I was surprised at this picture to say the least, and in several respects. While seasoned fans of sleaze are disappointed for what is a rather tame sexual exhibit, I think people looking for an interesting diversion from typical period films of the same era would actually like this. There is a solid plot, there is lush scenery and a time capsule feel for the late 60's, depiction of social degredation amongst the wealthy class, exploitation of youth, betrayal, revenge, and murder, all rolled into a cleverly filmed psychedlic dreamlike piece of art-house cinema.
Franco was on top of his profession with this picture. As I began watching, it seemed to unfold like a fluffy spy movie from the 60's, except there was no secret agent anywhere to be found. There was something more sinister about this picture though, with an introduction by Christopher Lee, which sets the tone for events later revealed, and offers a bit of gore and blood-feasting to boot, but not so much as it is overwhelming or nauseating.
The story centers around an aristocratic, incestuos brother-sister couple, who wish to sacrifice a young virgin beauty to the secret order of which they are members. Through manipulation of the more pleasurable kind, the sister is able to convince young Eugenie's father to allow Eugenie to stay with her on her private island estate for one weekend. Eugenie is ultimately drugged, and seduced. And when the members of the order arrive on the island, the plot thickens and unravels, and concludes in a twist most unexpected from what I anticipated going into this.
Franco employs some clever techniques here rarely seen in films today(red lights, lengthy out of focus shots, ambient music), and creates a world which captures images of beauty, hallucination, perversion, obsession, degredation, violence, and retribution. He also does this very tastefully considering some of what is out there today in this genre of film. The lead actors and actresses were cast perfectly, and there is little ham here which often goes along with movies of this type. The soundtrack is also mesmerizing, like a dream.
This was my first Franco film, and while I do find his other titles from this period in his career entertaining, I still feel that this one is his best overall as far as technique, casting, storyline, attention to detail, photography, atmosphere, style, and impact. While its taboos may have turned heads in '69, I think today most mainstream movie-goers of typical R-Rated fanfare would be comfortable watching this. Wrongfully catagorized as "adult", although there is a fair amount of nudity, this film is highly entertaining and enjoyable. 4.5 Stars.