Scandalous Photos (UK - DVD)
The Wilson Bros flick furtively through Naughty's DVD of Scandalous Photos...
We’ve all heard the expression ‘where there’s muck there’s brass’, but other than journalists, there are very few who fabricate muck against the innocent to make their own brass.
From Jean-Claude Roy, the writer of Dressage and Education Anglaise (and the director of the former), comes another sleazy slice of soft core sleaze for hardened Francophiles (oo-er): two French lowlifes, Juliette (Brigitte Lahaie) and Chris, make a living by blackmailing well-to-do members of French by taking compromising pictures of their daughters and threatening to go to the press with them if their demands for money aren’t met. They grow bolder, aiming for bigger targets, but greed might just be their undoing.
The opening of the movie sets its store in a deadly-efficient manner: a guy driving an economical car pulls over, coming to the aid of motorcyclist lying by the side of the road. When cradling her in his arms, she unzips, whips her knockers out as a camera flashes and captures incriminating photographs, ready to blackmail the unsuspecting Good Samaritan. This tells the audience two things: there is a co-ed extortion team at work, and they are right to wonder who would believe that a guy who drives a boxy piece of crap like that could ever cop-off with a woman as stunning as Brigitte Lahaie.
Juliette and Chris’ plan goes swimmingly until high-profile blackmail victim Jonathan Sauvalos (Marcel Charvey) decides not to take things lying down. He wheels out the big guns in the form of shady private detective Jim Ravel, who sets out to track down the aforementioned lowlifes. While he might take sh*t from nobody, Jim bears an uncanny resemblance to Inspector Jacques Clouseau, complete with moustache and beige trench-coat. Clouseau didn’t get to nob a string of women when he was on the hunt for either the Phantom or the lunatic, Dreyfuss.
As Ravel tries to track down the blackmailers, our detective falls for Carla, the daughter of one of the blackmail targets, but also finds time to jump in the sack with a hooker in a move that predated Fulci's New York Ripper by a couple of years.
The trail of scandalous photos eventually leads to a woman by the name of Madame Jo-Jo, a former lady of the night who has found a much more profitable way to relieving money from clients – and not just blackmail! It’s at this point the movie takes a really batsh*t 180-degree change in direction, and becomes a cold-war espionage caper. We aren’t going to reveal the details, but you’ll be left scratching your big head long after you stop paying similar attention to the little one!
With this being a movie starring Brigitte Lahaie, there was no question of girl-on-girl action playing a part in the proceedings, and you won’t be disappointed. Whilst getting the incriminating pictures of a drugged socialite, Lahaie gets it on with the unconscious girl, making her seem overcome with orgasmic delight. Should you look closely, you might notice that she’s instinctively sticking her tongue between Lahaie’s lips—so much for staying in character! Speaking of lips, there’s an early scene in the movie with Lahaie wearing a pair of hotpants that are so skimpy that the audience practically gets an eyeful of what only our Brigitte’s gynaecologist is privy to.
Honestly, you really can’t say enough about the amazing Brigitte Lahaie, as she is one of the poster-boys for the female of the species. Yes, it’s a French woman with amazing, heavy tits, carrying an incredible air of sensuality as though every movie she appears in comes with a scratch n’ sniff card loaded with pheromones. We had the pleasure of running into her at the 1997 Eurofest, and she was elegance personified. When she walked through the merchandise area of the Everyman cinema, the lines of guys almost gave her a guard-of honour salute with their trousers as she passed.
This is the French Brigitte who should rightly be held as the ultimate glamour icon, rather than Bardot. Firstly, have you seen Bardot recently? Jesus, she puts you in mind of the Just So story as to how the rhinoceros got his skin. Secondly, with her being that involved with animals, she probably stinks of wet dog and has traces of shit under her nails. In Scandalous Photos, this Goddess shows that she can wear only a pair of leather trousers and in no way look underdressed.
It has to be said, but in terms of storytelling structure, it's a hell of a mess, with the primary antagonist being introduced at the start of the final act, just as the ones we have come to know are ushered out the door. This might be looked up on as non-conformist cinema, but to the more cynical, it looks like the script came up a number of pages short during the filming. Lahaie isn’t really the star of this movie, and if you were to put her billing in an American perspective, she would probably rate an ‘and Brigitte Lahaie!’ Her presence boosts the film immeasurably, making it more than watchable; when she leaves the movie, the bizarre—and aforementioned—cinematic about-face will keep you watching just so you can try and guess how the thing is going to end.
But whatever shortcomings the movie may have in the storytelling department, Scandalous Photos manages to cram in plenty of Brigitte Lahaie nudity for fans. Granted, she may leave the movie at the end of the second act, but there are many scenes of her in the buff to make up for this.
