De Sade (1969)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Erotic Drama, Period Film  |   Run Time - 113 min.  |   Countries - Germany , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Paul Gaita

The Marquis De Sade (Keir Dullea) is the unwilling audience for a staged re-creation of key points from his life, courtesy of his sinister uncle, the Abbe (John Huston). The presentation, which may or may not be the product of the Marquis' feverish imagination, posits that his licentious proclivities are the end result of an abusive and loveless childhood. As narrow-minded as this interpretation may be, this X-rated production from American International Pictures at least offers some energy and impressive visuals -- something that can't be said of Quills, which reduces the notorious libertine and writer to a boring and petulant old pervert. Richard Matheson's script, which cobbles its structure from Peter Weiss' play Marat/Sade, is vigorously performed by a solid cast, especially Huston and Lilli Palmer as De Sade's icy mother-in-law. The low-key Dullea may seem an odd choice to play the Marquis, but he throws himself into the role, and does well at portraying the script's interpretation of the man as an unrestrained visionary rebelling against a repressive society. However, its depiction of De Sade's bedroom romps and forays into flagellation and other sexual kinks (for which his name would eventually serve as a catch-all descriptive phrase) are unfortunately watered down, though in all fairness, no film could accurately (or legally) capture the excesses of De Sade's imagination. Michael Reeves was originally slated to direct, but illness forced him to be replaced by Cy Enfield, who would himself be replaced briefly by an uncredited Roger Corman.