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Draguse / Le Bijou D’Amour (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Draguse / Le Bijou D’Amour (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: February 22nd, 2022.
    Director: Patrice Rhomm
    Cast: Monica Swinn, Erika Cool, Olivier Mathot, Claudine Beccarie, Joëlle Le Quément, Danielle Troger, Brigitte Lahaie, Carmelo Petix
    Year: 1976/1978
    Purchase From Amazon

    Draguse / Le Bijou D’Amour – Movie Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome returns to the well of French sex films with this double feature release of two Patrice Rhomm directed films from the seventies.


    First up is 1976’s Draguse (a.k.a. Draguse Or The Infernal Mansion), which tells the sordid tale of a writer named David Leger (Olivier Mathot of Cecilia and The Sadist Of Notre Dame), who, when the film opens, is having a strange dream where an even stranger woman named Drague (Monica Swinn of Barbed Wire Dolls) haunts him and teases him by fellating a bone (and that’s not a euphemism as you’ll see from the screen caps below).

    Back in the real world, David is suffering from some pretty serious writers block. When his publisher (played by Rhomme himself) asks that his latest tome be of a sexual nature, he decides that he’ll get inspiration by first renting an old mansion where he can concentrate on his work and then by exploring the sex shops and cavorting with the prostitutes that populate Paris. As David tries to hunker down and get to work, however, he keeps getting strange nocturnal visits from Draguse, which doesn’t do his already troubled relationship with girlfriend July (Martine Fléty) any good.

    As more time passes it becomes clear that David is having as much trouble as the audience in distinguishing fantasy from reality, but hey, at least we all get to have some fun trying to figure it all out.

    The film may not always make a whole lot of sense but it does offer up plenty of weird, kinky fun, cashing in on the Nazisploitation craze that was running through less reputable theaters around the time that the picture was made. Throw in a great fake moustache, a cute blonde in short shorts and a bunch of skulls and wonky Satanic imagery and this marginally hardcore adult film comes up a winner. Throw in a killer soundtrack and a lengthy scene that explores the sex shops and porno theaters of seventies Paris and it’s hard not to love this sleazy little oddity.

    Performances are pretty decent. Olivier Mathot makes for a decent enough lead here, believably confused and perplexed as his experiences intensify and become increasingly hard to explain. Swinn is great as the titular character, really vamping it up in a big way and making quite the impression with her ridiculously enthusiastic performance. Erika Cool (of Sex Roulette) also has a good supporting role in the film.

    As much a screwy horror film as a sex film, Draguse isn’t very explicit by the standards of hardcore films, but it does cross the line a few times, even if the shots don’t linger as they do in typical XXX fare. Rhomm actually does a pretty good job of creating a strangely intriguing mix of atmosphere, kink and horror here, leading up to a conclusion that is legitimately stirring and one you won’t soon forget.

    Le Bijou D’Amour:

    The second feature tells the story of a man named Adrien (Jacques Manteil) who is, when the film opens, having sex in the control room of the radio station where he works with his producer Gordonna (Brigitte Lahaie). When the lead reporter on the hit radio show 'Confidences de L'Etrange' resigns, Adrien is quickly asked to replace him and when he does, he soon gets to work, poking about with his tape recorder hoping to document evidence of the supernatural and the occult. He meets up with two co-workers at a local café where pretty blonde stranger asks to read his palm. He agrees, and she moves backwards into the street and is promptly struck dead by a fast moving car – all of this before the opening credits!

    With his vacation plans quashed, Adrien drives his goofy yellow car from Paris to the countryside where he hopes to pick up where the last reporter left off by doing a deep dive into the history of a man named Hugo de Baal who has reportedly uncovered some interesting facts about female succubi operating the in the area. Along the way, he meets a woman named Draga (Muriel Vatel) who sells him a ring that supposedly once belonged to none other than Casanova himself! When he agrees to buy it, she sweetens the pot by screwing him out there in the brush.

