Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Interesting film this ‘Black Venus’ which at the outset seemed to play like a softcore skin flick of the Cinemax variety, and even, as I am told, actually played on that network in the mid to late eighties, albeit in edited form. Thanks to the distribution company Private Screenings, which I believe is some kind of subsidiary of Playboy magazine enterprises, we have the unedited version of Black Venus on DVD, and apparently a host of other softcore flicks which are being released under their label. Not there was anything worth editing out since all in all the sexual content of ‘Black Venus’ is relatively tame, even for when it was released in 1983. I would even hesitate to call ‘Black Venus’ softcore as it would be selling the film a bit short in my opinion since it appears its designs were much grander than simple titillation.

Our film opens in the late 19th century with my man Jacque (Emilano Redondo) back in gay Paris visiting his favorite bordello run by his favorite madam Miss Jean (Helga Line). Being a gold card carrying member and total whore monger, Jacque is interested in the new faces populating the establishment, and though it is a bit inappropriate, Madam Jean shows Jacque the upgrades to the rooms and particularly the female employees through her specialized peeping glass. When Jacque spies a beauty through the window of the ‘southern plantation’ room he immediately recognizes the woman servicing the client which enacts ‘Flashback Time’. A year earlier Jacque was escorting the insanely beautiful Venus (the insanely beautiful Josephine Jacqueline Jones) to a high society event and the beauty from Martinique immediately catches the eye of Jacques artist friend Armand (Jose Antonio Ceinos). Jacque warns Armand that Venus is searching for a well to do man which would preclude Armand since he is a struggling artist in the most classic sense, but yet upon introduction the pair is immediately drawn to each other.

Their relationship is a fast, furious and passionate one as Armand works on capturing the oft nude Venus on canvas and in clay. Unfortunately Armand’s inability to sell his art or make any money period forces Venus to go out and support the couple through some of her modeling jobs, which she happily does, but this fractures Armand’s extremely fragile ego eventually driving him into insanity. Armand threatens Venus with the choice of staying with him and eventually getting murdered or leaving him and living. Please give us what’s behind curtain number One Alex! Unfortunately her choice makes Armand even crazier as he spends his nights worshipping the statue of Venus he’s created while Venus is off in Paris on her own having all kinds of strange adventures.

But now Jacque has found Venus once again, albeit in a whorehouse, but this time he will not let her go and takes the beauty, along with her best friend Ingrid (Monique Gabriel) to stay with him. He also gives the dying Armand some money, has him nursed to back to health, but takes his Venus statue as payment. Yeah, Armand goes even crazier and has decided if he can’t have Venus then no one can have Venus, or that damn statue. Crazy fool.

Upon watching ‘Black Venus’ the main element that separates this film from others of this genre has to be the high production values and over all skill of the filmmakers behind the camera. Late French director Claude Mulot whose career vacillated between shooting soft shock films and hardcore porn in the 1970’s and 80’s proves here that he could compose and light a scene as well as anyone. The costuming was lush and extravagant, the set design was meticulous and when it was all said and done, ‘Black Venus’ was a well thought out well executed production.

This is not to say that ‘Black Venus’ would qualify as a ‘good film’ since there were road blocks that stood in the way of this happening. The story of the lunatic lover Armand was a strained one as his path to insanity was never believable since the characters of Venus and Armand had almost no chemistry together. Part of this could be due to the limitations of the acting ability of Josephine Jacqueline Jones who delivered her lines with little conviction or confidence and on occasion we could see her eyes dart off camera as if she was receiving direction, this being the former Miss Bahamas first major role. Since she’s not a great actress she couldn’t adequately ‘pretend’ to care for the actor playing Armand, in contrast to her scenes with Monique Gabriel which she pulled off effortlessly. But God is she beautiful. Ms. Jones possesses such an easy natural pure beauty that it’s pretty easy to see how she could drive a man to drink. Hell, I had to down a few after watching this twenty five year old movie. Outstanding! Also considering that this once-in-a lifetime beauty couldn’t, at least at the time, act her way out of a wet paper bag with holes in it, the fact that she seems so sweet and friendly had to be the real Ms. Jones which only adds to her irresistibility.

Yes Josephine Jacqueline Jones may not be Katherine Hepburn, but that was easy enough to get over as ‘Black Venus’ combines high production values, an interesting if somewhat flawed story and some beautiful women, all untouched by the scalpel of a plastic surgeon, surrounded by lush and extravagant settings. If you gotta watch a skin flick, and I use that term loosely as this was probably too tastefully done for its own good, this is probably the one to catch.

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