Jess Franco Triple Feature: Countess Perverse / Sexy Nature / How To Seduce A Virgin
Released by: Mondo Macabro
Released on: April 11th, 2017.
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Howard Vernon, Alice Arno, Robert Woods, Lina Romay
Purchase From Mondo Macabro
Mondo Macabro offer up a limited edition (only 1,000 pieces made) Blu-ray triple feature that bundles their previously released (on DVD) Countess Perverse and How To Seduce A Virgin with Sexy Nature, the XXX variant version of Countess Perverse. Here’s a look...
Jess Franco’s 1973 film La Comtesse Perverse begins when a man named Bob (Robert Woods) and his girlfriend, Moira (Tania Busselier) find a naked woman (Kali Hansa) washed up on the shore outside their home. They bring her inside and warm her up and she mumbles about a nearby island where she had gone to try to save her sister. Shortly after, they’re visited by a beautiful young woman named Silvia (Lina Romay), and things get a bit complicated. Bob has definitely got a thing for her, but so too does Moira.
After a bit of grown up playtime, they head out on a boat for a trip to a nearby island where they have dinner with Countess Ivanna Zaroff (Alice Arno) and Count Rabor Zaroff (Howard Vernon), a strange couple who live in an even stranger massive house. It soon becomes obvious just why Bob and Moira have brought Silvia to the Zaroff’s however – they need fresh meat!
Basically a hyper sexual version of The Most Dangerous Game, the film moves along at a good pace and features a lot of typical Franco touches. There are a few crotch zooms here, some occasionally out of focus shots, a strange sense of pacing and of course, lots of graphic sex – but the movie is quite well shot. The locations used for the film are excellent, with the strange red staircase inside the house, in which characters seem to be constantly walking up and down, taking on a very ominous tone. Some beautiful outdoors shots also help to give the movie a very exotic look and feel despite the fact that it appears to have been made with a fairly modest budget (there aren’t a lot of effects or anything here). It’s also shot with dizzying style, lots of zooms, odd angles, and great use of color.
Set to a very cool somewhat psychedelic rock score, the movie makes use of a lot of Franco regulars. Howard Vernon is sufficiently sinister in his role, almost playing a subservient type to Alice Arno’s more dominant female. Though we see more of Vernon here than most will probably want to in one scene, his odd facial features and expressive eyes make him a good choice for the part. His chemistry with Arno is also interesting, their relationship seems quite cold in a lot of ways but she talks about how he is perfect for her and how they share such important interests with one another – hunting and exquisite meals being at the top of her list. Kali Hansa is probably best known for Night Of The Sorcerers but worked with Franco on The Sinister Eyes Of Doctor Orloff and Sinner and she looks great here. She’s got a somewhat exotic look that’s quite appealing and while she isn’t given quite as much to do as Arno or Romay in terms of acting, her performance in the opening sequence as she screams on the couch about what she’s been through is fairly intense. Tania Busselier and Robert Woods are also quite good, and their relationship becomes quite interesting once Romay enters the picture, with both hoping to win her affection. As far as Romay’s performance goes, she’s good here. Always sexually daring, she shows no fear in the sex scenes but also gives chase to Arno’s titular countess during the film’s finale.
After Franco made the film, the producer basically took it out of his hands and added a bunch of hardcore inserts. This version from Mondo Macabro represents Franco’s ‘director’s cut’ and as such, it’s plenty sexy and fairly graphic but not the hardcore film that it was turned into.
Running roughly twenty-five minutes longer than the first feature, Sexy Nature is the longer, XXX variant version of Countess Perverse shot by Franco at the behest of his producer (who was hoping to have a better chance of selling the film). The biggest difference here is that there’s a strange framing device that involves a young woman (played by Lina Romay) imagines the story told in Countess Perverse as part of a writing project she’s working on. Meanwhile, the scantily girlfriend who is hanging out with her does her best to get her to have some fun, with varying degrees of effectiveness (and explicitness!).
