Disturbing, violent and sleazy…
Another hit from CODE RED
Julie Darling tells the story of a young girl’s obsessive love for her father. Sixteen year old Julie, played by Isabelle Mejias (Meatballs III), just wants to be with her daddy and she will stop at nothing, even murder, to keep them together. Disturbing, violent and sleazy, Julie Darling remains a largely underseen and under-appreciated film that more fans of exploitation cinema should be made aware of.
The film opens on a shot of Julie’s Columbian boa constrictor climbing out of its tank. And for once a film doesn’t try to tell you that it’s a deadly snake out to kill the whole household. This is a cinematic pet peeve of mine (pun intended) as there is a similar boa sitting not ten feet away from where this review is being written. The snake frightens Julie’s mom, who has just finished arguing with Julie at the breakfast table. As soon as Julie leaves to put her snake away, the mother begins trying to talk her father into sending Julie away to boarding school. Later that day, in a further bid for 1983’s Mom of the Year award, her mother asks the lecherous grocery delivery guy to get rid of the snake for her while Julie is away.
Julie’s opportunity for revenge happens the next day when the delivery guy returns, this time with rape in mind for the mother. (As a vaguely interesting side note, actress Cindy Girling, who portrayed the mother in the film, was married to Paul Hubbert who played the delivery guy, Weston.) When Julie hears the struggle downstairs, she gets her rifle out, but doesn’t shoot the rapist, instead opting to watch as he accidentally kills her mother and then flees the scene.
Later, when things have barely settled down, her father brings home a new girlfriend and her young son, Julie becomes quite angry. The girlfriend, played by the legendary Sybil Danning, tries to befriend Julie, but Julie wants nothing to do with her. Instead, she begins making plans to get rid of them, so that she can have her father all to herself again.
It’s also worth noting, perhaps, that Julie’s father, played by Anthony Franciosa of Tenebrae and Death Wish II fame, has to be one of the most oblivious fathers in the history of cinema. He absentmindedly sips his coffee, seemingly ignorant to the power struggles that are going on all around him. Even when Julie tells him at one point that she doesn’t want to get married, she just wants to stay with him forever, he tells her it’s the nicest compliment he’s ever had.
In some ways, Julie Darling seems like a made-for-TV movie from the last seventies. But what really sets it apart is its sleaziness and cynicism. The film features a surprising amount of nudity, given the story at hand and not too many films have a fantasy scene where a sixteen year old girl has sex with her father and actually shows it in the movie. Julie Darling is not a perfect film, not even close. There are occasional continuity errors, some poorly lit scenes, and a pretty awful musical score. Sometimes time lapses between important events in the film are vague and hard to identify. But in my opinion, this shouldn’t keep you from seeing it. The film is certainly heavy handed at times, but that just adds to its twisted after school special gone horribly wrong feel, which is part of what makes the film fun to watch. It’s a great piece of sleazy exploitation film making and is sadly overlooked, even by many fans of the genre. The director, Paul Nicholas, would go on to work with Sybil Danning again later that same year when he wrote and directed the women-in-prison classic Chained Heat.
Code Red DVD recently released this film and it looks better than I’ve ever seen it. Previously only available in the form of a murky print on a Mill Creek 50 pack DVD set, the folks at Code Red did a great job of remastering the film and brightening it up for their release. For extras, it’s got great interviews with Isabelle Mejias and Sybil Danning, as well as individual commentaries from both actresses. Just to give a little bit of warning, the Danning commentary is largely about her career as a whole and not so much centered on the film itself. Also worth noting that Mejias is not a fan of the film at all and makes that crystal clear in both the interview and commentary track.
16:9 anamorphic widescreen transfer mastered in HD from the 35mm interpositive
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio
Interview with Sybil Danning
Interview with Isabelle Mejias
Audio Commentary with Isabelle Mejias
Audio Commentary with Sybil Danning
Trailers for other Code Red titles
VERDICT: BUY THIS SICK BASTARD!
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