The French atmosphere is noticeable quite early on—the thing that strikes you the most is that whereas many Italian movies (particularly gialli), had product placement for J&B whiskey, with strategically-placed bottles appearing at every opportunity, here the tipple of choice would appear to be White Horse whiskey—the European movie industry really did seem to be doing all it could during the sixties, seventies and early eighties to shore up the alcohol manufacturing industry in Scotland.
During a sequence where our private dick infiltrates a decadent gathering, we found ourselves musing. Said soiree involves attractive fully-clothed women standing amongst rich partygoers and they bid for items of clothing—with each item won, it is removed and the bidders increase their offers as they get closer towards seeing the women in a state of complete undress. It has to be said that the first woman to be seen is not exactly the most attractive individual in the movie and it wouldn’t have surprised us if the partygoers didn’t bid for her to keep her clothes on. It also occurred to us that the ‘human feast’—effectively an attractive nude woman is wheeled out lying on a trolley artistically covered in food and all the guests help themselves to the comestibles—might be that appealing once all the initial pickings have gone: you have to feel sorry for the poor bastard who turns up late and the food left tastes like sh*t…
Looking at it from a modern perspective, Scandalous Photos is most certainly a product of its time—the very concept of extorting money from people in the public eye to avoid potential scandal is pretty much an outdated concept, seeing as such images surface on the internet or are published in the tabloids on an almost daily basis and many of the people in the pictures do not really seemed to be bothered, adhering to the old maxim of all publicity being good publicity.
About an hour into the movie comes Scandalous Photos’ biggest surprise–in a manner similar to Steven Segal’s unexpected departure early on in Executive Decision—the actor who you assumed was the main character in the film makes a hasty exit and audiences are left wondering how the rest of the story pans out. We but we can’t help but wonder if the original script of Scandalous Photos was merely an hour in length and Jean-Claude Roy just found a way of padding out the thing by bolting on the final act from another script of his. Funnily enough, Executive Decision was marred by an illogical final reel, too.
Speaking of head-scratchers, there is a curious warp in the morality displayed during the movie. Our private dick stops into a sleazy cabaret whilst on the case, where a nude human puppet show is taking place. The man with the ‘tache bemoans ‘Look at these girls: they look innocent, but after closing time, they’ll sell to the highest bidder’. Need we point out that these ‘innocent’ women have their tits hanging out for the gratification of blokes? Seeing as our default hero is wearing a trench-coat, he on shaky ground to preach morality whilst sitting in a seedy crotch-opera house.
Our two blackmailers are rather sloppy in how they run their operation, but with Chris not supposed to be all that bright, certain mistakes can be expected. Whilst snapping some of the titular pictures, Juliette crouches in front of Chris as he clicks the shutter, oblivious to the fact that he is only taking photos of the back of her head. This is probably the same kind of person who looks down the end of a garden hose and wonders why the water isn’t coming out. At least he didn’t have the lens-cap on…
From a financing perspective, the movie was knocked up to get boners thumping and pack out adult cinemas, in spite of aesthetics: a key example of how the low budget shows itself up is where the studio had been decked-out with black walls, all too obviously being redressed with little effort to serve as a couple of different locations. The use of yachts (obviously borrowed from friends and financiers) help to boost the production values and convince that the blackmailers’ victims are well-to-do, but you might be able to fashion some kind of drinking game out of how the corners have been cut.
Director Jean-Claude Roy is obviously intent on trying to blow apart some of the bourgeois attitudes of the wealthier areas of French society that still appears to exist in the late seventies—a scene in which local lower-class women are brought to private parties, plied with booze and essentially made to perform for their wealthy hosts like trained seals hits home quite nicely. The women are bobbing up and down in the sea and the rich dangle pearl necklaces on the end of fishing lines for them to catch, only to find the next morning that the necklaces are fake—such bourgeois pursuits once brought about fundamental changes in France.
