IMAGE, THE - DVD review


1975 saw the release of "The Image", an erotic film based on the French erotic novel "L'Image" (written by Catherine Robbe-Grillet under the masculine pseudonym Jean de Berg). In the movie, Jean (Carl Parker) gets in touch with an old acquaintance, Claire (Marilyn Roberts). He discovers that Claire is in control of Anne (Mary Mendum), a young blonde who seems to do little except to serve the dark sexual whims of her mistress. So, for 90-plus minutes, the viewer gets to see Jean and Claire abuse Anne in just about every way short of permanently injuring/killing her.

Despite the pseudo-artsiness of the filmmakers' style--dividing the movie into "chapters" complete with title cards; using eye-catching costumes, sets, and locations; passing off indifference as "sophistication"--"The Image" never really overcomes its built-in limitations as a hard-to-watch exercise in degradation and humiliation. Claire and Jean force Anne to reveal herself in public and have sex with random strangers. They torture Anne with an assortment of rose thorns, chains, whips, needles, and rough sex. Twice, Anne must endure Jean and Claire fondling her between her legs while in a restaurant. Why? The film never really offers an explanation, and the only possible reason I can offer to you the reader is that these characters are rich and have nothing else to do that might amuse them.

Carl Parker's smug performance will remind you of the many boors and male porn stars that you have encountered/heard of, and Marilyn Roberts plays a frigid bitch with no dimensionality. Surprisingly, Mary Mendum delivers a rather good performance as the victimized Anne. She manages to convey real fear and pain with her eyes and subtle facial expressions. However, I'm afraid that her efforts were wasted in an enterprise as sordid as this one.

Luis Buñuel and Stanley Kubrick have both made complex movies about off-kilter sexual tastes without resorting to lingering shots of genitalia or focusing strictly on sex. Buñuel and Kubrick show how sex colors all aspects of life, but "The Image" is mostly interested in sex for sex's sake. I'm open to the idea that Jean, Claire, and Anne indulge in the dark side of carnality simply because they become sexually aroused by pain (both physical and psychological). However, if their motivations are that simple, then we don't really need a feature-length film (or a novel) to tell us that there are people in the world who like rough/humiliating sexual activities--just offer us a few thoughts, and we'll be on our way, thank you very much.

Judging from the DVD's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen video transfer, the source print has suffered physical wear and tear over the years. About two-thirds of the way into the movie, there is a vertical white line that runs down the image. It doesn't last for more than 2 minutes, but it is one of the defects that apparently could not be fixed/removed when the film made the leap into the digital age. Colors seem faded, and the print looks "tired" (worn, mainly). Scratches and dust can be seen rather often.

Originally created with a monaural audio track, "The Image" now sports a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track on DVD. Since the track was created from the source's mono elements, the DVD's audio sounds rather thin, hollow, and limited. Dialogue levels seem to be much higher than one would expect given the volumes of the rest of the mix. The stereo mix doesn't sound much different from the original DD 2.0 mono mix, also included on the DVD. While the audio tracks are generally free of hisses, pops, or cracks, they're very much less natural-sounding compared to the dynamic, realistic mixes of movies made during the past 10 years. (The DVD does not have subtitles or closed captions.)

The DVD has a DD 2.0 mono isolated music track. The music-only track sounds a shade better than the two primary audio tracks.

The DVD also provides a filmography for director Radley Metzger. Within the filmography, you'll find 5 trailers for other Metzger films, though there isn't a trailer for "The Image" on the DVD.

A glossy booklet provides an essay about the film as well as chapter listings.

Entertainment Value:
"The Image" was made when society was still curious and permissive enough to allow erotic films into the mainstream. However, despite the fact that filmmakers could make sexually exploratory movies without facing as much opposition as filmmakers would today, they usually did not seize the opportunity to make meaningful films. "The Image" may have a literary source, but it differs little from exploitation flicks of any genre from any time period. An action movie comprised of repetitive, continuous violence is a crass, simple throwaway, but an action movie made with skill and fresh ideas is an achievement. "The Image" is not unlike action movies lacking in inspiration--there's a lot of nudity and just-shy-of-hardcore sex in the movie, but it has nothing to say other than the obvious.


Film Value