria’s Illusions UNLTD. You see, due to the graphic content of the film, it’s forbidden to be advertised and sold on websites like Amazon within Germany. So, HD Franco with an extra hint of sleaze? It has to be good!

Die Marquise von Sade follows Lina Romay (Ilsa the Mad Butcher) in a dual role as twin sisters. One is a reclusive and eternally youthful woman named Dorianna Grey. She lives on her own (aside from her servants) in a grand villa. The other is a nymphomaniac locked in an asylum under the care of the famed Dr. Orlof. The pair was separated at birth and both suffered as a consequence. Dorianna, although beautiful and eternally youthful, she can’t feel sexual gratification no matter how much she tries. To make it worse, her lovers pay the ultimate price. Yep, they die just as orgasm is reached (an interesting take on the concept of vampires?). Her sister on the other hand is a raging nymphomaniac who feels the pleasure Dorianna should be feeling. I suppose there’s a worse curse to have! We find out all of this thanks to a reporter, played by Monica Swinn (The Duke of Burgundy) who wants to find out more about the reclusive and mysterious Dorianna Grey. That’s essentially the story in a nutshell.

This is far from a simple piece of erotic cinema. Die Marquise von Sade for me is Jess Franco at his finest. The film has a dreamlike atmosphere that is both beautiful and haunting. The locations and set design are used to full effect and Jess Franco’s cinematography captures them perfectly. Yes, there is hardcore sex scattered throughout (including signature Jess Franco favoured lesbianism) the film, but it serves a purpose. The film isn’t for me a piece of pornography, it’s an erotic horror story that shows just how artistically capable Jess Franco was. Of course, the film was essentially shot cheap as a secondary production from another project and the story is something Franco has told many times before. That being said, what Franco has created is extraordinary. Lina Romay also contributes in that regard. It’s an absolutely phenomenal performance that is much more reserved than usual. Scenes of Dorianna looking in to the distance deep in thought express things that words can’t. Not only that, but this is Lina at her most beautiful. Although it was a treat seeing her involved in the ‘pornographic’ sequences, the film is far from titillating at times, there’s a level of sadness throughout due to the nature of Dorianna’s struggle, both in a personal and literal sense. For me, this is a film that takes the best of Jess Franco’s greatest traits and combines them in to a terrific psycho-sexual horror that is both stylish and atmospheric. Newcomers to the world of Jess Franco can do much worse than starting with this film.

Of course, for the hardened Francophiles, this release is essential. Die Marquise von Sade looks and sounds terrific. Whoever overlooked the restoration of this film needs a round of applause. Of course, cheap films from yesteryear are often treated terribly, so original materials are usually in a sorry state. There are some signs of damaged film, but it’s only there if you choose to look for it. Going off the English dub, the sound is of a high standard also. In terms of audio, you have the option of German, French and English audio tracks. The only subtitles available are Japanese. It would have been nice to have English subs so I could watch the film in its more natural sounding German dub. That being said, the English audio is hardly terrible, just too contemporary sounding at points. The release is packed with extras too. You get a soft-core version of the film (featuring some nice Lina Romay oddness) that is presented in German only, interviews with Erwin C. Dietrich, Jess Franco and Lina Romay, a photo gallery and original trailer. It’s going to be hard for someone to top this release. Ascot Elite Entertainment and Illusions UNLTD have done a tremendous job with this fine piece of Jess Franco cinema. An essential release of one of Jess Franco’s finest films.

Die Marquise von Sade is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Ascot Elite Home Entertainment and Illusions UNLTD.

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