Banned for 25 years, Borowczyk’s classic finally gets a certificate for a UK release. Essentially, this is a soft-porn fairy tale–and due to its sheer verve and strangely witty tone it is indeed worth seeing for those with a strong stomach. We’re in a remote French chateau, where the Marquis de l’Esperance (Trejan) is anxiously awaiting the English girl (Hummel) who will marry his bizarre son (Benedetti). There are some nefarious secrets here, and the only one in on it all seems to be the Marquis’ wheelchair-bound uncle (Dalio), who is reluctantly trying to patch things up with his estranged brother (Martinelli), a Catholic cardinal who won’t step foot in the chateau for some reason. Meanwhile, there’s the legend of a mysterious beast wandering in the grounds, and we’re treated to an outlandish parallel flashback story showing a former resident (Lane) who encounters this wolf-ape in the woods for a bit of rumpy pumpy.
Yes, it’s utterly unhinged in every way, but Borowczyk avoids much of the stylish overkill of most films of this genre and period, and the result is surprisingly timeless. It’s both a country manor romp, with people roaming the hallways making various discoveries and liaisons, as well as a gothic horror film about dark family secrets and creatures that leap out from behind trees. And it’s also full of hilarious touches–each scene includes little subversive elements that keep us smiling, not to mention the director’s obvious fascination with naked women and both male and female genitalia (the sex is all fairly cartoonish, with the exception of the graphic horse copulation scene at the beginning). The acting is uniformly bland, from the shifty family to the randy servant (Falle) and all the nubile young women who basically look and act exactly like Bo Derek in Tarzan. I’m not convinced this film deserves a proper release, but it’s enough of an oddity to thoroughly entertain cineastes.