Release Date(s)1970 (February 21, 2023)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
After the frustrating experience of making Justine, filmmaker Jess Franco would eventually tackle another adaptation of the Marquis de Sade, once again with the producorial backing of Harry Alan Towers. The resulting film, Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy in the Bedroom (or Eugenie... The Story of Her Journey Into Perversion as its primarily known), was quite successful, despite only being released in a few select cities in the US. The content of the film was, unsurprisingly, controversial. And though tame in many ways by today’s standards, it’s still a beautifully-shot and understated experience that manages not to overstay its welcome.
Eugenie (Marie Liljedhal) is a young, innocent woman who longs to get out from under the thumb of her overbearing mother and see the world. She’s invited by her new friend and her father’s mistress, Marianne (Maria Rohm), to an island vacation getaway. There she meets Marianne’s brother, Mirvel (Jack Taylor), and the three quickly become friends. All seems well as Eugenie slowly begins stepping out of her shell, but her dreams lead her down corridors of fantasy in which Marianne and Mirvel take advantage of her, and each other. She also sees a mysterious man in her dreams, Dolmance (Christopher Lee), who along with his disciples, have come to witness her corruption by unwelcome sexual encounters and violent fits of torture. But are these merely dreams, or is Eugenie succumbing to unnatural desires at the hands of an unsavory cult?
The interesting part about Philosophy in the Boudoir in comparison to Justine is how less controversial it is behind the scenes. Other than a couple of minor hiccups, it was essentially a happy, straightforward production and Jess Franco enjoyed making it. The only real issue was the casting of Christopher Lee, whom at times claimed not to know how erotic the film was, which others have disputed. He was a last minute replacement for another actor who had to drop out, but who that was has never definitively been verified (though George Sanders is the most agreed-upon possibility). Despite his presence, the film actually stars Swedish bombshell Marie Liljedahl, who had just appeared in Playboy, as well as the successful erotic film Inga, and Maria Rohm, a Jess Franco regular who was also in the previous Marquis de Sade adaptation, Justine.
Many consider Philosophy in the Boudoir to be one of Franco’s best, and one of the last films he would make with a considerable budget that was aimed at more of a mainstream type of audience. Those who’ve read the original book will tell you that the film doesn’t come anywhere near its depictions of relentless depravity, even blurring some details to avoid censorship, but it’s also acknowledged that the book is unfilmable due to how aggressive the content is. Even so, Philosophy in the Boudoir is still very effective and gorgeous to look at.
Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy in the Boudoir was shot by director of photography Manuel Merino on 35 mm film with Arriflex cameras and anamorphic lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Blue Underground brings the film to Ultra HD for the first time in its full uncut, uncensored form from a 4K restoration of the original camera negative, graded for High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are included). As this is a film with a heavy use of colored filters and out-of-focus shots, it’s likely been fiendishly difficult to restore. But all faith in Blue Underground as they have delivered the finest presentation of the film to date. It features a high yield of grain, but it’s handled well with a strong encode and a high bitrate. Everything appears organic and film-like with a major boost in detail and clarity. The HDR grades bring out the lushness of the costumes and environments, as especially seen through the frequent use of red filters. Blacks are deep with perfect contrast and everything appears stable and clean. It’s an imperfect-looking film, but the UHD presentation of it is outstanding.
Audio is included in English and French mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish. The English track is clean and problem free with good support for dialogue and score, whereas the French track can be very thin. However, both tracks are satisfactorily clean.
Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy in the Boudoir on 4K Ultra HD sits in a black amaray case alongside a 1080p Blu-ray of the film featuring the same restoration with their traditional home video artwork for the film on the insert and limited slipcover. The following extras are included on each disc:
DISC ONE: UHD
- Audio Commentary with Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth
- Theatrical Trailer (UHD w/HDR – 3:25)
DISC TWO: BD
- Audio Commentary with Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth
- Perversion Stories (Upscaled SD – 17:32)
- Stephen Thrower on Eugenie (HD – 18:09)
- Jack Taylor in the Francoverse (HD – 24:43)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 3:24)
- Poster & Still Gallery (HD – 148 in all)
The new audio commentary features film historian Nathaniel Thompson and author Troy Howarth, who once again aren’t entirely screen specific during the track, but they manage to cover many facets of the production and those who participated in it. They discuss behind-the-scenes stories and the validity of those who’ve told them over the years, how the film measures up with the rest of Jess Franco’s filmography, and the difficulty in seeing it for many years until the advent of DVD. Once again, it’s a very upbeat and insightful track, which compliments the commentary track recorded for Justine quite well since both films deal with similar topics, and cover them extensively. Perversion Stories features vintage interviews with Jess Franco, producer Harry Alan Towers, and actors Marie Liljedahl and Christopher Lee. They each talk about their experiences on the film with very open and frank discussions about its content and their feelings on it. Stephen Thrower, author of Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesús Franco, Volume 1, returns to discuss the film, highlighting the differences between the original text and what wound up on screen, as well as some of the actors involved, and Franco’s career up to this point in time. Jack Taylor in the Francoverse is a new interview that speaks to the actor about his working relationship with Jess Franco. Next is the theatrical trailer, which has been digitally re-created, and a Poster & Still Gallery that contains 148 images of posters, advertising materials, lobby cards, black-and-white and color behind-the-scenes and promotional stills, video and soundtrack artwork, and book covers. Not carried over from Blue Underground’s 3-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray release is a CD soundtrack by Bruno Nicolai.
Once again, Blue Underground’s treatment of Jess Franco on 4K Ultra HD is to be admired in all of its colorful splendor. Long gone are the days of terrible, full frame presentations of battered film prints. This is the real deal. If you’re a Franco fan, you’ll want to pick up this new release of Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy in the Boudoir.
- Tim Salmons