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September 30, 2013

How to Seduce a Virgin

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Plaisir a trois
Jess Franco - 1973
Mondo Macabro Region 1 DVD

Signed with the pseudonym of Clifford Brown, this is a Franco film probably best appreciated by Franco completists. Inspired by the writings of De Sade, the emphasis here is more on eroticism than horror, although there are some elements of horror to be found. The noodling jazz on the soundtrack and the almost conventional and often leisurely, at least for Franco, narrative, belie the fact that the film was shot in a matter of days and with a tiny production budget.

We're not exactly sure what Martine did to get institutionalized, but we know it had something to do with cutting a naked man with a straight razor. A visit the the basement of her mansion is enough to let us know that whatever treatment Martine had gone through for the past half year hadn't done anything to cure her of certain obsessions. Reunited with her husband, Charles, the two make plans to seduce a young woman, Cecile, into their particular world of pain and pleasure. As things progress, there is the question of whom is the seducer, and whom is being seduced? The French title, by the way, translates as "happy three".

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While her parents take off for a trip, Martine and Charles promise to take care of Cecile as if she were their own daughter. Eeeek! And sure, the hosting couple are handsome, but what about the creepy chauffeur, the creepier gardner, or the young woman who is more like a family pet, giggling, mewling, never speaking? Voyeurism and various couplings, and some group groping ensue.

It is almost hard to imagine that about forty years ago, neighborhood theaters would show movies that were relatively sexually explicit following the success of Last Tango in Paris. Less surprising is that most of these films were European. Alice Arno, Tania Busselier and Lina Romay will never be accused of being camera shy. This film is notable for being Romay first significant role for Franco on her way to becoming his longtime muse. Franco team player Howard Vernon doesn't do much except look faintly menacing, which is all he needs to do.

Helping put this film into some critical context is horror film historian Stephen Thrower, who discusses the making of How to Seduce a Virgin from its original written screenplay to final production. There is also an interview with screenwriter Alain Petit, who first encountered Franco as an enthused film critic. There are also production notes, as well as biographies of the actors. The folks at Mondo Macabro have done their best to give this less known Franco film a DVD rescue. After the generous displays of female nudity, what it most memorable here is Alfred Baillou's performance as the seemingly mad, hunchbacked gardner, and the very wide eyes of Lina Romay.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 30, 2013 07:00 AM