Klaus Kinski wears a gold jacket to the orgy

Madame Claude aka The French Woman and Madame Claude und ihre Gazellen (Dir Just Jaeckin, 1977)

Basic plot: Photographer David Evans has photographs of Madame Claude’s high-class call girls entertaining their clients, who just happen to be politicians, high-flyers from multi-national corporations, civil servants, heads of state and dignitaries.  As a result there is a lot of interest in the photographs from the French government, the CIA and Madame Claude herself – will David manage to find a buyer for the photographs before someone gets their hands on the photographs and him?

Cast: Alexander Zakis – Klaus Kinski; David Evans – Murray Head; Madame Claude – Françoise Fabian; Elizabeth – Dayle Haddon; Anne-Marie – Vibeke Knudsen; Pierre – Maurice Ronet; Hugo – Marc Michel; Paul – André Falcon; Lefevre – François Perrot; Jill – Ylva Setterborg

Filming location: Paris

Release date: 11 May 1977

Availability:  Various versions of Madame Claude are available but they’re all rather cheap looking – which says it all really.  To make matters worse, the film is dubbed into English.  You can get the DVD from Amazon for less than £7 including postage. 

The film in full – *SPOILER ALERT*:

Madame Claude is supposedly based on a true story about Fernande Grudet, known as Madame Claude, who ran a network of call girls in Paris in the 1960s.  Madame Claude has a case coming up at court in a month’s time regarding unpaid taxes but refuses to settle outside of court, even though the same judge ruled against her in a previous case – she’s stubborn and has a bit of a chip on her shoulder about her profession:  “On what basis can they tax my profession?  As far as the government is concerned my business doesn’t exist; yet society needs my services.  Well, then, recognise it.  Once they establish my legitimacy I’ll pay their taxes!” 

It seems Madame Claude believes that her organisation is protected because of the nature of her clientele – she says there isn’t one multi-national corporation, not one agency of government, not one foreign embassy that doesn’t use her girls on a regular basis.  But on the flipside, because of the clientele Madame Claude’s girls attract, there is also great interest in her work from unwanted quarters. 

The main source of irritation for Madame Claude is an annoying photography called David Evans, played by Murray Head.  Despite the fact that Claude’s girls can get paid big fat pay cheques for sleeping with the clients, they seem to prefer giving freebies to David who only seems to want to snatch photographs of them with their high profile clients.  This is, naturally, against Madame Claude’s policy as she doesn’t like scandal and having photographs of her girls with the clients means they are all open to blackmail.  He’s a naughty boy that David…

Madame Claude isn’t the only one who objects to David having such photographs – the CIA are also interested in tracking him down, as are the French government.  God forbid there should be a scandal, eh?

Claude decides to nip it all in the bud by banning her girls from seeing David: “Every one of you is my creation.  And all of you know that without me, none of you would be wearing $10,000 coats.  Without me you are nothing!”  Bossy old cow, ain’t she?  I’m guessing this is because the girls like sex so much that they give it away to an unscrupulous photographer whilst Claude doesn’t actually enjoy sex at all – not one bit, apparently – and that, what with the Catholic guilt she must be feeling as an ex-convent girl, makes her a bit bitter.   So if she doesn’t like sex, what is she trying to get from her girls?  “I suppose a kind of power… to have control over men; control those who dominate the world.  [And] Money – the necessary ingredient that gives a woman real freedom, real emancipation.”  Yeah, Claude’s into women’s rights alright.  Unless the women in question want the right to see David Evans, of course…

None of this stops the girls from seeing David, nor David from attempting to get photographs of high-profile clients – he even travels worldwide to get such opportunities.  One night in Bangkok Just Jaeckin, I mean, just joking! One night in Baghdad with Jill (one of Claude’s girls) was just such an opportunity for him to get a photograph of the prince she is spending time with; this was the scoop he needed to get the CIA off his back, but his plans are thwarted and results in a warning from Claude to keep away.

