Jul 152019

There were two films titled Venus in Furs released in 1969. This is the one also known as Paroxismus, directed by Jesus (aka Jess) Franco, and starring James Darren, Barbara McNair and Maria Rohm. It has little to do with Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novel Venus im Pelz (aka Venus in Furs). (The other 1969 Venus was directed by Massimo Dallamano.)

Wanda, aka Venus (Maria Rohm)

In Istanbul, Jimmy (James Darren), a jazz trumpeter, finds a beautiful blonde woman washed up dead on the beach. He recognizes her as Wanda (Maria Rohm). In a flashback, Jimmy witnessed Wanda being beaten and tortured by two men and another woman at an elite party. “Man, it was a wild scene. But if they wanted to go that route, it was their bag. I told myself it was none of my business. But maybe I split because I was just as sick as they were but couldn’t face up to it.”

Jimmy flies to Rio de Janeiro, where he meets another beautiful blonde woman named Wanda, inexplicably alive. They fall in love, interrupted by surreal sequences in which Wanda, dressed in white fur coat, white stockings and white heeled shoes, haunts the three people who apparently killed her and kills them, either by arousing them to death or by suicide. Wanda’s explanation is, “They were sick and guilty and they had to be punished.”

Olga (Margaret Lee) is still drawn to Wanda (Rohm)

While I don’t have exhaustive knowledge of Sacher-Masoch’s bibliography, I don’t think the film overall is based on any of his fiction. The exception is one sequence towards the end. The third of Wanda’s presumed killers, a blue-eyed man named Ahmed (Klaus Kinski), tells her an Orientalist story about a sultan who falls for a slave girl. To win her love, he gives her 24 hours of absolute power. This is replicated in another fantasy sequence, with lots of women in harem costumes, resulting in the death of Ahmed while hanging from his wrists. This is loosely based on Sacher-Masoch’s short story “The Black Czarina.”

I’m not sure if this film was an original story, retitled Venus in Furs as some kind of literary reference or to compete with the other 1969 film, or if it was built around the Sacher-Masoch story and titled Venus in Furs for the greater recognition. It’s a bit like how films based on HP Lovecraft stories are sometimes given titles from completely different Lovecraft stories.

Wanda (Rohm) and her three killers, Olga (Lee), Ahmed (Klaus Kinski) and Percival (Dennis Price)

The dialogue and direction style is very dated. There’s also a lot of padding to fill out a thin story to feature length: jazz musicians playing, B-roll footage of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, a car chase, and a lot of soft-core sex scenes. 

To the extent that this film features BDSM at all, it falls into the “elite decadence” subgroup: sadomasochism is something rich weirdoes do in exotic foreign places (i.e. “The Orient), and will inevitably result in somebody’s death.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.