Alain Delon and Jane Fonda bring sexy Intrigue home in René Clément crime film
DIRECTED BY RENÉ CLÉMENT/FRENCH, ENGLISH/1964
BLU-RAY STREET DATE: MAY 30, 2023/KL STUDIO CLASSICS
For quite a few years, Alain Delon and Jane Fonda have been on my list of favorite actors, two of the most visually ravishing and effortlessly beguiling screen performers of the latter 20th century, and they’ve kept at their chosen professions well into this new millennium as well. Little did I know, until it popped up on the Kino Lorber upcoming releases list, that they were once paired up in a film together, both in the full bloom of their youth, and guided by the venerable directorial hand of a great French master, René Clément. The year was 1964, and the film was Les Félins, a.k.a. Joy House, which is the title that it’s best known as in the USA. Those top line credits grabbed my attention, and I’m happy to report that this movie surpassed even my enhanced expectations.
I have a few thoughts to share in the short video clip I made (view it below), so I won’t go into great detail here, but here are some aspects of the recent Kino Lorber release that stand out in my memory after having first watched it five weeks ago:
· Delon and Fonda are both so captivating in their roles, and Lola Albright easily won me over to earn her #3 billing. The trio wind up in a twisty love triangle as a petty crook on the run from some vengeful mobsters evades his pursuers by taking up residence with a pair of gorgeous, wealthy, and eccentric women who live in luxury but regard themselves as benevolent missionaries to the dregs of society. These three characters are the main attraction in every way, but there’s a lot more to enjoy than merely the sexy interplay of the leads.
· The film score by Lalo Schifrin (probably best known for the original theme music for the Mission Impossible TV series – he also scored Bullitt, Dirty Harry and much more) is wonderful, and stands on its own as a listening experience. The soundtrack album should be available on most streaming services.
· If René Clément is much thought about these days, it’s probably because he directed Purple Noon, Delon’s star-making role. But he really was a very talented director and Joy House offers a lot of satisfaction simply as a very clever, surprising, and well-constructed action/romance/comedy/thriller. This is high quality entertainment, early-60s style.
· Overall, this feels like a movie that’s been unfairly forgotten and has a strong chance of forging a positive bond with viewers who might find themselves as surprised as I was that I’d never heard about this movie before, even though it contains so many elements that I like.
· There is a commentary track by a couple film historians who delivered sufficiently interesting anecdotes and insights to justify giving it a listen, but I don’t have any special takeaways to report. When I pop in the Joy House disc once again, it will be for the purpose of simply revisiting a newly favored comfort film.