Edge of the Axe

Color, 1986, 94 mins. 46 secs.
Directed by Michel Caputo
Starring Brigitte Lahaie, Michel Modo, Pierre Oudrey, Michel Godin, Betty Champeval, Dominique Erlanger, Richard Lemieuvre
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Cargo Records (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL), Tiffany (DVD) (France R2 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

The fact that French adult The Female Executionerfilmmakers made more accomplished and cinematic The Female Executionerfeatures than the majority of their international peers is no secret, and that meant a blurring of lines between adult productions and other genres like horror and action. One prime example is 1986's L'exécutrice, or The Female Executioner, an entertaining and sleazy crime film from prolific Michel Caputo (who usually did XXX fare as "Michel Baudricourt" among other names). It's designed as a star vehicle for the striking cult favorite Brigitte Lahaie, who successfully balanced careers in hardcore, softcore, and horror including Jean Rollin films like Fascination, The Escapees, and a particularly strong turn in Night of the Hunted. By this point she was turning up fairly frequently in legit-ish fare, making this one back to back with the fascinating French quasi-giallo Le couteau sous la gorge for Claude Mulot and eventually even turning up in a major studio film with Philip Kaufman's Henry and June. Lahaie makes for a convincingly tough action figure here, though Captuo ladles on the kink enough to remind you of his origins and even casts another hardcore vet, Richard Allan, in a prominent supporting role. Complete with shockingly ambitious stunt work and a nice gritty '80s cop movie feel in the provinces, it's a diverting thriller with an odd perspective on the industry that gave most of its participants their start.

The Female ExecutionerMartine (Lahaie), a cop with a penchant for jacuzzis and driving gloves, is first seen chasing a couple of porno movie The Female Executionerpeddlers carrying boxes of S&M lesbian erotica. With a bullet-spraying helicopter for backup, she subdues the perps and gets her mitts on their stash of "sadism, zoophilia, kiddie porn," along with some drugs on the side. Martine lives with her younger sister, Joelle, a student who makes money at a strip club, has a string of brown-haired boyfriends, and chafes at the methods of the rule-bending Inspector Valmont (Oudrey). A snitch named Blek (Champeval) puts her on the trail of the ruthless and very butch Madame Wenders (Erlanger), a onetime pimp who's now graduated to kidnapping and other antisocial activities. After a child abduction staged at a hospital, Martine's gunning for her quarry but finds that the commissioner's own ties to the organization could make her job not only difficult but possibly deadly.

A perennial on the gray market since its SECAM VHS release in France, this one never got exported very widely and has a somewhat iffy reputation among Lahaie fans due to less than optimal presentations and mediocre fansubs. The 2022 Severin Blu-ray (also available in The Brigitte Lahaie Bundle, The Global Mogul Bundle, and The Biggest Bundle) is a welcome relief, showing the film off nicely with a crisp new 2K restoration from the negative. An opening note explains that this is, at the director's request, the "previously unseen, restored original version," which runs quite a bit longer than the 86-minute version floating around. Colors are often vibrant and very stylized at times (those reds!), and the DTS-HD MA 2.0 The Female ExecutionerFrench mono track is in pristine condition with optional yellow English subtitles The Female Executionerprovided.

"The Cop in Nylon Stockings" (19m19s) is an interview with Lahaie and Caputoabout covering the desire to make a cop movie in the wake of all the Jean-Paul Belmondo hits, Lahaie's training with real police officers, sneaking in shots near the real police headquarters, the symbolic moment involving a porno orgy shoot, an incident with a disgruntled stunt man, and more. Also included is "Hold on Tight, Girly!" (2m8s), a quick visit by the pair to a key location from the film involving a fire gag. Les volets bleus (The Blue Shutters) (44m37s) is a lyrical 1987 short that answers the burning question, "What would an Éric Rohmer film starring Brigitte Lahaie be like?" She's rarely been as playful or open as she is here doing what amounts to a dramatic two-hander with one-shot actor Jacques Mandréa about a reunited couple going for an excursion to the seaside and boring down into each other's souls. Rohmer only produced this one but his influence is definitely there in this nice little miniature from director Haydée Caillot, an actress in several of his films and who should've done at least one feature based on this. The French trailer is also included.

Reviewed on June 9, 2022