Venus in Furs (1967) IMDB
As far as I know, this is the first feature film adaptation of Venus in Furs, or more accurately the first to bear that name. (According to IMDB, there was a short film released in 1965 titled Venus in Furs, though the description sounds nothing like the book.) It was also released the same year that the Velvet Underground released their debut album (having been formed in 1964), which featured the song “Venus in Furs.” I don’t know if there was any direct connection between the two.
The opening scene is a fairly direct adaptation of the book’s opening scene, in which the unnamed narrator has a conversation with the goddess Venus. This is revealed to be a dream of the protagonist, David, who fell asleep reading the book.
After that, the film bears little or no resemblance to the book, narratively or thematically. The opening credits say as much, claiming to be “Suggested by a novel by Leopold Sacher Masoch (sic).”
David, the protagonist, keeps having dreams/fantasies of women dominating him as he travels by subway to his job at a women’s shoe store. While serving a female customer (and ogling her stocking tops), two other men working there ask him why he lets women customers push him around. The film keeps shifting to fantasy and back, with him crawling before the legs of the female customers. There are a lot of scenes of women in fur, but there’s an equal or greater emphasis on women’s feet, legs, shoes, stockings and boots. This suggests that this film was made for the fetishist market.
David then runs into a woman in furs at the New York Public Library. He and the woman, Marina, drive out to a party house in the country. There’s little in the way of a plot, after this point. Instead, it’s a series of scenes, mostly female dominant, with a framing device of David as a participant or a voyeur. While he’s drawn to Marina, she keeps pushing him away. In some cases, David is partially naked and shown off lifting weights. The scenes stop short of full female frontal nudity.
One of the bigger scenes looks like they just kept the cameras rolling while the house guests had a party. Some couples make out, a crossdressed man dances, one woman plays solitaire on another woman lying on the ground, a guy fondles a woman’s leg in fishnet while also fondling a creepy clown doll.
Marina sits in David’s lap, who tells her that he’s not happy with the way things are, such as having to share her with other people. She gives him a sugar cube (containing LSD?) in a glass of wine and tells him to enjoy the show.
After a lot of this, David pushes Marina to the floor and starts pulling her clothes off. She resists at first, then commands, “Kiss my toes.” David starts worshipping Marina’s feet and legs, but gets upset when she, at the same time, makes out with a blonde woman, Lorelai. He stalks off.
Outside, David is leaving with his suitcase. Marina stops him.
Marina: “I keep thinking of last night. All the things you did to me. The way you began to take me so forcefully like a real man.” Embraces him. “Oh David, please help. I’m so unhappy.” Cries on his shoulder.
David: “That’s no news. I’ve always been. Always.”
Marina: “Oh my poor darling. I guess I haven’t been much help. Sometimes I long to be something better but I just can’t help myself. There’s something perverse in both you and Lorelei. Some weakness that makes me want to punish you both. Subdue you. Dominate you.”
David: “Let’s forget about all of that now.”
He picks up up and carries her off.
Cut to: David and Marina riding horses in the country. It’s idyllic, until David finds Marina making out with Lorelai.
“You rotten liar!” David yells. He starts trying to kill and/or rape Marina while Lorelai bites his ankle (his Achilles’ heel?).
The scene cuts to David, nude but for a leopard-print posing pouch, tied to a tree with stockings. Marina and Lorelai lie at his feet, while people stand around staring at the tableau.
… and it was all a dream. David gets up for the steps at the New York Public Library and walks into the Manhattan streets. He sees a woman in furs in a car who smiles at him.
There is a loose thematic connection between the book and this film, the tension between a man’s masochistic and fetishistic desires and his ideal of how a man should be. The climactic tableau suggests that David is paralyzed by his self-imposed paradox: his muscular body makes him a spectacle to be observed and controlled, and his desire to submit to Marina makes him fear rejection. Though I’m not sure there was any particular thought put into this film, other than stringing together some soft-core fetish scenes. Even with all the padding, the film is only slightly longer than an hour.
Marina was played by Barbara Ellen who was also the co-screenwriter. She acted in a handful of other films and TV shows in the 50s and 60s. Shep Wild (David) appeared in a few other minor films in the 60s. Joseph Marzano, the director and co-screenwriter, had a long career as a filmmaker from the 1940s to 2000, mostly shorts. I don’t know of any other connections to the kink/fetish culture, though he did write and direct Fur (1979), about a haunted or possessed fur coat that kills people.