Saturday, July 10, 2010

Deadly Sanctuary (Jesus Franco, 1969)

Deadly Sanctuary, aka Marquis de Sade's 'Justine,' is a combination of Sade's various stories of Justine and Juliette (more-so of Justine). It features Romina Power as Justine, Franco regular Maria Rohm as Juliette, Klaus Kinski as a silent Marquis de Sade, and Jack Palance as the evil Brother Antonin. Other standout performances come from Horst Frank (The Vengeance of Fu-Manchu) as the über-gay Marquis de Bressac, and Mercedes McCambridge (A Farewell to Arms, Giant) as the arch criminal La Dusbois.

Unlike many of Franco's Sadean adaptations, this is a period piece and is remarkably true to the source material. The sets and locations are beautiful, and the costuming is astonishing for a Franco movie. It seems that this is one case where Uncle Jess was given the two things he never seems to get; time and money. Aside from a few problems I have, this is likely Franco's best film, next to Vampyros Lesbos.

Romina Power makes for a great Justine. She may not be the greatest actress, but displays an innocence and naïvité demanded by the character. Maria Rohm gets very little time as Juliette, but does a nice job with it. Rohm also played Sade's villainess Madame Saint-Ange in Eugenie: the Story of Her Journey into Perversion. Kinski is merely window dressing. He does not speak a single line of dialogue, but broods in a cell with narration over him. He is a tortured Sade who is compelled to write the girls' story, while hallucinating portions of it.

The weirdest part is Jack Palance. Palance was at a point in his career where Franco could get him, but he is still a star of some note (he was in Shane after all). He is this bizarre fey libertine which he plays with enthusiasm. However, it seems to me that they dubbed his voice. Overdubbing Jack Palance is like overdubbing James Earl Jones; the voice is more than half of what you cast them for.

Big props to Franco for making the Marquis de Bressac noticeably gay. He was in the story, and it is important because Justine falls for him in the book. She does not in the film, but it does make for a great scene when he seduces his wife in order to poison her. An excellent choice was made in Mercedes McCambridge for La Dusbois. She is older, and a bit more stout than the other actresses, but is the vision of a woman just past her prime who is a hardhearted criminal. Dusbois is one of Sade's great villains, in that she is a female leader of male bandits. She is easily his toughest female character.

Overall, this is a great film for those who are not Franco fans. It is not nearly as dirty or graphic as the novel would demand, and many of Justine's trials are withheld. Also, the ending is changed, showing a reformed Juliette saving her sister, whom she despised in Sade's books. Rather than being a depraved epic, it is more a ribald tale, similar to Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers, but with lesser acting and more nudity. It is an enjoyable film, if you like B-grade period pieces.


Brooke from The Bluestocking Guide said...

I don't think this one is my cup of tea.

Darius Whiteplume said...

Likely not, but is is far more palatable than the books. ;-)

MC said...

Still, it is a Klaus Kinski movie, so you know he brought some intensity to that role.

Darius Whiteplume said...

Oh, he did. He's great silent. He does not speak much in Count Dracula either, IIRC. Harry Towers said on the disc that Kinski did the narration, but it did not sound like him at all to me, and it was not very emotive, so I think it was overdubbed by another actor.

Kinski never fails to be intense and interesting.

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