Legendary Jess in his cameo role in Justine
There's Something About Jess
The Great and legendary spaniard Jesús "Jess"
Franco (1930-2013) directed over 200 films, wrote stories and scripts,
composed soundtracks and
acted, both in his own and in other director's films. He played the
trumpet, loved jazz and was a buddy of Orson Welles. He also was married
lovely actress and exhibitionist Lina Romay, used a lot of aliases in
film credits and loved the good things of life in general (but who doesn't?).
I have a Love-Hate relationship with this director as
he's an acquired taste for sure. His meandering, free-form improvised
or maybe even non-existant
screenplays (most often as written by an infantile hack) and with his
misuse of the zoom lens, often into women's crotches, The Jess Muff
I watched my first Franco film sometime during the end of the 1980's
and i think it was an expensive US DVD of 1983 Macumba Sexual with Ajita
Wilson and Lina Romay, and .... wow, how that one sucked (at this time
in my life i was still a "normal" viewer and hadn't got the
But for some strange reason i continued with more films of his ....
and i'm not even into S&M, as his films often involve torture, muff
zooms and Death.
But, there's something about Jess. Something unique,
as he totally disregards of how to make a film. He makes his own Jess
Film Universe and even
though he's guilty of many, many, MANY cinematic atrocities as i.a.
truckloads of boring WIP and Jungle movies, or boring arty-farty sex
tons of trashy and dirty decidedly non-arty sex movies, some of his
films are interesting or even great and makes you want to see more.
Every Jess fan has his/her favourites, and mine could be: 1965 Miss
Muerte/Le Diabolique Docteur Z, 1968 Justine, 1970 The Bloody Judge,
Bloody Moon and 1987 Faceless.
I write about some 25 films of his on my Film Pages, and i've seen maybe
10-15 more, so i've seen less than a fifth of the total output from
this film maniac.
Franco had an ability to create some strange and ingenious atmosphere
and with small means of a budget, if with anyone at all.
Power (born 2 october 1951)
Justine (Marquis De Sade's Justine)
With this glossy Italian production Jesús Franco
had his biggest budget ever and with some big names in it. After Marquis
de Sade's 18th century
novel "Justine or the misfortunes of virtue" this is some
perverse Non-Morality play, an Anti-Novel of Manners where the evil
is richly rewarded by
God and the goodliness punished with torture and degradation. At the
end of the novel Justine has learnt her lesson and will for the rest
of her life
do evil. Yes, typical de Sade and Jess complained a lot about young
Romina destroying this film with her bad acting and thereby giving the
wrong look of a more lighthearted romp in the same vein as the Angelique
1960's series with Michéle Mercier, instead of a the by Jess
tone of evil and nihilism. Well ....
As a majority of Jesse's other films resembles the writings
of de Sade with torture, degradation and murder anyway, it feels just
fine with this fun and
pretty lighthearted adventure about the misfortunes of the LOVELY Justine.
This Franco film is one of his most unloved and poor Romina Power has
been much criticized regarding her acting abilities. BUT, i will hereby
defend it ....
Justine and Raymond
Justine looks fantastic with LUSH warm colors by cinematographer
Manuel Merino and it also sounds great with the soundtrack
by Bruno Nicolai.
There are some more or less erratic performances from the big acting
names, and the most unhinged performance of them all is provided by
Jack Palance and it must be seen to be believed. The
sets and clothes looks fabulous too and it makes you believe you're
in the late 18th century.
So, OK, Romina Power is Bad, BAD in a normal "acting"
sense BUT she's so LOVELY, so adorable i forgive her. The camera just
loves her and her
"performance" gives her a naivety that suits the role.
I love her. She, and the above mentioned erratic performances
by the star actors, crashes any
serious attempt in making this film a De Sadean adventure and instead
transforms it to a comedy adventure.
This may be one of Jess most mainstream films and he shows us that he
could direct a film like this .... IF, he wanted to, but he don't. Anyway,
in a while it's fun to watch a glossy romp like this, and there are
some nudity, torture and weirdness in it too for the hardcore Jess purists.
