“Eugenie … Her Journey into Perversion” (1970)
A film maker always takes a huge gamble when it comes to adapting any genre of literature because they are not only sticking their necks out professionally, but they are at the mercy of the fans of the story they are adapting for the big screen. We have all seen this happen sometime during our lives, the adaption either nails the story the way we want to see it, or it completely misses the point and comes off as genuinely offensive… unless the book itself is offensive like “Twilight” then both book and film are at fault.
The same goes for anything based off the infamous Marquis de Sade, who, ever since the 17th century has earned many a title from his work- pervert, predator, intellectual and cultural observer among but a few. You have folks who absolutely abhor his work, dismissing it as crass and cheap and you have others who feel he offers the most insightful commentary on society, specifically sexual desire and taboo. Before we continue, here are my brief thoughts on de Sade- the man knew what made human desires tick and he was unflinching in writing about it. At the same time however, if you actually read his work, it comes off as a XXX version of commedia dell’arte because of how bombastic the characters and their sexual acts are. My thoughts aside, it takes a lot of gut and intuition to translate de Sade to the big screen in a way that doesn’t come off as senseless pornography but at the same time stays true to what de Sade was about- forbidden sex and consequences. In the hands of Jess Franco, it is safe to say “Eugenie… Her Journey into Perversion” delivers in terms of style and substance.
Young, innocent and sexually curious Eugenie (a delcious Marie Liljdahl) is friends with the sophisticated and experienced Madame St. Ange (Maria Rohm). What Eugenie doesn’t know is that Madame is one half of a quasi-incestuous tag team, the other half being her step-brother Mirvel (Jack Taylor), both who abide by Sadeian philosophy. Madame seduces Eugenie’s gullible father into allowing Eugenie to spend the weekend on the private island she and Mirvel own. Yes, you heard correctly, A PRIVATE ISLAND. From there, Madame and Mirvel indulge in a sick, twisted game, using Eugenie as their soft, pliable bunny, messing with her mind, body and soul. Will Eugenie escape or will she succumb?
I have made it abundantly (and perhaps even rabidly) clear before how much I adore Franco’s work and here once again proves that he is the master of the horrorotic psychedelia. Despite the dark and immoral acts that take place on this luxurious private island, they are hidden by clear blue skies, shimmering gossamer and vibrant ’60′s chic bathed in hot-blooded sexuality. Everything about this movie is so languidly sumptuous you will feel as if you are in a dream that never relinquishes its’ power over you. This movie could have easily been a mere excuse for sexploitation sleaze, but Franco adds his very own special touch which turns it into what could be akin to artistry. Despite the subject matter, this movie has class and that is what distinguishes it from the other run-off-the-mill nudey films. Unless you are a prude, this movie will turn you on in so many ways- physically AND intellectually, and dare I say, it may even get you laid.
I said may.
A solid 4 sexy stars.
Review written by Bea Harper