Private Screenings // 1984 // 83 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // November 9th, 2006
"GREAT NUDITY! If Vanna White were French and loved to show off her naked body, she'd be Sophie Favier!" -- Mr. Skin, quoted on the DVD cover
When someone sues to keep one of their previous films from being re-released, it usually bodes well for those with prurient tastes. I'm sorry that the stunning Sophie Favier feels exploited, but I'm not sorry at all that Private Screenings has brought us this peek into her past.
After a long day of hunting game on his huge estate, Charles Beaumont (Christopher Pearson) is riding home when he comes across a struggling figure in the trail. Bedraggled and hungry, the young "lad" Frances (Jennifer Inch, student getting breast exam in Screwballs) asks for nothing. But Frances can't hide her -- er...his -- relief when Charles offers Frances a bed and a warm meal.
Charles takes "a fondness for the boy" and keeps Frank as his ward. Meanwhile Charles goes about his usual business of hunting pheasants, eating massive feasts on long mahogany tables, and diddling his old friend Maud (Sophie Favier, Ciel mon mardi!) who he keeps in a London flat. When Charles discovers Frank's secret during a routine spanking, it changes their special relationship forever.
As they did in Black Venus, producer Harry Alan Towers and Playboy Enterprises team up to deliver a laughable story dressed up with fantastic production values and stunning women. Unlike Black Venus, Lady Libertine is disturbing enough to make you feel something besides amused boredom with benefits.
If you're an ass man, you'll be able to tell that "Frank" (aka Frances) is a girl in the very first shot from all the way down the trail. Not just a girl, but an extremely shapely one in full womanhood. Frank also has the ruby lips, high cheekbones, and flawless teeth of a supermodel. Yet Frances wears a bad page boy wig and knickers, like some sexually charged Rorschach version of the Dutch Boy Paint mascot. One second you're seeing Jennifer Inch, sex symbol extraordinaire; the next, Dutch Boy. These mental oscillations are uncomfortable.
At least they distract you from the real discomfort, which is that Charles is about to boink a fifteen-year-old waif he picked up on the road. Again, Jennifer Inch makes this disturbing because now we're hot for this fifteen-year-old waif. On some level, you can't help but think "I'm getting a stiffy for a teenage page boy." It doesn't help that Jennifer is short enough to sell this illusion.
Then there's the spanking. If you'll recall our story thus far, Charles thinks Frank is a dude. But he makes Frank strip down to his bare bottom and lays in with a switch. Spanking, okay. Spanking one of the Newsies -- not okay.
Fear not, because this discomfort pays off the moment Frances cries out "I'm a girl!" and releases her magnificent apples from the confines of her starched white shirt and vest. Finally, unabashedly, we can lust for her -- and the visual is worth the wait.
Let's not forget that Charles also has a girlfriend in London. Not just any girlfriend, but a French woman hot enough to capture the national attention. France has some real head turners, so that's saying something. Indeed, Sophie Favier's character Maud is perhaps the true main character in Lady Libertine. She is the perfect open-minded lover. Charles comes to her bed after a long day of hunting pheasants and lusting for his young ward. He tells Maud that the fifteen-year-old kid he picked up on the road is actually a virginal runaway girl, and he is going to have sex with her. Maud's like "no problem, Charles. Now do you want me on my back or on my belly?"
Either option is fine, by the way. Sophie Favier is so exquisite and sensual that a mere curl of her lip gets volumes across. None of the sex in Lady Libertine is particularly inventive, but the women are hot enough to distract us.
There's no denying the allure of this tale of forbidden Victorian lust. Like a distillation of every "tweed" cartoon from Playboy, Lady Libertine is pure male fantasy. Charles has no parents, no peers...just a staff full of waiting servants and a nubile runaway in his bedroom that everyone thinks is a boy. He can take his time introducing young Frank to the joys of carnal pleasure, and no one is the wiser. If he gets tired of that action, he can whisk away to London and have his way with Maud. And there's always the spanking for a change of pace.
It's a good thing that Inch and Favier are so captivating, because Lady Libertine is an utter failure in the realms of acting and story. From badly dubbed, poorly acted lines to extended voiceovers to cheesy plot twists, Lady Libertine passes up no opportunity to suck.
On that subject, Private Screenings has provided no extras, an uncleansed print, and anemic sound. I'm duty-bound to point out these things, but it really doesn't matter in this case. I don't want to see retrospective interviews with the director or making of featurettes, unless they show how the costumers crammed Jennifer into those knickers.
On one level, Lady Libertine is a poorly acted, trite tale with extensive voiceovers and a stifling case of tweed machismo. But if you think about what is going on, try to channel the scandalous Victorian erotic novel that the story is based upon, Lady Libertine will throw you for some disturbing twists. It isn't nasty by comparison to those grandma fetish videos you come across while innocently trying to check your email. But for 1980s softcore it is downright kinky.
Are you kidding? Statutory rape, corruption of a minor, child abuse, and androgyny? This one is so guilty.
Review content copyright © 2006 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Private Screenings
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Rated R