Color, 1969, 91m.
Directed by Hans Schott-Sch÷binger
Starring Edwige Fenech, Gerhard Riedmann, Franco Ressel, Peter Carsten, Gianni Dei
One 7 Movies (US R0 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

With the relaxed censorship of the late '60s, a lot of Europeans went haywire cranking out sexy versions of classic novels containing even a smidgen of sex. Thus, countries like Germany and Italy chased both prestige and piles of money via trashed-up adaptations like Dorian Gray, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Fanny Hill, and so on. One of the odder and least known of these is The Sins of Madame Bovary, an Italian-German co-production that mixes softcore T&A and high-toned costume drama together in an uneasy but sometimes weirdly compelling brew. Of course, the main factor that still gives it a jolt today is its leading lady, the gorgeous Edwige Fenech, who was otherwise busy appearing in strings of great thrillers and not-so-great sex comedies. Decked out in teased hair and heavy late '60s eyeshadow, she's hardly the portrait of a frustrated 19th-century provincial wife; however, her intense sexual presence and solid dramatic chops help her pull off a role that otherwise could have ended in disaster.

Gustave Flaubert's classic 1856 novel has challenged more than a few filmmakers over the years, with Vincente Minnelli turning out an uneven 1949 version that radically altered the story but at least featured a killer ballroom scene. Claude Chabrol took a decent stab at it with Isabelle Huppert, and there was even a Bollywood version called Maya Memsaab. The problem, of course, is that the brilliant use of language is the book's primary reason for greatness rather than the mechanics of its plot, thus making a truly effective cinematic version impossible. This version approaches the problem by chucking out huge chunks of the story and beginning the story of Emma Bovary as she's already married to a country doctor, Charles (Reidmann). Since he seems more concerned with helping out cute little kiddie patients all day rather than tending to Emma's needs a href="bovary4big.jpg" target="new">in the bedroom, she does what any married woman would do: become a complete slut working through any guy in uniform who says hello. Her first paramour, a viscount, gets killed in a duel, and soon she's moving on to two other men who cause her to plunge into moral ruin with the only man who knows the extent of her escapades (Blood and Black Lace's Ressel) waiting for the right moment to strike.

Never the most modest of actresses, Fenech delivers more than her share of bare flesh after a fairly restrained opening half hour and goes through the story's self-destructive paces (though it doesn't end quite so disastrously as the book). Most North Americans never had the chance to see this film in any form, so One 7's no-frills DVD release is essentially its first English-friendly appearance anywhere on home video. Judging from their lip movements, she and several of the male leads performed their roles in English to be looped in later, but in any case, this is the original Italian language version with optional English subtitles (complete with awkward translations and a slew of typos). The anamorphic transfer looks like it's been sitting around for quite a while; it's roughly comparable to some of the earlier Warner Archive releases. In any form, fans of Edwige will still be more than satisfied.