Lady Libertine's back cover promises a, "boldly sexy epic about a cross-dressing teenage orphan....When the sultry virgin's gender-bend is revealed, her deflowering unleashes a shocking torrent of voyeurism, violation, sadism and submission that will blur the line between pleasure and pain forever!" Um...that never happens in Lady Libertine. She's not a cross-dresser per se, and there's no shocking torrent of anything in Lady Libertine, with the possible exception of poorly dubbed lines, read badly.
Supposedly based on an infamous anonymous Victorian erotic novel of sadism and sex, Lady Libertine tells the story of France (Jennifer Inch), a fifteen-year-old girl who, when her parents die and leave her penniless, is released into the custody of a cathouse madam. Before she can be instructed in the ways of the flesh, France dons some boy's clothes, and escapes, becoming Frank. She is picked up wandering in the woods by Charles (Christopher Pearson), a wealthy gentleman with a huge estate in the country. Curiously, Charles can't see that Frank is obviously a girl, but he continues to be "fascinated" by him. After a whipping for hitting one of the servants, Charles realizes that Frank is a woman (it would be kind of hard at that point not to), but says nothing about it to her, while keeping the pretense up. Charles spends time with Maud (Sophie Favier), his mistress, but he can't keep his mind off France. He even travels abroad, but he can't escape France's appeal. He returns to England, where France reveals her identity. They make love, and Charles keeps her as his mistress. To polish off her education, Charles leaves her in the care of Maud, to learn "maidenly virtues." Returning from a long trip, Charles finds Jennifer a newly matured woman - who also doesn't mind making love with Charles in front of Maud. Taking his mistress on The Grand Tour of Europe, Charles becomes jealous of Brook (Emmanuel Karson), an American who falls in love with France. When France breaks her promise and sees Brook again, she is disciplined with a whipping by Charles -- which she demands he do. However, she suddenly decides to leave him, not because of the whipping, but because she doesn't feel he's emotionally committed to her (hey, don't blame me - I didn't write it). He asks her to marry him, and they live happily ever after.
Let's not waste a lot of time on Lady Libertine. A Playboy co-production from 1983, this boring time-waster evidently caused some controversy over in France, when co-star Sophie Favier, now a famous TV game show host, tried to sue Playboy over re-releasing the film to capitalize on her new-found success. She needn't have bothered. She's not in it very long, and she looks great. Sure, it's embarrassing to have film of you simulating sex with strangers, but hey, that's the breaks for young actors who star in this kind of crap. Jennifer Inch, the star of Lady Libertine, is a spectacular looking actress who couldn't read a line to save her life. All of the dialogue is looped, so I have no idea if that's her voice or someone else's. No matter. Even Meryl Streep couldn't do anything with Lady Libertine's script. It's a cheap little number, too; there's a point in the story where Charles is supposed to be away for a year, and the movie fills in the time by showing calendar pages slowly drifting away, up in the clouds. I haven't seen that cliche since the 1930s. And when Charles and France take their grand tour, it's courtesy of some superimposed Victorian postcards.
What's the point of reviewing the artistic methods of Lady Libertine? There are none. The only thing that anyone could possibly be interested in with Lady Libertine is the sex. It's frequent, very tame, with lots of full frontal nudity of the women - who admittedly look great. The love scenes are distressingly cliched, with lots of close-ups of tightly clenched hands, and bare bottoms. If that's what you're into; hey, be my guest. But Lady Libertine is juvenile erotica, at best.
Lady Libertine's picture quality is just okay, with lots of picture noise, and scratches from the original source material. It's presented in full screen format.
The mono soundtrack is adequate, but in no way dynamic.
There are no extras.
Lady Libertine is a toothless sex romp that gives the viewer a whole lot of skin (Mr. Skin, quoted on the cover, loves it! Um....okay), and absolutely nothing else in the way of drama, conflict, humor, performance or anything else associated with what makes a movie, a movie. Skip it.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.