Never before released on DVD, Jess Franco's 1982 softcore opus Cecilia is remarkably short on story but has some nice atmosphere, great cinematography and more quirky bumping and grinding than you an shake a stick at.
Muriel Montosse plays the titular lead, a foxy young woman who has become bored in the scant few years she's been married to her husband, Andre. When her driver takes her off the beaten path to allow his two brothers to rape her in the back of the car, she finds that her initial resistance soon turns into a sexual reawakening of sorts. When she returns home, she tells her husband of this and the pair soon embark and a strange journey of sexual discovery. Andre's affair with a black woman leads to a voyeuristic experience on Cecilia's part and before you know it, she's taking part in orgies and watching a strange woman in a bad blonde wig (Lina Romay) have sex with her sixteen year old son. Soon, Cecila and Andre's collective experimenting starts to sour their relationship and the emergence of one of Cecilia's old flames only serves to pour gasoline on the fire...
The bulk of Cecilia's overly long running time is made of up the various softcore sex scenes that are scattered in between very minimal bits of plot and character development. As such, the film is very shallow, there's really not much going on outside of the lovemaking and group sex. That said, the film certainly looks great as the camera does an excellent job of capturing the Portuguese shooting locations (with a scene or two shot in Paris) and Daniel White's familiar score, while rather repetitious, adds a certain quirkiness to the whole shebang.
Muriel Montosse, who worked with Franco on a few other films (most notably The Inconfessable Orgies Of Emmanulle - recently released on DVD from Severin Films) and she does shine here, bringing a brash and wanton sexiness to her part that makes things a little more believable. Surrounded by an interesting supporting cast made up of Franco regulars including the aforementioned Lina Romay as well as Olivier Mathot, Pierre Taylor and Antonio Mayans she really does lit up the screen a fair bit. It's a shame then that the film has little to offer besides well shot sex scenes. Had more effort been put into crafting and interesting story to go along with the undeniably lush visuals then Cecilia could have stood alongside some of the better Franco films from this period - instead it turns out to be a fairly disposable film with a few stand out moments.
Blue Underground debuts Cecilia on DVD in North American in a very nice 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that preserves the films original aspect ratio. Color reproduction is nice and detail levels are strong despite some softness inherent in the source material thanks to the films cinematography. A couple of stock footage inserts (look at the boat towards the end of the movie) show some print damage but this is otherwise quite a nice transfer - it's clean and quite colorful and it looks very much like a a nice film print, it isn't overly digitized or artificial looking.
Audio options are available in English or French Dolby Digital Mono tracks with subtitles provided in English only. Both tracks are limited in rage and not particularly remarkable but they sound reasonably good given the age and low budget nature of the film. Dialogue remains clear from start to finish and there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion. There are one or two instances on the English track where the score is unusually loud but this is the exception and not the rule, making it a minor complaint about an otherwise perfectly acceptable job on the part of Blue Underground.
The primary supplement on this disc is a seventeen minutes video interview with Jess Franco entitled Sexual Aberrations Of Cecilia. Here Franco talks with his usual blunt honesty about the name of the film, its alternate title, its cast and about shooting the film on location in Portugal. Interestingly enough he makes it quite clear that he doesn't like the Cecilia title, stating that the film Cecilia 'does not exist.'
The film's English language theatrical trailer (in anamorphic widescreen), some animated menus and chapter stops round out the disc.
Cecilia is far from Franco's best work but a few inspired moments make it worth a look for seasoned fans of the man's output. Blue Underground have done their typically respectful job on the presentation and included and enjoyable interview with the enigmatic director as well. Far from essential but worth watch for Franco-philes. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.