HOME   News   Reviews   Adv Search   Features   My DVD   About   Apps   Stats     Search:
  Directed by
  • Full Frame
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Mono
  • None
  • Animated menus
  • Filmographies

The Story Of O

Oracle Entertainment/Force Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 92 mins . R . PAL


While controversy of some kind or other inevitably surrounds every second Hollywood film with an erotic theme, European cinema has never shied away from employing sex, in all its forms, as a story device. That, of course, has sometimes had an unintended side-effect - movies made for a “serious” audience in Europe are viewed in the US, England and Australia as pornography, not at all helped by the language barrier, which usually results in English-language viewers having to endure a poorly executed dubbed soundtrack that dilutes or even changes the intentions of the film.

After his success with Emmanuelle, director Just Jaeckin’s 1975 effort The Story Of O was always going to score international attention - but while there were many who viewed the film as a piece of art, most took one look at the rampant soft-focus nudity and impenetrable storyline and decided that this was a prime slice of French soft porn; this film was marketed for years on video in Australia as exactly that.

In reality, The Story Of O is an attempt to tell a confronting erotic story - a story that’s half visceral drama, half kinky fantasy. Not that there’s really all that much here in the way of story, though (the English language version has had some eight minutes of plot development excised, ostensibly for “pace” - the effect, though, is simply confusion). Essentially, this is the story of a woman who goes only by the name of “O” - a woman for whom S&M is as vital a part of sexual life as the sex act itself, one who freely admits to being “owned” by the man she is with, who she refers to as her “master”. O is in a relationship with the way-too-serious Rene, but he decides to take her - for no particular reason, at least as far as the viewer is concerned - to a retreat where she is to be trained in submissiveness and made available to the many men on the premises at their whims. She meets and falls in love with the also-way-too-serious Sir Stefan, who initially puts her through painful ritual before realising that he is falling in love with her and wants to “own” her. Luckily for Sir Stefan, Rene owes him a favour, and so the deal is done. But O may yet turn the tables on her “master”…

If the above sounds cheesy, you’re right - it is. It’s worth remembering, though, that this was shot in 1975 from a novel written some time beforehand by Dominique Aury, and suffers somewhat in the light of today’s politically correct climate. The script goes to great pains to repeatedly spell out that everything O and the other women participate in is voluntary, yet there impression remains that she is ultimately a psychologically flawed person with some serious dependency problems. Not that that’s going to matter to most who view this film today - they’ll be watching, instead, for the near-constant female nudity and the occasional spot of simulated sex, or possibly for the S&M elements of the film, which are also fairly constant. Fairly stylishly shot, The Story Of O is ultimately much ado about not very much at all, and while the ending raises a smile for those who’ve made it all the way through, much that’s here is unintentionally hilarious, particularly with the po-faced seriousness that infuses the entire cast.

Star Corinne Clery was to go on to become a Bond girl (in Moonraker), while fellow cast member Udo Kier spent years in films such as this until moving into more challenging roles and films, appearing in almost every Lars von Trier movie to date. The film itself, meanwhile, looks very much like one of the inspirations for Kubrick’s swan song Eyes Wide Shut, and those who enjoyed that film will undoubtedly find it fascinating to see how the French did it 25 years beforehand and still managed to be more explicit.


There is a relatively recent video transfer of The Story Of O in existence that restores the film to its full length and presents it in its original language with English subtitles. This isn’t it.

The video transfer of The Story Of O offered by Force Video on DVD (one of their earlier releases) is decidedly mediocre, and almost certainly dates back to the early 1980s. It’s best described as full-frame, and appears so on most TVs - a look at the raw video stream, though, shows that this transfer has been very slightly “windowboxed”, presumably to compensate for TV overscan. While the print source used is clean enough, with only reel-change marks as a distraction, there are major problems here with colour stability, image stability, sharpness and contrast. Many scenes appear massively overexposed, which may or may not have been the director’s intention (this effect actually looks suitably “arty” regardless). On more than one occasion the colour tone and contrast balance of the film visibly shifts during a scene. Unlike more high-end transfers, this looks substantially better on an interlaced display (such as a standard television) than it does on a progressive-scan one.

Despite the mediocre transfer, there are few visible MPEG compression problems, save for a couple of minor incidences of aliasing.


The Story Of O was made with mono audio, so it was surprising to see a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track on offer on this disc. But don’t be fooled - this track is merely the original mono audio put through a comb filter to create “fake stereo” - in much the same way that record companies used to do with pop records in the 1960s. Needless to say, this sounds terrible. There is NO discreet audio on offer on this track, and even those with 5.1 systems are heartily encouraged to NOT listen to this audio track, which has to rank as the worst this reviewer has ever been subjected to.

Fortunately, a Dolby Digital 2.0 stream on the disc contains the original soundtrack in mono, and while fidelity is very limited, this is the track to go for. Annoyingly, the 5.1 aberration is the default audio here. That 5.1 track, by the way, sounds even worse when downmixed to 2.0.

Dialogue is dubbed (reasonably well, as it turns out) in English, and is not available in the original French. There are no subtitles.


This disc was authored by IML in Melbourne, whose usual solid work is well in evidence here, with fully animated (and very stylish) menus with audio giving the disc the appearance of quality. IML can’t be blamed for the lack of video or audio quality here, nor can they be blamed for the lack of extras - all you get is a batch of filmographies - fairly up to date ones for Corinne Clery, Udo Kier, Anthony Steel and director Just Jaeckin.

Chapter access is available, interestingly, either from a text menu or a fully animated set of thumbnail screens.


More interesting as a historic curio than as either art or porn, The Story Of O nevertheless captures the liberated spirit of ‘70s French cinema well. It’s presented with a very poor - but mercifully clean - transfer on a well-authored DVD, but is likely to be the only version of the film you’ll see on local DVD for some time.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=693
  • Send to a friend.

    Cast your vote here: You must enable cookies to vote.
      And I quote...
    "More interesting as a historic curio than as either art or porn..."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 103(s)
    • MPEG Card:
          RealMagic Hollywood Plus
    • TV:
          Panasonic - The One
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-AV1020
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Surrounds:
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
      Recent Reviews:
    by Anthony Horan

    Immortal Beloved
    "For two hours, this film will transport you..."

    Pet Shop Boys - Pop Art
    "A must-buy for Pet Shop Boys fans, Pop Art is also highly recommended for those who remember how good pop music could be in the ‘80s."

    Alias - The Complete First Season
    "One of the most addictive and entertaining US television series' in many years... Buena Vista's DVD set gets almost everything right."

    R.E.M.: In View - The Best of 1988-2003
    "Every home should have one."

    Queen Margot
    "A spectacular, enthralling masterpiece..."

      Related Links
      None listed


    Search for Title/Actor/Director:
    Google Web dvd.net.au
       Copyright DVDnet. All rights reserved. Site Design by RED 5