Perverse cult Blu-ray re-issues ‘The Lady Kills’ and ‘Pervertissima’

by Nick Spacek on September 1, 2020

in Blu-ray/DVD Reviews,Reviews

Reissue company Mondo Macabro‘s latest double-feature Blu-ray has two films from French director Jean Louis Van Belle. While 1971’s The Lady Kills and 1972’s Pervertissima are somewhat connected, having been released successively, and sharing a few settings and actors, the viewer’s enjoyment of each may be a little different.

“The Lady Kills tells the story of Françoise Frémond, who travels across Europe on an apparently random killing spree, bumping off a series of increasingly odious men. From Swinging London to the eternal city of Rome, she leaves a trail of dead bodies and the question: why? A mystery film as only Jean Louis Van Belle could make it, The Lady Kills is a blast from start to finish with an amazing soundtrack of gloriously groovy psych-rock.”

For all of that build-up, The Lady Kills is basically a French I Spit On Your Grave, but more fun and less gory, if that makes any sense. At the age of 10, Françoise Frémond (Carole Lebel) witnesses the rape of her sister by five men. 10 years later, she tracks them down, one by one, and gets her revenge. Calling this “a blast from start to finish” is a little off-putting, given that the movie does start with a rape scene, but for the most part, this is a really solid revenge flick.

We’re introduced to each man, then Françoise finds them, seduces them, and kills them. It’s very simple, and the entire point of the film is to show an awful lot of naked women, and then watch some sleazy men get taken out in a series of creative and intriguing ways. The first is arguably the best, as  Françoise leaves a time bomb hidden in the office of Le Club Sexy, and tells the owner that she’ll call at a specific time. You don’t get to see anything, but hearing the man rant and rave to her over the phone before suddenly being cut off by the sound of an explosion is remarkably satisfying after watching him lech on her and berate his dancers.

“Pervertissima is a bizarre – and possible unique – combination of mondo movie and mad scientist flick. A beautiful woman is hired by a scandal sheet editor to research and write a report on “Love in Paris”. Her quest takes her from a lesbian sauna to a secretive club of masked swingers, via stints as a street walker in a seedy Paris back alley and a strip-tease artist in an upmarket cabaret. Her final outing leads to the clinic of the dangerous Dr Vilard, who aims to create sex robots out of human flesh, and mate them to create a race of superhumans to take over the world!”

Despite The Lady Kills‘ summary making a big deal about the soundtrack, the Guy Bonnet score for Pervertissima is arguably the better of the two. Some it may be due to the fact that the second half of this French double-feature leans a little harder on visuals and score to create a mood than any real semblance of a plot. While the end of the film does deliver some form of storyline, as Françoise (Maelle Pertuzo) infiltrates the secret laboratory of Dr. Vilard (Albert Simono), the vast majority of the film is just Françoise traveling around Paris, getting into sexy fun times.

It’s a mondo movie, basically, but for all the salacious looking in on things – a masked orgy straight out of Eyes Wide Shut, an all-woman sauna – it’s arguably more tame than most actual mondo films. The time spent in each location is pretty minimal, with far more time given over to the new journalist spending time in the office with her lecherous editor. Seriously: that dude is the walking epitome of “leering,” and it’s off-putting. Every single dude in both of these films will leave you needing a long shower.

The Lady Kills, thanks to its plot – thin as it is – is a little more satisfying a viewing than  Pervertissima, but both films viewed together make for an overarching experience that is, arguably, grander than the sum of the two viewed seperately. Imagery and themes from each are explored in the other, as well as sharing actors and a Paris setting. While The Lady Kills trots around Europe as Françoise seeks her revenge, Paris is the film’s home base.

It is rather interesting that the dancers from Le Club Sexy make another appearance at the beginning of  Pervertissima, and the title itself is a name given to Françoise by the owner of Le Club Sexy when she auditions there. A photo of Carole Lebel pops up in the offices of the scandal sheet, as well, giving the impression that these two films are of a pair beyond just being collected on this particular Blu-ray.

The bonus feature documentary, “Who is Jean Louis Van Belle?” does a lot of heavy lifting to explain Van Belle’s creative process. He appears at a celebration of his films at the Cinémathèque Française, and for the vast majority of its 30 minutes, we never see his face. He’s cut off at the neck, reading from a prepared piece, and just generally trying to say that he’s maybe not as special as he’s being made out to be.

“I am my stories, and those to whom I’ve told them,” Van Belle says toward the end, which might be the most succinctly beautiful description of filmmaking I’ve ever heard. One of the hosts of the screening describes his films as both collages and folk art, and that’s definitely something which can be seen in this double-feature. They’re cinema, not movies, and the point isn’t to be entertained, but to have an experience. It’s certainly one worth having.

The Lady Kills/Pervertissima double feature Blu-ray is available now from MondoMacabro.

Nick is a self-described “rock star journalist,” which is strange, considering he’s married with two kids and three cats. This is just further proof that you can’t trust anyone online. In addition to his work for Scene-Stealers, Nick can be found bitching about music elsewhere on the Internet at his blog, Rock Star Journalist, and as Music Editor for The Pitch.

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