There’s quite a lot of sex footage added into this cut (the best part being a pretty kinky three way that Lina gets into with a man and another woman), which runs at the full strength running length of a hundred and one minutes, and some of it (particularly the scenes involving Romay) is pretty steamy. It might not do much to further the plot and it actually does seem out of place, but it’s unlikely that anyone reading this is going to complain too much about more footage of Lina running around doing what Lina did best.
How To Seduce A Virgin:
Also known as Plaisir A Trois, Jess Franco’s 1973 picture How To Seduce A Virgin tells a fairly simple story. When the movie begins, a beautiful woman named Martine de Bressac (Alice Arno) is released from a mental hospital. We’re never told exactly what she did to earn her place there but the flashback scene in which she castrates a man that she was making love to tells us all that we need to know. Martine is not okay. Oh she looks great, there’s no doubt about that, but something is off upstairs. She’s driven back to her palatial estate by her servant, Mathias (Howard Vernon), and is seemingly quite relieved to reunite with her lover, Charles Bressac (Robert Woods). He seems equally impressed that she’s back in his arms and everything seems to be peachy. Even their mute servant, Adele (Lina Romay), is overjoyed that everyone is back where they should be.
One night while looking out their window, Charles and Martine spy on a young woman across the way who masturbates completely unaware that she’s being watched. When Charles and Martine are able to meet her parents, who are soon to travel abroad and need a place for their daughter to stay, well… it doesn’t take long before this lovely piece of jailbait named Cecile (Tania Busselier) is staying at their place, her innocence soon to be lost. Martine goes first, she tries to talk her into an encounter in the bath tub, but it’s Adele who scores first and gets her naked and in bed. Eventually Charles plans a party where all of the women wind up indulging his fantasies, but by the time that party is over, it becomes quite obvious who is playing who.
Putting sex before plot and willfully playing up the more erotic side of the story than any other aspect, How To Seduce A Virgin isn’t the most thought provoking Franco picture that you’re ever likely to see but it’s good at what it sets out to do. Shot in the same house that served as the primary location for Countess Perverse and using more or less the same cast, it doesn’t do a whole lot in the way of character development but it does set up a pretty effective tone of depravity and unbridled lust. From the first time that Martine lays eyes on Cecile it’s obvious she’s got a thing for her and wants her to be her plaything. When it turns out that Adele gets first crack, that’s an interesting plot twist and when you throw in the presence of a strange dwarf gardener, things can only get weirder. So yeah, story? Not so much, but weird Franco jazz sex? Lots of that, so dig on in.
Lina’s more or less confined to a supporting role here but she does what she does here with crazed sex fiend precision. When it’s time for her to get it on, she’s ready, willing and able and those insanely lustful eyes of hers are wide open and hungry. Alice Arno steals the show, however. It’s great to see Howard Vernon pop up here and both Robert Woods and a not-at-all-teenage looking Tania Busselier are both fine in their respective parts but Alice Arno smolders in the lead. She’s bold, brash and beautiful and she has not problem whatsoever letting the camera leer.
Ultimately this is more a movie about sex than about anything else, but don’t let that dissuade you. Franco captures all of this in his own crazy sort of way, using strange angles and a fantastic soundtrack enhances the mood of flat out debauchery. The movie is well shot and it never overstays its welcome. Despite the fact that the story is minimal the movie goes at a good pace and yeah, if you enjoy Franco doing dirty deeds done dirt cheap, and really who doesn’t, jump right in. The cast are all in fine form, the movie is as bonkers as it is pants tighteningly hot and the look and sound of the movie is fantastic. This is prime Franco, the kind you not only want, but need, in your collection.
