Legendary cult filmmaker Jesús Franco and all of his soft-focus, sadean obsessions are on full display in Eugenie… The Story of Her Journey into Perversion. This sex shocker is one of Franco’s better narrative and technical efforts. Blue Underground upgrades their 2015 Blu-ray to stunning 4K with a new release that adds a couple features to the already nicely-appointed list of supplements. The new 4K transfer looks terrific and honors Franco’s gauzy European aesthetic that cult film fans love so much. This release comes Recommended!
If you’re at all familiar with Jess Franco’s work, then you know the man is quite obsessed with femininity, or rather the journey to understand it. And in Eugenie, that obsession is focused on a virginal young woman being tossed into a sexual nightmare in which her only escape is to fight with her sexuality. And in classic Franco fashion, it’s this jazzy, lugubrious and softcore exploitation film that’s so proud to be sleazy. That doesn’t negate the genuine beauty found in Franco’s compositions, as the man has a lot on his mind about being both the willing onlooker behind the camera and the exploiter. Add Christopher Lee, who at the time didn’t know he was starring in a softcore film, and it’s kind of clear why this one stands out in Franco’s illustrious career.
An adaptation of the notorious novel by Marquise de Sade titled Philosophy in the Bedroom, Eugenie updates the novel to the modern day and goes full-bore into depictions of sadomasochism that adds to the luridness of de Sade’s writing. Although many of the main story points are changed, Franco keeps things simple by focusing on Eugenie (Marie Liljedahl), a young woman who is subjected to acts of sexual violence when she visits an island paradise controlled by the sinister Dolmance (Christopher Lee). Initially succumbing to the perversions, Eugenie struggles to escape. But when she fully understands that her sexuality can be used as a means of escape.
Running at a brisk 87 minutes, Eugenie is less a complete narrative work and more a lurid and violent exercise for Franco’s restless camera. All of the actual acts of sadomasochism are filmed in Franco’s usual dream state aesthetic, flanked by short expository sequences and longer sequences of young women running around naked across some of Europe’s gorgeous vistas. I don’t usually like to mince words about Franco’s work, as you either enjoy this kind of stuff or you don’t, but the cantankerous voyeur in him is driven by a means to shower the female body, mind and soul with adoration. And frequently, to be terrified of that femininity.
This was Christopher Lee’s only outright erotic film and he was inspired by the idea of updating Marquise de Sade’s novel to modern day, but the actor only learned after the film was released that it was softcore. Luckily the actor came around on any negative feelings towards that duping, and he even continued to work with Franco many times over the years following.
In short, Eugenie is the exact kind of exploitation you’d expect to play in of NYC’s grindhouse theaters in 1970, though it gains depth in Franco’s desire to reconfigure certain aspects of the book to actually respect sexuality in a way de Sade would respect. A fun and sleazy time was had by all, I think?
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
Eugenie is ready for her close-up with this two-disc (BD66 for UHD and BD50 for Blu-ray) release. The discs are housed in a black scanavo case and a limited-edition slipcover with a die-cut view at the key art is included as well. Both discs boot up to standard menu screens with options to play the film, select scenes, browse special features and set up audio and video.
NOTE - All images have been sourced from the 2015 Blu-ray, when we can we'll update with pics and or video from the 4K disc.
Blue Underground has been a major force in 4K Ultra HD releases since they kicked things off with stellar 4K editions of owner William Lustig’s own Maniac and Lucio Fulci’s Zombie. Their catalog of exploitation and cult films is ripe for the picking in 4K, and it’s an absolute pleasure to report that the new 4K restoration from the original camera negative is yet another terrific job from BU. Not only does this new transfer improve upon their previously released 2015 Blu-ray of the film, a much more natural look is revealed in shots that looked flat, damaged or limited in fidelity from the previous transfer.
As with any Jess Franco film, some shots are designed to look soft as hell and I think this is where the Dolby Vision HDR layer really pulls the most out of the source. The softness is respected wonderfully and no digital tinkering seems to be applied here, resulting in a very beautiful filmic transfer. Flesh tones are tuned in just right as well and that gorgeous 70s film grain sings with the HEVC encode. The source is also in terrific shape and not much damage can be found here.
Speaking of being accurate to the source, the 1.0 DTS-HD MA English and French tracks included both represent the limited range with respect. Dialogue and sound effects come through clear, and Bruno Nicolai’s blustery score is playful and balanced well with everything else. Again, no damage seems to creep through either.
Our fearless leader Matt already assessed the special features included with the 2015 release, so I’ll focus on what’s new here. The interview with Jack Taylor is a great and breezy watch, with the now-elderly man joking about how the softcore nonsense in Eugenie pales in comparison to the stuff you see on TV nowadays. He has some good stories about working with Franco as well, who was known to get on the nerves of his performers for being a bit of a churlish man. Another great addition is the theatrical trailer presented in 4K on the first disc. Although it may seem small, not every label is treating their 4K releases to full 4K presentations of original trailers, so it’s a nice extra to have here.
Disc 1: 4K UHD
Disc 2: Blu-ray
The perversions of Jess Franco are let out of the cage in Eugenie… The Story of Her Journey into Perversion and Blue Underground presents this sexploitation shocker with a terrific 4K Ultra HD release that pulls ahead of their stellar 2015 Blu-ray of the same film. For a sleazy, good time, pick up this Recommended release.