Jesus Franco – Die Marquise von Sade AKA Doriana Grey (1976)
A fairy tale castle out of a medieval woodcut towers over the dense jungle. Doriana Grey (Lina Romay) walks on a lonely path through the thick undergrowth after another night of sex and death. Dressed in her usual wardrobe of nothing but a revealing, hot pink gown, Doriana is as evanescent a presence as her clothing. The cries of strange birds seem to guide her back to her elaborate abode. One of the wealthiest women in the world, Doriana lives in an isolated dimension beyond realistic time and space. Psychically linked with her twin sister, who now resides in the asylum for the sexually disturbed of Dr Orlof (Ronald Weiss), Doriana is actually a female vampire who sucks the vital sexual and life energies out of her victims. Each of her erotic assignations with the rich and famous leaves another corpse on a trail of unsolved murders. Or are they murders? Doriana is a self destructive entity living on the edge of conventional consciousness.Her own inability to experience delight in her many sexual encounters is ironically contrasted with the orgiastic screams of pleasure which come from her sister’s room at the institution. The separation at birth of the Siamese twins has left them both unable to experience a normal sex life. One compulsively acts out and feels nothing while the other squirms in bed, a mindless beneficiary of a fantastic psycho-sexual telepathy. The confined sister is a secret sharer in Doriana’s guilty prowls. Nobody will wind up happy…or alive.
When an American journalist (Monica Swinn) arrives to do a story for a women’s magazine, her attempts to uncover the mystery of Doriana will lead to a sprial of more seductions and deaths.
The sexual hell inhabited by the main character in this very loose Jess Franco adaptation of the classic Oscar Wilde story is certainly an arena in which the director has proven a dubious mastery. As a film DORIANA GREY is an aesthetically exquisite and horrifically graphic blend of hardcore pornography, landscape study and architectural detailing. It’s all held together in an almost wordless performance by Lina Romay who has to play polar opposites in her double role. The rituals of seduction which end with rooms filled with drained, dead bodies are interrupted by the kind of gynecological close-ups familiar from the era of DEEP THROAT. While Doriana is again and again denied pleasure Franco takes the time to languidly study the gargoyles belching rainwater onto the tiled floors of the castle’s gardens. It’s always raining in this deceptive paradise. The silences are often broken by the delirious orgasmic moans of Doriana’s sister, watched over by the sinister Dr Orlof. Everything and everyone, mirrors, hospital staff, pillows are a potential sex partner at the clinic.
Meanwhile Doriana and her mute servant, Ziros (Lina Romay’s first husband, Ramon Ardid), scour the luxury hotels nearby for fresh flesh. Franco films these stalk and suck sequences with an uncommon delicacy which at times recalls Ingmar Bergman’s approach in CRIES AND WHISPERS. Each shot is set up to magnify the natural light and is carefully framed by the local foliage. It almost looks like a series of Japanese prints at times and the rich oranges, canary yellow, glowing pinks create a sensual, dreamlike environment. Franco lets his camera eye lazily drift out to the boats off the coast again and again. We’re taken into that realm which Freud identified as the dark continent of female sexuality. But who would have thought it could be this beautiful, and this disturbing.
Walter Baumgartner’s gentle, minimalist score employs light flute and sitar like sounds which only add to the half conscious ambiance of this 78 minute erotic daydream. One perhaps wishes a version were available without ANY dialogue and sans the hardcore stuff to see if it would stand on its own as a series of breathtaking images and half heard sounds.