Mar 18, 2018

The Punishment (1973)

Karen Schubert plays a prostitute who gets punished over and over again, in a relentlessly violent film that you won't soon forget.

The film begins at a decadent and surreal party.  There's foosball and video games (one called "Night Bomber"), and a bizarre sexual decor.

Britt (Karen Schubert) manages to attract the attention of Françoise (Claudie Lange), a higher-up in the upper-crust call-girl racket.

Françoise invites Britt to the residence of the head honcho, Manuel (Georges Géret).

Karen Schubert is a German actress who had roles in Spaghetti Westerns, and played alongside fairly big names such as Peter Graves, Laura Antonelli, and Richard Burton.  Thus, far we've covered her films Bluebeard and Christina on VZ1, but will most definitely be covering more.  I don't know what the fuck happened to her in the mid-eighties, but this girl who had a pretty successful career just decided to jump into hardcore porn.  I wonder what the backstory is to that sad decision.

Britt,  Françoise and Raymond (Amidou) attend dinner with Manuel.  Everybody walks on eggshells around this dude.

Manuel tells Britt to get undressed.  She dutifully obeys.

We quickly learn that Manuel is one dark and angry motherfucker.

Later, Britt is to service a client.  When he gets a bit testy and rough, Britt starts crying.  Wealthy high-paying customers don't care too much for weepy whores.  He tells Manuel he was disappointed in his prostitute.

Manuel is displeased and has Raymond bring her to his estate.  This is where the film goes off the rails, and the titular "punishment" begins.

Manuel rips her clothes off and leaves her in a bare room.  Britt pleads for mercy, but Manuel is a cold hearted bastard and doesn't care.

Britt spends the night on bare metal cot in the center of the room.

At night she hears screams coming from beyond the walls.  The whole experience drives her to hysterics.

Raymond escorts her to a clothing store to get fitted for expensive dresses.  In the dressing room, she sees her reflection, and can tell she's losing her damn mind.

Britt is back in the room.  Now one of Manuel's sadistic henchmen has arrived and proceeds to whip the shit out of her.

One of the more graphic, unpleasant scenes you're ever likely to see.  Even the 50 Shades of Grey crowd may have trouble with this level of sadism.

Would you believe a promotional image featuring this disturbing scene is up on IMDb?

After the sadist leaves, Raymond comforts Britt. He's started to fall in love with this poor girl.

Britt has to play the part for all sorts of sick fantasies for perverted customers.  This one wants to be a tempted clergyman.

I'm not sure what this fantasy was about, but it was no less troubling.

It culminates with Britt having to perform hardcore S&M.

Britt loses her damn mind.  She beats the crap out of the customer, then passes out.

Cut to one of Manuel's decadent parties.  The girl at the bar is one of Manuel's whores (Anne Jolivet as Gloria); she's the one that screams every night in the room adjacent to Britt.

The girl has had enough - she takes a broken wine glass and shoves it in Manuel's face, killing him.  Britt and Raymond take this opportunity to escape.  The run away into the woods... but, as you can probably guess by the tenor of this film, it doesn't have a happy ending.

The Punishment is just too damn dark and nihilistic for me to enjoy.  Sure, Karen Schubert spends most of her screen time totally naked... but she's also being horribly degraded.  I know, it's just a movie, but that doesn't make it entertaining. I won't pass judgement - my taste in film isn't exactly Merchant-Ivory productions.

You can't deny, the film is well done.  The skilled direction ensures this isn't just a cheap thrill - there's real emotion up on screen here. You really feel for Brett, you feel her horror, and you feel her sanity slowly slipping away.

That being said, this just crossed a line where it just stops being enjoyable, and you have to ask yourself, "what the fuck am I doing watching this?"  Not my cup of tea, but there's no denying it's skillfully and artfully done.

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