Color, 1976, 106 mins. 6 secs.
Directed by Alain Payet
Starring Corinne Lemoine, Richard Lemieuvre, Francoise Maillot, Mandarine, Cecile Carole, Jean-Pierre Armand, Lisa Orsag, Robert Le Ray, Ingrid d'Eve, Guy Royer

Color, 1975, 103 mins. 47 secs.
Directed by Alain Payet
Starring Claudine Beccarie, Sylvia Bourdon, Martine Grimaud, Christine Chireix, Pierre Taylou, Robert Le Ray, Richard Lemieuvre, Tania Busselier
Peekarama (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

Though Furies Sexuellesthe current video era has been a major boon for reassessing the Furies Sexuellesconsiderable merits of adult cinema across a wide spectrum of genres from comedy to horror from America's porno chic era, the same hasn't really held true for international films. One of the busiest creators of theatrical hardcore films of all stripes in the '70s and '80s was France, who spawned a number of superstars and a range of influential classics that still haven't gotten their due. The DVD age had a few semi-bright spots like Alpha France's many catalog titles, which were still marred by heavy cuts to their running times and terrible new digital credits (among other issues). At last that oversight is being addressed for English-speaking viewers through titles available via Vinegar Syndrome like La Femme-objet from Pulse Video and this nice change of pace with its Peekarama line, a pair of fascinating films by the very prolific Alain Payet (who also ventured into other oddities like Nathalie: Escape from Hell). Rarely seen and previously available in heavily butchered versions, both films (which were produced by sleaze vet Robert de Nesle, the man behind such Jess Franco films as Countess Perverse, Lorna the Exorcist, and Celestine), take an unusual look at prostitution in '70s Paris through the eyes of women who truly see it all and have the scars to prove it.

Hospitalized and suffering from traumatic nightmares of people screaming "Whore!" and "Piece of trash!," single mom Marie-Madeleine (short-lived star Lemoine) relates in flashback how she ended up slashing her wrists and suffering from partial memory loss. It all started when she was working at a "sexy Furies Sexuelleslingerie store" and where, following a heated encounter involving a hooker customer, she agrees to model the Furies Sexuellesmerchandise and promptly gets fired. Facing mounting bills and a young daughter to feed, she heads to a very colorful dive bar frequented by prostitutes and pimps where she's approached by Giuseppe Camini (Lemieuvre). After a torrid night together in which he thinks she's a lady of the evening, she decides to become a "hostess" catering to an increasingly kinky string of clients.

Imagine a Hollywood melodrama like Stella Dallas suddenly hijacked by disco-crazy French pornographers and that pretty much sums up Furies Sexuelles, originally shot under the title Les Marie-Madeleine (which appears on the Vinegar Syndrome version) and strangely matter-of-fact about its parade of eye-opening sights including a wild basement session that manages to incorporate BDSM and a surprising scene between two of French porn's rare male switch hitters, Carmelo Petix and Ghislain Van Hove. Lemoine is very good in the lead with a sympathetic performance that leads to a really poignant little grace note at the end; interestingly, the film never makes her feel carnal at all despite the heavy amount of sex that takes up the running time. Instead it presents the libido as part of a larger picture in the lives of people struggling to survive, an approach that should make this worth a look for people who normally shy away from raincoat fare. Also noteworthy is Prostitution Clandestinethe catchy, pop-flavored soundtrack by André Bénichou, who scored several of de Nesle's Franco films Prostitution Clandestineand does a great job here as well.

Up next is Prostitution Clandestine, which feels very Jess Franco-ish right off the bat with one of his regular actors, Pierre Taylou (Exorcism), getting serviced in the first five minutes by prostitute Claudine (Lips of Blood's Beccarie) -- with Lorna the Exorcist star Pamela Stanford turning up in both films as well. From there it's a picaresque look at the life of Claudine and her fellow "models," Tania (Busselier) and Christine (Chireix), as they deal with car trouble, out of the way clients, and "photo sessions" that indulge men and women with a variety of passions like, uh, dressing up in frilly nighties and rolling around on a bed. That's pretty much it for the plot as we veer through various Parisian locales, usually with at least one character snapping photos while other cast members get it on, as weird touches keep popping up like a knife-wielding perv who yells "Sex is degrading, it turns man into an animal!" before begging to be castrated. Only in Paris.

Previously available only on poor quality French VHS from LuXe Video with nearly 20 minutes missing from its Prostitution Clandestinerunning time, Furies Sexuelles is presented Prostitution Clandestinehere completely uncut for the first time -- and interestingly, it's character development that benefits the most here with our heroine's plight making a lot more sense. The image quality here is pristine thanks to a new 2K scan from the 35mm negative (which applies to its co-feature as well), with the DTS-HD MA French mono track (with optional light yellow English subtitles) also free of any issues. Prostitution Clandestine is also considerably longer than the ridiculously truncated PAL tape (which came in at a mere 82 minutes!) and makes for a fun, more frivolous viewing experience as well. Extras include a trailer for Prostitution Clandestine, an archival article gallery (1m40s) about Payet, and a jaw-dropping bonus softcore scene from the Belgian release of Furies Sexuelles (5m29s) with a hooker putting on an Indian headdress while her grunting, howling client puts on mime makeup and makes her stick some leeks up his butt. Again, only in Paris. However, the big extra here is a new video interview with Lemieuvre (27m16s), under his Anglicized screen name of Richard Allan, who cheerfully regales you with stories about how he got into the industry, his fondness for working with Payet, his distaste for violence and refusal to participate in those kinds of scenes, and some wild tales about his costars, Petix in particular.

Reviewed on April 13, 2021.