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Justine (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Justine (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: December 24th, 2019.
    Director: Roberta Findlay
    Cast: Hillary Summers, Vanessa del Rio, Christine De Shaffer, Ashley Moore, Merle Michaels
    Year: 1980
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    Justine - Movie Review:

    Directed by Roberta Findlay, 1980's Justine, (aka Justine: A Matter Of Innocence), opens with a quick stock footage insert letting us know that we're in France. Here we meet the titular young lady, played by Hillary Summers, who is away at boarding school when she learns that her father has passed away. As she's not of legal age, she's sent to New York City to live with her uncle, Steven Cates (Ashley Moore). He and his son Greg (Andy Hayes), who is only a few years older than Justine, pick her up and bring her home, welcoming her with open arms.

    When Justine asks why Greg's mother no longer lives with them, she's told more than once that it's something the family doesn't like to talk about. Still, she settles in, befriending the maid Michelle (Christine De Shaffer) and getting along with Greg quite well. Steven, meanwhile, gets up to no good on his own, carrying on a kinky relationship with Claudia Kendall (Vanessa Del Rio). When Justine sees Greg get involved in a three-way with friends Elaine (Robin Sane) and Don (Rick Iverson), she notices certain feelings starting to arise. Clearly developing a crush on her kindly uncle, she winds up being coerced into blowing her cousin at a drive-in (Grease and Penitentiary are on the marquee!) and a short while later is molested by Santo (Dave Ruby) the gardener (whose old army jacket has the name Rubenstein on it - is his name Santo Rubenstein??? Because if it is, that's awesome). Eventually Justine learns why Greg's mom, Margaret (Linda Vale), left Steven when he shows up with a pair of stewardesses (Merle Michaels and Christie Ford) on his arms. Justine, now completely horny all the time, is excited about her upcoming date with Don, but still lusts after her hunky uncle (does that make him a hunkle)? What is a young woman to do?

    Co-written by the late Cecil Howard and scored by Findlay's partner Walter Sear, Justine is a well-made picture that hits all the right notes without offering too many surprises. You can tell pretty early on where the story is going, but getting there is entertaining enough. The fact that the production values are quiet strong helps out here. The cinematography, handled by Findlay herself, is quite good and the editing, also handled by Findlay, rhythmic and professional. The locations used for the movie make it seem like quite a lavish production, the main mansion where the Cates family resides in particular is very impressive. On top of that, the movie features its own original theme song which is used quite frequently throughout the movie all about how for Justine things will not go as planned and how she needs to learn to understand the needs of a man. Once you hear it, you won't forget it.

    As to the cast, Hillary Summers is well-cast as the female lead. She looks innocent enough and is made up and dressed in such a way as to fit the role really well. She isn't the most enthusiastic actor and doesn't show a whole lot of range here, but she works well as Justine. Ashely Moore plays the dashing, albeit secretly kinky, uncle pretty well and Andy Hayes is fine as the weirdly pushy Greg. Dave Ruby plays Santo well enough while Christine De Shaffer proves to be the hottest thing in the movie in her scene with him. Vanessa Del Rio plays Vanessa Del Rio, performing with insane enthusiasm and the scenes Moore shares with Michaels and Vale is effectively humorous and steamy enough to work).

    Justine - Blu-ray Review:

    Justine arrives on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition 'newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm original camera negative.' There are a few shots that are clearly inserts (the opening bit in Paris for example) that look a bit worse for wear but the rest of the movie is in excellent shape. Taking up 24GBs of space on the 25GB disc, the picture shows really nice detail throughout (check out that blister on Del Rio's left inner thigh!) and lots of texture too. There are no noticeable compression artifacts and the image is free of obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. The film's fairly garish color scheme, very much a product of the era in which it was made, is reproduced very nicely and black levels are strong as well. No complaints here at all, the picture quality is excellent.

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track has some noticeable sibilance but is otherwise fine. The score, and ridiculously catchy (and repetitive!) theme song, sounds pretty decent. The levels are balanced well enough, no trouble there, and the dialogue is easy enough to understand. The Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    The main extra on the disc is audio commentary with director Roberta Findlay moderated by film historian Casey Scott. They start off by talking about the 'history' of Sendy Pictures, which her partner Walter Sear made up (“It's not a company, it's nothing!”), the use of horses in the film, how and why they wound up shooting at the massive house that serves as the main location in the film which was located in Westchester, how she came to work with Cecil Howard and her relationship with him and his company on this and other pictures they collaborated on, what Hillary Summers was like to work with (Findlay describes her as 'not very bright'), and the incest themes that run throughout the film. They also cover the title of the film and how it might have originally been titled simply 'A Matter Of Innocence' with the 'Justine' prefix added later, how Findlay shot and edited a lot of her own material (which few other adult directors ever did) mainly to save money, the average turnaround time for her to complete a picture, who did what behind the scenes on the film, working with Dave Ruby on this and on Babylon Pink, how Andy Hayes seems to have been a 'one and done' performer in the adult film business, how and why Findlay wound up in Belgium in the seventies, legal issues surrounding her late husband Michael Findlay's 3-D invention and his schooling, different aliases that were used on the picture, her work on Rosebud, how the comedy in film's she made came from Sear as she had no interest in making comedy, her aversion to actors improvising on set and lots more.

    Aside from that we get a wonderfully narrated and super melodramatic trailer for the picture, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD containing the two films and the same extras. The first 2,000 units purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome will include a limited edition slipcover designed by Earl Kessler Jr..

    Justine - The Final Word:

    Justine is a pretty solid adult picture, nicely shot with good production values and a film that makes good use of a strong cast. The story might not be the most original ever brought to the silver screen, but it works and Vinegar Syndrome has done an excellent job bringing the restored picture to Blu-ray in great quality and with an interesting audio commentary documenting its history.

    Click on the images below for full sized Justine Blu-ray screen caps!

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