Unfortunately the CIA are tracking both Claude and David and they somehow come to the conclusion that David is working for Claude and that she plans to use his photographs to blackmail some of her clients.  It’s all a bit messy.  As is the plot to the film, come to that.  One strand of the film concerns a young lady called Elizabeth who Claude happens to see shop lifting in a posh boutique – Claude decides Elizabeth would make a good call girl and pursues her relentlessly with telephone calls until she gives in and becomes one of her girls.  Another is about a female dentist who’d love to be one of Madame Claude’s girls, only Madame Claude says she can’t as she doesn’t wear white panties and takes too much pleasure in washing herself in a bidet (no, really, I’m not making it up!).  Another sequence is about a composer called Pierre (played by the camp looking Maurice Ronet, complete with black eyeliner and a rather sinister acne scarred face) who breaks the girls in for Madame Claude by being their first client and then sends her a review of their performance – the scene where Elizabeth visits him is so cliché ridden that it is embarrassing.  Pierre, the cardigan and slipper wearing type, goes in for the totally unbelievable set-up of lovemaking on rugs and leopard skin cushions in front of a roaring log fire.  Pass the sick bag! 

Then there’s a couple of playboys called Hugo and Alexander who live a life of great wealth, luxury and depravity, and here’s where Klaus enters the scenario!

When Klaus says to David Evans, “Hugo says you’ve got quite a collection of pictures of me screwing”, I’m not sure if he’s just playing himself.   But apparently not – Klaus plays Alexander Zakis, best friend to Hugo, and acquaintance of David Evans.  But David has got himself into a spot of bother with Alexander because it seems that he is one of Madame Claude’s clients and David has been tracking his conquests too.  Whilst Alexander might find this amusing he also needs to be clear with David that there will be consequences should the photographs get into the wrong hands, so he slaps his face a little (Jaeckin-ly, sorry, jokingly – I must stop doing that!), gets him in a necklock-lite whilst ordering David to pour him a drink, then slaps his head again.  That should do the trick, eh? 

Despite being surrounded by women, as any wealthy playboy should be, the scenes between Alexander and David smack a little of homo-eroticism with a bit of face stroking etc.  But if we needed proof that Alexander is definitely not attracted to men, as soon as David clears off Alexander transfers his attentions to yet another woman.  Well, even without Claude’s girls there are always plenty around…

This is not the last we see of Alexander, however, as he later hires Elizabeth to travel on a trip to the Bahamas with him and his guests.  He hasn’t hired Elizabeth for himself, but to entertain his son Frederick.   Alexander introduces his son Frederick as an “imbecile” and at first I wondered if he really was supposed to be a bit simple – well, he was wearing a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, so it is easy to see where Klaus is coming from!  But it seems that Frederick is the “idiot son” because he claims that when he inherits his father’s wealth he wants to give it away to the poor.  This idea is laughable to Alexander who says he detests the word generosity. 

Elizabeth gets an idea that maybe Alexander is a bit of a monster – I wonder where she got that idea from?!!  He’s rude to his son and says there’s no room for generosity in the world.  But he claims that that’s not all there is to him and in a speech that mirrors Klaus Kinski’s real life he says:  “I’ve done it all!  Had it all!  And there is only one thing in my life that I care about: my son.”

But Alexander’s idea of caring about his son is a little untraditional: “I want him to be a man.  I hate his weakness.  There is one lesson that he has to learn – and the sooner the better – with money he can buy anything!” (Note, my copy of the DVD, 905 Entertainment, US version, I guess, has a slight fault here and the final sentence of this sequence is repeated twice for no apparent reason). 

As if to prove the point Alexander has “bought” Elizabeth to make Frederick into a man.  Although Frederick is not too interested initially, Elizabeth wins him over (Alexander watches in the distance with the aid of binoculars, to ensure that Elizabeth manages to entice him to do the deed) and strikes jackpot.  Well, she thinks she does – but later Alexander pays her, tells her she’s got the wrong idea if she thinks she’s going to marry his son and then sees her off the yacht before she can say goodbye to Frederick.  She shouldn’t be disappointed – after all, she was being paid and what made her think that Frederick was different to any other client?   

