Venus In Furs

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Jesús Franco’s Venus In Furs (1969) opens with Jimmy Logan (James Darren) discovering the body of Wanda Reed (Maria Rohm) washed up on a beach. This striking image, as well as the flashback structure in general, come directly from Orson Welles’ Mr. Arkadin (1955). Having worked with Orson Welles on the unfinished Don Quixote briefly in the sixties seems to have greatly impacted Franco’s style. The artful attributes of Franco’s films place him at the forefront of European sexploitation cinema along with Jean Rollin and Walerian Borowczyk.

As is the case with Franco’s best works, Venus In Furs tells a simple narrative speckled with supernatural elements and prolonged scenes of female nudity. Franco never takes the film beyond the soft-core, nor is there any pretension that Venus In Furs is a serious drama or thriller. Franco’s genre hybrids tend to be his most watchable simply because there is so much more for him to do as a filmmaker. When Franco began his long collaboration with Lina Romay, for instance, his films became so transfixed with her naked body that they ceased to do anything else.

Venus In Furs, again, like Mr. Arkadin, is both a mystery thriller and a revenge picture. Jimmy Logan, a jazz musician, is haunted by a beautiful phantom and attempts to uncover the fate that befell her. Meanwhile, that same phantom carries out her revenge on those responsible for her murder. Each narrative trajectory only intersects the other at various stages, but still the overall effect is adequate enough to convey suspense and intrigue.

Dennis Price and Klaus Kinski, who play the sadistic villains, relish their meaty parts, embracing the campiness of Franco’s pseudo-Gothic vision. Kinski is all maniac, as you’d expect, while Price appears more subtle and deliberate about his cruel machinations. However, no player rivals Maria Rohm for on-screen charisma. Rohm was a regular collaborator of Franco’s and does little more it seems than allow herself to be photographed and positioned by the director in this particular film. But if one pays attention to Maria Rohm’s close-ups one sees the cold rage in her eyes and it soon becomes apparent that there is more to her sonombulist performance than first meets the eye.

Venus In Furs is a titillating entertainment with some beautiful moments throughout. But as is the case with any film really it’s all about the audience’s attraction to the featured players. Either you’ll enjoy seeing Maria Rohm in little more than a white mink coat or you won’t. If one is casually interested in this genre or this period, Venus In Furs is a good place to start because there’s less to be offended by and fewer lulls than are present in so many similar films by Franco and others.