Produced in association with Playboy magazine, LADY LIBERTINE is a Victorian age skin flick based on the erotic novel Frank and I by Bill Adler. Produced by Harry Alan Towers, notable for his Fu Manchu pictures (THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU, THE BRIDES OF FU MANCHU, etc.) and a handful of collaborations with Jess Franco (THE GIRL FROM RIO), directorial duties for LADY were assigned to Gérard Kikoine. No stranger to erotica, Kikoine’s filmography reads like a schedule of late night programming for HBO’s sister channel, Cinemax. Primarily a director of the erotic, Kikoine would briefly cross over from porno into the Hollywood mainstream, directing Anthony Perkins in EDGE OF SANITY and Robert Vaughn and John Carradine, in his last role, in 1990’s BURIED ALIVE. With LADY LIBERTINE, Kikoine paints a soft focused tale that exceeds the normal budgetary constraints of similar skin fare, at least in terms of set design and costume, but fails to rise to the occasion even with the healthy, yet criminally underused, resources of Jennifer Inch and Sophie Favier.
LADY LIBERTINE is narrated by Charles Beaumont (Christopher Pearson), a nobleman who happens upon a young boy named Frank (Jennifer Inch, SCREWBALLS) while traveling home one late afternoon. Having already walked fifteen miles on foot, and with dusk readily approaching, Sir Beaumont invites the young chap to his home to rest and eat. Beguiled by the young boy, Charles suggests that the lad stay on as his ward, a notion that Frank is quick to jump on. Basking in the wealth and liberties of his benefactor, Frank begins to get in trouble, leaving Charles little choice but to show the imprudent lad some much needed manners, curiously the very same switch with which his own father laid down the law. While punishing Frank, Charles discovers that his young apprentice isn’t a boy at all, but is in fact a girl hiding behind a ridiculous haircut and pair of men’s knickers. Somewhat relieved, given the strange inclinations that have been rising within the wealthy aristocrat, Charles plays along with the charade until one day Frank can no longer control herself and professes her true nature and feelings to her elder patron. Cue the soft music and even softer lighting.
For a skin flick, LADY LIBERTINE's simulated sex scenes are rather sparse and far from arousing. The film appears more invested in tantalizing those with a fondness for spanking than those interested in straight T&A, as there are more scenes of bare bottom paddling then there are your traditional bumping and grinding. I am admittedly not familiar with the film's literary source material, but the whole idea of a man infatuated with a girl dressed as a boy is more than just a little creepy, particularly when added to the fact that Frank is supposed to be all of 16. It's obvious from the moment she opens her mouth that "Frank" isn’t a boy, but it's none the less unsettling to see and hear Charles' growing infatuation toward what he believes to be a homeless, pubescent boy.
Once allowed to display it, Jennifer Inch’s body is anything but masculine, however it's hard to look past the disturbing Dutch Boy haircut that she sports for the film's first hour. It's as if at any moment she might stick her finger in a dyke to…. actually that could have improved the picture considerably. Jennifer would continue her relationship with Playboy with a leading role in BIRDS IN PARADISE, a made for TV movie, shown on the Playboy channel in the late 1980s and released on video under the title SOFT TOUCH.
If you can muster your way through the dull and lackluster narration, LADY does have one element that is worth every bit of data your DVD player can assemble, Sophie Favier. Beginning her career as a nude model before transitioning into softcore films, Sophie eventually went legit, as both a singer and an actress, currently most recognizable as the face (and body) of the European Lottery, "Euro Millions". In an attempt to capitalize on her new found popularity Playboy sought to re-release LADY LIBERTINE in the early 1990s. Such action did not sit well with Favier, who unsuccessfully attempted to block the film from being revived. I can’t imagine LADY LIBERTINE preventing her from getting work, save that the film itself is dreadfully dull. If anything, it is Sophie’s smoking body that saves the picture from falling into obscurity. While almost all of her screen time is spent nude, there is simply not enough time given to the bewitching beauty. Instead of spending its budget on elaborate set design and period costumes, more time and money should have been used to strip down a talky script and make full use of its player’s natural talents.
Previously released on VHS under the title FRANK AND I by MGM, Private Screening Collection is re-releasing LADY as a two-fer, alongside LOVE CIRCLES, also directed by Gérard Kikoine, having previously released the film stand alone in 2006. Presented full frame in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the picture is saturated with a light coat of grain and the occasional random white spot. Colors are slightly hazy, with several scenes apparently lit by campfire, but given the film's intentions such is to be expected. Mono audio is suitable, but far from glamorous. The only extra is a Chapter Selection which allows you by pass all the filler and get straight to the good stuff, which sadly makes for less than one fourth of the picture's 84 minute running time. (Jason McElreath)
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