Friday, April 22, 2011

Franco Friday #13: Eugenie de Sade

And so here we are, lucky 13. I feel like I've been grasping for a light switch in the dark so far and now I've got my hand caught in a generator. If this film isn't Franco at the top of his game then damn yo, I am not ready for the next one. I feel haunted and a little fucked up. Meh, forget the intro, let's do this.

Franco Friday #13

Eugenie de Sade
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Soledad Miranda, Paul Muller, Andres Monales, Greta Schmidt, Alice Arno, Jess Franco
86 minutes

The film opens with Eugenie (played by Soledad Miranda) undressing a woman. They are laughing. The woman lies down on the bed. This is a home movie. Eugenie’s stepfather, Albert (Paul Muller), steps into frame and strangles the girl to death. This is a snuff film. Next time we see her, Eugenie has been beaten severely and is seemingly recuperating in a hospital bed. A writer named Attila Tanner (played by Jess Franco) comes to her bedside and asks that she tell her story. Eugenie agrees but only if Tanner agrees to put her out of her misery when her tale is finished. Tanner agrees.

Next, Eugenie tells of being raised by Albert after her mother died right after she was born. As she grew up, her stepfather, a writer of great talent but little recognition, became increasingly obsessed with erotic writing and literature. After she gets caught reading a particularly disturbing book from Albert’s library, Eugenie discovers the true nature of her father. The man is a sadist who wants to take his psychosexual experiments to the next level and take a person’s life. Eugenie agrees.

The two go out on the prowl for strippers, hookers, and hitchhikers. They pretend to be newlyweds, nice people, or maybe just a couple of perverts looking for kicks. Then they strike, murdering these people for their own sick desires, photographing or filming the event. With each of their evil little games, the stakes get higher and they become crueler. Albert suggests a game in which Eugenie take a lover and drive him to the brink of madness. He chooses Paul (played by Andres Monales), a sensitive jazz musician, for Eugenie to seduce and manipulate. But things do not go as planned and for the first time, Eugenie breaks the rules.

For me, Eugenie de Sade is the cinematic equivalent of getting hit by a bus. This erotic thriller is ice cold and, in terms of cold-blooded and ruthless villains, it makes many giallo villains I’ve seen look like Captain Kangaroo. It is also a breathy, dizzy, and mesmerizing experience. Jess Franco directs this extremely well written piece of sex and violence like a man possessed. The colors are vibrant, the pacing is very good, and the story is intriguing. The score by the always brilliant Bruno Nicolai is achingly beautiful and menacing.

First and foremost, the performances of Soledad Miranda and Paul Muller are phenomenal. In the middle of this movie, I was like “Damn, these two have such a weird marriage. Oh shit, I forgot, that’s her stepdad! AAAAAHHH!!!!” In the beginning, one gets a sense that Albert is just a normal guy raising his stepdaughter and you think that some trigger is going to be pulled and he’s going to go off the deep end. Then as the story unfolds, it’s pretty obvious that there is something terribly wrong with the man who would raise Eugenie in total isolation and fill her head with crazy ideas.

I didn’t really get Soledad Miranda until I saw her as Eugenie. Until then, I only knew her as the striptease vamp from Vampyros Lesbos and Lucy the juicebox from Franco’s Count Dracula. She is a girl in love with her stepdad, a man who has always been her entire world. This is a person whose fate has been set since day 1 and the moment she strays and sees outside the little cozy cage she’s been kept prison in, she comes to life and is willing to risk disappointing the one man who she has looked up to her entire life. She is the tragic heroine and also a demon capable of squeezing the life out of someone and having one wicked orgasm afterwards. Shit man, I can't even look at her now without wanting to cry.

Wait a second. There has to be a catch, right? This movie can’t be a perfect masterpiece, can it? Okay, fine, I admit that the film is a little cheap. Some of the sets are a little more than slightly less than extravagant. I actually wrote in my notes: “How much of this film is going to take place in the library?” When someone is stabbed, a little bit of red paint is all the paltry effects budget would allow. And yes, that same red paint is used for bruising. Then there’s the body hair. If you took Paul Muller’s back and shoulder hair and Andres Monales’ leg and butt hair and combined them, you’d have three Wookiees and half a Robin Williams. But seriously, folks…

This film is pure evil and yet it is a joy to behold. Innocence is shaped and molded into cruelty and horror by a madman. And then, during the awakening, when just for an instant, things are right and good; the darkness swoops in to crush the dream. Eugenie de Sade feels dangerous. Its subject matter is very dark and yet, once again, I connected with the characters emotionally. How does Franco keep doing that to me? Even when those characters are sick bastards toying with their prey to heighten their own satisfaction when they take a human life, I’m still utterly fascinated. If you are curious about Jess Franco and want to know what the fuss is all about, check this one out.

“I’ll never forget the first time snow fell that winter. As if by some enchantment, everything became, white, neat, unreal, strange.”


  1. Well put.

    My favorite of Franco's. Watching Soledad Miranda in this film is like being intoxicated with erotic sadness.

    That quote is an exquisite summation: "white, neat, unreal, strange.”

  2. @Jeffrey - Speaking of well put, "being intoxicated with erotic sadness" sums up Eugenie de Sade quite well, my good man.

  3. "Eugenie de Sade feels dangerous."

    It does, indeed. A terrific review, Richard, identifying all the strengths (and weaknesses) of this disturbing movie. The eroticized murder sequences are, as you rightfully note, cold, unflinching and decidedly frank. It's impressive, albeit uncomfortable, viewing.

    Whenever I've recommended Franco to friends, it's this film and 'Eugenie: The Story of Her Journey Into Perversion' that are at the top of the list.

  4. HOW HAVE I NOT YET SEEN THIS?! Love me some Soledad. Alas. She has a wonderful scene of "erotic sadness" in SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY.

  5. @Davo - Thanks! I really love this film. I have the other Eugenie film in the queue. Looking forward to that one.

    @Will - She Killed in Ecstasy is one of the ones I'm saving for the last 10 Franco Fridays. For some reason, I know I'm going to love that one.