Meanwhile, back at the ranch David is being pursued by various interested parties who want to get their hands on both him and his photographs – things are hotting up a bit and David is trying to keep a low profile until he can meet with an unnamed contact to hand over the photographs.  He heads over to Anne-Marie’s apartment to do the exchange but when Lefevre arrives saying he’ll give him a free ride to the border in exchange for the photographs, he doesn’t just mean the photographs of Madame Claude’s girls; he wants the photographs of the clients too.  In fact, he doesn’t just want them, he insists on having them – with a gun for a bit of added persuasion.  Anne-Marie, unfortunately, walks in on the exchange.  The next thing you know Anne-Marie has been killed by someone (it’s unclear who), the photographs have gone (no one is sure who has them) and David has been beaten up.  When he manages to recover himself, he flees the building and steals a taxi to make a getaway.

David goes to a country mansion where Hugo and Alexander are hosting an orgy, apparently for Hugo’s wheelchair ridden elderly father – the mind boggles… David’s requests for help are denied and when he says he believes someone is going to kill him, Alexander indicates to Hugo that they need to get David off the premises as soon as possible.  I guess all the blood would ruin Alexander’s lovely golden orgy jacket.   And there’s nothing like a bit of murder for putting a dampener on a good old fashioned sexual orgy now, is there? 

David is seen off the premises, the orgy recommences and then Hugo and Alexander decide on a whim to set off for Mexico, bundling girls into their car to take with them – well, someone has to carry to the suitcases, don’t they? 

Meantime, David wanders around the woods, dazed and terrified – talking to himself, shouting to anybody or nobody – until he meets his end with multiple gunshot wounds. 

It seems that someone else got their hands on the photographs; Washington dropped their case and were no longer interested; Madame Claude’s organisation suffered a down-turn in clientele as a result and the whole incident made Elizabeth leave the business.  But who cares, really?

You see, crime never pays.  And neither do these films.  If you watch the film for a bit of sex and nudity, you’ll be disappointed – they’re the most unsexy films with just a few tit shots and a bit of moaning and groaning; if you watch them for a coherent story line, again you’ll be sorely disappointed.  If, however, you watch them for Klaus Kinski being a very naughty boy, then I guess we have a winner.  Yet another classy performance from Mr Kinski complete with a bit of manhandling and some smoke blown in the face for poor old Murray Head. 

The soundtrack is provided by the wonderful Mr Serge Gainsbourg (if Klaus is my favourite actor, Serge is my favourite everything else!) and this is, if truth be told, the real reason I bought the film in the first place.  The main theme for the film is Yesterday Yes a Day which is one of the loveliest songs Jane Birkin has ever recorded, so Madame Claude does have its selling points after all.  Gainsbourg had turned down the offer to provide the soundtrack to Just Jaeckin’s Emmanuelle in 1974 and lived to regret it when the film went on to gross $100M worldwide – I guess he felt he couldn’t afford to turn down Jaeckin’s Madame Claude after that, and also Emmanuelle 3 (Goodbye Emmanuelle), although he would have been wrong as they were neither destined to be as popular as Emmanuelle.  Never mind, Serge!

Kinski’s acting methods:

Hand in pocket as ever:

Sometimes Klaus throws in a double (both hands in pockets) to keep us on our toes:

WARNING * KLAUS KINSKI QUOTES CONTAINING

OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE *

Other information about the film:  Christian David claims in his Kinski die Biographie (Aufbau, Berlin, 2008, pp248-249) that Jaeckin’s request to work with Klaus was initially met with some resistance by the film’s producers, surprise, surprise! Apparently, and excuse the poor attempt at translating from the German text, they were concerned that Klaus would ruin the film because he doesn’t listen to anything or anyone, won’t be directed and would only be interested in the money on offer. Sounds about right.   But what is truly surprising is that Jaeckin proved his producers were wrong because Klaus actually behaved himself and according to Christian David he took his work seriously, did not treat Jaeckin badly, was not domineering and pulled no tricks.  And although they discussed how the role should be played, Jaeckin was under no illusions about Klaus and his usual behaviour – he was always “diplomatic” with him and kept an eye on the fuse to prevent the bomb from exploding!

