Every so often, the Marquis de Sade comes back into vogue. The last couple of years saw the release of Quills and Sade close on each other’s heels. Their rather romantic views of Sade are as nothing, however, compared to this 1969 film.
Returning to the now decrepit castle in which he lived, Sade (Keir Dullea of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame) encounters his corrupt clergyman uncle, played by John Huston (hilariously mangling French names and doing a lip-smackingly creepy wa…m-up for his role a few years later in Chinatown). Huston stages a play that triggers Sade’s memories, and we move back and forth in time, seeing the events that made him the man he is. Turns out all he really wanted was the one woman he couldn’t have. The film is sumptuous and fun, but don’t come here for anything even remotely approaching historical accuracy.
The soundtrack is a clear mono. There is no hiss to speak of, but some of the voices sound like they were recorded on entirely different tracks than others. Most of the flaws can probably be put down to the original print. Still, according to the credits, a stereo version of the film was made, and if so, it is a shame MGM didn’t (or couldn’t) provide us with that one.
This is certainly one of the more lavish pictures to be produced by American-International, and the colours are as rich as the decor. There is some grain, more noticeable in the exterior sequences. As well, the picture itself is not quite as clear as it could be – sometimes faces even in medium-long shots seem a bit blurred. The format is the original 1.85:1 (enhanced for 16×9 TVs).
The menu is basic, and apart from the trailer, the one other extra is an eight-minute featurette: “Richard Matheson: Storyteller.” Screenwriter Matheson talks about how he views his writing process, what he intended with the screenplay to De Sade, and concludes (very briefly) with his metaphysical beliefs. An interesting piece, and one I wish were longer.
A fascinating piece, very much a product of its times (the animated credit sequence must be seen to be believed – is that supposed to be a dolphin playing with a ball??). This vision of Sade is much closer to Jane Eyre’s Rochester than the philosopher of evil. Definitely worth checking out, though, and it’s nice to see Richard Matheson get some attention on a DVD release. Let’s hope for more.
Special Features List
- Theatrical Trailer
- “Richard Matheson: Storyteller” featurette