Joy House Blu-ray Review: Love and Death on the French Riviera

This 1964 gem exudes cool, from the lead performances by gorgeous stars Alain Delon and Jane Fonda, to the jazzy Lalo Schifrin score, to the black and white photography around the French Riviera. Thankfully, it also has a great script that keeps viewers guessing right up to its ironic ending.

Delon stars as a charming playboy named Marc. He’s on the run from American gangsters dispatched to kill him for sleeping with their boss’s wife. He finds sanctuary in a homeless shelter, where he encounters good samaritans in the form of Melinda (Fonda) and Barbara (Lola Albright), wealthy cousins purporting to help their community. Accepting their offer of room and board at their mansion in exchange for chauffeur services, he gradually learns dark secrets of their home while searching for a way to escape to freedom from them and the gangsters.

The film excels in building up tension right from Marc’s opening flight from harm and then maintaining it as he gradually discovers that his salvation may be just as dangerous. Director René Clément delights in doling out tidbits about Marc’s predicament, while also setting him up for romance with both cousins. It’s great fun to try to figure out who will prevail in this deadly battle of wits, superbly enhanced by its impeccably cool era, setting, score, and stars.

Delon and Fonda are in their youthful prime here, so impossibly attractive that their characters’ romance is a foregone conclusion. Clément keeps the plot moving with assured finesse, although it stretches credulity that the bad guys are so easily able to cross paths with Marc numerous times simply by canvassing the Riviera. The supporting cast includes Sorrell “Boss Hogg” Booke (The Dukes of Hazzard) as one of the gangsters, and George Gaynes as the boss, better known as Commandant Lassard from the Police Academy series.

The Blu-ray features a lovely new 2K restoration with superb contrast that accentuates the stunning black and white photography. The DTS mono soundtrack exhibits no flaws, while the 2.35:1 aspect ratio provides panoramic appreciation of the grandeur of the French Riviera. English and French audio options are provided, along with an audio commentary track by a pair of film historians. The disc also contains a whopping dozen trailers for other similar Kino Lorber releases.

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Steve Geise

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