According to Kinski Uncut (Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 1997), Klaus once dated a certain Jasmin, former prima ballerina of the Oslo Opera, who he says was one of Madame Claude’s girls.  He relates the sorry tale (pp111-116) and here are some extracts:

Meanwhile Jasmin has been hard at work.  She refused a striptease offer because the money wasn’t good enough.  But she seems to be making a lot of money anyway.  The dress she’s wearing on her naked skin much have cost at least a thousand francs. [Jasmin]…“I was a call girl.  Those are girls who get hooked up by phone to businessmen, diplomats, politicos, movie stars, and so on.  But also vice squad cops.  They don’t pay… Our madam is an ex-hooker – Madame Claude.  Her office is on Rue Lincoln in the Eighth Arrondissement.  Everything goes through her office, the calls, the appointments, the payments, everything.  We have nothing to do with any of it.  She keeps thirty percent of the fee, and we get the rest.  I’ve saved a lot of money.  …On average it was thirty to thirty-five [clients] a week.  …The girls get between a hundred and a hundred and fifty francs [per guy].  Sometimes you get a tip.  That doesn’t go through Madame Claude, of course.  …the girls say that some of the johns are high-ranking politicians and police officials.  Madame Claude pays us for the cops so that we don’t have to do freebies.  The cops reciprocate by protecting Madame Claude’s organisation.  Aside from movie stars, whom we recognise of course, all I know is that the shah of Iran gets girls from Madame Claude whenever he is in Paris.” …I fly to Munich to see Pola.  Meanwhile Jasmin flies to Berlin to look for an apartment.  But by the time I arrive in Berlin, she’s dead.  She was struck by a hit-and-run driver on Clayallee; they were bringing her to the hospital with a badly fractured skull and she died en route.  I could see her – she’s at the morgue – but I don’t go.  I couldn’t take it.  I return to Paris and stay in the same room where Jasmin told me about Madame Claude.  When I run out of money to pay the hotel bill, I sleep under the bridges of the Seine.  At first the clochards leave me alone, and I figure they accept me.  But then they change their minds about letting me sleep near them.  They drive me away, hurling rotten tomatoes at me.

Despite the fact that the film was being made by one of Klaus’ “friends”, Just Jaeckin, Klaus did not sound too happy about being involved in the film – even though the film seems to have had its perks (Kinski Uncut, p253):

It’s an insult that I have to do the movie Madame Claude, and here in Paris to boot.  The salary is also wretched.  But we need the money.  The girls who play Madame Claude’s prostitutes in the movie fuck like professionals.  Especially the very young ones, but also the married ones, whom I can fuck only if their husbands are briefly out of town.  A very young extra has a tiny, almost naked cunt, like a mouth, very tiny ass cheeks, and very tiny tits.  I always have to telephone her horny mom before I can fuck the daughter.

Klaus, Klaus, Klaus…!!!


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About tinynoggin

I love films (anything from exploitation stuff to stylish Eastern European cinema, but I'm not really into blockbusters and modern Hollywood), music (Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin, Michel Polnareff, Left Banke, Francoise Hardy, The Seeds, Love, The Zombies, etc) and books (Kurt Vonnegut, Julian Maclaren-Ross, Michel Houellebecq, Patrick Hamilton, Alan Sillitoe, and more). I take photographs with my Lomography Diana F plus or my Olympus Trip and like making stuff in my spare time.
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2 Responses to Klaus Kinski wears a gold jacket to the orgy

  1. I’ve liked a lot of Kinski’s films. But too many of them are “b” movies. Or at least with limited funds.

    • tinynoggin says:

      Hi David! I agree, but there’s nothing wrong with b movies or low budget films as such, is there? I know what you mean but sometimes you can find something wonderful in it anyway. Madame Claude isn’t my favourite, as you can probably tell, so that might not be the best example. But how about films like Only the Cool or Lifespan or Footprints on the Moon? I’ve watched quite a lot of the films Klaus appeared in now and, usually, bar a few examples (like The Soldier – which I now refer to as The Soldier Ken Wahl), there’s something to commend them for. When I first saw Fruits of Passion I thought it was absolute trash but when I watched it again to take some screen shots for a review (it will be some time before I get around to finishing the review off as it really does deserve some serious attention…) I realised just how stylish and clever it was. Sometimes you have to ignore the sparse story lines and look at the visuals instead – beautiful cinematography lifts a lot of films out of the trash pile. And so did Klaus Kinski, apparently! Hope you enjoy the rest of the blog anyway, David, and thanks for getting in touch. Raechel

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