Underground | Review by Dan Taylor
finally sat down and watched Franco's trippy
VENUS IN FURS the other night. I'd heard
a lot about this flick over the years but
never bothered to tracked down an 8th generation
VHS, due more to Kinski's role being described
as "brief" than anything else.
Thankfully, Blue Underground recently put
out a nice DVD of this jazz-noir complete
with widescreen transfer, interview with
Franco, and audio interview with Maria Rohm.
James Darren stars as Jimmy,
a trumpet player who awakens one day and
digs up the horn he'd buried on the beach
("It's like burying my life" he
says in the film's noir-ish voiceover).
As he fiddles with the instrument
which was exactly where he remembered burying
it he notices something floating
in the surf and discovers the slashed, beaten
body of a beautiful blonde.
At first he doesn't recognize
her but eventually remembers that this is
the same girl he encountered while performing
at a jet setter party a few weeks earlier.
There he stumbled upon a perverse trio
a sweaty art dealer (Dennis Price), a carpet-munching
photog (Margaret Lee), and a sadistic playboy
Kinski) whipping, assaulting
and stabbing the girl.
Instead of stopping the shenanigans
Jimmy walks away thinking that maybe it's
"their bag" and avoids getting
involved in their reindeer games. Escaping
to Rio he encounters Wanda (Maria Rohm),
a dead ringer for the girl he found on the
Can this be the same girl?
Is Jimmy's mind playing tricks on him? Or,
is something more bizarre at work? Regardless,
he strikes up a relationship with her, to
the chagrin of his casual galpal Rita (Barbara
McNair), a soulful club singer employed
like Jimmy to entertain at
swinging jet-setter shindigs.
In a series of hypnotic episodes,
the three pervs who tortured the poor girl
find themselves encountering their victim
as well, though without the same results
as the last time. With the body count piling
up and the cops on their trail (the film
wildly shifts from hypnotic erotic thriller
to chase flick in an unexpected sequence),
Jimmy and Wanda escape together while Franco
circles back to the beginning of the film.
I could probably show VENUS
to a dozen different people and get as many
differing opinions about the flick's meaning.
One friend described it as a painting that
Franco put out there and each viewer can
interpret the proceedings however they wish.
I have my own theories but
won't share them here for the sake of spoilage.
(Though if you want to discuss the flick
us in the ER Forums.) Kinski fans will
be both delighted and disappointed by his
miniscule, almost silent role. His limited
dialogue is dubbed by another actor, but
he's rarely looked so striking on screen.
At one point Franco frames his face
chiseled features, ice blue eyes, blondish
hair against a red background (a
dominant theme and color scheme throughout
the flick) and it's simply one of the best
uses of The German Olivier's features I've
ever encountered. (It's up there with the
"prayer grenade" sequence in A
BULLET FOR THE GENERAL.)
After my initial viewing I
would not have said I really dug VENUS,
but in the days that followed I found something
very interesting happening. The film, its
subtext and possible meanings kept nagging
away at me, nibbling at my brain like an
earwig. If you're an open-minded viewer,
I think this trippy, hypnotic flick will
have a similar effect.