THE BEASTIARY OF WALERIAN BOROWCZYK
By Simon Strong
In the world of European genre cinema of the 1970's, few filmmakers trod the line between exploitation and art more finely than Polish-born director Walerian Borowczyk, whose work in the erotic horror field was best illustrated by the films he made in France during that decade and into the eighties, such as the portmanteau Immoral Tales (1974), Dr. Jekyll and the Women (1981) and Emmanuelle 5 (1987). His most controversial film, however, undoubtably remains La Bête/The Beast (1975), an erotic and dark fairy tale based loosely on the 1869 novel Lokis by Prosper Mérimée, and depicting the sexual relationship between a young woman and a particularly randy and well-endowed hairy beast who is prowling the countryside. While the sexual copulation between girl and beast is only one of sexual fantasy and imagination within the narrative, Borowczyk depicted it with near XXX realism, resulting in many people branding the film both beautiful and obscene. Naturally, it was banned in many countries, including Australia for several decades (it was another of those infamous films I had to contend with seeing via a fuzzy VHS dub bought off the shelves from Polyester Books. Umbrella Entertainment finally released the film legally on DVD in Australia in 2008).
Written by Melbourne-based, North England-born Simon Strong, Unquiet Dreams isn’t the definitive biography of Borowczyk, or the most in-depth study of his work, which the author freely admits to in his introduction. Rather, it comes across as a greatly-expanded idea similar to those souvenir program booklets which I used to religiously buy whenever I went to the movies when I was a kid, where each booklet was devoted to the one particular film, and featured photos, synopsis and production photos. The classy and classical front cover (featuring Polish artist Wladyslaw Podkowinski’s Frenzy of Exultations) hides an interior that is influenced in design by the arty smut film magazines of the period, such as Continental Film Review and Adam Film World. Within the contents of the book, Strong offers up the expected filmograpy of Borowczyk’s work (including his early shorts), as well as profiling several of the filmmaker’s leading ladies (such as Marina Pierro and La Bête’s Sirpa Lane), and takes a look at Argus Films, the company which distributed a lot of Borowczyk’s films.
One of my favourite aspects of Unquiet Dreams, and one which will no doubt help broaden the book’s appeal beyond those interested specifically in Borowczyk, is the way Strong includes little follow-up chapters that expand to investigate a particular topic’s depiction in the wider exploitation film market. For example, the book contains a ‘Zoophilmography’, in which films that broach the subject of bestiality are looked at (including titles like Tarzan and the Ape Man , Tanya’s Island  and Rinse Dream’s cult XXX film Café Flesh ). Another chapter of the book, after examining Dr. Jekyll and the Women, then goes on to cover other ‘Jeksploitation’ films, such as Hammer’s gender-bending Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) and the David F. Friedman produced sexploitation quickie The Adult Verison of Jekyll and Hyde (1972), starring Rene Bond.
Published by the LedaTape Organisation, Unquiet Dreams features an abundance of colour and black & white photos and poster art within its 136 pages. A worthy and recommended addition to your euro-trash cinema bookshelf.