The Image (1975)
By: Mr Intolerance on August 20, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Synapse (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0, English DD 1.0. 94 minutes
The Movie
Director: Radley Metzger
Starring: Rebecca Brooke, Carl Parker, Marilyn Roberts Screenplay: Jake Barnes Music: Brian Bennett
Tagline: "Beyond the Story of O!"
Country: USA/France
AKA: The Punishment of Anne, The Mistress and the Slave, L'Esclave, L'Image
I'd seen some of Radley Metzger's films before, but I wasn't quite expecting this S&M tour-de-force. What I originally envisioned might be somewhere between a bit of Russ Meyer style soft-core and The Story of O turned out to be a whole different and much darker, more intellectual and complex kettle of fish altogether. Anyone who doesn't dig watching lesbian soft-core, blow-jobs or women being thrashed within an in inch of their lives should definitely stay completely away from this 1975 masterstroke.

This is A-list exploitation. The cinematography is superb, the camera is unflinching in it's depictions of sexual violence, and the blurb on the front of the DVD stating that it was "ultra-erotic" told no lies. Even so, it might be a bit much for some – watching Anne being utterly degraded on a regular basis can get depressing at times – the end dungeon scene is particularly grim, to my mind.

The basic story is simple: ice-queen Claire has beautiful Anne as a slave in an increasingly nasty sado-masochistic relationship. Along comes 1970s swinger dude Jean, who easily fits in to their way of life, and is quite happy to have Anne suck him off while Claire whips the be-jesus out of her slave. And it's real sex, ladies and gents. No pop-shots, but still actual mouth-on-cock action. Let me explain: I normally don't find the whole sex–on-screen thing particularly arousing, but there's something about this film that started making me feel all trousery. But the violence, oh, the violence…

All of a sudden there's whips and chains and uber-violence. This in and of itself is enough to start making me feel a bit nervous. But, being made of stern stuff, I persevered, and came across a 70s masterpiece that certainly outstrips The Story Of O and the original Sylvia Kristal Emmanuelle films in terms of explicitness – they were always a bit too soft and arty for my taste. But it can be hard to reconcile yourself to a film that detractors might argue was merely a patchwork of beatings and boobs with a minimal, episodic narrative.

There's little in the way of plot, or even character development here, but even so, this is most definitely not porn any more than 9 Songs or Anatomy of Hell were. It's an exploration of sado-masochistic sexuality and power struggles inside an obviously unusual ménage a trois, and little more. And in that latter regard, the end was a bit of a surprise, watching where the power pendulum swung inside the relationship. But all of that notwithstanding, I would cheerfully stand up in any court of law and defend this film's artistic merit.

So, if you are a fan of boobs, perversion or whipping, this is probably a film for you. Or, conversely, if you are a fan of beautifully shot and well-crafted erotica, this is probably a film for you. Personally speaking, sexually, this kind of thing is not really Mr Intolerance's cup of Twinings, as I am a tremendous physical coward and don't really like the idea of being beaten with whips as foreplay – but as a tribute to the director, he does make the whole thing heavily charged with pretty bloody steamy eroticism – so I guess in terms of what he set out to do – make an intelligent and beautifully crafted erotic film about sado-masochism: mission accomplished.

Congratulations, Mr Metzger.
Presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this has been digitally re-mastered from the original 35mm negative and looks about as good as this film is ever going to look. It's beautifully shot and really looks the business – despite some of the things you're seeing being not traditionally beautiful (Anne pissing in the public botanical gardens, for instance), they are filmed in a beautiful way, so as to make you re-evaluate what you think about what you're watching.
This is where the disc is a let down. The sound quality is okay, don't get me wrong, but the fact that it's dubbed is annoying, to say the least. I always prefer original language with subtitles – dubbing just tends to cheapen a film's impact for me. Groovy main theme on the soundtrack, by the way. Oh, and apparently the guy who dubbed the character of Jean also did voice-work on Speed Racer!
Extra Features
Theatrical trailer – I've said before, they do not rate as very special in terms of being a special feature in my book. There are some liner notes, an isolated music score, trailers for other Metzger films (Carmen, Baby,Camille 2000, The Lickerish Quartet, Therese and Isabelle, and Score), a Metzger filmography and little else besides, a bit on the disappointing side, to my mind.
The Verdict
A good movie, but one I would have preferred to have seen undubbed, and with a better package of extras. I'm knocking off a point for the disc for those reasons, but seriously, it's a five star film – hunt the fucker down – you will not be disappointed.
Movie Score
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