Sunday, 31 August 2014

Immoral Tales (1974)

        Fans who like their Euro art-house weirdness to have a healthy dose of erotica can rejoice as Arrow releases rather a lot of the work of Walerian Borowczyk. They’re putting out a box set which has already sold out on pre-order, but if you haven’t managed to snag yourself a copy worry not - each of the titles in the set is being released individually, and a series of write-ups on this site is going to tell you all about them.
First up is his erotic anthology movie from 1974. I will freely admit that the only reason I tracked down IMMORAL TALES originally was because of its celebrated Erzsebet Bathory episode, widely lauded as the best cinematic version of the story of the countess who bathed in the blood of virgins in an attempt to keep herself young. Mind you, with the only real competition being Hammer’s sub-par COUNTESS DRACULA and a ponderous adaptation starring Anna Friel (2008‘s BATHORY COUNTESS OF BLOOD) it’s always been onto a winner anyway.

But what about the rest of the film? We begin with ‘The Tide’ in which a young man takes his teenaged cousin to the kind of windswept beach Jean Rollin would love in order to make her perform fellatio on him while the tide comes in. It’s a strange, bleak, sexy episode, with a quality to it akin to that found in the fictions of Robert Aickman. The rough sea, bleak cliffs, grey shale and ever-present seagulls combine to produce a weird atmosphere and the story is certainly strong on style if not on plot. 

Second is ‘Therese Philosophe’ in which a young girl is locked in a room after staying late in church to misbehave with various bits of christian iconography. Perhaps needless to say, she finds things to amuse herself with in the room as well. 

Third is the Bathory segment which, apart from featuring an abundance of female nudity, numerous shower sequences, and imagery redolent of an erotic renaissance painting, also has the best blood I’ve possibly ever seen in a film. Paloma Picasso plays the title role and gets to drench herself with it in a scene that is both repellent and obscenely erotic. It was recreated rather inferiorly by Eli Roth in HOSTEL II but if you want the genuine article, Borowczyk’s your man.

The final tale ‘Lucrezia Borgia’ is probably a bit (or actually a lot) of a pop at the catholic church, with the daughter of Pope Alexander VI getting up to all kinds of misbehaviour with her male relatives. While ‘The Tide’ is weird, and ‘Erzsebet Bathory’ horrific, this is the story that struck me as the most satirical and playful, and is as good a story as any with which to end the film.
Arrow’s Blu-ray is the usual stunning transfer, and comes with a wealth of extras. IMMORAL TALES was originally released with a fifth segment which was taken out of the finished product and developed into a full length film of its own entitled THE BEAST. Arrow have included the entire five-story version of IMMORAL TALES as an extra on the disc. There’s also an introduction to the disc by Daniel Bird that places the film in the context of the time when it was originally released, a new making of that runs for about 16 minutes, a crew reunion, a trailer and the short film A PRIVATE COLLECTION that details a whole load of peculiar bits and pieces of erotic art. 
As with so many of Arrow’s releases, this really is the best version of IMMORAL TALES out there, and if you’re a fan of the director this is the one to get.

Arrow Films are releasing Walerian Borowczyk's IMMORAL TALES on dual format Region B Blu-ray and Region 2 DVD on 8th September 2014

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