Justine (Marquis de Sade's Justine, 1968-1969)

Left: Spanish La Casa del Cine Todos 119 minutes DVD edition; Right: US Blue Underground 124 minutes DVD edition

The 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 to the
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 Zoom.
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 Psychotronic Bug).
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 movies or
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 i.a. 1965 Miss Muerte/Le Diabolique Docteur Z, 1968 Justine, 1970 The Bloody Judge, 1981
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.

Romina 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 film 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, wanted dark
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 the great
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 into a comedy adventure.
This may be one of Jess most mainstream films and he shows us that he could direct
films like this .... IF, he wanted to, but he didn't. Anyway, once
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


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 with her
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" (... not) 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 a model.
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 Koscina).

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) and
Antonin (Jack Palance) has a society dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure. Unfortunately for poor Justine that pursuit includes torture of nude and
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 Jess).
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 free

The old US Blue Underground DVD were in widescreen with english mono audio, and with an infosheet and 20 minutes of interviews.

Ending Words:

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 the
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 i guess
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 Oasis of Fear in 1971 and a Body Double had to be used for Muti's nude scenes as her mother wouldn't allow anything else.
I wonder what Tyrone Power would've thought (he died in 1958) of his lovely daughter doing these nude scenes ?