The Film (4/5)
While The Anglicized title for Franco’s Plaisir a Trois, How to Seduce a Virgin might indicate something along the lines of a teenage sex comedy. What Franco actually crafted in this unique little entry in his filmography is an interesting balancing act of a film, one that juggles fantastical elements with more realistic sexual elements to create something more de Sadean in nature.
Plaisir a Trois was shot and completed in 1973. A year where Franco went into production on, and completed more films than any other in his career. If one considers the sheer volume of his output this year, it would be easy to assume that many of his films from this time would be less than stellar, however a startling number of these films are among his very best. I would certainly bestow that honor or at least something very close to it on Plaisir a Trois.
The film begins with Countess Martine de Bressac (Alice Arno) returning to her husband Count Charles de Bressac(Robert Woods), and their estate after a stay in a mental institution. During her ride home, it is quite obvious she is eager to get to her basement where she previously committed the atrocities that landed her into the institution. Upon settling back in, she is quick to resume her old ways, and demonstrates them by picking up, seducing, murdering, and embalming a prostitute.
After this little aside the Count and Countess turn their attention to a virginal "girl next door" Cecile (Tania Busselier). Charles has been keeping his eye on her for some time, and thinks that the girl would be a good next target for the couple. An opportunity arises when they run into Cecile with her parents on the street, and learn they are to travel. Cecile does not wish to accompany them, and in response they invite Cecile to stay with them, and begin the process of her seduction. Which begins with some sexual escapades with their mute servant Adele (Lina Romay in her first role for Franco), and culminates in a night of Erotic games that changes everything for Cecile and the de Bressac’s.
The film was shot on the same location, with most of the same cast, and back to back with another 1973 Franco Classic Countess Perverse (also on DVD from Mondo Macabro). There are quite a few parallels between the two films (many of which are pointed out by Stephen Thrower in his featurette), but the most striking to me was how similar Alice Arno's Countess characters are between the two films. While a good majority of the cast returns, many of them either have roles that are different to the ones they would play (or did play already?) in Countess Perverse, but Arno maintains largely the same characteristics between the two parts. This, of course, is not a complaint, as her performance fits the character quite well, and she brings an excellent charisma to the role that makes the moments she is on screen impossible to miss.
The cast as a whole are excellent in their respective roles, but special mention should be given to Lina Romay in her first Franco outing. Romay plays a mute, very likely mentally disturbed sex slave named Adele, and the moments that she is on screen are some of the most memorable in the film. Romay throughout her career with Franco played a diverse series of roles, but proves here, and in the latter Female Vampire how much power she could pack into a role with just the use of her body,.
The film itself feels like it's stuck between wanting to be a grounded real-life depiction of a de Sadean affair, and one of Franco's more fantastical outings. A part of me would have better appreciated the film had he gone more out with the fantastic elements that he appeared to be setting up early on in the film, but he does a fine balancing act with depicting the more realistic elements in the film with the more fantastic, and in the process creates one of his most memorable, classic, and powerful films.
Mondo Macabro is back, and their quality has not diminished in the slightest. They have released How to Seduce a Virgin in what can only be described as a gorgeous full frame 1:33:1 transfer. The clarity and detail present in the transfer are excellent, colors are natural and strong, and black are solid . There is an excellent organic grain structure present, there are a few instances of print damage, but that's to be expected and certainly does not detract from the quality of the transfer. I would love to see how a Mondo Macabro release would look in Blu-ray, because their DVD's are absolute stunners.
The audio is presented in French Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English subs. The audio sounds quite good with dialogue coming through nice and clearly, as does the music and FX work. I did not detect any issues with pops, cracks , or hissing on the track.
The main extra on this disc is an interview with Franco expert (and author of the upcoming Franco biography) Stephen Thrower). This interview runs 22 minutes, and covers much to do with this film. We also get a 12 minute interview with the films writer Alain Petit that goes into depth about the film, and Franco's career around the period this was made. The disc is rounded off by text based bios of the films cast and crew, a Mondo Macabro trailer reel, and an essay on the film.
How to Seduce a Virgin a pretty powerful film from Jess Franco. This appears to be the first legitimate release of the film in Region 1 territory, and this DVD between the A/V restoration and the depth of the extras (although limited they have very nice detail) introduce this film to a new audience with a proverbial bang. Mondo Macabro's DVD of Jess Franco's How to Seduce a Virgin is, of course, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.