The Story Of O: Untold Pleasures – Review

The Story Of O: Untold Pleasures

The Story Of O: Untold Pleasures is an American erotic drama that was directed by Phil Leirness and originally released in October 2002.  It stars Danielle Ciardi, Neil Dickson, Max Parrish and Michelle Ruben and is an adaptation of the famous French erotic novel Histoire d’O by Pauline Reage.  Unsurprisingly, given that it revolves around the domination and objectification of women for male pleasure, it has been filmed many times although never as badly as this.

It tells the story of ambitious young photographer O (Cardi), whose feckless lover Rene (Parrish) introduces her to the wealthy Sir Stephen (Dickson).  Stephen happens to be a bit of a perv who likes nothing better than whipping young women across the buttocks and sponsoring ambitious young photographers.  O puts two and two together and is soon being whipped across the buttocks in exchange for the cash she needs to put her latest photograph album together.  But she finds the terms of her agreement with Stephen are affecting her relationships with Rene and model Jacqueline (Ruben).

The erotic drama was a staple of the direct-to-video scene in the 1990s and made minor stars of the likes of Shannon Whirry and Shannon Tweed.  They basically provided teenage boys and dirty old men with moving images of T&A in the pre-internet era but inexplicably tried to make out that they were ‘artistic’, which in practice meant lots of soft focus photography, billowing white sheets, doves, candles, bubble bath and all that sort of thing.  However, once the internet provided the means for infinite varieties of pornography to flood the world the requirement for erotic dramas dropped off overnight.

This version of The Story Of O came right at the fag end of that cycle and, viewed now, shows what a self-defeating sub-genre it really was.  It’s all very well showing lots of wobbling boobs and arses but, let’s face it, the Carry On series was offering that thirty years previously.  As Roman Polanski once said, if you’re making a film about a man whose head is cut off, you have to show the head getting cut off otherwise it’s like a joke without the punchline.  So if you’re making a film that’s all about sex, well, you can fill in the blanks yourself.

And speaking of blanks, the actors in erotic dramas were cast for their looks alone with the natural consequence that the acting is appalling.  Which is certainly the case here: Danielle Ciardi doesn’t for one second convince you as someone who could drive a man insane with lust and poor old Neil Dickson, who had the starring role in the flop movie version of Biggles in 1987, looks thoroughly embarrassed – as well he might – as Sir Stephen.

To do proper justice to a novel such as Histoire d’O requires either the no-holds-barred bad taste of someone like Jess Franco or the detached voyeurism of a master technician like Stanley Kubrick.  Unfortunately, director Phil Leirness is neither.  There’s plenty of nudity and some mild S&M but nothing even remotely decadent, let alone depraved.  The score gives away how bland this film really is, being the sort of music you might hear being piped through the duty free shops on a cross-channel ferry.

So ultimately The Story Of O: Untold Pleasures is nothing more than an historical example of a now all but extinct type of movie making, and a bad example at that.

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