Private Screenings // 1983 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // November 9th, 2006
Model of sensuality! Object of desire! Target of lust!
You're probably familiar with Playboy Enterprises and the assets they bring to the table. You may be less familiar with Harry Alan Towers, but in cinematic circles his name is as notorious. A producer in the classic sense of the word, Harry Alan Towers is a connoisseur of talent. He has an eye for exquisite women, grand settings, and fine clothes, and has the clout to get things done in show biz. When Harry and Playboy got together in the '80s to create some flicks to fill the void of late night cable television, it was a match made in heaven.
It is 19th century Paris. A recent immigrant from Martinique named Venus (Josephine Jacqueline Jones, Miss Bahamas 1979, Warrior Queen) pals around with an elderly art collector named Jacques (Emiliano Redondo, Fist Fighter). He takes her to a ball, where every man leers at her with pangs of jealousy. Oblivious to Jacques's possessiveness, Venus leaves the ball in the company of Armand (José Antonio Ceinos). Armand is a starving artist gaining a name in Paris. He and Venus move in together as sculptor and muse. While Venus supports them by modeling in haute couture shops full of idle, rich lesbians, Armand gets drunker and more obsessed. Will this end happily ever after? Or will Venus be driven to prostitution, lesbianism, and endless nights of cheap, wanton sex?
Lets get the plot out of the way early, because there isn't much of one. Black Venus is a linear narrative that goes something like this: Venus meets someone who falls into lust with her. One way or another, the stricken socialite beds Venus. They are happy for awhile, until the threat of violence forces Venus to seek residence elsewhere. Venus flees into the arms of another social bigwig. Rinse, repeat -- yet all the while, Venus is as placid and charming as can be.
The real question is, how's the sex?
Well, there is a lot of it. Josephine Jacqueline Jones earned her Miss Bahamas title, and she gets naked a lot, so the equation is already looking favorable. Black Venus starts strong with a series of peep shows in a bordello. Each vignette encapsulates a fantasy, such as johns dressing up like a kings and being serviced by wenches, or being chained up on a pirate ship and being "raped" by lusty deckhands. The women (presumably supplied by Playboy) are flawless and the fantasies ribald.
This early energy is muted in the rest of the film. Venus is an object of respect and power, rather like Emmanuelle but without the stupefying boredom. The sex is not pedestrian, but it isn't buck wild, either. Nonetheless, Black Venus is watchable to the end.
The best sequence in the latter parts of the movie is a dream sequence where Armand is seduced by the ebony Venus he has created. Though it is obviously Josephine Jacqueline Jones in silhouette, the Pygmalion vibe is kinky enough to drum up some erotic interest. The rest of the scenes are straightforward, though the gals and guys are blissfully natural.
The main reason why Black Venus is watchable to the end is the superb production values. The period piece never breaks character. Between the stagecoaches, period clothes, mansions, and complete lack of modern blemishes, Black Venus is convincing. Anyone can set scenes indoors and call it a period drama, but Black Venus is not afraid to roam the streets of Paris. They spent considerable resources to scrub any trace of modern Paris, and the result is highly watchable.
The DVD by Private Screenings is bare bones. There are no subtitles or extras, and the full frame video has not been cleaned up. This is still the movie you saw on Cinemax, and it doesn't look much different here. A 2.0 mono track gets the words and moans across, though it won't win any audiophile awards.
It may be bare bones, but Private Screenings has given us the kind of movie that DVD was made for: softcore skin flicks from the early days of cable that were made with quality talent at the helm. That is worth the ticket price alone. In an era in which some of the bluer DVD houses seem fixated on political Italian thrillers, good old fashioned skin flicks are a breath of fresh air.
Disorder in the court! Disorder in the court!
Review content copyright © 2006 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Private Screenings
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Rated R