Chantal (the lovely Erin Brown, here still acting under the name of Misty Mundae, SCREAMING DEAD; SICK GIRL etc) gets off the bus in Los Angeles with dreams of becoming an actress. She finds a public telephone and rings her mother to confirm her safe arrival, bubbling with excitement as she declares that she will make it as a film star within 7 days.

Oh dear. No film can start with a character this blissfully naive and optimistic, and continue to beat a happy path for too long.

Sure enough, the cracks in Chantal's dream begin to appear almost immediately - although it takes her a while longer to realise this. First, there's a lecherous hotel manager who tries to get her to pay for an expensive room with her body. Then there's hardened hooker Tracy (Julian Wells, SKIN CRAWL; WHO WANTS TO BE AN EROTIC BILLIONAIRE), who threatens to carve Chantal's face when she inadvertently interrupts her mid-blowjob.

But Chantal remains enthusiastic, as she eventually finds a room in the dingiest hotel imaginable, ran by the rasping junkie Pablo. Chantal's only consolation when considering this contemptible character must be that he at least seems too ill to be capable of making a move on her.

Undeterred by her lousy first day, Chantal awakes the following morning with a spring in her step and fresh hope of finding stardom. Instead she finds a corrupt security guard who steers her towards auditioning as a pole dancer in a strip club, and is later almost raped in a park during broad daylight.

This latter encounter throws her into the arms of a friendly girl who promises to protect Chantal - only to drag her into the seedy world of drug-fuelled lesbian porno movies.

As things go from bad to worse and Chantal learns the hard way that Hollywood is no place for a vulnerable young woman with nothing but her dreams to cling on to, a glimmer of hope comes from an curious source: the aforementioned Tracy who, in an unlikely plot twist, takes the dejected Chantal under her wing while at her lowest ebb.

CHANTAL is surprisingly grim, an unremittingly bleak descent into Hell that takes a zestful, innocent youth and inflicts humiliation after humiliation upon them - Chantal is pissed on, raped, forced to orally pleasure another woman, blackmailed and mugged - in order to shatter her spirit. What makes it all the more disturbing is how Chantal refuses to give up on her dream, and keeps smiling in-between the degradation. She even rings her mother periodically to tell her how well she's doing.

The fact that the film is ultimately depressing is testament to how well-made it is. The story is so unrelentingly grim that it could have wound up feeling like a melodramatic parody but thanks to the endearing performance of Brown and Wells' convincing turn as the hooker with a heart, CHANTAL manages to persuade as an anti-Hollywood horror story. Luckily, the film is not very graphic - had it been, it could have been one of the most sadistic experiences ever.

The direction of Tony Marsiglia (SINFUL) is solid and assured throughout, not only eliciting the best performances many of his cast have ever give but also keeping a keen eye on tight editing and poised pacing. The camerawork is at times imaginative, but for the most part suitably gritty - the grimier side of life in LA feels largely authentic with only the final 20 minutes not really ringing true.

This 2-disc Special Edition really does the film justice.

CHANTAL is presented uncut in an excellent 1.77:1 anamorphic transfer that delivers on strong colours and sharp images.

The English 2.0 audio is problem-free, and while there's no scene-selection menu the film can be navigated through via 11 chapters.

Extras on disc 1 begin with a commentary track from Marsiglia and the film's producer. Although at times interesting, especially when discussing locations used, this is very serious for the most part. Discussing the storyline, the pair are self-righteous in their sincerity. But they remember to praise the lead actresses, so all is good.

A second commentary track from Brown and Marsiglia is much better, offering more fun. Brown is chirpy, proud of the film, and offers a wealth of insight into the actual making of the film - as opposed to just rambling on about how terrible life for people like Chantal must be (see last paragraph).

A 10-minute Making Of documentary follows, offering on-location footage and interviews with Brown, Wells etc. There's not much to be gleamed from this, but it's watchable enough.

"Chantal Camera Test" is essentially a 2-minute outtake of little interest.


Disc 2 affords us the opportunity to see Nick Philips' original 1969 version of CHANTAL. This is presented in its original full-frame ratio and looks pretty good - for it's age.

The original, obviously, treads the same ground as the remake. The big differences are that it's black-and-white and tamer than the Brown vehicle. The main reason for watching the original is to appreciate how meticulously some scenes have been duplicated in the remake.

A commentary track on the original is provided by Philips, whose memory is good and tone is calming. There's also a video interview with Philips to hand, and a bonus featurette from 1956 entitled "These Girls Are Fools Now".

CHANTAL, the remake, is better than it's source inspiration. It may not push the borders of taste far enough for some tastes, and conversely may prove too depressing for others. But all in all it's a good, albeit humourless, film that Brown/Mundae fans simply must add to their collections. This Special Edition does the film proud.

Lovely cover, too ...

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Retro-Seduction Cinema
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review