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Dressage
cast: Veronique Catanzaro, Patrick Guillemin, Marc Henry, Henri-Jacques Huet, and Andrew Nader

director: Pierre B. Reinhard

96 minutes (18) 1985
Naughty DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
Picture me scratching my head, furrowing my brow and wondering, why, oh why, has Marc Morris gone to the trouble of releasing this? Surely there are many better films out there in humble obscurity. But really, is Pierre B. Reinhard really going to put paid to the curiosity of anyone? Dressage is a mid-1980s' soft sex film, from the decade that style forgot, and it is everything one might expect of it. On the couture front I could very well be accused of being unfair on the movie, as this is softly shot picture, faux Hamilton-esque, in grand locations with tasty girls smartly dressed, then sharply undressed. The production values are good, but the film is no better or worse than Fiona Richmond vehicle Let's Get Laid. It is a lot of effort to little real point.

Reinhard is a lightweight cult figure that came to minor significance in the 1970s with brothel romps on hastily erected sets. Heavy in medium and long shots on airy sets, the impression given was that of a director fearful of accidentally granting too much intimate detail or wary of catching an infection. He was perfect for the naff 1980s, but was surely a joke and possibly even the model for Jean-Pierre Leaud's fictional pornographer brought out of retirement in Bonillo's film The Pornographer.

Dressage revels in a hyped up immorality whilst in truth playing tepidly with the sinful themes. The film opens with a party that is about as wildly hedonistic as a broken whoopee cushion. The immoral Baron Plessis du Regard (Patrick Guillermin) realises that one of his guests, Natalie (Veronique Catanzaro), is "as melancholy as a neglected housewife." She informs him of how her mother had been neglected by her father before her birth. He is a man of nobility, a well-known figure in France, and she seeks revenge. The opportunity is upon her as she has successfully obtained employment with the Baron due to educate the daughter that he did accept and love over the years, an innocent named Sophie. Natalie intends on perverting the young ward.

The Baron has a target too, Colonel Montvilliers (Andre Nader) who he has a friendly pretence with, but would sooner see his downfall. The Baron invites his female guests to compete to take on a mission for him, based in the Montvilliers household. The first contest is a challenge to perform the most perverse acts their imagination can unload. The jigs, partial disrobings and champagne wastage don't hold much hope for any of these girls becoming trog whore of the year 1925. The lame proceedings result in the recruitment of Eliane (Cornelia Wilms). She will inveigle herself in the Colonel's household as the tutor to his son Robert (Marc Henry), destroying the Colonel and his family from within. This now becomes a competition to see which of the saboteurs can result in the muddiest of reputations for the two families under attack.

Natalie sexually teases her father until he is willing to indulge in some blindfolded sex with talking forbidden. During the act she will exchange herself with her charge, and he will receive oral sex from his beloved daughter. Eliane torments Robert by insisting his thoughts are improper while making him manually undress her, and forbidding him his "solitary nocturnal perversions." The latter is conducted via an ajar door to the adjoining room and a mirror angled so that each can see the other. She is generally naked during these observations.

Eliane meanwhile teases the Colonel also, only for him to try and initiate her into a terrorist bomb attack on parliament on the day of the budget, therefore freeing the country "of the freemasons and the Bolsheviks." Natalie extends her remit to include some visiting girls, educating them in ancient history by having them reproduce images of naked girls at leisure. As the girls in the drawings have no pubic hair, the girls magically produce scissors and begin to trim one another. The innocent Sophie suggests that the downy clippings could be woven into a lovely purse, so they manufacture such an item and make a present it to the girls' delighted aunt.

The two households fall in respective disgrace. The young charges are taken away by their mistresses to evade the flak but, of course, are in truth vulnerable to even greater improprieties. Both the Colonel and M. Leroy-Murville are mentally incapacitated and physically ruined by the plots. Certainly, there is shocking behaviour, but the themes are much more difficult than the mild pornography the film stretches to. The sex is soft and safe. The tone is idiotic which is nothing new in sex films but in this film it insults the intelligence of the viewer. A viewer can abandon the film, but a reviewer is maddeningly committed.

I would readily have deserted the film than feel a fool for putting up with its moronic population and their dim-witted histories. The overgrown girls and boys are immensely stupid. Older actors like the valet played by Pierre Doris, fumble uncertainly with the younger flesh. His victim, the maid girl, lightly cries "Mummy!" He never completes his lewd intentions on the girl, what he refers to as mandatory and a "butler privilege," because he is repeatedly interrupted in the maul. The dialogue appears to have been very closely translated from the original French, and though it might on occasion make the dialogue sound more awkward and preposterous it doesn't account for most of the film's subnormal occupations.

There is one funny joke when the Baron, unwilling to step in at a crucial stage, is informed, "If you were a Count you wouldn't add up!" ...but that's it folks! The disc includes a trailer for the second release on the Naughty label, another Reinhard film, Education Anglaise. Reinhard has a couple of naked girl horror films from the 1980s (Tracking from 1981, or La revanche des mortes vivantes from 1987, though I believe Morris might already have sourced the latter for Redemption), which may have been a safer bet for a spring or summer release, capitalising on two genres. I get the feeling that across several labels - Nucleus, Naughty and Shameless - Morris is trying to reproduce that exciting exploitation age when titles ran up high expectations for the sex and horror content amongst its horny bloodthirsty young renters. That home audience is otherwise redirected these days, and the nostalgists might not be open to premieres that result, as did so many in the heyday, in gross disappointment.
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