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Sylvia Kristel 1970’s Collection (Cult Epics) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Sylvia Kristel 1970’s Collection (Cult Epics) Blu-ray Review

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    Sylvia Kristel 1970’s Collection (Cult Epics) Blu-ray Review
    Released by: Cult Epics
    Released on: January 11th, 2022.
    Director: Alain Robbe-Grillet, Wim Verstappen, Paul de Lussanet, Sigi Rothemound
    Cast: Sylvia Kristel, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Anicee Alvina, Christine Boisson, Rutger Hauer, Renee Soutendijk, Rita Tushingham, David Rappaport
    Year: 1975, 1978, 1978, 1974
    Purchase From Amazon

    Sylvia Kristel 1970’s Collection – Movie Review:

    Cult Epics brings together four of Sylvia Kristel’s seventies features to English friendly Blu-ray for the first time in this four-disc region free Blu-ray set appropriately titled Sylvia Kristel 1970’s Collection, proving there was more to the beautiful actress’ filmography than the Emmanuelle films for which she remains best known.

    Disc One – Playing With Fire:

    First up is writer/director Alain Robbe-Grillet’s 1975 picture, Le jeu avec le feu, retitled Playing With Fire for English language markets. The story revolves around a fabulously wealthy banking mogul named Georges de Saxe (Philippe Noiret) who, when we first meet him, is situated behind an ornate desk writing away with pen and paper. This segues into the narrative proper as we meet his beautiful daughter, Carolina (Anicée Alvina, who also worked with the director in Successive Slidings Of Pleasure in 1974), who has herself become embroiled in a strange kidnapping plot. Luckily for her, the villains out to snatch her did, in fact, grab the wrong woman when they mistook her for Carolina at the train station.

    Georges decides to acquire the services of a man named Franz (Jean-Louis Trintignant) to protect her from possible further danger, but he may not be who he appears to be and may, in fact, be in cahoots with the crooks behind the kidnapping. What transpires from here is as strange adventure of sorts where Carolina winds up squirreled away at an incognito brothel for safekeeping where she turns out to be not so safe at all. While all of this transpires, various sexual vignettes play out, including a moment with a dog (thankfully faked, according to the extra features) that would Linda Lovelace blush and which should shock even the most jaded cult film fans.

    An absolutely gorgeous looking film in terms of its use of color, lighting and cinematography, Playing With Fire, like so many of the director’s films, plays out with a genuinely playful sense of humor that definitely takes the edge off some of the film’s stronger content. There’s very much a darkly comedic aspect to much of what occurs in the film, but it never takes that aspect of the storyline to such an extreme that it feels like parody. Kink has always been a factor in Robbe-Grillet’s work, and this picture is no exception, but there are some nice plot twists and a decent story here as well as weirder, more perverse elements on display.

    Kristel doesn’t have a starring role in this film, she appears in it for roughly ten minutes in the middle stretch, but she makes a good impression in the movie. Trintignant is his typically charming self, his character is quirky and he’s very entertaining in this role. Philippe Noiret is well cast as the father and the beautiful Anicée Alvina is not only quite alluring but a talented enough actress to carry much of the film. Joëlle Coeur, who will be very familiar to Jean Rollin fans, also has a small part in the film.

    Disc Two – Pastorale 1943:

    Wim Verstappen's 1978 picture, Pastorale 1943, based on a novel by Simon Vestdijk, is set during the Nazi occupation of Holland during The Second World War. Some of the Dutch locals have taken it upon themselves to form a small resistance movement, though they prove fairly incompetent fairly quickly, at least in comparison to the highly organized and well-trained Nazi forces that they are hoping to wreak havoc with.

    One of the residents of the town is Johan Schults (Frederik de Groot), a teacher of German descent who has changed his last name from Schultz so as not to draw unneeded attention to himself. Nevertheless, he does what he can to hide a friend from the Nazi's when he learns that they have it out for him. He winds up becoming their defector leader of sorts, despite the fact that his brother, August (Rutger Hauer), who has not changed his last name, is a high ranking Nazi officer. Meanwhile, the town banker stages a robbery at the bank he manages to throw a little chaos in to the mix. When the highly disorganized group learns that one of them is a traitor, they develop a plan to out the rat and do away with him or her, but of course, it doesn't go as planned.

