• Madame Claude (Cult Epics) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Cult Epics
    Released on: February 9th, 2021.
    Director: Just Jaeckin
    Cast: Francoise Fabian, Klaus Kinski, Dayle Haddon, Murray Head
    Year: 1977
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    Madame Claude – Movie Review:

    Made hot on the heels of box office sensations Emmanuelle and The Story Of O, director Just Jaeckin’s third film, 1977’s Madame Claude (which was based on the book of the same name by Jacques Quoirez and released in the United States originally under the alternate title of The French Woman) stars the beautiful Françoise Fabian in the titular lead role. She’s a well-to-do member of the jet set who operates a prostitution ring that supplies only the most beautiful women to only the most prestigious of clients.

    David Evans (Murray Head) is the photographer who has been chasing her all over the place getting pictures of a dubious nature and causing quite an international scandal. When he gets a few shots that incriminate American President Howard (Robert Webber) in a deal involving Claude and a Japanese businessman, the tension ratchets up. Evans keeps in the loop by courting the lovely Anne-Marie (Vibeke Knudsen-Bergeron), one of the women in Claude’s employ. When Madame Claude figures out who David is and what he’s been up to, she decides to use him to basically blackmail some of her most important clients. While this is going on, Claude is also grooming lovely young Elizabeth (Dayle Haddon) and preparing her to work with clients such as the mysterious Alexander Zakis (Klaus Kinski).

    When David’s work comes back to haunt him, he finds himself pursued by those working for some very powerful figures, at which point things get very dangerous indeed…

    Set against a fantastic score from none other than Serge Gainsbourg (and featuring a song entitled Yesterday Yes A Day sung by then muse Jane Birkin), Madame Claude features plenty of sex and skin but isn’t the scintillating slice of erotica that his earlier two films were. Rather, it mixes the sexual elements with heavy doses of drama, character development and conspiracy theory elements to make for a movie that is as much a political thriller as it is a softcore sex film. It works, and quite well at that, effectively keeping the audience engaged for the duration of its running time and providing a few nice twists and turns along the way.

    The visuals are impressive throughout. There’s a softness inherent in some of the scenes, clearly meant as a stylistic choice, but the cinematography is frequently lush and beautiful. Performances are pretty strong across the board (at least when watched in the original French language, the English dubbing doesn’t do the film any favors, though parts of the film do appear to have been shot without live sound and seem dubbed regardless of which language option you go for), with both Fabian and Head doing fine work here. Those watching the film for Kinski’s presence should know in advance that although his role is an important one, it’s also a supporting one. He’s only in the film for a few minutes but he definitely makes the most of his limited screen time!

    Madame Claude – Blu-ray Review:

    Taken from a brand new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative supervised by cinematographer Robert Fraisse and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc framed at 1.66.1 widescreen, Madame Claude looks really nice on region free Blu-ray from Cult Epics. Colors are reproduced nicely and while black levels do sometimes look closer to a very dark grey than a true black, it's a safe assumption given Faisse’s supervision of the transfer that this is how it is supposed to look. Regardless, detail is strong throughout and the picture always looks nice and filmic. There are no issues with any obvious noise reduction, edge enhancement or noise reduction and overall Cult Epics has done a really nice job here.

    Audio options are offered in 24-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono and 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono in French and in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono in English. Optional subtitles are included that translate the French track. Both of the lossless French options sound quite nice, giving Gainsbourg’s score some appreciable depth. Levels are balanced and the tracks are clean. The English track doesn’t sound quite as full but it’s fine for a lossy option, it too is clean and properly balanced.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary by Jeremy Richey, the Author of the upcoming book Sylvia Kristel: From Emmanuelle to Chabrol. It’s a nice dissection of the film, covering how Jaeckin came to adapt the book for the screen, offering details on the source material and the ‘real life’ story that inspired it, providing insight into the different cast and crew members that worked on the picture and quite a bit more. Overall, it proves to be quite interesting.

    Cult Epics also provides a new interview with Just Jaeckin shot in 2020 that runs for twenty-minutes. Here the director talks about his background as a photographer and how that helped him when he made the switch to filmmaking, adapting the source material and details on the real Madame Clade, and what it was like working not only with the infamously difficult Kinski but with Gainsbourg and Birkin as well.

    Finishing up the extras on the disc are a vintage French theatrical trailer, a still gallery, trailers for a few other Cult Epics releases (Death Laid An Egg, P.O. Box Tinto Brass, Paprika, The Lickerish Quartet, Camille 2000, Blue Movie and My Nights With Susan, Sandra, Olga & Julie), menus and chapter selection options.

    The first pressing of this release also comes with some nice double-sided cover sleeve art.

    Madame Claude - The Final Word:

    Madame Claude may not be as blatantly erotic as some of Just Jaekin’s better known films but it’s a well-made picture that tells an interesting and engaging story and which features some gorgeous visuals and strong performances. Cult Epics has done a great job bringing this underappreciated entry in the director’s filmography to Blu-ray with a strong presentation and a nice array of supplements.

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

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Barry M's Avatar
      Barry M -
      I'm kind of tempted, so thanks for the review. Interesting article from 2014 Vanity Fair (cameos by Yvonne Romain and Joan Collins). Fabian was pretty harsh:

      Une femme terrible” was how she described Claude. “She despised men and women alike. Men were wallets. Women were holes.” They had their first meeting at Au Petit Marguery, a classic bourgeois restaurant, “woman to woman,” Fabian recalled. Claude was both self-deprecating and arrogant. “Nobody knows me. But I know everybody,” she told Fabian. “She was like a slave driver on a plantation in the American South,” Fabian said. “Once she took a girl on, the makeover put the girl in debt, because Claude paid all the bills, to Dior, Vuitton, to the hairdressers, to the doctors, and the girls had to work to pay them off. It was sexual indentured servitude. Claude took 30 percent. She would have taken more, but she said the girls would have cheated if she did.”

    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      Quote Originally Posted by Barry M View Post
      I'm kind of tempted, so thanks for the review. Interesting article from 2014 Vanity Fair (cameos by Yvonne Romain and Joan Collins). Fabian was pretty harsh:


      This was a fantastic article. Thanks!