Marquis De Sade’s Justine (4K Collector’s Edition Review)

Donatien Alphonse François de Sade, better known as the Marquis de Sade, is perhaps one of the most infamous and controversial writers of all time. Considered to be a perverted and depraved mind, his works included novels, short stories, plays, dialogues, and political tracts. A notorious figure in the history of the French Revolution, his writing somehow has survived hundreds of years, and back in the ’60s even found its way into film. 

Adapted by some filmmakers, perhaps the most memorable of these came from legendary Spanish Director Jess Franco (Count Dracula 1978, Oasis of the Zombies 1981). Franco, who is well-known for his outside the mainstream filmmaking ranging from Horror to Exploitation, over the course of five plus decades directed a novel size list of films. Passing on in 2013 at the age of 82, had he lived a few more years, he probably would have found his way to the two-hundred film milestone. Anyway, Franco had an interest in de Sade’s work, and one of his most recalled adaptations would have to be the 1969 film Marquis De Sade’s Justine.

Franco’s highest budget film at the time, upon its release it was heavily censored, and to some, an uneven telling of de Sade’s 1791 novel Justine. This as it may be, it found its way to DVD back in 2003-04, and in 2023, Blue Underground offered it as a special 4K release. Released on February 21, 2023, the two-disc set comes with both the original uncensored version (restored in 4K) and the alternate Deadly Sanctuary cut (in HD). It also includes all-new commentary tracks by film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth, interviews with director Franco, writer/producer Harry Alan Towers, star Rosalba Neri and critic Steven Thrower, a French theatrical trailer, as well as newly expanded image galleries.

Marquis De Sade’s Justine / Blue Underground

All these factors in mind, the boldest aspect of this release is the restored 4K transfer, which is nothing less than stunning. Vivid in color, crispier and brighter in imaginary, the restored from the original camera negatives really brings the beauty of Franco’s filmmaking style to life in a whole new way. In fact, it only highlights Franco’s delicate use of color, lighting, and camera angles that much more. 

Which leads us to the plot of Marquis De Sade’s Justine. As mentioned, some feel it is not the sincerest adaptation of de Sade’s original novel. However, the original novel might be a little too disturbing for many. That said, Franco and Towers create a film that is not as perverse and extreme as one might think. Yes, there is gratuitous nudity at times, images of bondage, and other immoral ideas, but in truth, you cannot help but feel the story is more tragic than anything else. 

Without giving this tell away to those who are not informed, it follows Justine (Romina Power) who is cast out of a French orphanage with her sister Juliette (Maria Rohm) and thrust into the world with nothing. Juliette unfortunately takes to a world of crime and deception, where Justine tries her best to steer clear of such vices. Tragically, Justine is thrown into situation after situation where liars, thieves, manipulators, and murderers are looking to take advantage of her at each turn. Uneasy to witness, the light amidst the darkness is that Justine is seemingly incorruptible and, despite all attempts of breaking her, remains pure at heart. What does this mean? It means there is a moral to Franco’s film, intended or unintended, that is far deeper than some critics may tell you. 

All in all, the 4K Collector’s Edition of Marquis De Sade’s Justine is well worth investing in. From the restoration into brilliant 4K to the rediscovery of a forgotten Jess Franco film, Cryptic Rock gives Blue Undergrounds two-disc sets of Marquis De Sade’s Justine 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Marquis De Sade’s Justine / Blue Underground

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