Du Harpin and Justine
Akim Tamiroff as Du Harpin and Romina as Justine,
and here Romina somewhat resembles her famous actor father Tyrone Power
Romina and Rosalba Neri
The Story: SPOILERS BELOW - BEWARE
Two sisters, the non-virtuos Juliette (Maria Rohm) and
the virtuos and naive (almost as if being cretinous) Justine has grown
up in a convent but are
now forced to leave their safe haven due to shortage of money. This
doesn't worry Juliette too much, she's naturally slutty and takes Justine
to a friends brothel but righteous Justine takes offence and leaves
the premises immediately, and now Justine is on her own - Let
the Misfortunes of
Justine begin. She immediately gives all her money to a trustworthy
looking monk on the street.
She finds a room at Du Harpin (Akim Tamiroff) but she has to work without
pay as a maid and under slavelike conditions, and he steals her clothes.
She's harassed by a dirty old man (Gustavo Re), accused of theft and
goes to prison where she gets to know the Queen of the Thieves, Madame
Dubois (Mercedes McCambridge) and with which Justine flees in a daring
escape from prison.
When the gang of thieves try to rape her she flees again and this time
she ends up with an artist, Raymond (Harald Leipnitz) who uses her as
Everything's well for a day or two before she has to flee again, and
this time she ends up as the chambermaid of Marquise De Bressac (Sylva
Brother Antonin and Justine
The Great Jack Palance as deranged Brother Antonin
and with Lovely Justine as his prisoner
All well again, until the Marquise's husband murders
his wife and Justine is blamed. She's branded as a Murderer and flees
again, yet again in this
ongoing saga of The Misfortunes of Justine. This time she ends up in
an unusual monastery where the brothers i.a. Clement (Howard Vernon)
Antonin (Jack Palance) has a society dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure.
Unfortunately for poor Justine that pursuit includes torture of nude
chained to the dungeon wall women, and Eurosleaze legend Rosalba Neri
can be seen briefly as Brother Antonin's slave Florette.
So, guess what, she has to flee yet again and this time she's catched
by criminals who wants to use her as a stripper (the act announced by
Clear to see for the audience she's branded with a M between her boobs,
M for murderer and she's about to be executed when she's saved by Juliette.
During Justine's many misfortunes Juliette has fared
well, as a hooker and murderer of her best friend Claudine (Rosemary
Dexter) for her saved money
and as a mistress of a very wealthy and powerful man. Juliette now takes
her sister under her wings and that means the end of Justine's misfortunes.
Klaus Kinski plays the jailed Marquis de Sade without uttering a word,
and Jack Palance gives a delightfully bizarre performance, unforgettable.
My verdict: A Highly enjoyable film,
glossy and luscious but Trash and with the poorly acting maybe but lovely
Romina Power. She couldn't have
been more than 17 years old when this was filmed, so give her some credit
for being that bold to take on a role as this. She's so Cute.
The Spanish DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen
1.66:1 with an english audio DD 2.0 (and spanish subs), no extras, region
The old US Blue Underground DVD were in widescreen with
english mono audio, and with an infosheet and 20 minutes of interviews.
Jess wasn't too happy with Romina's performance as he found it too naive,
and the meaning of the story was that Justine would gradually during
film evolve a masochistic personality and to start loving her degradation
in a de Sadean S&M way. That was the essence of the film and story
and Jess wanted Euro Cult Movie actress Rosemary Dexter to play the
role of Justine, but the producers gave him young Romina Power instead.
And, Ha, ha, ha, Jess could only watch when his idea of a serious de
Sade adaptation crumbled when Romina "won". There wasn't an
ounce of a
de Sadean girl in that 17 year old girl, and her "performance or
non-performance" turned the film into a Fun lighthearted adventure
romp instead, and
the camera obviously just loved her so Jess should've stopped being
grumpy about it. It's not like he would've made a masterpiece anyway.
So, if there wasn't anything remotely resembling a de
Sade girl in her she still was naked a lot even though only 17 years
old, give her credit for that.
Maybe only an Ornella Muti type of actress, being young as Romina, would
be able to bring the perversity Jess wanted. Muti was 16 when she made
Umberto Lenzi's 1971 Oasis of Fear and a Body Double had to be used
for Muti's nude scenes as her mother (or the law) wouldn't allow anything
I wonder what Tyrone Power would've thought (he died in 1958) of his
lovely daughter doing these nude scenes ?