Color, 1974, 87 mins.
Directed by Claude Mulot
Starring Anne Libert, Francis Lemonnier, Patrick Penn, Barbara Sommers, Georges Gueret, Katia Tchenko, Robert Lombard
Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray) (US R0 NTSC), Le Chat Qui Fume (UHD & Blu-ray) (France R0 4K/HD) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)
Originally released as Les charnalles and barely known to English-speaking viewers until its Blu-ray release, this wild erotic thriller is another progression in the career of Claude Mulot (under his frequent "Frédéric Lansac" pseudonym) after his striking French horror hit, The Blood Rose. This one retains some macabre elements as well and marks something of a transition piece between Mulot's accessible genre films (which also include the very good La saignée) and the insane plunge he would take into hardcore just after this with the breakthrough Pussy Talk and other lunatic adult offerings like La femme-objet.
Thanks to the money accrued by his pharmaceutical suppository kingpin father, Benoît (Mulot regular Lemonnier) is a perverse piece of work who spends his afternoons hanging out at cafes and picking up women for unsuccessful sex picnics in the woods. Back home he has a very casual relationship with his stepmother (Sommers) including nude massages, but she and his father won't help him out when he burns through his cash and racks up high gambling debts. A possible solution arrives when, after some therapeutic dart throwing at a family photo, he goes out for the night and catches young car thief Jean-Pierre (Penn) in the act. Later the same evening, they save young Isabelle (Erotic Rites of Frankenstein's Libert) after she flees the molestation attempts of her stepfather. They end up going back to the country house (with Jean-Pierre posing as the owner) where they get hopped up on mushroom sangria, go skinny dipping, and have psychedelic sex on the floor for Benoît's voyeuristic enjoyment. That proves to be the start of a scheme involving robbery and blackmail, with the threesome pushed to their limits by Benoît's manipulations.
A mixture of nudity-filled erotica, crime film, and twisted psychodrama, Sins of the Flesh (which earned a brief U.K. dubbed theatrical run as Sex without Love) certainly keeps you on your toes with its assortment of dysfunctional, scheming characters. Mulot certainly delivers the sexy goods where necessary and gets surprisingly graphic in a couple of moments (albeit never quite hardcore); however, the film is driven more by the damaged trio at its core as they spiral towards the inevitable unhappy ending. Interestingly, Mulot doesn't veer the film into the violent territory you might expect despite the inevitable escalation to homicide; here the wounds are more psychological, which makes the ending more weirdly resonant. It's all backed up by a wonderfully catchy score by Eddie Vartan, older brother of French pop star Sylvie Vartan (Malpertuis) and father of actor Michael Vartan.
For the film's English-friendly home video debut, Mondo Macabro brought this to Blu-ray in 2020 initially as a limited 1,000-unit red case edition featuring an exclusive insert booklet with liner notes by Pete Tombs and a set of ad art postcards. It also features reversible cover art with a new design by Justin Coffee and the original VHS art on the reverse. The new 4K transfer from the camera negative looks superb, as you'd expect, and ranks up there with the similar excellent work done on the simultaneous release of Seven Women for Satan. DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono options are provided for the original French language track and the rather good English dub, with optional English subtitles; both tracks sound excellent. In a very entertaining new interview with Libert, "La Charnelle" (20m57s), she talks about how she got into acting after intending to be an artist, found her first break auditioning for Roger Vadim, coped with having a baby early in her career, worked the nightclub scene in Paris, and wound up working on some truly crazy productions including some funny stories about Howard Vernon and memories of everyone from Mulot to Claude Lelouch. Then in "My Nights with Claude" (26m46s), jack of all trades and frequent interview subject Gérard Kikoïne charts his long-running collaborations with his "mentor" Mulot over the years from dubbing to foley work involving coffee grinding to film editing. In "Adventures with Alpha France" (24m23s), distributor Francis Mischkind recalls his start in the business making short films for children before embarking on his path to the company that would be a big player in softcore erotica and eventually become the biggest name in French adult films including titles by Mulot. Finally, an interview with assistant director Didier Philippe-Gérard (25m57s) is an updated version of the featurette included on Mondo Macabro's The Blood Rose DVD covering the state of French cinema at the time and his work with Mulot, his brother-in-law, n various capacities over the years. Also included are the French and British trailers, an alternate main title sequence (as Émotions secrètes d'un jeune homme de bonne famille), the very different, video-generated French VHS opening sequence (1m44s) under the title Nevro, and the usual Mondo Macabro promo reel. The film was also released in France as a limited combo UHD/Blu-ray edition, though neither the film nor the extras (three of the four featurettes) are English friendly. However, it does feature a bonus DVD for Mulot's Black Venus and, more importantly, an isolated score track which might be enough to encourage a double dip for some viewers.
Reviewed on August 29, 2020.