    Adrien then learns that the ring actually has a curse upon it wherein anyone he physically touches turns into a raging sex maniac - but there's a catch. If Adrien, or anyone else who wears it, can't pass it along to someone else within a few days, they'll meet their certain doom! After he has sex in a cave, Adrien does his damnedest to try and figure out what's going on, what the succubi have to do with this and how he can get rid of the ring and get on with his life.

    Le Bijou D’Amour is an entertaining softcore picture that doesn’t go quite as deep into horror territory as the first feature does but which still offers a few weird attempts at spookiness in and amongst the less penetrative bumping and grinding that goes on in the movie. There’s a strange sense of dark humor to much of the movie, but Rhomm keeps things moving at a good pace and never lets the more comedic elements of the storyline take over the film. While the story may have some odd and truly unexpected parallels to Hideo Nakata’s Ring, it’s got a unique and bizarre sensibility to it that makes it a lot of fun to watch. Like its predecessor on this disc, it’s also nicely shot and set to a good score from Daniel White (fans of Female Vampire will definitely recognize some of the music used in this movie!).

    Franco fans will appreciate seeing Pamela Stanford (of Lorna The Exorcist) show up in the film’s finale and going as over the top as you’d hope she would as a dominatrix of sorts. The super cute Danielle Troger (from Six Swedes On A Campus, to name only one) also shows up here as does prolific Italian adult film star Carmelo Petix (who worked on Rhomm's Helga: She-Wolf Of Stilberg as well as Lasse Braun's Body Love and a lot of other Eurpoean dirty movies).

    Draguse / Le Bijou D’Amour – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Draguse / Le Bijou D’Amour to Region Free Blu-ray “newly scanned & restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative.” Framed at 1.66.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, both films look excellent. There’s a disclaimer that appears on screen before Le Bijou D’Amour plays out noting that states that it “was sourced from an existing 4k master created by the rights holders in France and that certain image stability issues are inherent in the scan and count not be rectified” but honestly, after watching the film, there aren’t any noticeable, major problems here. Colors look excellent in both films, the transfers are both from elements that were clearly in very nice shape and both skin tones and black levels look good. Some shots are intentionally soft but overall, detail is quite strong. No complaints here, the transfers are both very nice.

    The only audio options for the features are 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks in their original French language. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The tracks are sometimes a bit limited in range but for older mono mixes they sound quite good. There aren’t any issues with any hiss or distortion and he levels are properly balanced throughout.

    There are some pretty interesting extras included on the disc, starting with a lengthy thirty-nine minute long interview with Draguse actress Monica Swinn. She speaks very candidly here about how she feels about her career in sex films after the fact, her thoughts on acting in adult pictures, how she came to be affiliated with Jess Franco and what he was like to work with, doing live theater at one point in her life and what she’s done since getting out of the acting business.

    A twelve minute interview with Draguse actress Erika Cool covers how she started as a model before getting into acting, taking the role in Draguse and then launching into a career in the adult film industry, her thoughts on that work and why she decided to leave not too long after getting involved with it,

    Lastly, as far as the interviews go, we spend fourteen minutes with Draguse’s production manager, Eric de Winter, who speaks about how the film’s success helped to open the doors for adult films in France, the advent of the X-rating in the country, mixing sex with other genres for broader commercial appeal and some of the marketing that went into French adult films of the seventies.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is the original theatrical trailer for Le Bijou D’Amour and a brief bonus scene for Le Bijou D’Amour that offers viewers a stronger version of the first sex scene that takes place inside the cave.

    As far as the packaging for this release goes, Vinegar Syndrome provides some reversible cover sleeve artwork and, for the first three thousand copies purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome’s website, a limited edition embossed slipcover designed by Earl Kessler Jr.

    Draguse / Le Bijou D’Amour - The Final Word:

    Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release of Draguse and Le Bijou D’Amour is pretty impressive, offering up two amusing Patrice Rhomm sex films in very nice shape and with some good extras as well. The movies themselves are pretty fun – quirky, sexy and weird, which is always a winning combination.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Draguse / Le Bijou D’Amour Blu-ray screen caps!

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