• Cecilia (Blue Underground) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: August 25th, 2020.
    Director: Jess Franco
    Cast: Muriel Montosse, Antonio Mayans, Pierre Taylou, Lina Romay
    Year: 1983
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    Cecilia – Movie Review:

    Jess Franco's 1982 softcore opus Cecilia had never before been released on DVD until Blue Underground got their hands on it in 2008. Twelve years later and the film gets a nice Blu-ray upgrade. This film is remarkably short on story but has some nice atmosphere, great cinematography and more quirky bumping and grinding than you can shake a stick at.

    Muriel Montosse plays the titular lead, a foxy young woman named Cecilia who has become bored in the scant few years she's been married to her husband, Andre (Antonio Mayans). When her driver takes her off the beaten path to allow his two brothers to rape her in the back of the car, Cecilia finds that her initial resistance soon turns into a sexual reawakening of sorts. When she returns home, she tells her husband of this and the pair soon embarks on a strange journey of sexual discovery. Andre's affair with a black woman leads to a voyeuristic experience on Cecilia's part and before you know it, she's taking part in orgies and watching a strange woman in a bad blonde wig (Lina Romay) have sex with her sixteen year old son. Soon, Cecilia and Andre's collective experimenting starts to sour their relationship and the emergence of one of Cecilia's old flames only serves to pour gasoline on the fire...

    The bulk of Cecilia's fairly lengthy running time is made of up the various softcore sex scenes that are scattered in between very minimal bits of plot and character development. As such, the film is very shallow, there's really not much going on outside of the lovemaking and group sex. That said, the film certainly looks great as the camera does an excellent job of capturing the Portuguese shooting locations (with a scene or two shot in Paris) and Daniel White's familiar score, while rather repetitious, adds a certain quirkiness to the whole shebang.

    Muriel Montosse, who worked with Franco on a few other films (most notably The Inconfessable Orgies Of Emmanulle), does most of the heavy lifting in the picture and she does shine here, bringing a brash and wanton sexiness to her part that makes things a little more believable. Surrounded by an interesting supporting cast made up of Franco regulars including the aforementioned Lina Romay as well as Olivier Mathot, Pierre Taylor and Antonio Mayans she really does lit up the screen a fair bit. It's a shame then that the film has little to offer besides well-shot sex scenes. Had more effort been put into crafting and interesting story to go along with the undeniably lush visuals then Cecilia could have stood alongside some of the better Franco films from this period - instead it turns out to be a fairly plotless film with a few stand-out moments, one that, like so much of the director’s work, is more concerned with mood and atmosphere than story. Still, fans of the director’s output from this period should be able to appreciate this for what it is, rather than what it isn’t, and the visuals in this one are strong enough to carry it and the strangely melancholy mood adds to its curiosity value.

    Cecilia – Blu-ray Review:

    Cecilia arrives on Blu-ray framed at 1.66.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer given 22.3Gbs of space on the 50GB disc. It’s a very nice transfer clearly taken from elements that were well taken care of. Detail advances quite nicely over the previous DVD release, providing much more depth and texture than that past edition (which looked just fine by the standards of its day). Skin tones look perfect and color reproduction is spot on. Black levels are nice as well, and there are no problems with any noise reduction or edge enhancement, with a nice, natural amount of film grain present in pretty much every frame of the picture. Compression is held in check as well, which is a good thing given that there are some shots that make use of very foggy visuals, the kind that can sometimes wreak havoc in that department. Overall, this is a really solid transfer and an impressive upgrade over the DVD release.

    Audio options are offered English and French 24-bit DTS-HD Mono options with optional English SDH offered for the English track and optional English subtitles available for the French track. Both tracks sound nice and clean and are properly balanced, with a fair amount of depth to them, mostly noticeable in the score. A German audio track exists for the movie but wasn’t included here, otherwise, no complaints.

