I have to say, 1974 was an excellent year. The UPC code made its debut; Muhammad Ali regained the Heavyweight title in The Rumble in the Jungle; THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was released on an unsuspecting public; and, oh yeah…I was born. It also marked director Walerian Borowczyk’s first foray into explicit eroticism with IMMORAL TALES. I first heard of this film many, many years ago, but I never thought I’d get the chance to see it. Thanks to the fine folks at Arrow Video and MVD, this classic sexploitation piece is now available in HD. And while it won’t appeal to everyone, fans of this genre will label this as a Must See!
If you are not familiar with IMMORAL TALES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of MVD:
Walerian Borowczyk’s first explicitly erotic feature, Immoral Tales presents a veritable cavalcade of depravity: cosmic fellatio, transcendental masturbation, blood-drenched lesbianism and papal incest. It tells four stories, each delving back further in time, as if to suggest that the same issues recur constantly throughout human civilization, whether involving notorious historical figures like Lucrezia Borgia and Erzsébet Báthory, or present-day teenagers. Capitalising on the relaxation of censorship laws, Immoral Tales would transform Borowczyk’s image from brilliant but obscure avant-garde artist to one of Europe’s most confrontational filmmakers when it came to trampling on sexual taboos.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect with this film, particularly because I’m somewhat familiar with some of his later work. I reviewed another film of Borowczyk’s a while back titled THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE (click here to read that review), so I figured this one might be another surrealistic jaunt into the bizarre. Interestingly enough, I was wrong; IMMORAL TALES deals less with the strange and more with the expressive.
IMMORAL TALES is shot very well, and it looks more like an artistic piece than a feature film. I am impressed with how well Borowczyk utilized camera angles to enhance the sensuality of the film. For example, the cover art on the Blu-ray is actually a shot taken from the film. This close-up accentuates the sexiness of the steamy scene and sets the tone for the act that follows.
The acting is so-so, but the viewer is not focused on the expressive talents of the cast in this film. More can be said of what the actors don’t say, as opposed to their actual dialogue. This is not a negative at all, but more of an observation. In the end, this does nothing to dampen the entertainment experience as a whole.
When I sat down to view IMMORAL TALES, I watched the ‘extended’ version, which includes the short film “The Beast of Gévaudan”, upon which another of Borowczyk’s notorious films is based, THE BEAST. This was interesting, as much of the footage from THE BEAST came from this short. I enjoyed this, as it gave a bit of a behind-the-scenes feel to the piece.
IMMORAL TALES is a win for me, and I recommend it. Fans of dated exploitation films will love this one, as will folks looking for some vintage erotica. In addition to the vivid HD picture and enhanced sound, the Blu-ray set comes with a slew of Special Features, including:
* New high definition digital transfers of two versions of the feature, the familiar four-part edition and the original five-part conception including the short film The Beast of Gévaudan (which later became the feature The Beast)
* Uncompressed Mono 2.0 PCM Audio
* Optional English subtitles
* Introduction by Borowczyk expert Daniel Bird
* Love Reveals Itself, a new interview programme featuring production manager Dominique Duvergé-Ségrétin and cinematographer Noël Véry
* Obscure Pleasures: A Portrait of Walerian Borowczyk, a newly-edited archival interview in which the filmmaker discusses painting, cinema and sex
* Blow Ups, a visual essay by Daniel Bird about Borowczyk’s works on paper
* Theatrical trailer
* Reversible sleeve featuring Borowczyk’s own original poster design
* Illustrated booklet containing new writing on the film by by Daniel Bird and an archive piece by Philip Strick
The film is available now.