• Justine

    Released by: Redemption Films
    Released on:October 28, 2008.
    Director: Chris Boger
    Cast: Koo Stark, Martin Potter, Lydia Lisle, Katharine Kath, Hope Jackman
    Year: 1977
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    The Movie:

    One of a seemingly endless barrage of adaptations of the Marquis de Sade’s Justine, Chris Boger’s 1977 film, also known as Cruel Passion, takes a mature and almost subdued approach to this well known tale of perversions and sexual excess.

    The film follows two sisters, Justine (Koo Stark) and Juliette (Lydia Lisle) Jerome, whose parents die young and leave them alone and seemingly helpless. They at first take shelter in an orphanage run by nuns but when their inheritance dries up, the nuns send them on their way. While Justine tires to abide by her moral upbringing and live a pure, chaste life her sister is far more willing to explore the ways of the flesh and indulge in all that the world has to offer her…

    Not nearly as sexually twisted as the hyperbole on the cover and box copy would have you believe, Boger’s Justine is an interesting take on the source material. Rather than focus on one shocking or exploitative scene of sexual depravity after the next, the film leaves much to the imagination and instead infers more than it blatantly portrays. This gives the film room to explore character development and motivation and focus on the performances of its two female leads, Koo Stark and Lydia Lisle. Stark (who pops up in the background of The Rocky Horror Picture Show) is excellent as the morally conflicted but well meaning Justine while Lisle proves every inch her equal as the far less restrained Juliette. Their interplay with supporting actors like Martin Potter as Lord Carlisle and Maggie Peterson as the predictably dour Mother Superior is handled well and proves to be the backbone of the film.

    Beautifully photographed by cinematographers Roger Deakins (who has gone on to work with the Cohen Brothers, M. Night Shyamalan, and Andrew Dominik to name only a few) Justine is a gorgeous looking film that features some stunning camera work and memorable imagery. Coupled with an evocative and emotionally stirring score the film winds up to be less an exercise in Sadean exploitation than a serious exploration of a woman’s moral conflict. It’s a well made picture to be sure, which makes it all the more puzzling that the film’s director didn’t go on to a bigger career in feature filmmaking.


    Justine is presented in a decent 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that is, like most of Redemption’s DVD offerings, unfortunately interlaced. The colors are a little on the flat side and there’s a bit of minor print damage here and there in the form of some specs and some small scratches but overall this isn’t a bad transfer at all. Detail levels are fine for a film of this age and budget and skin tones look good. There aren’t any problems with mpeg compression artifacts nor is there any obvious edge enhancement.

    The English language Dolby Digital Mono sound mix on this DVD is perfectly fine. You might note a little bit of hiss here and there but you have to listen for it to notice it. Dialogue is generally clean and clear, the levels are properly balanced and there aren’t any issues with distortion or serious audible defects. For an older film, Justine sounds alright.

    The primary extras on this release are an interview with director Chris Boger (5:30, non-anamorphic widescreen) and an interview with writer Ian Cullen (18:33, anamorphic widescreen). Boger’s interview is a little brief but it’s interesting to hear him discuss his work on the picture. Cullen’s interview is considerably more substantial and therefore a fair bit more interesting as he talks about the intricacies of adapting the work of the Marquis de Sade and about how he feels about his script decades since the picture was made. Between the two interviews we’re given quite a bit of background information on the picture and both segments are well worth watching.

    Rounding out the extra features are a small still gallery, a Redemption contact information screen, a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Redemption DVD releases, static menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    A mature and surprisingly artsy approach to one of de Sade’s best known works, Justine gets a nice release from Redemption.