Monday, August 23, 2010

Daughter of de Sade

A rainy afternoon resulted in me dusting off another over looked gem from my DVD collection, the low budget 1967 kinky horror romp Daughter of de Sade:

Unfortunately the title is slightly misleading, as this concerns the exploits of the niece of the famous sadist who seeks to take revenge on those she believes were responsible for her Uncle’s downfall. Sadly, the film has no sense of period or location, both apparently dictated by the availability of sets and costumes, rather than any concern for historical accuracy. Hence the action unfolds in a back lot representation of Victorian London, regardless of the fact that this has nothing to do with the real de Sade. The makers also seem unable to decide whether this is a gothic horror movie or a period porn pic. Ultimately, It is this uncertainty that makes the film somewhat disappointing, as the horror is never really developed whilst the erotic elements are weak and come across as cheap titillation - selling itself on the fact that the protagonist is a young woman who gives people a damn good hiding with a whip.

Nevertheless, good use of lighting and camera angles do succeed in giving the film a superficial gloss. Unfortunately this simply serves to emphasise the failings of the script and story. Further problems are created by the use of stock footage from an abandoned 1965 Vincent Price project - Most Evil Man - for the flashback sequences of he Marquis himself. These reveal production values even lower than those of the framing narrative! Also, Price’s obvious disinterest in the project (he thought it to be his worst film and tried to prevent the use of this footage), is all too apparent.

The film’s premise of the young niece - aided by her Uncle’s friend - seeking revenge on the man who betrayed de Sade, whilst far from original, at least holds the promise of an entertaining drama. However, the creaking plot mechanics - involving bringing down the betrayer’s family and friends in order to taint him with scandal - are as tedious as they are laborious. Moreover, the sub-plot whereby the heroine falls for her adversary’s son, who turns out to have a dual personality, was reminiscent of the later Hammer film Hands of the Ripper. This romantic sub-plot also fatally slows the narrative and strips the leading character of her edge. This, along with the complex revenge plot and highly eclectic dialogue, detract from the film’s Sadian highlights, which involve the heroine giving a bloody good thrashing to various leading members of the establishment. However it must be said that the climax, involving the beating of Prince Albert in order to break his high German morals, and the ever escalating sadistic obsession with punishing prim Victorian London, is well staged and deserving of a better film.



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