• Die Marquise Von Sade (The 1000 Shades Of Doriana Grey)

    Doriana Gray
    Released by: Ascot Elite
    Released on: September 24th, 2013.
    Director: Jess Franco
    Cast: Lina Romay, Monica Swinn, Martine Stedil, Peggy Markoff, Raymond Hardy
    Year: 1976
    Purchase From Diabolik DVD

    The Movie:

    Directed by Jess Franco and alternately known as Die Marquise Von Sade, 1976’s Doriana Grey (or The 1000 Shades Of Doriana Gray if you go by the cover art for this release!) introduces us to the titular Lady Doriana Gray (Lina Romay), a beautiful wealthy recluse who spends most of her time alone in her ornate European estate hiding from the world. Hidden away from the world is her twin sister (Romay again), a nymphomaniac who has been locked away in an insane asylum under the watchful eye of one Dr. Orloff.

    Doriana’s solitude is interrupted one day when, completely unannounced, a journalist (Monica Swinn) arrives with hopes of interviewing her. It seems the mystery surrounding her is not without its allure and she figures an interview shedding some light on all of this might make for good reading. Doriana hesitates but eventually she ever so slightly warms to the idea. As our intrepid reporter begins to question her we learn of her past exploits and in turn, about the unique relationship that she shares with her twin. Doriana is an eternally youthful woman who seems to never age but feels no pleasure whatsoever and who tends to leave her sexual partners dead (though we do learn, initially through an encounter with Peggy Markoff, that she prefers women). Meanwhile, her incarcerated sister feels pleasure for both of them, so much so that it has driven her mad.

    Taking the melding of sex and death that he and leading lady Lina Romay had experimented with in the years prior with films like Female Vampire and Lorna The Exorcist to name just a few, this picture sees Franco putting all of Lina front and center in a dual role that plays to her strong points. Not an actress particularly adept at delivering completely convincing stretches of dialogue, the supremely sexy Romay’s strong points where in her physical abilities and her screen presence. This film gives her the ability to act, to exude sexual prowess and to convince us her carnality is unrelenting but at the same time give to her character an air of undeniable tragedy. Like in the aforementioned Female Vampire, even in the midst of a ridiculously hot sex scene (and the sex scenes in this movie are ridiculously hot, and also entirely explicit in a literally pornographic sense) there’s a definite tone of sadness that permeates the picture. The end result is not unlike a poem, cliché as it may be to say so. Here we have one woman so out of touch with her feelings that she cannot deal with society, and yet she shares a link so profound with her sister that there’s no denying their connection. At the same time, that sister reaps everything, whether she wants it or not, she can’t even control herself with the nurse enters the room, she has to touch herself and she has to make sure that the nurse sees her doing it. She knows only pleasure and she’s known so much of it that she’s completely gone from the real world and seems to exist on a completely different level than frigid Doriana. Romay, seen here in her physical prime, goes for it. She is completely uninhibited here, diving face first into whatever partner the script throws her way and using her unique body language and sense of sexual self to bring us to the edge alongside her character(s).

    Franco directs all of this with his own trademark sense of compulsively involved detachment. Ever the voyeur (he shot this movie himself and can’t help but put all of his obsessions up there on the screen), he lets his camera worship Lina here just as he has in many of the other pictures that they made together. He uses the lush and obviously bourgeoisie locations well, the marble and alabaster of the mansions reflecting the coldness of Doriana’s character, the presence of a rainbow reflecting her efforts to feel. Lina, as Doriana, is usually dressed only in thin robes, showing off her body but hiding just enough – as the twin, she’s rather dirty looking, constantly writhing, her finger between her legs more often than not, lines in her stockings and her legs spread as wide as they can be when it comes time to be examined. There are obvious nods in not only Romay’s delivery but also Franco’s framing of the delivery that add subtext to what may at first seem to be a movie short on character development. The cinematography is strong, the framing rather well crafted and the sitar heavy score, courtesy of Walter Baumgartner, exotic enough to work. The end result is a collision between art and pornography, a heady and almost psychedelic picture that is as much as nightmare as it is a wet dream, and which is as sad and tragic as it is unusually arousing.


