I remember seeing Faust cover on VHS when it was originally released, but I never got around to watching it: so, when it was included in the Fantastic Factory box set I was looking forward to checking it out. Therefore it pains me that this film just didn’t live up to my expectations. Sometimes, even movies with flying murderers, occult rituals and nudity can fall short.

What Faust very definitely is, though, is an interesting interpretation of the original story of selling one’s soul. This take on the legend comes via an adaptation of a comic book, though, and not one I’m familiar with. The man at the heart of the story is John Jaspers (Mark Frost), a mental institution patient whose story is gradually revealed to us as he starts therapy with Dr Jade de Camp (Isabel Brook). When his girlfriend was murdered by a gang, Jaspers was willing to do anything to avenge himself on her killers - even doing a deal with the mysterious M (Mephistopheles) in which he traded his soul in order that he could dispatch them. This duly done, Jaspers found he couldn’t simply stop killing once he’d got the people he wanted: Mephistopheles had turned him into an instrument of death, using him to create chaos. Jaspers came to be in the institution after dispatching a group of diplomats in spectacularly grisly fashion…

However, as he’d been able to exercise free will during his last ‘expedition’, Jaspers felt he was strong enough to resist M, and now wanted to stop him achieving his next nefarious purpose - an arcane Walpurgisnacht ritual where M hoped to raise the Homunculus. As you do. Dr Jade is now part of this, being Jaspers’ love interest by this point and so, when she’s kidnapped by M, Jaspers has to save her too.

There are positives here, mainly relating to how the film looks: you can definitely see something of the comic behind the screenplay here. The appearance of the city, the larger-than-life characters and the overblown violence all scream their origins, and Faust is definitely visually appealing. However, for me, Faust doesn’t live up to what it could have been. For one thing, the inimitable Jeffrey Combs is in here, but very underused in his role as Lieutenant Margolies, and a bit more screen time for him would have tightened up proceedings a bit. The performances aren’t bad, but didn’t make a lot of impact on me, although M’s partner-in-crime and femme fatale Claire (Mònica Van Campen) is super fun, providing the film with most of its nudity too. Casting aside, there is just a lot about the film which doesn’t mesh together. The film is energetic but sacrifices the build-up of pace or any themes it deals with by simply dashing along, not spending time developing its storyline, just throwing up plot elements before it’s onto the next set piece. I also found it hard to relax and treat the film as harmless entertainment once it had introduced the theme of child rape as a plot device - with the best will in the world, many viewers would be less likely to see the film as mindless fun in light of that. It just doesn’t quite sit right.

Well, it’s aesthetically-pleasing and not without its merits, but Faust is a rather uneven piece of cinema which didn’t quite work for me. If other viewers know the source material then this may chime rather better with them. In any case, as with all these Arrow releases there are plenty of extras. Calum Waddell provides us with another collector’s booklet and there’s a cool fold-out poster, as well as an audio commentary from Brian Yuzna, an interview with the man himself, and a documentary feature titled ‘The Pain in Spain: a History of Horror in Hot Weather’, which is a lot of fun and well worth seeing. The DVD also features the original movie trailer.

Review by Keri O’Shea

Released by Arrow Video
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review