    A strange mix of humor and high drama, Pastorale 1973 never feels like it’s making fun of the situation that it is based on. It’s able to point out and make light of the resistance movements disorganization without ever feeling like it’s an affront to those who worked in the underground to upset Nazi plans while they had taken over The Netherlands during this period. It’s a strange mix at times, but a decent bit of entertainment with good, if fairly modest, production values and a pretty solid cast. Marc Felperlaan's cinematography is excellent throughout the entire film, it always looks very good, and the score from Robert Heppener is also impressive.

    Kristel, who reportedly took the role for no money, has a decent supporting role in the picture as a Dutch woman who gets ‘involved with one Hauer. She’s strong in the part, and he’s just as good, at times making you wish the movie spent more time with them. The others do a fine job as well, however, with Frederik de Groot really delivering some excellent work here.

    Disc Three - Mysteries:

    Written and directed by Paul de Lussanet from the novel by Knut Hamsun, 1978's Mysteries once again pairs the actress with Rutger Hauer.

    The film opens with a fairly striking scene where a man, clearly cut up and covered in what we assume is his own blood, dies alone in a under sunny blue skies in a picturesque, empty field.

    From here, we meet Johan Nagel (played by Hauer) an affluent agronomist who, after a quick coach ride, arrives in a small seaside town, standing out thanks to his ridiculously fancy attire. Johan is an odd man, quirky would be putting it mildly, but when he meets a dwarf named Minute (David Rappaort) who is not only the subject of everyone's ridicule but just so happens to be the offspring of the town's minister, they strike up an unorthodox but genuine friendship. Johan soon becomes quite intrigued by Minute's beautiful sister, Dany (played by Kirstel) but is equally intrigued by the less cultured Martha (Rita Tushingham). As these relationships evolve, Nagel’s behavior becomes increasingly bizarre.

    Know going in that this is a very deliberately paced film that doesn’t really have a whole lot going on in terms of its plot. Hauer is the main draw here, and for some viewers, he’ll be enough – and he is really strong in the role. Not a lot of actors would pull off the massive fur coat look that he sports in this film but Hauer seems completely comfortable here and he brings his enigmatic character to vivid life. We don’t always like Nagel, as he lies and acts out and can sometimes be a bit of a bastard, but we want to know more about him and that, more than the wafer thin plotting, is what draws us into the movie. Hauer deserves more credit for this than de Lussanet.

    As to Kristel’s role in the film, she looks great here even if she isn’t given all that much to do. She gets quite a bit of screen time and is well-cast as one of Nagel’s two lovers, but it just doesn’t seem like she’s stretching that much as an actress here compared to Pastorale, where she does very well in a more serious role. Either way, Rappaport is really strong here too, his character is pretty interesting, and Rita Tushingham does a fine job as the older of the two women that Hauer’s character is involved with.

    Disc Four - Julia:

    Shot and released after Emmanuelle made Kristel an international box office draw, 1974's Julia, directed by Sigi Rothemund, is a decent enough mix of sexualized drama and some light comedy but will be remembered more for featuring Kristel in a frequently naked early role more than anything else.

    The story follows a teenager named Pauli (Ekkehardt Belle) who, once summer arrives, leaves the boarding school where he’s spent the last school year to join his family at the shore. On the train ride there, he spots a very attractive woman who later has sex with a man in the bathroom of the train. When train arrives at the station, he’s shocked to learn that the woman, named Yvonne (Teri Tordai), knows his father, Ralph (Jean-Claude Bouillon), and is in fact actually his mistress.

    When Pauli arrives at the villa, he finds a few other family members there – his portly exhibitionist Uncle Alex (Peter Berling), his lesbian Aunt Miriam (Giesla Hahn) and Andrea (Kristel), a girl now a woman who he has known since childhood and who is just as curious about her sexuality is Pauli is about his own. As you’d wager, the horny hijinks of the different players involved in all of this freewheeling promiscuity gets a little… complicated.

