Marquis de Sade's Philosophy in the Boudoir (Eugenie) [Blu-ray 4K]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Blue Underground
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (26th February 2023).
The Film

"There are thorns everywhere; but along the path of vice, roses bloom above them."

Sixteen-year-old Eugenie (The Secret of Dorian Gray's Marie Liljedahl) is ripe for the plucking… by sexual predators, that is. Feeling oppressed by her mother (Tenemos 18 años' María Luisa Ponte), she comes to hero worship the beautiful and sophisticated socialite Marianne Saint Ange (99 Women's Maria Rohm) who invites her to spend the weekend at her island villa for an erotic education. Marianne facilitates Eugenie's ability to get away from her mother's watchful eye by seducing her father (Nightmare Castle's Paul Muller) in a bit of role play at an exclusive Madeira brothel. Also eagerly anticipating Eugenie's arrival is Marianne's stepbrother Mirvel (The Ninth Gate' Jack Taylor) who is looking for a little diversion from his pseudo-incestuous relationship with his "stepsister". Still an innocent in spite of her insistence that she is old enough to do what she wants, Eugenie is up for nude bathing and tanning with Marianne – along with the occasional kiss and nuzzle – but anything more carnal than naive discussion of the philosophy of the Marquis de Sade occurs under the influence of drugs and Eugenie can no longer be sure whether her experiences ("So cruel… but wonderful too") are real or imagined. What she does not realize are the real motives behind her "journey into perversion" that go further than kinky diversions.

A decidedly "moral" take on the Marquis de Sade's own titular philosophical dialogue interspersed with increasingly explicit and sometimes brutal sexual episodes, Jess Franco's Philosophy in the Boudoir – variously known as "Eugenie… the Story of Her Journey into Perversion", "De Sade 70", "The Virgin and the Whip", or just "Eugenie" (not to be confused with Franco's subsequent Eugenie which was an adaptation of Sade's novella "Eugenie de Franval") – was one of a handful of collaborations between Franco and producer Harry Alan Towers (who scripted under the name "Peter Welbeck"), an initially fruitful partnership that saw Franco working with relatively high budgets and a higher class of jobbing actors including Christopher Lee who would headline Franco's and Towers' The Bloody Judge, The Blood of Fu Manchu, The Castle of Fu Manchu, and the culmination of their partnership Count Dracula. Lee is Dolmance, the homosexual chief instructor in Eugenie's perverse education in Sade's dialogue; but, in Franco's film, he is sort of a "master of ceremonies" of a Hellfire Club-type cult of Sade disciples that look like hippies in period dress. Never sharing the frame with any of the main cast due to his availability – Lee was rumored to have replaced George Sanders who had appeared in Franco's and Towers' Sax Rohmer adaptation The Girl from Rio – he is here the audience's guide, quoting from Sade to the viewer, sometimes in voice-over as he dispassionately observes offscreen and reverse-angle debauchery (Lee claimed that all of the erotic activity was shot later or, literally, behind his back), and only during the climax addressing the other characters through clever cutting as he provides both a Sadean twist on the proceedings and then a more conventional moral "punishment." Inga sensation Liljedahl's Eugenie is not the willing acolyte of the source but comely prey and ultimately a dupe in a charade (singular) of Marianne's; and, indeed, Rohm's take on Madame Saint Ange is the true highlight – more so than her mere "presence" as Franco's Venus in Furs – cool more than cold, slapping and then tenderly kissing deaf/mute maid Therese (Uta Dahlberg), turning on and off balladeer boatman Augustin (Anney Kablan) like a phonograph, and reminding her "immature" brother of his vows to "the order" who at first seems boyishly immature beyond his years and later dangerously psychotic.

If the post-dubbed, cutting room-constructed narrative seems a bit listless, it is buoyed along by striking color scope photography of Manuel Merino (Horror Rises from the Tomb) – which makes use of dollies and cranes rather than Franco's trademark probing zooms – nudity that seems so much more explicit in widescreen and richly-saturated color than the usual black and white or muddy color American nudist and roughie Pussycat Theater-bound flicks of the period, and the jazzy, brassy score of Bruno Nicolai (A Virgin Among the Living Dead) which for decades was much easier to hear than the film was to see. Fortunately, the imposed morality of the twist ending – Sadean as the reversal is as it consigns the resistant initiate to suffering that may or may not be "rewarded" in the afterlife – is subverted by a seemingly nonsensical circular ending that may suggest that this is just one of a number of possibilities imagined by the antihero and that the possibility of such a fate tickles their masochistic fancy to extremes. The moral approach of an innocent and duped Eugenie extended not only to Franco's subsequent reworkings – including Wicked Memoirs of Eugenie and the pornographic Cocktail Special, How to Seduce a Virgin as well as The Perverse Countess and Tender Flesh (both owing as much to Richard O'Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game") and the deceptively-titled The Sexual Story of O – but also Towers' later adaptation of the same source material: the underrated Night Terrors, a production from former Cannon Films producers Yoram Globus and Christopher Pearce that was to be helmed by Gerry O'Hara (Fanny Hill) who disagreed over the casting of Robert Englund – in a dual role as De Sade and the modern day acolyte equivalent of Dolmance – whereupon Tobe Hooper took the reins (O'Hara was subsequently given The Mummy Lives, an adaptation of Poe's "Some Words with the Mummy" that started life with Ken Russell directing and Anthony Perkins slated for the lead, then Oliver Reed, and finally Tony Curtis). The softcore Italian The Sentimental Education of Eugenie was perhaps more faithful to Sade's source but thankfully elides the climax.


