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Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Martine Fléty, Sarah Strasberg, Dagmar Bürger, Pamela Stanford, Esther Moser, Eric Falk
Length: 79 min
Rating: FSK: 18
Region: Region Free
Label: Ascot Elite Home Entertainment
Release Date: Feb 11, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: German, English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French: Dolby Digital 2.0
- Original German trailers
- Image Gallery
- Featurette with Eric Falk: “Sklave im Frauenhaus”
Continuing our series of reviews of Blu-Ray titles from the new Jess Franco Golden Goya Collection—being released by German company, Ascot Elite Home Entertainment, we now come to Das Frauenhaus (a.k.a. Blue Rita – 1977)—a colorful and highly stylized soft-core sex film that Jess Franco made for producer Erwin C. Dietrich and Elite Film. Released for the first time on Blu-Ray anywhere, the film is presented by Ascot completely uncut.
The plot of Das Frauenhaus is as nonsensical as any you’ll find in a Johnny Wadd film, but with better production design. An exotic stripper named Blue Rita (Martine Fléty) runs the Blue Rita Nightclub in the heart of Paris, where she caters to wealthy and fashionable clientele. But the nightclub is really a front for an international extortion ring. In the basement of the nightclub, Rita and her band of strippers (a bunch of nubile women who walk around naked through the entire film) seduce and sexually torture wealthy older men to squeeze (literally) information and money out of them. The ring is somehow connected to the Eastern Block (this was the cold war after all), so there is a subplot involving an attractive Interpol agent who infiltrates the ring and becomes Rita’s lesbian lover. Eventually, things come to a head, there is some gunfire, and the film ends. Along the way, we get to enjoy some imaginative, if overlong, sexual torture scenes where men are driven to the brink of endurance by Blue Rita’s band of wayward beauties.In this of all his films, Jess Franco seems less interested in telling a story than he is in stylization and visual effects. And this emphasis on purely cinematic stylization is what sets this film slightly apart from his typical work. The cinematography, the multicolored lighting, and the sometimes bizarre modernist production design all conspire to create a hallucinatory reality, reminiscent of Jean Rollin’s work, if perhaps without the French director’s imagination, or feeling for mystery. And of course, this wouldn’t be a Jess Franco film without oodles of beautiful naked women writhing, or rubbing themselves at every conceivable opportunity, and Franco certainly doesn’t shortchange us.
As with other titles in Ascot’s Jess Franco Golden Goya Collection that we’ve sampled so far, the 1080p mastering and restoration of Das Frauenhaus are first rate. There are signs of slight de-noising here, but it is not excessive and there is still enough fine film grain remaining to make the image look organic. Colors are very strong and stable. The contrast is strong, too, without any obvious black crush. Any signs of obvious film damage, such as scratches of specs have been nicely cleaned up.
Ascot gives us German and English audio tracks in DTS-HD 5.1, and a French track in Dolby 2.0. The English track gets the job done well. The dialog is clear and easy to understand, but the dubbing itself is far from convincing, at least in terms of voice acting. This being the original English dub track, that’s to be expected. What’s more problematic is that Ascot does not provide English subtitles, depriving English-speaking viewers the experience of hearing the original German audio track.
The extra features are less generous on this release than on the previous two we reviewed, but what’s here is still worth investigating for Franco aficionados. As in the other releases, we are given a collection of very entertaining German sexploitation trailers, a photo gallery, and a featurette with actor Eric Falk: “Sklave im Frauenhaus,” in which the aging actor remembers his experiences working with Jess Franco and Erwin C. Dietrich. This is presented in German with English subtitles.
I’m not certain if I could ever watch Jess Franco’s Das Frauenhaus again from beginning to end in one sitting, unless I were with the right company. Those not attuned to Franco’s particular sensibility from this period probably won’t find much to like about this film, but if you already know what to expect, and enjoy cinematic sleaze with that uniquely 70’s European flavor, then this could be just the film you’re looking for. Certainly Ascot’s new Blu-Ray release is the best possible way to see it.