    An odd sort of hybrid between a sex comedy and a coming of age drama, Julia never catches fire the way Emmanuelle does but it does offer up plenty of sex and nudity to fill its running time. The plot is, as you’d guess, fairly light but the production values aren’t bad at all. Cinematographer Heinz Hölscher does a really nice job behind the camera, the movie is nicely shot and light and does a good job of capturing some of the picturesque qualities of both the cast and the locations where all of this plays out. It’s a pretty entertaining picture and Kristel’s seductive screen presence is well-used in pretty much every scene she appears in. Ekkehardt Belle is quite good in the lead, perfectly believable, while lovely blonde Teri Tordai and Giesla Hahn add an additional layer of sex appeal to things.

    Sylvia Kristel 1970’s Collection – Blu-ray Review:

    Each of the four films in the set is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on its own 50GB disc.

    Playing With Fire is taken from a transfer provided by Studio Canal and it looks great save for the fact that there’s a bit of a teal tint to much of the film (you’ll really notice this in the outdoor scenes where the colors of the sky look odd). Framed at 2.35.1 and taking up 31.7GBs of space on a 50GB disc, the transfer does show very strong depth, detail and texture. There are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction and the elements used for the presentation were clearly in excellent shape as, while the natural film grain is retained, there’s really no print damage here at all.

    Pastorale 1973 uses up 35.2GBs of space and is framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. Colors might be just a tiny bit faded here but overall the transfer quality is pretty solid. Detail isn’t as strong as it is on the first disc but it’s still strong in most scenes, and the image is pretty much always free of any real print damage, save for the odd small white speck now and again. The image always looks nice and filmic, and if the contrast might look a bit warm at times, overall it’s a pretty solid picture.

    Mysteries, framed at 1.63.1 widescreen, uses up 30.2GBs of space and it’s the least impressive transfer in the set. While it’s still perfectly watchable, the movie looks to have been shot with a lot of intentional soft focus and sometimes employs a hazy look throughout. As such, detail doesn’t pop the way you might hope it would. There’s also some strange color reproduction going on here, though it’s tough to know if this is also on purpose or not, some scenes looking bluer or greener than maybe they should. On the plus side, it’s a very filmic transfer that’s free of any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression problems and it’s also quite clean, showing very little noticeable damage save for some occasional specks and a scratch or two.

    Julia uses 28GBs of space and is framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. It looks really strong, on par with the picture quality of Playing Wire Fire. Taken from German elements (the title card for this transfer reads ‘Die Nichte der O’), colors look great, nice and vibrant. Black levels are nice and strong as well the there’s loads of appreciable detail here as well as impressive depth and texture. Skin tones look nice and natural, never too warm or too pink, and the transfer shows no problems with compression or noise reduction. Again, the elements appear to have been in great shape as you’ll be hard pressed to find any print damage, but the picture retains a nice, filmic quality from start to finish.

    Audio for Playing With Fire is handled by way of a 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mon track or a 16-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono track, both in the film’s original French language. Subtitles are provided in English only. There isn’t a whole lot of discernable differences between the two tracks, they are both clean, clear and nicely balanced giving the score a decent amount of depth.

    The same specifications apply to the audio options for Pastorale 1973 as well as for Mysteries. Quality for these films is also fine, the audio isn’t quite as deep as it is on the first movie but it’s properly balanced and clear sounding, no problems to note for either picture. Julie gets 16-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono audio tracks in English and German and a 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in German, with subtitles offered in English only.

    Extras are spread out across the four discs in the set as follows:

    Disc One – Playing With Fire:

    Extras for Playing With Fire start off with an audio commentary by Tim Lucas that goes over the history of this French-Italian co-production. He notes that it was originally the male stars that made the film bankable in pre-production but once it premiered, shortly after Emmanuelle, it was Kristel who became the big draw. He goes over the intriguing introduction in the film, details the history of the cast and crew, discuses Robbe-Grillet's style and thematic obsessions, details on some of the characters from the film, the design and furnishings on display in the picture, the exploration of incest and agoraphobia in the film, where transparent pantyhose was conveniently used for a brief but important moment, how the scene with the dog was staged and lots more. He quotes heavily from the film's writer/director throughout, while adding plenty of his own incite and analysis. It's quite an interesting talk.
    Interview with Catharine Robbe-Grillt

    The disc also contains a five minute interview with Catharine Robbe-Grillet that talks about the making of the film, working with Trintignant, casting the film, the movie's comic book elements, how the kidnapping of young women is a recurring theme in the director's work, how Philippe Noiret and Alain didn't get along so well, some of the themes and motifs that recur throughout his work and why many of the nude scenes have a statuesque quality to them.

