Plot: What’s it about?
Justine (Romina Power) is a nubile young virgin, a beautiful woman who finds herself in some harsh conditions. After she was cast out of her French orphanage, Justine lands in a world of sin, carnal desires, and sadistic lovers. Her friend Juliette (Maria Rohm) was also forced to leave the orphanage, but she chose to become a prostitute, while Justine decided to live life on her own, which meant almost constant hardship. But she has some ups, as she lucks into some resources, though they’re taken from her just as quickly, leaving her troubled once again. As her adventure progresses, she runs into some demanding lesbians, winds up branded & beaten as part of a sexual conquest, and even ends up involved in cases of murder & rape. In other words, this once innocent virgin has taken a darker path, though she hasn’t been totally corrupted just yet. But when she stumbles into Antonin (Jack Palance), a sadistic and totally insane monk, perhaps her innocence will be banished from her forever…
This movie has the usual Jess Franco (Eugenie, Vampyros Lesbos) trimmings, with a wealth of beautiful naked women and terrific attention to production detail, but in the end, it simply fails to fulfill its potential. The performances of Klaus Kinski and Jack Palance are fun at times, but sometimes wooden, especially in Palance’s case. Of course, one could just watch all the naked beauties on showcase, but unlike most of Franco’s period piece pictures, Justine features some dismal photography. The soft focus goes a little overboard at times, leaving detail blurred somewhat and be honest, who wants these naked chicks blurred? Justine also just doesn’t seem to have the same level of production values, as Franco is often able to do much with little, but here, it all seems rather bland. The pace is slow and the movie is rather dull at times, but with better camera presence, it would have been a decent flick. As it stands, even in this uncut & uncensored edition (complete with half an hour of restored footage), its hard for me to recommend this to anyone outside of rabid Franco fanatics.
If there was a role that needed the sheer mania of Klaus Kinski, it would be the Marquis de Sade, so it is fun to watch him here. He is sometimes upstaged by a certain costar’s outlandish effort, but Kinski is good here, in a solid performance. I know some might be let down because Kinski isn’t all out insane here, but he has some moments and in truth, his restraint really enhances the performance, no doubt about it. He is able to bring a well rounded, well crafted effort in Justine, instead of just an off the wall presence, which I think would have lessened the movie, if not just Kinski’s portion. This is his kind of movie and while he could have sleepwalked & been good, Kinski opted to give the role his full attention instead. Other films with Kinski include Nosferatu, Grand Slam, Jack the Ripper, Cobra Verde, and Aguirre: The Wrath of God. The cast also includes Romina Power (The Insatiables, Perversion Story), Maria Rohm (The Nights of Dracula, Eugenie), and Jack Palance (Chato’s Land, City Slickers).
Video: How does it look?
Justine is presented in a 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I’ve seen this film on video before and it was abysmal, the image was overly soft and dull, which left me very displeased, to say the least. But in this new edition, Blue Underground supplies a sharp and crisp image that is simply unbelievable. The print has minimal debris and even grain proves to be infrequent, which is a far cry from that video version I had seen. A lot of the shots are now sharper, revealing more detail and allowing us to fully appreciate the visuals, which is important here, since we’re dealing with naked women. The colors and contrast also look terrific here, I have to commend Blue Underground greatly for their work on this release.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio here is presented via a mono option, which sounds solid in all respects, though it does show some signs of wear. The vocals sound canned, but that’s to be expected here and on the whole, it isn’t much of a problem. The music isn’t too good in most instances, but it is well presented here and sound effects, while thin, come across well enough. Not a robust track, but a decent one and given the age & nature of the material involved here, I’d say Blue Underground has given us a more than acceptable treatment.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes an interview with Franco & producer Harry Alan Towers, a talent file on Franco, a gallery of posters & stills, and the film’s theatrical trailer.