Believe it or not, these films are very loosely based on the life of Judge Clark Douglas. He ate a loaf of French bread, and those artists just ran with it. They ran a long way.
From the gutters of Paris to the palace of Versailles!
"One of my wishes is to see the film made the way Angélique was, because in the first films, Michèle Mercier was chosen because she was the girlfriend of the director. In those films Angélique is written to be like Michèle Mercier, and not like she really is. So I would like to see a film with the real Angélique."—Anne Golon, author of the Angélique novels.
Facts of the Case
The first film in the set is simply titled Angélique, and tells the story of a young French woman living in the era of Louis XIV. Angélique is madly in love with a young man named Nicolas, but she is taken away to be the bride of royalty. A life of wealth and fame is all well and good, but nothing can replace true love. Sadly, Angélique and her former lover will never be able to reunite. However, Angélique soon begins to warm to her sensitive and caring new husband, the dashing Joffrey (Robert Hossein). She may have a companion that she genuinely loves, after all. Alas, more problems are on the horizon. Several powerful people want Joffrey dead. Can Angélique save him?
Angélique: The Road to Versailles opens precisely where Angélique left off, with our heroine on the run with Nicolas and his band of villains. However, Nicolas has changed. He is no longer the sweet romantic lover of Angélique's youth, but a cold and often heartless gang leader. Angélique finally manages to find her children (from whom she has been separated for quite some time), but she also quickly loses Nicolas. With all the important men in her life gone, things seem hopeless…but everything may not be as it seems.
Our heroine must go on a mission in Angélique and the King, which takes a sour turn. A Persian ambassador falls in love with beautiful Angélique, and holds her captive in an attempt to break her will. Will Angélique give in to the lustful whims of the ambassador? Whether she does or doesn't, she will still face accusations of being the mistress of a powerful man…someone considerably more powerful than the ambassador.
Pirates! Secret identities! Woman being sold into slavery! Sex! You'll find it all in the increasingly silly Untamable Angélique.
Things wrap up with Angélique and the Sultan, and our poor heroine still can't get a break. She is kidnapped and put on a ship being captained by the very man who sold her into slavery in the previous film. Fortunately, Angélique has a savior who is not going to let that sort of thing stand. Ship battles and raging hormones run wild, and odds are Angélique may just get sold into slavery again before this whole affair is over.
A solid premonition of what these films are going to be like is offered in the opening moments of Angélique. We meet our two lovers (Mercier and Hossein) frolicking in a field, with pleasant music in the background. They walk down to the stream and start to splash each other. Angélique just happens to be wearing a white outfit, and when she gets wet, her companion can see more than he usually sees. He gasps, and pants, and suddenly a horn sounds. Oh no! Something terrible has happened in the village! The two run to the village, and discover the burning bodies of poor townsfolk. "I'll kill whoever did this," fumes the young man, before we cut back to a montage of Angélique running through a field. Ladies and gentlemen, there is no doubt that we are in the realm of bodice-ripping historical fiction. Is this stuff any good or just cheesy pulp?
Well, it's cheesy pulp. However, I imagine that you will be nearly as surprised as I am to hear that I enjoyed these films. You see, I get the feeling that very few will be able to watch these films without enjoying them one way or another. For viewers who love a good historical soap, this is a lot of fun. If you like the sort of books and films about women who are stolen away by a seemingly horrifying beast of a man who actually turns out to be quite sensitive and sexy, or the sort of stories where the heroine must begrudgingly use her sexual powers on another man in order to save the one she loves…well, here you go. If you don't really enjoy that sort of thing, I expect you'll react like I did, and get a wonderful giggle out of the whole thing. The movies are so wonderfully shameless and over-the-top at times that they occasionally begin to resemble Monty Python sketches. There's an attempt at eroticism in which a man strips bits of mud off of a female statue while swooning strings play; it had my wife and me in absolute stitches. There's another scene when some of the villains are attempting to determine whether one character is possessed by demons. To do this, they jab a long, sharp needle into the supposedly demon-possessed person. If the person winces or shows any sign of pain, "he must be in league with the devil!"
Combined, the films feel very much like a miniseries rather than a film series. Each film picks up at the precise point the previous film left off, and the entire cast (from the large actors to small bit parts) sticks with the series from start to finish. The quality level of everything is consistent from the first film to the last, from the laughably horrible dialogue to the not-bad set design to the rather good musical scores. Because of this, I have decided to give each film the exact same score. There's not an exceptionally good or bad effort that stands out from the rest (though Untamable Angélique has the goofiest plot). Performances are mostly amusingly bad, though the acting of Robert Hossein as Joffrey (small spoiler alert: he appears in all of the films) is generally quite solid. Michele Mercier was obviously chosen for her beauty rather than her acting skills (see the opening statement), but she fares well enough in this part.
The video quality on all of the films is surprisingly not as terrible as you might expect. This is some grain here and there, but very few scratches or major problems. The mono audio is weak, and the charming scores by Michael Magne are quite damaged in spots. There are also two audio options here. You can watch a dubbed English-language version, or the original French version with subtitles. Just in case you happen to like dubbing (I don't), let me discourage you from watching that version even further. Much of the dialogue is severely altered when translated into English, turning fun melodrama into banal melodrama. For instance, in French we get: "He won't get her. Not on my breasts. It'll take more than a fertile virgin for him." In English, we get: "He won't get her. Not by my eyes. It will take more than a simple country maid for him." In French, we get: "I don't want that cigar! It looks like excrement!" In English, we get: "I don't want that cigar. It is an invention of the devil."
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The film's packaging and the way it is being promoted is misleading. Many would have you believe that the Angélique films are in the vein of the Emmanuelle films, but that couldn't be further from the truth. This is historical fiction with a few racy bits, not soft-core porn with a dose of historical fiction. There are plenty of barely-covered bosoms here, but very little actual nudity. Don't believe what you see on the packaging or what you'll read on some Websites about how racy everything is.
I know that Anne Golon was never very happy with these films, and it is not at all difficult to see why. Perhaps there is still a genuinely good dramatic film to be made from the Angélique novels. In the meantime, this is all that is available. It's good cheesy fun for fans of lurid historical fiction or bad French cinema.
All of those naughty men who tried to rape Angélique are guilty, of
course. The court orders that they all be tied up in a room, where
Angélique can do to them whatever she pleases. No questions will be
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