...aka: Eugénie de Franval
...aka: Eugenie de Sade
...aka: Eugénie de Sade
...aka: Eugenie Sex Happening
The opening credits, which don't waste any time getting right down to the nitty gritty by having a full-blown lesbian scene going on as names splash across the screen, state this is "based on a novel by the Marquis de Sade." That novel is "Eugénie de Franval," something I haven't read. And while I can't speak for this film as an adaptation (the 18th century tale has been moved to a modern day setting), I do know enough about de Sade to say this does justice to certain Sadean themes, such as finding exhilaration and comfort in the sexually forbidden and romanticism in cruelty, torture and death. The lesbian scene that opens the film is interrupted when a man comes into the room, one of the women leaves, the man acts as if he's going to make love to the other woman and then suddenly strangles her to death. All of this turns out to be a home movie that was filmed by a pair of serial killers. The man screening it is a reporter by the name of Attila Tanner (played by director/writer Franco under the name "Franco Manera"). Attila follows the viewing with a trip to the hospital to visit a mortally wounded young woman named Eugénie Radeck ("Susan Korday"/ Soledad Miranda), the female accomplice seen in the film, and listens to her deathbed confession, which is then recounted for us.
Eugénie (whose mother died just days after giving birth to her) lives in a large, snowbound home in Germany with her stepfather Albert (Paul Muller), a well-known and controversial erotica writer. Completely infatuated in a decidedly unhealthy way with the man who has raised her since birth (and vice versa), Eugénie begins sneaking into his library to read his sexually-sadistic books and finds herself becoming intrigued. She tauntingly exposes herself to him; giving him glimpses of her legs, staring intently and hanging on his every word. Albert tells her of the pleasures to be had in inflicting pain upon others and wants her to experience it first hand, so he arranges for Eugénie to accompany him on a French press tour. The two sneak a flight over to Brussels, hire a nude model (Alice Arno) and dear old dad takes pictures while his daughter murders her. The two return home, pick up a hitchhiker and then smother her to death, making passionate love after it's all over. Before long, the two have claimed a handful of victims, sinking their bodies in a nearby ice-covered lake. For an encore, Albert wants Eugenie to seduce a man, make him fall in love with her, break his heart and then kill him; something he plans on filming. He selects an overly-sensitive, virginal jazz trumpeter named Paul ("Andre Montcall"/Andrés Monales) as their prey. Eugenie starts dating him and finds herself falling in love; which turns out to be the undoing of both father and daughter.
Yes, this is very distasteful, unsubtle, exploitative and sometimes disturbing material that not everyone is going to want to see, but it's still a worthwhile piece due to how it's executed. Franco manages to effectively capture the sick relationship between an intelligent, twisted, manipulative and jaded murderer and his equally warped, painfully subservient daughter while keeping true to the spirit of the source author by imbuing the film with a dreamy, (very) darkly erotic feel. He also manages to get good performances from his two leads. Muller is very good in his role but the beautiful Miranda really walks away with this one. She's often seen sitting in a fetal position, almost hugging herself, and gazing blankly at her father; someone she's almost elevated to God-like status in her own mind. Miranda manages to create a sort of tragic anti-heroine here, who's disturbed yet oddly naive and innocent all the same. Just looking at who raised her, and his motivations for doing so, is enough to make her a somewhat sympathetic figure regardless of the terrible things she ends up doing. Franco, on the other hand, is something of a minor debit in his acting role. Though important to the structure of the film, Franco himself is far too wooden to really bring the character, who seems to be stalking the father, to life.
This French/Liechtenstein co-production also boasts a haunting score from Bruno Nicolai, as well as superb cinematography from Manuel Merino, which primarily plays off whites and reds as the cold, wintery isolation of the Radeck home (where father and daughter live in their own little world) clashes with the red warmth of the jazz club (where Eugenie actually gets a chance to interact with others and potentially experience what a more 'normal' relationship is like). It's loaded with nudity and sex (though the director doesn't linger on it for a boring eternity like he does in some of his other films) and while there is some blood, there's no real effects work here. In other words, the blood is simply smeared on victims and that's that.
It was filmed in 1970, though IMDb claims it wasn't released until 1975. This wasn't Franco's first nor would it be his last trip to the de Sade well. He also made MARQUIS DE SADE: JUSTINE (1968), EUGENIE... THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION (1969), JULIETTE (1970; a film that went unfinished due to star Miranda's tragic passing in an auto accident), PLEASURE FOR THREE (1974), EROTIC SYMPHONY (1980), WICKED MEMOIRS OF EUGENIE (1980), CRIES OF PLEASURE (1983) and HELTER SKELTER (2000), all of which are said to have been based on de Sade's work. The unrated DVD is from Blue Underground.