• How To Seduce A Virgin

    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: October 8, 2013.
    Director: Jess Franco
    Cast: Robert Woods, Howard Vernon, Alice Arno, Lina Romay, Tania Busselier
    Year: 1973
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    The Movie:

    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. This turns them both on, and Adele even gets in on the action. 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 make the first score and gets her into 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 and it's a great example of the director's 'film as jazz' motif. There are long sex scenes here, a great strip tease towards the end bathed in red light courtesy of Ms. Arno and it all feels very free form. 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 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 and it's startling enticing to see her get all freaky with a mannequin. 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 and obsessive 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 shooting lovely ladies involved in various dirty deeds done dirt cheap, and really who doesn’t, this'll work just fine. The cast are all in great form, the movie is as bonkers as it is pants tighteningly hot and the look and sound of the movie is fantastic.


    Mondo Macabro presents How To Seduce A Virgin in a 1.33.1 fullframe transfer that generally looks very good indeed. Colors are bold and beautiful looking without seeming to have been boosted and detail is quite strong throughout, probably as good as you can get with standard definition. There are no issues with serious print damage (some specks here and there and a scratch or two but nothing outside of that) and the grain levels look nice and natural. Skin tones look lifelike, black levels are strong, texture is also quite good and contrast looks correct. There’s nothing to complain about here, the movie looks great.

    The only audio option on the disc is a French language Dolby Digital 2.0 track with optional subtitles provided in English only. Dialogue is clean and clear and everything is properly balanced. There aren’t any issues with hiss or distortion and all in all the movie sounds just fine on DVD. The score sounds really good here too and there's a fair bit of depth to the mix.

    Extras start off with 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 includes 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, some text biographies on the film’s six main stars and its screenwriter, a text essay on the film’s merits that compares it to Nikkatu’s Roman Porn pictures, menus and chapter.

    The Final Word:

    How To Seduce A Virgin is pretty great stuff even if a lot of times it feels like an exercise in style over substance. Will it convince those not already indoctrinated into the cult of Franco? No, probably not, but if you’re a fan you’ve figured out before getting to this point in the review that you need this. Mondo Macabro’s DVD presentation is a very nice one, there are some solid extras and the A/V quality is excellent. A must own for Franco-philes.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      I really like this film, but haven't yet seen a subtitled version. The caps look very nice. Thanks for the information, Ian Looking forward to getting this disc through my letterbox!