Released stateside as "Eugenie… the Story of Her Journey into Perversion" by Jerry Gross' Distinction Films, Philosophy in the Boudoir disappeared from circulation entirely with general sexploitaiton fans and Franco-philes having their appetites whetted by vintage reviews in Phil Hardy's Encyclopedia of the Horror Movies and Joe Dante's coverage reprinted in Video Watchdog until Blue Undergound announced it as one of their first DVD releases in 2002 followed by DVD releases inother territories of the same master. Blue Underground subsequently treated the film to a 4K remaster for Blu-ray in 2015 as a three-disc Blu-ray/DVD/CD soundtrack (the latter reproducing the first disc of Digitmovies 2-disc expanded edition) followed by a Blu-ray-only standard edition in 2020. That master made plainer the rough edges of the production including an overall softness of which one could on DVD blame on the resolution – particularly when upscaled on an HD monitor – but the greater "offense" was the cheap digital insertion of the title card in a plain font that seemed lazy compared to the admirable recreation of the U.S. poster title card that appeared on the DVD.

Blue Underground's new 2160p24 HEVC 2.35:1 widescreen UHD disc and 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 widescreen Blu-ray come from a brand new 4K scan, the former with Dolby Vision HDR metadata. The rough edges remain but the new presentation allows one to better assess what seems intentional and what seems to be the result of a rushed schedule – with Merino possibly lensing the film with an older camera and anamorphic lenses without a reflex viewer – as one could argue that a lot of the film's drifting focus of the lens is a deliberately disorienting effect of conveying the film's voyeuristic perspectives, the druggy nature of Eugenie's perception, and in some cases the camera being operated without a focus puller with the focus adjusted for the end point of a moving shot and not what comes in between (as in one shot where the camera pushes in close on Rohm who goes entirely out of focus as the camera then arcs around to reveal Taylor and Liljedahl on the bed in crisp focus). The greater resolution of the 4K presentation and even the more considered grading of the Blu-ray now reveal faces lit with red color gels where once it appeared as though there as was a red filter in front of the lens (as there may be in some shots). The superior delineation of color enhances depth as shadow detail falls off into true blacks. Out-of-focus shots can still be hard on the eyes but we now know this is no flaw of the negative or any digital filtering gone awry. Blue Underground has once again changed the title, but their rendition of "Marquis de Sade's Philosophy in the Boudoir" at least looks more like the font of the rest of the title sequence (more so than one of the foreign DVDs that bore that title).


The previous Blu-ray included an English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track as the sole audio option along with optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles. The UHD and new Blu-ray carry over the English track in addition to the French dub in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. The latter may seem to better suit the source material but the English track features the post-dubbed voices of Lee and Taylor, and the rest of the dubbing is of the usual higher standards of the Towers and Franco films (compared to the later Eurociné pics). The disc once again features optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.


Extras start off with a brand new audio commentary by film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth who note the uncredited presences of Bruno Nicolai/Ennio Morricone collaborators guitarist/choral director Alessandro Alessandroni and vocalist Edda dell'Orso on the soundtrack, discuss the likelihood of Lee truly being unaware about the kinky content, question how much of the film is shot by Merino and how much by Franco, the "softening" of both the source in the adaptation and the photographic image – suggesting that the out-of-focus shots may have been preferable to Franco over gauze in front of the lens, and Towers' complaints about the photography – the need to give the film's protagonist a character arc lacking in the source, and parallels with another captive woman film in Umberto Lenzi's Orgasmo, and the film as an example of metanarrative.

Carried over from the DVD is "Perversion Stories" (17:32) featuring Franco, Towers, and actors Liljedahl and Lee. Franco recalls being happy with Towers' adaptation since the Sade dialogue could not be faithfully adapted, Towers recalls meeting Franco and casting the film, Lee recalls being asked to appear in the film as a favor and bringing along his Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace smoking jacket – in addition to claiming that the reverse angles were not what he saw on the set and filmed later as well as being surprised to hear his name was on an X-rated theater marquee – while Liljedahl notes a common theme in her filmography of innocent youth being sexually exploited.

Carried over from the Blu-ray is "Stephen Thrower on Eugenie" (18:09) in which the author of "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco" notes the choice to set the adaptation in modern day after Justine, giving its perversions and danger a greater immediacy to audiences while also paying homage to the story's period and the costume drama trappings with the secret order's clothing, substituting the principle of Christian suffering that guided Justine through her adventures with manipulation and drugs. Thrower also discusses Franco's evolving visual style and the use of locations seen in later Franco films.

Also new to this edition is "Jack Taylor in the Francoverse" (24:43) in which Taylor recalls meeting Franco through Eurociné producer Marius Lasoeur and doing Succubus with Janine Reynaud and Seimens heir Pier A. Caminnecci – misidentified in a caption with a still of co-producer/actor Adrian Hoven (Inga is also misidentified in a caption as a 1973 release) – meeting Towers, Rohm, and the late Soledad Miranda as well as the difficulties of the shoot (along with the rumors in Spain that he was appearing in a "porno").

The theatrical trailer (3:25) has been digitally re-created in HD, and like the trailer on the previous Blu-ray it again does a different but equally plain recreation of the title card even though the original trailer as seen on the Blue Underground DVD bore the "Marquis de Sade's Philosophy in the Boudoir" title card (looking fancier than it does here), as well as a greatly-expanded poster & still gallery.


The editorial confusion carries over to the packaging which has the "Philosophy in the Boudoir" title on the handsome black slipcover while the cover art uses the "Eugenie... The Story of Her Journey into Perversion" with a design that is virtually identical to the 2015 cover artwork.


While not a massive upgrade over the previous Blu-ray, Blue Underground's UHD/Blu-ray of Philosophy in the Bouodir is still a most pleasurable means of taking a Jess Franco-guided "journey into perversion."


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