    Finishing up the extras on the first disc are a still gallery and trailers for Mysteries, Pastorale 1943 and Julia.

    Disc Two – Pastorale 1943:

    Extras on the second disc start off with an audio commentary with Professor Peter W. Verstraten, who has written quite extensively about Dutch cinema. After introducing himself, he discusses Wim Verstappen's life and career as well as his connections to Pim de la Parra, the film's script and its writer and lots of information on the various Dutch character actors that populate the film's cast. He also goes over a lot of misperceptions that have arisen surrounding the director's work, some of the noteworthy camera movements in the film and why they are important, the film's production history, the importance of Kristel's role in the film, social and political details on when the film is set, the use of nudity in the film and plenty of other details surrounding the film’s history.

    An eight minute archival interview with Sylvia Kristel and Frederik De Groot details the publicity that arose around her starring in a Dutch film, why she was chosen for the part, thoughts on her character, how De Groot got along with the director, thoughts on his character, his thoughts on the events that inspired the film and the mental scars that The Second World War has left on people.

    An eleven minute archival interview with Sylvia Kristel lets the actress talk about how she's so closely associated with Emmanuelle and how people expect her to act like that character in real life, the challenges involved in playing a nymphomaniac, why she's interested in taking different roles, the different directors and actors that she's worked with over the years, keeping her personal life separate from her acting career, her negative opinion of the film world and thoughts on her own career and success and, finally, why she chose to appear in Pastorale 1973. This is quite revealing and it's refreshing to see Kristel be as blunt and honest as she is here.

    Finishing up the extras on disc two are a still gallery, a Pastorale promo and trailers for Pastorale, Mysteries and Julia.

    Disc Three - Mysteries:

    The first of two audio commentary tracks on the third disc features Verstraten again. He talks quite a bit about Knut Hamsun's source novel, the importance of Robby Müller's top notch cinematography and details on Paul de Lussanet's career. He also offers up lots of details about the international cast members that appear in front of the camera, Hauer's thoughts on his performance in the film and how happy he was to get the part, how the film was received when it debuted and more.

    The second commentary is by Sylvia Kristel biographer Jeremy Richey and focuses not only on the film's history but its significance in Kristel's career. He talks about first seeing the film in an ugly, cut retitled VHS and how important it is to see it uncut, Knut Hamsun's life and times (and his support of Hitler!), the importance of Hauer's appearance in the film, the film's tough production schedule and rough shooting conditions, Laurens van Rooyen's score and career, the nude scenes that were required of Hauer and Kristel under some very harsh conditions, where Kristel was at personally and professionally during this period in her life, how Kristel's work in this film marks the end of the high period of her career in Europe and the less impressive films that followed.

    The disc also includes a featurette titled simply Interviews With Cast And Director that runs just over six minutes. It's an archival piece that talks about Hauer's involvement and the film's locations and period detail. Paul de Lussanet shows up to talk about the locations and why they were chosen, Kristel talks about her work in the picture and thoughts on the movie, Andréa Ferréol talks about her thoughts on the script and what it was like to work in a Dutch film and Hauer discusses working with a French actress, delivering his lines in English and his plans to leave the Netherlands to further his career.

    A still gallery and trailers for Mysteries, Pastorale 1943 and Julie finish up the extras on the disc.

