The Film (4/5)
Jess Franco died a little over one year ago now in April of 2013, as one of the last remaining auteurs of early EuroCult cinema it was a tragic loss, but being in his mid-80's, and having been in declining health for sometime it was hardly unexpected. If one is to find a silver lining in the dark cloud of Franco's tragic passing it would be that over his very long and prolific career the Spanish director left us with over 200 films (more if you qualify the varying cuts of some of his films) to explore and to enjoy for decades to come. Prior to his passing his films began to trickle on to the Blu-ray format with Redemption Films releasing his classics Female Vampire and Exorcism on to the format in October of 2012. However, it would be Ascot-Elite Films with their line of Franco Blu-ray's that have been keeping the maestro's work visible, and in very beautiful Blu-ray editions since late 2013. The series is working it's way down, and we have decided to go back, and review as many of these titles as time allows as these are some of the most gorgeous cult titles on the market, and they offer a great tribute to the late Jess Franco.
Doriana Grey (aka Die Marquise Von Sade) is one of Franco's more poetic films. The plot involves a journalist played by Monica Swinn intruding upon the isolated existence of the Lady Doriana Grey, a reclusive royal who lives in a mansion, and never shows herself to the public. Doriana is allegedly eternally youthful, and a lesbian, but is not able to experience sexual pleasure. This is in contrast to her twin sister, who experiences all the pleasure for the pair, and is driven mad because of this. The journalist soon becomes part of Doriana's world, learning about her background, and her daily life. She learns that not only does sex not give Doriana pleasure, but it deprives her partner of their life.
The film was made a few years after Female Vampire, and yet it feels more or less like a companion to that film. The atmosphere that Franco generates here is more non-linear than other films of the Dietrich period, making it feel like the films of his early 70’s period and the whole sex equals death element harkens back to the earlier Female Vampire plotwise. Simply put, if you were to the drain the overly supernatural elements from Female Vampire you would be close to having Doriana Grey.
Romay's performance in this film is one of her better ones, it is also one of her more explicit outings. Franco was known for not being a fan of making hardcore films, and with Doriana Grey he seems to have made the rare exception. He appears to have thrown all caution to the wind in regards to his dislike of crossing that line, because his direction here is some of the best of the era with the film feeling more like a natural Franco experience along the lines of the aforementioned Female Vampire or something akin to Lorna the Exorcist and Virgin Among the Living Dead where the director seemed to just throw his absolute vision at the screen.
Ascot Elite in keeping with their excellent line of Franco Blu-ray restorations brings Doriana Grey to Blu-ray with a splendid 1:78:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The transfer looks quite natural with excellent detail, colors, and flesh tones. There is natural film grain present, and not a lot in the way of damage and softness of which to speak of.
The only downside to the experience for me is the audio. There are German and English audio options and only French subtitles. In my opinion the English dubbing for Franco films usually puts them in the realm of the absurd, and so the English dubbing track while suitable, it would have been preferred to have English subtitles to accompany the German track. The English track as I said is quite suitable with dialogue and score coming through nicely, and no anomalies with the track to complain about.
Ascot Elite have put together a nice extras package for Doriana Grey including an interview with producer Erwin Dietrich and Jess Franco. We also get an alternate softcore version of the film, that plays in German with no subs. There is also a stills galler, and trailers.
A wonderfully poetic film from director Jess Franco, Doriana Grey has been lovingly restored by Ascot Elite, and given a decent extras package. It is h/c, so it might not be for everyone, or people just coming to the director. RECOMMENDED.