- Director : Jesús Franco
- Actors : Romina Power, Klaus Kinski, Jack Palance, Maria Rohm, Mercedes McCambridge
- Studio : Blue Underground
- MPAA rating : X (Mature Audiences Only)
- Country of Origin : France
- Number of discs : 2
- Media Format : Anamorphic, NTSC, Widescreen
- Run time : 2 hours and 4 minutes
- Release date : February 21, 2023
The Marquis de Sade served as an inspiration for many of the films made by Spanish filmmaker Jesús Franco, and in the late 1960s and early 1970s he made two adaptations of his literary work. The first of these was Marquis de Sade’s Justine, a period film set in 1700 France and tracing the two diverging paths taken by sisters after they are orphaned in Paris. Justine was Franco’s largest budget to that point, including recognizable cast members such as Klaus Kinski and Jack Palance in supporting roles. It also kicked off a preoccupation Franco had with the sexual depravity of humanity, which he would continue in some form for much of his career.
The story is narrated by the Marquis de Sade himself (played by Kinski), who appears to be telling the story from a jail cell. Justine (Romina Power) and her sister Juliette (Maria Rohm) live in a convent until they receive news that their father has passed. The two are forced to go out into the world and find a way to survive, and they part ways when Juliette makes the decision to become a prostitute. Justine decides to stay morally pure by refusing to join her sister and suffers greatly for this choice. While Juliette turns from prostitute to thief, working her way up the social ladder by marrying a rich noble, Justine is falsely arrested and forced to endure years of hardship.
After being condemned to die, Justine joins an escape plan only to find herself constantly exploited by the corrupt people she comes across. The one exception is a painter named Raymond (Harald Leipnitz), who takes her on as an apprentice and muse before authorities searching for Justine force her to flee and leave behind the only happiness she has known. From there Justine continues to cross path with all of the wrong people, including a man who attempts to blackmail her into killing his wife and a group of monks who attempt to make her a sex slave.
The is a clear preoccupation with carnal pleasures and sinful citizens, though Franco’s film is somewhat tame compared to the future releases he is best known for. At the same time, there is a thematic connection between this film and much of a Franco’s work. Fans of the filmmaker will appreciate the clear trajectory his career took following the release of Justine. Shortly after this, he would adapt another Marquis de Sade book, Philosophy in the Boudoir (otherwise known as Eugenie).
The 4K Ultra HD release of Justine also comes with a Blu-ray copy of the film, which also contains a majority of the special features. The 4K disc has a new audio commentary track with film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth, as well as the French trailer for the movie. These extras are also included on the Blu-ray disc, along with a handful of additional special features. New extras include an interview with star Rosalba Neri and an optional shorter version of the film, released in the U.S. as Deadly Sanctuary. Newly expanded is the poster and still gallery also included in the extras.
Also a part of the special features are interviews with Franco and writer/producer Harry Alan Towers, and interviews with Stephen Thrower, author of “Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jess Franco.” The package for the new 4K release of Justine by Blue Underground is also sure to satisfy fans of the filmmaker. Along with using the original iconic poster art for the cover, there is a cardboard sleeve cover, with a picture frame opening exposing Justine. There are no inserts or other physical extras with the release, but the fancy new packaging and crisp ultra-high-definition presentation of the film should be enough to satisfy fans of Franco’s work.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/0
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 6/10
Special Features: 7/10
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