Mondo Macabro presents each film in AVC encoded 1080p high definition in ‘brand new HD restorations’ framed at 1.37.1 on a single BD-50. While the fact that three films are presented on one disc is cause for concern sometimes, the encoding here is very good and there are no obvious problems with any noticeable compression artifacts. The DVDs that came out a few years ago looked really good, but this Blu-ray handily advances over them in both detail and texture. The soft focus shots are still just that – soft – but there’s a lot more depth to the image. Colors look fantastic here and skin tones appear lifelike and natural. There are no noticeable issues with any noise reduction, so the film’s grain structure appears nice and natural. Skin never looks like wax and there are no signs of artificial sharpening or edge enhancement. The end result is three very nice, detailed, film-like transfers, devoid of all but minor print damage.
Audio options for each film are presented in French language LPCM Mono with removable subtitles provided in English only. The audio quality here is just fine. The dialogue sounds clean and clear and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. Each track is nicely balanced and the music used throughout the three films sounds great.
Most of the extras on the disc are carried over from the past DVD releases, starting off with a fifteen minute interview with Robert Woods in which the actor talks about his film career. He discusses how he basically started working in westerns and then how he came to meet Franco, who he notes he originally had some disdain for given that he was known primarily as a director of sex films. He then goes on to talk about working with him on this film and on a few others. Woods is pretty open about the work he did, there aren’t any false pretenses here and he shares some interesting stories. Also on hand is author Stephen Thrower who shows up on camera to give us his take on how and where this movie fits in with some of Franco’s other films and who provides some decent background information on it. This piece originally appeared on the Countess Perverse DVD.
Carried over from How To Seduce A Virgin is a twenty-two minute long interview with Stephen Thrower, author and Franco biographer, in which he speaks about how prolific Franco was during this year and how many of the pictures he made in this year are considered some of his best. He rightfully notes how many connections there are between this picture and Countess Perverse, and then discusses the shooting locations (the Canary Islands were used), how the film was received in different markets, the morality of the picture (describing it as a sado-erotic playground!), the voyeuristic aspect of certain scenes in the movie, the importance of the cellar scene (where the ‘frozen’ bodies are kept) and how the movie was received by censors during its original theatrical run in the United Kingdom.
The disc also ports over (again from How To Seduce A Virgin) a twelve minute long interview with the film’s writer Alain Petit which begins with some analysis about Franco’s obsession with the Marquis de Sade and the films that he made based on that author’s works. From there Petit’s notes other literary influences on Franco’s body of work before talking about the existence of the last film Franco shot with Soledad Miranda, which remained incomplete after she died before they were able to finish it. He talks about what might have influenced this particular picture and how Sadean influences worked their way into the film, and how that would continue throughout his works into the 2000s. This interview is in French with English subtitles.
Aside from the interviews, look for the Mondo Macabro Preview reel, menus and chapter selection rounding out the extras on the Blu-ray disc itself. However, there is more in this package, such as a full color booklet that includes an essay entitled The Inveterate Voyeur: Three Films By Jess Franco. Here we get some thoughts on the three films as well as insight into the careers of the key cast members that populate them and some interesting notes about the origins of the music used in the three movies. Speaking of which, Mondo Macabro has also included in the Blu-ray keepcase a CD containing the music composed by the group Blue Phantom that is used in the three movies included on this disc (and a few other Franco titles as well). The book and the CD might seem like minor additions to some, but for those of us who love to know more about the movies we watch and enjoy soundtracks on their own, these two extras are pretty great (and much appreciated).
The Final Word:
Strange, sexy and completely compelling, Jess Franco’s Countess Perverse and How To Seduce A Virgin receive beautiful high definition upgrades from Mondo Macabro. Add to that the fact that we also get Sexy Nature uncut and in high definition along with all of the extras off of the previously released DVDs and some great liner notes and an excellent soundtrack CD, and this limited edition turns out to be essential for anyone interested in the cinema of Jess Franco.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!
how to seduce a virgin,
jess franco triple feature,
plaisir a trois,
- DVD And Blu-ray Reviews G-M