    Doriana Grey was released on DVD some years back in a nice anamorphic widescreen transfer. This AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation, framed at 1.78.1 widescreen, is a nice upgrade over that release. Any print damage that pops up is minor, you may not the occasional speck or a minor scratch here and there, and overall the elements used for the transfer were in very nice condition. Grain is present but never overpowering and there are no issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement. Detail is pretty solid, though Franco’s tendency to use a soft focus (or go out of focus entirely) means that things aren’t quite as crisp here as they are on other high definition releases. Some minor compression artifacts can be spotted in a few of the darker scenes where shadow detail isn’t quite perfect, but these are minor quibbles, as the good outweighs the bad by a nice margin. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and texture is strong throughout.

    Audio options are provided in German and English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks and in French Dolby Digital 2.0. There are no subtitles of any kind provided. The clarity of the English track is pretty solid. There isn’t a load of surround activity but the score and effects do occasionally spread out a bit. Levels are nicely balanced, dialogue is clear and there aren’t really any problems here, it sounds fine. Optional subtitles are provided in German and in Japanese. The English track is the more modern sounding dubbed track that was included on the DVD release. It’s a shame that no English subs were provided for the more authentic sounding German track, but that’s how it goes.

    Extras include an alternate version of the movie, also in HD, in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono German only with no alternate language options or subtitles offered. This version runs seventy two minutes and twelve seconds and it’s basically the softcore version of the seventy-nine minute hardcore version of the feature.

    Also found here is an interview with producer Erwin C. Dietrich and director Jess Franco that runs just over eleven minutes in length and which features English subtitles. Dietrich talks about Franco’s penchant for making more than one movie at a time or shooting projects back to back, and Franco talks about the necessity of using the same locations and cast members in some of his pictures. Dietrich notes how he’s come to appreciate this picture, the need to produce alternate language versions for the DVD release (this interview is carried over from that release) and how the film represents the spontaneity that Franco possessed personally. It’s a decent enough talk, each man interviewed separately, that sheds some light on this unique entry in their respective filmographies.

    Rounding out the extras are a still gallery, a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Ascot Elite Franco directed Blu-ray releases, animated menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Rarely has eroticism and bleak horror mixed together in as successful a combination as it is here as Doriana Grey proves to be not only one of Jess Franco’s most poetic films but also one of Lina Romay’s most inspired and passionate performances. It’s one of those rare films where art and explicit sex collide in all the right ways and we wind up with a movie as beautiful to look at as it is simultaneously somber and arousing. The Blu-ray release from Ascot Elite looks good and sounds alright and also offers up a few decent extras. A nice upgrade to the previous DVD offering and a worthy presentation of a truly strange masterpiece.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      First review I have seen anywhere of any of the Ascot blu-rays.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      More to come, time permitting.
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      Really too bad about the lack of English subs...that English dub is the pits. That red headed woman from cap #4 is also extremely skanky and not sure I wanna see her in HD. 2 Lina's and a Martine do tip the scale the right way fortunately. I watched the DVD a few months ago and found I had lost some love for this one, & I'm really on the fence about upgrading. The film's themes are pretty much covered in a few other Franco titles...only real additions here are the gynecological aspects. Lina spreads like a Hustler centerfold more than a few times, which is fine, but the HC scenes are simply not pleasing to my eye. Appreciate the in depth review...it's coaxed my finger back on the purchase button over at Diabolik. Thanks.
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      John, on the contrary, the Blu-ray had re-juvinated my interest in the film. Watching them in hd, adds a new life for me. I enjoyed Doriana much more. I can say the same for the other bd releases too.
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lalala76 View Post
      John, on the contrary, the Blu-ray had re-juvinated my interest in the film. Watching them in hd, adds a new life for me. I enjoyed Doriana much more. I can say the same for the other bd releases too.
      I should prolly just dive in.....I can always avert my eyes during the old 'in & out' parts