    Disc Four - Julia:

    This disc also includes a commentary from Jeremy Richey who talks about the different cast members in the film and notes the original German title and how it translates to 'It Wasn't The Nightingale.' He talks about how it was changed to Julia after the success of Emmanuelle, why it was retitled The Niece Of O to tie it into The Story Of O and how the film was shot before Emmanuelle but released in time to enjoy the later film's success. He gives a quick overview of the Bavarian sex comedy trend and Julie's connections to it, Jean-Claude Bouillon's career and performance, Sigi Rothemund's career, how Kristel was still very new to the screen when this movie was made (having only been acting for a year at this point), how Kristel was actually pregnant with her son when the movie was made, details on Kristel's early life and family, whether or not the film influenced Zalman King’s Two Moon Junction, some of the locations that were used for the movie and plenty more.

    Finishing up the extras on the fourth and final disc are a still gallery and those same trailers for Mysteries, Pastorale 1943 and Julia.

    In regards to the physical packaging for this release, it’s quite nice. The four Blu-rays fit inside a flipper case that fits into a sturdy side-loading box. Also included inside the box is a poster replicating the cover art seen on the front of the box, and a full color, thirty-eight page book that features writing on each film by Richey as well as a synopsis and credits for each movie in addition to some nice archival stills.

    Sylvia Kristel 1970’s Collection – The Final Word:

    Cult Epics has done a nice job bringing the Sylvia Kristel 1970’s Collection, which is limited to 2,500 copies, to Blu-ray. While Playing With Fire is the real gem in the set, all four of the movies in the set are well worth seeing and the presentations are generally pretty strong even if Mysteries looks less than amazing. Throw in a nice selection of archival interviews and interesting commentary tracks and some deluxe packaging and this set turns out to be quite impressive – recommended!
    Click on the images below (or right click and open in a new window) for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

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    Ian Jane
    Last edited by Ian Jane; 07-23-2022, 04:45 PM.
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      Directed by Mario Bava in 1961 and featuring a screenplay by Bava (and Sandro Continenza, Francesco Prosperi and Duccio Tessari), Hercules In The Haunted World (also known as Hercules At The Center Of The Earth and
      04-17-2024, 12:08 PM
    • Tormented (Film Masters) Blu-ray Review
      Ian Jane
      by Ian Jane

      Released by: Film Masters
      Released on: April 23rd, 2024.
      Director: Bert I. Gordon
      Cast: Richard Carlson, Juli Reding, Lugene Sanders, Susan Gordon
      Year: 1963
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      Tormented – Movie Review:

      The late Bert I. Gordon’s 1963 horror film, ‘Tormented,’ is an effectively spooky ghost story made with an obviously low budget but no less effective for it.

      The story revolves around a professional piano player
      04-17-2024, 10:19 AM
    • Impulse (Grindhouse Releasing) Blu-ray Review
      Ian Jane
      by Ian Jane

      Released by: Grindhouse Releasing
      Released on: March 12th, 2024.
      Director: William Grefé
      Cast: William Shatner, Jennifer Bishop, Ruth Roman, Harold Sakata
      Year: 1974
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      Impulse – Movie Review:

      Directed by the one and only William Grefé, 1974’s Impulse is one of those rare films that allows you to witness what it would be like if a really sweaty William Shatner got mad at a lady carrying balloons. Before that
      04-15-2024, 01:20 PM
    • Lola (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review
      Ian Jane
      by Ian Jane

      Released by: Severin Films
      Released on: April 30th, 2024.
      Director: Andrew Legge
      Cast: Emma Appleton, Stefanie Martini, Rory Fleck Byrne
      Year: 2022
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      Lola – Movie Review:

      Irish filmmakers Andrew Legge’s 2022 movie, ‘Lola’, which was made during Covid-19 lockdowns, is a wildly creative movie made in the found footage style that defies expectations, provides plenty of food for thought and manages to make
      04-10-2024, 04:09 PM
    • Spanish Blood Bath (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review
      Ian Jane
      by Ian Jane

      Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
      Released on: March 26th, 2024.
      Director: Jess Franco, Jorge Grau, Pedro L. Ramírez
      Cast: Alberto Dalbés, Evelyne Scott, Fernando Rey, Marisa Mell, Wal Davis, Norma Kastel
      Year: 1974
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      Spanish Blood Bath – Movie Review:

      Vinegar Syndrome brings a triple feature of Spanish horror films of the in this new three-disc Blu-ray boxed set. Here’s what lies inside…

      Night Of The
      04-10-2024, 04:02 PM