    The most interesting extras is probably the inclusion of Aberraciones Sexuales De Una Mujer Casata (which translates to Sexual Aberrations Of A House Wife), which is Jess Franco’s original eighty-eight-minute cut (running consider less time than the Eurocine cut at an hour-and-forty-five-minutes) presented in Spanish language Dolby Digital Mono audio with optional English subtitles. This version, also presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.66.1 widescreen, takes up 13.3GBs of space on the disc. There’s a little bit of hiss on the audio and some minor compression artifacts noticeable here and there but overall the presentation is quite nice, if a step or two down from the feature presentation version of the movie. As to the differences, in addition to the alternate title card, the film has a different and far more appropriate score, as well as, obviously, different dubbing (the film plays well in Spanish). This version omits the added scenes with Cecilia’s uncle and much of the material shot in Paris, but it’s definitely worth noting that in this version the female lead’s name is not Cecilia, but Emanuelle! Franco’s cut is more tonally consistent with the narrative, making the rape in the movie play out with a darker tone to it and it works better overall making its inclusion quite important.

    The sixteen-minute Amoral Fantasies is an interview with Stephen Thrower, author of Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema Of Jesus Franco, where he talks about the film's original title, the production history of the film and how after doing business in Spain it was then purchased by Eurocine who changed the film around a bit. He then speculates about why Eurocine changed what they did, the different titles that they gave it once they got their hands on it, before going on to talk about the cast and the characters in the picture, the director's relationship with Antonio Mayans, having to shoot the nude horseback scene in Portugal rather than Spain, the quality of the locations and compositions on display in the film, the use of abstract music and what it brings to the production, and the depiction and exploration of the rape motif in the film. It’s a very interesting look into the film’s themes.

    Also well worth your time is Franco-Philes: Musings On Madrid’s B-Movie Maverick, a sixty-eight-minute documentary examining the career of Jess Franco that is comprised over interviews with author and critic John Martin, author and critic Rachael Nisbet, author and publisher Andy Black, Stiges International Film Festival Director Mike Hostench, Eurocine's CEO Daniel Lesoeur, former Fangoria main man Tony Timpone, Starburst Magazine assistant editor Martin Unsworth, Brunel University's Julian Petley, actress Caroline Munro, actress Dyanne Thorne, actor Howard Maurer and actor Antonio Mayans. This covers quite a bit of ground, giving an overview and history of the director’s career as well as discussion of the themes are explored routinely throughout his work, some of the regular players he was involved with throughout his career, his ability to hop from genre to genre, his innate desire to work well into this golden years and his place in the pantheons of horror and other genres.

    Carried over from the aforementioned DVD release is a seventeen minutes video interview with Jess Franco entitled Sexual Aberrations Of Cecilia. Here Franco talks with his usual blunt honesty about the name of the film, its alternate title, its cast and about shooting the film on location in Portugal. Interestingly enough he makes it quite clear that he doesn't like the Cecilia title, stating that the film Cecilia 'does not exist.'

    Rounding out the extras are a still gallery, a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options.

    Cecilia – The Final Word:

    Blue Underground gives Jess Franco’s Cecilia an excellent Blu-ray release, presenting this oddly poetic entry in the director’s filmography in beautiful shape and with some very welcome extra features, highlighted by the inclusion of the original director’s cut of the film. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Cecilia screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      I noted this elsewhere, but it's interesting that the Aberraciones Sexuales De Una Mujer Casata cut also features the Eurocine "Cecilia" title card on this release.
    1. Stephen's Avatar
      Stephen -
      Yes, that was surprising. I think what they did here is, they edited the Eurocine HD master according to the old Spanish VHS and used the sound from that VHS.

      My favorite edit is still the one released on German VHS, it uses all the original footage from the Portugal shoot and omits only the additional French material. Would be great if they had released this cut as I think this is the one Franco prepared originally, but they probably had no complete Spanish dub for it, so that wasn't possible.

      Anyway, I'm pretty happy with this BD release.