Eugenie…The Story of Her Journey into Perversion 4K UHD Review
Blu-ray Release: February 21, 2023
Video: 2.35:1/2160p (HDR10/Dolby Vision)/Color
Audio: English and French DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Run Time: 86:58
Director: Jess Franco
Note: The film section of this review was written in tandem with the review of Blue Underground’s same day release of Marquis de Sade’s Justine and there is overlap between them.
An innocent young woman named Eugenie (Marie Liljedahl) is taken to an island paradise where she is initiated into a world of pleasure and pain controlled by the sinister Dolmance (Christopher Lee). But, when she surrenders to her own forbidden fantasies, Eugenie becomes trapped in a frenzy of drugs, sadomasochism, and murder. Can a frightened girl in the grip of carnal perversion find sanctuary in the orgies of the depraved? (From Blue Underground’s official synopsis)
The period between 1969 and 1973 was arguably the peak of Jesús ‘Jess’ Franco’s 200+ film career, at least in terms of his erotic output, which took a particularly surrealistic turn, just as censorship rules were loosening throughout Europe. Personally, I prefer the period just before this, when he was making poppy, black & white horror, noir, and sci-fi movies, but I can’t exactly disagree with the fans and critics that specifically mark his work with British producer Harry Alan Towers as his most important, at least in terms of recognizability. Franco and Towers partnered for nine movies, shot over only two years between 1968 and 1969, including The Blood of Fu Manchu (German: Der Todeskuss des Dr. Fu Man Chu, 1968), 99 Women (German: Der heiße Tod; French: Les Brulantes, 1969), The Girl from Rio (German: Die sieben Männer der Sumuru, 1969), Marquis de Sade’s Justine (Italian: Justine ovvero le disavventure della virtùre; aka: Deadly Sanctuary, 1969), Venus in Furs (Italian: Paroxismus - Può una morta rivivere per amore?; German: Schwarzer Engel, 1969), The Castle of Fu Manchu (German: Die Folterkammer des Dr. Fu Man Chu, 1969), Eugenie...The Story of Her Journey into Perversion (aka: Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy of the Boudoir [the title that appears on-screen here] and De Sade 70, 1970), Bloody Judge (Italian: Il trono di fuoco, 1970), and Count Dracula (German: Nachts, wenn Dracula erwacht, 1970).
On paper, Eugenie... is a companion piece to the previous year’s Marquis de Sade’s Justine;; after all, they’re based on similar de Sade stories – Philosophy in the Bedroom (French: La philosophie dans le boudoir, pub: 1795) and Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue (French: Justine, ou Les Malheurs de la Vertu, pub: 1791), respectively. However, in practice, Marquis de Sade’s Justine is a rare Jess Franco costume drama, the kind he only made with Towers, complete with an all-star cast, decent budget, lavish settings, and a bloated runtime, while Eugenie… better fits the post-Towers cycle with their shrunken budgets, limited locations, and surrealistic filmmaking techniques. Eugenie… is also a contemporary version of de Sade’s story, not a period piece, and a much better companion piece with Eugenie de Sade (aka: Eugénie), which was produced without Towers later in 1970, leading to a lot of confusion (it’s technically based on Eugénie de Franval , not La philosophie dans le boudoir). To make matters worse, Franco remade Eugenie… in 1980 under the title Eugenie, Historia de una perversión (aka: Wicked Memoirs of Eugenie).
Reportedly shot on the same locations as Mel Welles’ Maneater of Hydra (aka: Island of the Doomed and The Blood Suckers, 1967), reusing props and set pieces, Euginie… often feels like an afterthought, wedged between (comparatively) prestigious films, like Venus in Furs, Bloody Judge, and Count Dracula. Of course, the inconsequential quality leaves Franco open to experimentation, creating that special, quaalude-induced, delusory tone that endears fans to the director. It’s also a much shorter film than Marquis de Sade’s Justine, meaning that its meandering vibe doesn’t overstay its welcome, and has a genuinely striking look that sets it well above utterly listless Franco erotica, like the snooze-inducing Sexual Aberrations of a Married Woman (aka: Cecilia, 1989). The chic sets and costumes (apparently borrowed from Maneater of Hydra), coupled with Manuel Merino’s seering use of color and Bruno Nicolai’s score gives it a nice giallo flavor. Towers’ script even openly acknowledges the class exploitation aspects of the original story, thus challenging the audience’s enjoyment of the luridly illicit sex and nudity.
