Cruel Passion (1977)(aka Justine)
Director: Chris Boger
Cast: Koo Stark, Lydia Lisle, Ann Michelle
Novel: Justine, or Good Conduct Well Chastised
The Marquis De Sade
England, late 18th century, Juliette (Lydia Lisle) and her younger sister Justine (Koo Stark) are thrown out of their convent sanctuary after their father commits suicide. Their father has left them some money, but the mother superior and the pastor try to steal what little the girls have. But as both Justine and Juliette have been subjected to the perversions of their fellow worshipers, Juliette is able to extract the money from the tight grasp of the mother superior. So with their little coin and no guardians, the sexually experienced Juliette decides to take her innocent, naive, virtuous little sister with her to work in a London whorehouse.
Justine is greatly disturbed by this idea, but has no choice but to follow here sister. Being females of their time and nuns, they have few choices. They are slaves of their time, slaves of the church, and at best, expected to become slave wives of some rich merchants. The only other option for girls to survive in their position is prostitution. So off to London they go. On their way they meet a young soldier, whom eventually falls for Juliette after being her first customer and procurer of her virginity at the whorehouse. After, that is, their instruction on the pleasures of the flesh, with the help of the resident male whore George (Barry McGinn), whose pleasures are received by both male and female visitors equally. Juliette relishes this tutoring, as George is reputed to have a prodigious member and is prone to numerous violent discharges. But here Justine decides to flee from the whorehouse and life of depravity and while doing so commits what her virtuous mind believes is her first sin. She returns home to the supposed sanctity of the church to the guise of the home of the priest who buried her parents
The priest is mentally tortured by Justine presence, beauty, virtue and attractiveness. Before long he is drunk, disturbed and has depraved thoughts on his mind and attempts to seduce the virtuous Justine. Justine endeavors to escape his lascivious grasp and in doing so commits her second sin. She flees from the scene only to be entangled further in her inadvertent life of crime.
Justine is kidnapped and led into the criminal way, by a quartet of body snatchers, thieves, murderers and rapists. She has already committed several crimes against her beliefs, her teachings and her fellow beings, which greatly weighs on her mind. And to escape the grasp of these criminals will have to commit a third. The matriarch of these criminals Bonny (Hope Jackman) gains Justine’s confidence, but herself has more assaults on Justine’s virtue in mind. They force Justine to drop another stain on her virtue. By now Justine has under great pressure committed three crimes and believes her virtue lost.
Juliette is troubled by the absence of her sister and sends her seemingly gallant soldier to find Justine and return her to her loving bosom. The soldier tries his best to carry out Juliette’s wishes, but has a small problem of his own to conquer.
Based on the relentlessly brutal novel by The Marquis De Sade. The abuses herein are a bit anorexic compared to the novel, but in all, I believe, this is a good representation of the De Sade novel. I was surprised to see so much Sadean philosophy in it. Even including a few of scenes which one would expect from De Sade novel, I would never have expected to make into a British adaptation of his work. But if one is not familiar with De Sade, there are enough abuses for a messy introduction to his work. And this would certainly be a recommended as a less brutal introduction before proceeding to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Saló, 1975 (aka 120 Days Of Sodom), The Marquis’ monumental, relentlessly brutal cataloging of sexual perversions. If that is, one had the desire to view these works, which are by no means for everyone. As a strong mind and great deal of objectivity is needed.
Unfortunately this film may get dumped in beside a great deal of UK sex films that were made during the 1970’s. This would be very unfortunate, as I believe it is a much greater film than those of this genre are. There is much more in here than nudity. There is no sex farce, no exploitation (in the production of the film that is, there is always exploitation of characters by other characters in a De Sade novel) and not really any unnecessary nudity that would not be expected in an existence such as this. There are many more displays of Sadean philosophies against lies and hypocrisy on display here, than there is of Koo Stark’s charms.
During the process of Justine’s psychological and philosophical struggle there are several scenes, which journey into the tortured mind of the virtuous girl, whether awake or asleep. These scenes are perfectly frightening, surrealistic and reveal greatly the confused state of Justine’s mind. And for a British film of the time they are extremely potent, scenes, which are as good as similar scenes in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1964) or Rosemary’s Baby(1968).
The quartet of criminals are perfect Sadean bad guys. They will kill anyone with no regard whatsoever to age or sex, and even have no respect for the dead, as is shown several times!
Koo Stark, I think, is brilliant as Justine, she plays her perfectly, innocent, naive, beautiful, and virtuous, which the Justine of the novel is. And as all the Jess Franco adaptations of De Sade’s work (of which there are several) are either banned here in the UK, or no company has bothered to release them (SALVATION FILMS PLEASE??!!), I have not had a chance to view them yet, and this is the only film version of Justine I have to go on. I do not know what the reaction to Koo Stark’s acting at the time was, in my small library and on the Internet I can find next to nothing about this film. But this being the first film I have seen with Koo playing a main character, I was very impressed. She just seems to portray the total embodiment of Justine.
As with information about the film I can find nothing about the director, Chris Boger. Was this a pseudonym, or the only film he made, or did the producers of this film want an exploitation film, when what they actually got was a great Sadean work? If this was Boger’s only film, it feels as if he has tried to do a faithful adaptation of a De Sade novel. If this is the case, and if this is also his only film I feel we have somewhere lost a great cinema auteur? Of course it is possible that I am wrong and the director’s name is a pseudonym for someone who directed some plumbers mates films or something, I do not know. Any information that anyone has on him would be greatly appreciated.
The film has great period detail is beautifully shot and has some perfectly timed, wonderful pieces of classical music throughout, including several pieces from Richard Wagner, and Antonio Vivaldi. And though the word enjoyment and De Sade do not usually go hand in hand, for the amount of Sadean philosophies that actually made it into the film, I was very pleased. Pleased also that it was not just a shallow British representation of De Sade’s work, used just to show nudity and lesbian nuns. Not that I would slag off a lesbian nun film, I mean who on earth would? Just the fact that a nunsploitation movie has lesbian nuns in it, is a representation that Sade himself would have relished, as it exposes hypocrisy and lies in the Catholic church, an area which The Marquis was a great forerunner in.
Review By Giovanni Pistachio. Giovanni can be contacted at: –
© Owned Giovanni Pistachio.