Color, 1984, 92 mins. 14 secs.
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Alicia Príncipe, Carmen Carrión, Daniel Katz, Mauro Rivera, Mamie Kaplan
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

After financiers Sexual Story of Oimposed a connection to Emmanuelle on one of his 1982 films, Jess Franco found himself saddled again Sexual Story of Owith cashing in on a hit Just Jaeckin released two years later with The Sexual Story of O, one of the stronger entries in his sex-heavy '80s Spanish cycle. The formula here is in line with most of his films made upon his immediate return to post-fascist Spain: a very limited cast of characters, an oceanside setting, dreamy atmosphere galore, and lots of protracted, twisted sex scenes that build to a delirious finale.

Prone to lounging around in her hotel room naked and reading books, young and nubile Odile (Príncipe) catches the eye of a frisky couple (Black Candles' Rivera and Mansion of the Living Dead's Kaplan) across the way who watch her while they're getting busy in bed. Unable to resist her, they wander over to her room and introduce themselves, with immediate carnal consequences. However, things get darker when the couple introduces Odile to a decadent older couple (Dark Mission's Katz and Carrión) whose S&M proclivities prove to be everyone's undoing.

Though Franco professed his admiration for the original Story of O novel by the pseudonymous Pauline Reage, his film is markedly different in tone and intent thanks to its chilling third act developments which push this into serious horror territory. The druggy fate of our heroine is rendered in one of the director's more potent climaxes, a harrowing assault on both her and the viewer that echoes the finale of Eugenie but with an even darker romantic agenda behind it. The final shot, a nice reprise of A Virgin among the Living Dead, will also ring a bell with any Franco disciple, and the score cribbed from various Daniel White library tracks is used to marvelous effect. The sexuality is also considerably more erotic and urgent than usual for this Franco period, as well Sexual Story of Oas closer to hardcore than usual (with Ribera even visibly excited during one of the more heated encounters). Franco has Sexual Story of Ofew kind words for his leading lady, but she's a beguiling presence and a more likable heroine than usual for a sado-sexual "exploitation" film.

For its American home video debut and first official presentation in English, The Sexual Story of O looks staggeringly good thanks to Severin's immaculate DVD. Though the budget was obviously very limited, Franco makes skillful use of the scope frame, an attribute impossible to appreciate in past, cropped bootleg editions. The nautical locations and startling visual distortion effects look terrific, and colors are nicely rendered without being too pumped up. Once again Franco offers a chatty video interview, "Franco's O" ( 14m45s), offering candid assessments of his cast members, casting aspersions against other softcore filmmakers, and generally being his usual, take-no-bull self for a rich and randy 17 minutes.

In 2023, Severin Films upgraded the film to Blu-ray as part of its long, very welcome line of Franco's "S"-rated Golden FIlms output in Spain. The transfer is the same in terms of framing and color timing but improves in all the expected areas with finer color delineation and detail. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 Spanish mono track sounds fine for what Sexual Story of Oamounts to a fairly basic mix, and optional English subtitles are included. The Franco interview is ported over here, but you also get "Sexual Story of Franc-O" (19m26s) with the always eloquent Stephen Thrower delivering a thorough analysis of Sexual Story of Othis worthwhile "quickie" made during a production whirlwind around the same time as Night Has a Thousand Desires with a shoestring crew. He covers a lot of ground here including the usual Sadean influence, the lack of any connection to Story of O, the familiar use of geography involving the beach, Franco's minimalist approach at the time, and the experimental lens technique during the climax. Finally you get the eight entry in the delightful "In the Land of Franco" (19m6s), this time with Thrower, Monica Swinn, and Alain Petit wandering around some recognizable locales in and around Antibes, France (the site of films including Doriana Gray) and shooting the breeze about Franco's directorial style including the annoyance of having to wear a monocle for long periods of time.

Severin Films (Blu-ray)

Sexual Story of O Sexual Story of O Sexual Story of O Sexual Story of O Sexual Story of O

Severin Films (DVD)

Sexual Story of O Sexual Story of O Sexual Story of O Sexual Story of O Sexual Story of O


Updated review on June 29, 2023