Though his screen time is brief, Eugenie… is also one of six movies Franco made with Christopher Lee and one of twelve movies the actor made with Towers. The Towers/Lee relationship began with The Face of Fu Manchu (1965), based on the pulp villain created by Sax Rohmer. There were five Fu Manchu movies in total (one more than the second most prolific Manchu actor, Warner Oland), two directed by John Sharp, one by Jeremy Summers, and two by Franco. Lee was brought onto Eugenie… at the last minute when George Sanders dropped out, and he only worked on-set for two days. Given the production’s proximity to Bloody Judge and Count Dracula, and the speed at which these movies were shot, I assume Lee was simply a close-at-hand Englishman. According to interviews, he certainly felt exploited and was embarrassed when he discovered his name and likeness being used to sell a dirty movie (“When I had left Spain that day, everyone behind me had taken their clothes off!”). He asked that his name be removed. It was not. Lee wasn’t much happier with Count Dracula, because Towers had convinced him to make it by telling him that it would be the first accurate adaptation of Bram Stoker’s book. It was not.
Obsession: The Films of Jess Franco edited by Lucas Balbo and Peter Blumenstock (Gruf Haufen & Frank Trebbin, 1993)
Bizarre Sinema: Jess Franco El Sexo del Horror by Carlos Aguilar (Glittering Images, no copyright date)
Blue Underground’s first release was an uncut 2002 DVD that stayed in print until the company reissued it as a collector’s edition remastered Blu-ray. This 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo-pack features yet another remaster, restored in 4K from the uncensored original camera negative. The previous HD disc looked so good that, again, as in the case of the same day Marquis de Sade's Justine release, I assumed this UHD featured a 2160p version of the earlier transfer with a Dolby Vision HDR makeover. As you can see from the couple of Blu-ray comparison sliders I’ve included (new Blu-ray left, old Blu-ray right), it turns out that, even minus the extra resolution and HDR, this truly is a new and better restoration. A much better one. I can’t demonstrate the additional improvements that the additional resolution and HDR impart, but I’m not sure I really need to. The new remaster has much, much richer color, which makes a bigger difference here than it does for Marquis de Sade's Justine, because Franco and Merino utilize so many ultra-saturated red gels. Details are sharper and grain is more uniform, if not a bit snowy (the older transfer definitely had too much DNR), but the improved dynamic range (again, even without the HDR) makes the bigger difference, because so much of the photography is soft, foggy, or out-of-focus.
Eugenie…The Story of Her Journey into Perversion is presented with mono English and French uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio options. This is technically an upgrade over the 2015 Blu-ray, which featured only a single English dub, though I’d still recommend sticking with that track, since the film was shot in English and some of the actors (including Lee) are dubbing their own performances. The English mix is also a bit cleaner and more consistent than the somewhat muffled French dub. Both are dialogue and music-driven with similarly limited effects work and minimal buzz during outdoor scenes, where an attempt at natural ambience is attempted. Morricone collaborator Bruno Nicolai’s music is an eclectic blend of baroque instrumentations, organ-heavy smooth jazz, sitar-driven sex themes with dreamy feminine vocals, and bouncy, samba-esque traveling music. Specs state that German composer Hans Günther Leonhardt also contributed some themes without taking credit, which could explain the wider array of styles.
Disc One (4K UHD)
Commentary by film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth – Another new commentary from the power-duo that is Mondo Digital’s Thompson and So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films (Midnight Marquee Press, 2015) author Howarth, who are in typical form while covering Franco and Towers’ work, differences between the book and film, Franco’s use of meta-narrative, Eugenie’s confusing release history, the popularity of Nicolai’s soundtrack, and the greater careers of the cast & crew.
Disc Two (Blu-ray)
Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth commentary
Perversion Stories (17:32, SD) – This featurette, which was originally part of BU’s DVD release, includes Interviews with Franco, Towers, and stars Marie Liljedahl and Christopher Lee. Franco and Towers spend their time describing the production process and the Marquis’ writing. Liljedahl and Lee mostly express disappointment in the film itself, but also seem to find the subject amusing – in fact, they both have very nice things to say about Franco himself.
Stephen Thrower on Eugenie (18:09, HD) – The always knowledgeable and amiable author of Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco (Strange Attractor Press, 2015) returns for another Jess Franco appreciation recorded for the 2015 BD. And, again, his praise might be enough to turn non-fans on to what makes these movies special.
Jack Taylor in the Francoverse (24:43, HD) – In this 2023 set-exclusive interview, the actor (aka: George Brown Randall, speaking in Spanish, though English is his first language) chats about his early life, the jet-setting life of an American actor working in Europe, costars, and working on Franco’s Succubus (aka: Necronomicon, 1968), Eugenie, Count Dracula, and Female Vampire (aka: The Bare-Breasted Countess, 1972).
Poster & still gallery
The images on this page are taken from the BD (not the 4K UHD) and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.