JESS FRANCO MONTH: Eugénie de Sade (1973)

I love that watching Jess Franco movies teaches you all sorts of secret facts, like how this movie is not Eugenie… The Story of Her Journey into Perversion, an adaptation of de Sade’s book Philosophy in the Bedroom as this is based on the book Eugénie de Franval. They’re totally different albeit similar movies because, well, look, Franco can be difficult before you even get into him making three cannibal movies in a year that are all rather alike or remaking Exorcism in a bunch of different cuts.

It’s worth it.

Eugenie (Soledad Miranda) starts the film on her deathbed, explaining her sordid life to, well, Franco as she relates the story of how she fell in love with her stepfather Albert (Paul Muller) through the books that he wrote and how that leads her into a world of perversion. At first, that’s just, you know, incestual BDSM, but that’s never enough and before you know it, they’re taking photos of Alice Arno all tied up and killing her. But when her father demands that she kill a jazz musician, she falls in love and starts on the road to her demise.

It goes without saying that the reason why this movie works is Miranda. She’s a force of nature, someone who can devastate the lives of men and women while putting herself on her knees in front of a man who sees cruelty as love. She’s devoted to him at her own peril and yet, when the lure of the carnal darkness enters her soul, she can’t help but submit.

Don’t go into this expecting a sexy bit of froth or a good time. Sure, there are gorgeous bodies on display but there’s also an understanding that nothing good or lasting can come from the union of Albert and Eugenie. A drinking game between father, stepdaughter and hitchhiker (Greta Schmidt) is filled with menace even when it seems like it’s about to be a sex scene because even now we’re predisposed to the conventions of adult film. Leave it to Franco to break this up by making it deadly.

Miranda didn’t want to shame her parents by appearing nude so she used the name Susan Korday, a combination of Valley of the Dolls writer Jacqueline Susann and the director Alexander Korda. As this movie was made in 1970 and not released until 1973, by the time the world saw it, she was dead, the victim of a car crash. Her hold over us — not just Franco — was frozen in ember by her demise.

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