Judge Daryl Loomis travels the world looking for the perfect man to make him a sandwich.
I feel weird today, Margot, like I'm coming out of my shell.
The overwhelming success of Just Jaeckin's Emmanuelle gave every middling producer the idea that they could put flesh up on screen and cash in big. No matter how rotten the cinema, the happy result of this was the huge catalog of titles for Cinemax's weekly Friday After Dark spectacular. For its sheer weirdness and the shocking beauty of its titular star, Joy became one of the most memorable of the genre. Now, for the first time ever in America, this trashy gem arrives uncut and uncensored in a solid release from Severin, the reigning king of DVD sleaze.
Facts of the Case
Joy Laurey (Claudia Udy, Nightforce), a supermodel working in Montreal, decides it's time to ditch her poor, artsy boyfriend and get with a real man. With her looks that means a ton of candidates, so she has to hold worldwide tryouts. From Canada to Mexico and over the pond to France, Joy makes the most of her travels as she falls in love, learns about herself, and discovers much more than she bargained for.
When this would air on cable in the late '80s, you had to be sure to catch it from the beginning, because Joy opens with one of the funniest, creepiest scenes in all of erotic cinema. Our heroine, as a very young girl, is awoken by a tiger roaring in her dream. She wanders into the hall and down the stairs to find her parents making love by firelight. She's horrified, but she can't look away. When they finish, her father slowly turns his head and their eyes lock. Now he looks horrified, but suddenly a burning log falls out of the fireplace. By the time he gets it back in, young Joy is gone, and we see her wandering off down a snow-covered road.
No matter how many times I've seen it, this scene makes no sense to me. The beauty of Joy, though, is that director Sergio Bergonzelli (Our Lady of Lust, under the name Serge Bergon) really seems to believe that it means something, even if he doesn't know what that something is. Bergonzelli weaves the thinnest of plots around imagery like this, chock full of supposed importance that means very little. The plot is barely worth mentioning, but remember that opening scene. The memory of her father in the throes of passion plays a big role in how the story pans out. Joy spends the intervening time making friends and being nice to just about everybody she runs across. There's no villain and no real drama to speak of, but the erotic situations get progressively weirder, which should count for something.
Bergonzelli is a director who values style over substance far too much. He shows skill behind the camera with some beautiful landscapes and an obsession with the human body. The long, slow shots of Claudia Udy make her look absolutely stunning and Bergonzelli believes that this fact is enough to carry his film, but he is misguided. Gorgeous though she is, her performance is brutal, devoid of anything that resembles acting. She oozes sexuality, but does not know what to do in front of the camera. This makes her less attractive than some of her sexpot counterparts in other films. Still, she's the best thing the film has to offer and seems very comfortable with her body, so her line-reading acumen will go largely unnoticed by viewers.
Severin's usual level of quality is at play, and Joy has never looked or sounded better than it does here. It isn't perfect, but I really can't expect any better. The print still has some light, ever-present grain, but the transfer is otherwise pretty solid. The colors look a little washed out, but they're still fairly warm, and the black levels are nice and strong. The sound mix is acceptable; the dialog and music are well-balanced, but it's nothing special. Our only extra is a short interview with Claudia Udy, who seems pretty dingy but is genuinely proud of her work. She is an amiable person who discusses how she was chosen for the role (hint: it has to do with her willingness to strip), and the fun she had making the film. Not much, but Severin isn't known for copious extras.
As marginal of cinema as Joy is, it spawned a series of sequels that make it look like a work of genius in comparison. Genre fans know what they're in for and won't be disappointed, especially with the fine-looking release from Severin.
Guilty, and proud of it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
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