Speaking of atttiudes, aside from a look at how the world has moved on, other than the dirty bits – naturally – our favourite sequence is when one of the "innocent" socialites is proving her moral worth on a videotaped interview. She sets out her store with the usual Miss World patter about saving the world et al, but accidentally letting slip her roots with the words: ‘we must help the n*ggers…’ before quickly correcting her mistake with: ‘…coloured people’. Not only does this reveal her breeding, but that the tape is played on what looks like a U-Matic video shows her decadence still further…
Further to the decadence/gratuitous eccentricities of the obscenely wealthy, during one party sequence there is a female all-nude string quartet playing—for people who got under the collar when UK foursome Bond started getting Classic FM listeners all hot under the collar, the group seen here would probably sent such classical music fans into cardiac arrest. See! We resisted asking which one of them plays the flesh-flute—ah… bugger…
Jean Claude Roy gives an unintentional lesson in cinematography towards the end of the movie, and any readers with an eye for composition please take note: if you are capturing the alluring image of a nubile woman, make sure you don’t pick a lens which produces a rounded effect, making the arse of your subject look like a balloon. Just take a look at the unfortunate model/actress at the end of the movie for a perfect demonstration of how not to do it! The words: ‘Just say no to crack’ echo through the mind…
When the action switches to the French Riviera, the journey is depicted by showing several battered stock shots of a plane landing and location footage of the area—the footage has more grain than the beaches at Cannes. While it does its job an establishes that the movie is now set in different parts, the travelogue-style stock footage gives you the niggling feeling that a youthful Judith Chalmers is going leap out and start doing a piece-to-camera. This is quite possibly the most unconvincing use of stock footage to convey an over-expensive location since Carry on Abroad. ‘What? You mean they didn’t actually shoot in Elles Belles?’, some of you cry…
The title design is nice, with a simulated camera flash announcing each credit, accompanied by the sound of the camera being wound on ready for the next credit; this nifty title sequence is derailed by the fact that the nice music for the opening credits is abruptly halted when the name of the composer appears, which is probably the easiest way of making the name of the muso in question stick in the minds of an audience for all the wrong reasons.
Talk of music reminds us that the weeping ulcer that was disco music can be heard during a nightclub sequence, complete with the standard rising bass-line and saxophone combo that wants to make you gnaw off your own hand upon repeated exposure to it. There is also a scene where two people are about to get it on and the attractive wee lassie asks her fornicator-in-waiting to ‘put some reggae on’—the guy gets up and sashays over to the turntable and the resulting music heard is probably the least reggae-like track you’ll ever hear, sounding suspiciously like disco. Whilst we’re on the subject, maybe it’s our love of vintage European exploitation, but we adore play-outs at the end of movies – when the credits stop, the screen goes black and the music just keeps on playing. You’ll get both a fine example and a big smile once Scandalous Photos reaches its climax.
In the end, Scandalous Photos is something of a morality tale, wrapped in a slinky negligee of sleaze. The guilty are punished, the seemingly respectable are eternally decadent and proves without a doubt that money and privilege are the breeding ground for perversion. At no point does writer/director Roy allow the audience root or even sympathise for Juliette and Chris—they are presented as reprehensible scumbags from the get-go and their pursuit of wealth through blackmail brings them both to a sticky end.
Scandalous Photos was previously available in the UK from Jezebel Films, but this clocked in at a measly sixty-nine minutes! Nucleus weren’t going to settle for second best, and subsequently bringing you the full eighty-two minute edition of this smut classic. Yep, every tit and crinkly hair is accounted for, restored from the best materials available. Presented anamorphically in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1, with vertical bars down the sides of the screen, we have been assured that this is the best that Scandalous Photos can look, unless the original negative ever turns up—and this is as likely as Shergar doing just the same. The image is far from perfect, with muddy blacks, muted colours and a general shop-worn look to the copy, but this all adds to the sleazy charm of this near-forgotten movie.
The audio is presented in French mono—the dialogue is a little on the muffled side with some background hiss, but and is serviceable enough; your ears will still bleed upon exposure to that ghastly disco music that appears intermittently in the movie. It is as bad as we say, trust us on this one!
Good old Marc Morris at Nucleus Films was also responsible for the subtitling on this release of Scandalous Photos—good as they are, we can’t honestly remember the phrases ‘pissed as a fart’and ‘are you taking the piss?’ being used in France all that much. Saying that, Xavier might have said something similar when he fell in the water in one of those damned French text books we all had at school…
Also included for your viewing pleasure is the trailer for Scandalous Photos, along with the trailers for Education Anglais and Dressage, along with forthcoming titles Justine's Hot Nights and House of Legs—all available from the good folks at Naughty.
[i]Scandalous Photos[i/] is a movie that will have admirers of Ms Lahaie happy that they put their hands in their pockets, which will be followed by much of the same action given some of the pleasing scenes she appears in. For others, it's a pleasant, nostalgic romp through the golden age of French adult cinema, and the uninitiated will be bitten by the bug whilst smitten with the charms of the divine Ms L.
Review by Wilson Bros
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 27th April 2009
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono French
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jean-Claude Roy
Cast: Brigitte Lahaie, Marcel Charvey
Length: 82 minutes
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