Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
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One reason to stick with the madcap plot twists that evolve before your eyes in Joy House it is to watch the excellent underrated Lola Albright given ample screen time as the femme fatale spider lady Barbara who knows more than she’s telling. Watching the alluring Albright and the close ups of her stark cold eyes in romantic clinches with Alain Delon is the real hook in this otherwise interesting but flawed movie.
This revenge story morphs into one mysterious sexual obsession as Delon’s Marc escapes to an isolated ramshackle chateau where Lola Albright spider woman methodically weaves her web. The shifting plot points and double crosses keep us involved and the detective-like atmosphere of the story come from Marc deciphering what Barbara wants, what she is hiding, and where the loyalties of Fonda’a Melinda lie. It’s a delicious tale, and really only makes sense as we get deeper and deeper into the story.
Jet-setting French hustler Marc (Alain Delon) travels toMonte Carloafter making it with aNew Yorkgangster’s wife and finds himself captor to mafia thugs instructed to kill him and bring his head back to the boss in the states. Marc escapes to a run-down chateau where transplanted American beauty Barbara (Lola Albright) takes him on as a chauffeur and handy man but indicates that she wants him to fill a sexual role in her little world which Marc is more than apprehensive about. Barbara’s unassuming niece Melinda (Jane Fonda) also warms up to Marc and informs him that Barbara’s dead husband was murdered by a local gangster whom the police are still searching for. As Marc learns more about the two women and their secrets, and the pursuingNew Yorkkillers close in Marc realizes that even with all his cunning and wiles he may not escape unharmed.
The rest of the cast is not overlooked by director René Clément with Jane Fonda and the always luminous Alain Delon filling out the main roles as lovers thrown together through circumstance. The script for this flick feels inherently like a foreign concept by today’s tastes, with a plot that ignites withNew Yorkgangsters and then morphs into a story of sensual love as only the French could imagine. The symbolism of the environs and properties in the movie is something from a traditional storytelling perspective, not something from a repressed American point of view.
Director Clément wisely manages a number of smart cinematic elements provided by Pascal Jardin and Charles Williams, whose scripted adaptation of Day Keene’s original novel "Joy House" keeps the action moving and stays one step ahead of the viewer. Some key moments are delivered in the kinetic opening, introducing our lead character “IN MEDIAS RES” asNew Yorkgangsters bring down the kibosh, but this seems like the filmmakers wanted to start off with a bang for what is best seen as a love triangle.
There are also nice visuals of the French landscape and the decrepit chateau where the story unfolds. There are secrets in the mansion and it’s too bad that the film doesn’t open this aspect up more. Some scenes reveal some of the interior of the house toward the climax, and this develops as Fonda’s Melinda and Delon’s Marc become more reliant on each other.
René Clément had made Purple Noon a few years prior to this one and with Alain Delon as the rapscallion Ripley, a man obsessed with taking on the alternate identity of his friend. This may be the one film with Delon and Fonda that the actress could feel good about after Barbarella. It’s still a nice way to spend 90 minutes.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older