• The Garden Of Torment (Nucleus Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Nucleus Films
    Released on: May 10th, 2021.
    Director: Christian Gion
    Cast: Roger Van Hool, Jacqueline Kerry, Tony Taffin,
    Ysabelle Lacamp
    Year: 1976
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    The Garden Of Torment – Movie Review:

    Adapted by Pascal Lainé from Octave Mirbeau 1899 novel, director Christian Gion's 1976 film, The Garden Of Torment (Le jardin des supplices in the film's native France) takes place in the 1920’s. It’s here that we meet Antoine Durrieu (Roger Van Hool), a young doctor whose been essentially kicked out of his native France for helping cocaine addicts get a fix. When we meet him, he’s naked in the bedroom with a pair of prostitutes bathing themselves. It’s safe to say that Antoine’s interests are a little less orthodox than most doctors.

    Regardless, when he’s sent off to Canton to fill in for a missing doctor named Rouel he meets a beautiful woman named Clara (Jacqueline Kerry) and her associate Annie (Ysabelle Lacamp) on the boat ride to his destination. Antonine and Clara hit it off and head out on a date one night, and we learn that she's got a strange kink when she starts to have a sexual fantasy about torture. The photos of corpses that she has around her room would back this up. It turns out that Annie is the daughter of Mr. Greenhill (Tony Taffin). She lives with him, as does Annie, in a massive garden estate and he makes a very good living for himself as the man in charge of customs and entry in Canton.

    When Antoine learns that rather than properly treating people for various tropical diseases that the local populace has simply been injected with needles full of water, he takes it upon himself to do what he can to ensure that people get proper medical treatment. As he goes about getting his practice set up, he also develops a taste for the local prostitutes and winds up spending a lot of his spare time in houses of ill repute. The more he looks into the improper medical practices that have been going on, however, the more it looks like it might tie into Greenhill, all while his relationship with Clara grows more intense.

    An interesting mix of horror and erotic that takes some well-deserved pot shots at European colonialism, The Garden Of Torment is a visually sumptuous film that offers up some remarkably strong visuals, kinky sex and decent acting as well. While the cinematography from Lionel Legros frequently steals the show, Roger Van Hool is interesting to watch here. His character starts off as an aloof, playboy type. Obviously the deeper he gets drawn into all of this, the more his outlook starts to change, but at the same time, he’s got no problem whatsoever with sampling all that the brothels and local prostitutes have to offer. Jacqueline Kerry, how never acted in a film after this movie was made, is beautiful and has an interesting screen presence. She doesn’t show a ton of range but she’s well-cast in her role and definitely has the right look for the part. Ysabelle Lacamp, who appeared in Emmanuelle 2 and starred alongside Jean-Paul Belmondo in The Outsider, is also very attractive and well-cast. She handles her role quite easily and her character is interesting to watch thanks to her alluring presence and unique appearance. Tony Taffin plays the mysterious Mr. Greenhill very well too, he’s got the right look and the right pompous, snooty vibe to his appearance that makes him perfect for the part.

    Thought the movie might be all over the place in terms of its tone, it’s a seriously strange and always compelling mix of sex, sadism, horror and hedonism.

    The Garden Of Torment – Blu-ray Review:

    Nucleus Films brings The Garden Of Torment to region free Blu-ray in its original uncensored French version in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen with the feature taking up 22.6GBs of space on the 25GB disc. The picture looks quite good, with nice color reproduction and strong black levels. Some scenes seem to have been intentionally shot with a slightly soft look but detail is generally pretty strong here and the image is very clean, showing no problems with any print damage, dirt or debris. Compression artifacts do pop up in some of the darker sequences but other than that, no complaints here, the picture quality is pretty solid.

    The French language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 mono track sounds really good. Optional subtitles are provided in English and English SDH. The score sounds excellent and the dialogue is always nice and clean. The levels are properly balanced and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion to note.

    Extras begin with an audio commentary with popular culture expert and author David Flint, editor of The Reprobate. He talks about the different titles that the film was known under, the light-hearted feeling of the opening scene and how it contrasts to the rest of the film, how erotic films were easily financed during this period in Europe and France in particular, the influence of pictures of like Emmanuelle and The Story Of O, thoughts and details on the source novel and the screenplay, some of the political themes that are explored in the story, how Gion always ensures that something interesting is happening on screen even when there isn't any sex or nudity happening, whether or not the film really qualifies as an erotic movie and plenty of info on the different cast members that pop up in the movie. He also goes over the differences between the lifestyles of the Eastern and Western characters in the movie, thoughts on the way that certain characters are depicted in the movie and why, the advertising campaign created for the movie, the mainstreaming of erotic cinema in the seventies and quite a bit more. It's a good track, well thought out and interesting to listen to.

    The disc also includes an interview with director Christian Gion that runs twenty-nine minutes. He talks about where he got the idea for the film from, the original source novel that the film was based on and the screenplay that came out of it, how he looked at adapting the story as a challenge, what it was like working with the cast and crew assembled for the picture, how he was excited to be out of his comfort zone while making the film, the different locations that were used in the picture, how the film did at the box office, how he (surprisingly) didn't run into censorship issues, the use of music in the film, why he feels more comfortable making comedic films, his education and some of the films that he made after Garden Of Torment. It's quite an interesting interview and you have to respect the fact that he comes across as completely honest and sincere when evaluating his own films.

    Additionally, look for a nice still gallery, a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection options.

    Nucleus also packages this with a nice reversible cover sleeve featuring two different versions of the film’s theatrical poster and, inside the keepcase alongside the disc, there’s a neat postcard insert with a third poster art variation.

    The Garden Of Torment – The Final Word:

    The Garden Of Torment is a strange mix of arthouse style, erotica and horror but it’s a genuinely fascinating film in its own odd way. The production values are strong and the visuals are consistently impressive, and the film features some pretty decent acting as well. Nucleus’ Blu-ray release is a good one, presenting the film in nice shape and with some extras that provide some welcome historical context for the picture. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full-sized The Garden Of Torment screen caps!