The Sexual Story of O (1984)

Eurotica from the master of sleaze.
Posted on by

The Sexual Story of O

Although Uncle Jess is perhaps better known for his 1970s sleaze/horror offerings - particularly the eponymous Vampyros Lesbos (1971) - he carried on regardless throughout the 1980s, and as a matter of fact he's still at it. His most recent film - Paula-Paula (2010) - has just been completed, bringing his grand total up to nearly 200 films, and still counting. Jess Franco is nothing if not hardworking, but his films are produced at such a rate that they often pass the average audience by. I recently acquired a box set of some of his 80s films - The "Jess Franco Volume 2 Collection", released in 2007 - and so I sat down to one of his more explicit adult films, The Sexual Story of O, purely for the edification of Horror Extreme readers of course...

The French novel "Histoire d'O" (1954) has been a starting point for a hell of a lot of adult cinema. Anyone from Gerard Damiano (director of Deep Throat (1972) and The Devil in Miss Jones (1973)) to auteur Lars von Trier has adapted the story for the big screen. It's no surprise then that Franco, with his preferred subject matter, might eventually turn to the novel for a film of his own. However, his take on the fairly hardcore content of the novel is not as extreme as you might expect - although the close of the film strays into S&M territory - and focuses mainly on a more gentle form of erotica, although not without a lot of laugh-out-loud breakdowns in the erotic set-up!

Young-Frenchwoman-alone Odile (Alicia Príncipe) is staying alone in an apartment block somewhere in Spain, where she quickly gets scouted by resident pervy couple Mara (Mari Carmen Nieto) and Mario (Mauro Ribera), who live opposite. Mara and Mario agree that Odile is 'suitable' for some nefarious scheme and start trying to coax her into sex... by spying on her, and making it damn easy for her to spy on them (in a fairly non-erotic set-up whereby Mario parades around in a tee-shirt and some rather faded underpants, before going at it with, bizarrely, a scarf-wearing but otherwise naked Mara). Somehow though, Odile is seduced; Mara quickly turns up at her apartment, leads her back to theirs and a threesome ensues, replete with a fairly gruelling scrotum shot which we could all live without. However the buck doesn't stop there. It seems that Mara and Mario are planning to pass Odile on to an even more perverse couple on a mysterious 'island', though Mario is starting to feel bad about what might ensue. But, to the island they all go.

Here they meet Countess Wanda von Karlstein (Franco veteran Carmen Carrión) and her partner, the Count (Daniel Katz). Typical jaded aristocrats, their tastes seem to run to greater extremes than your common-or-garden threesomes, and they have some sadomasochistic plans for poor old Odile. Mario has sprouted a conscience and refuses to assist in the girl's seduction this time (although up until the end of the film it's no worse to what he's been up to!) so it's down to Mara and the Karlsteins to don some decidedly dodgy-looking fetish gear for the finale.

This film, like many of Franco's films, struggles to contain a lot of different elements. It starts like an ancient advertisement for a Love-themed compilation album, all soft-focus idylls and lofty subtitles discussing humanity and self-knowledge. And then - bam - at five minutes in, full frontal nudity! Naked dancing! And the infamous Franco zoom lens soon gets very, very busy. At times, the film does achieve a level of erotica. Some of the sex scenes are actually tasteful (the prolonged kissing scenes are quite tender) but, again because of the rush to combine lots of elements, the build-up of the erotic aspect can be scuppered by clumsy details (and we're back to Mario's pants again, with no mention at all of the rather sinister Count Karlstein). That said, there are always ingredients in Jess Franco's films that don't work - but, in the grand scheme of things, you still end up with an enjoyable, eccentric film because of those flaws. Part of this film's charm is its non-sequential action - and, although this isn't exactly hard-core porn, like porn, plot is not a priority here.

As someone who grew up during the 80s and thought she knew it all about the horrors of that decade, I'd like to thank Uncle Jess for introducing me to something quite new - the utilisation of 80s fashion in a perverse sexual situation. As if a young girl being kidnapped by deviants wasn't enough, I had to watch it happening with characters dressed in gold lamé jumpsuits, matching headbands and pendulous earrings. Somehow that made it all the more dirty.

During the close of the film, well, it does get a little risqué, when the chief offenders emerge in fetish gear and set about beating young Odile with a mace. Although most of the violence happens off-screen, I was surprised that the censors allowed even these implied scenes to make the cut; knowing how, even today, the BBFC revolt against even an intimation of sexualised violence, the film's close did surprise me (despite being obscured in a strange psychedelic scene with visual and audio distortions). Mario obviously felt the same, and finally arrived to save the girl! It just happened a bit too late, and adds a bleak, if not fully-formed conclusion to this strange little film.

An odd blend of elements, The Sexual Story of O is a fair representative of (as far as I have seen) Jess's 1980s films. As a 'jack-of-all-trades' within the horror/exploitation genres, Franco often struggles to put together a cogent film but, what he gets right always has a certain charm, and what he doesn't is always watchable for several reasons too! There are some appealingly erotic scenes within this film - by luck or by judgement, there is lots of atmosphere here - and the odd tangle of other elements is somehow mesmerising. This is definitely one for fans, and possibly one for those curious about what some call 'Eurotica'.
This review was posted on by

The Sexual Story of O: Movie Information

The Sexual Story of O: Related Images

The Sexual Story of O: External Links