Joy House (1964)

Opening upon a black-and-white vision of the New York city skyline, we are promptly checked into a classy hotel. But it seems that there aren’t too many classy activities going on here as we witness a giant, angered mobster forcing his wife to fess up where her debaucherous actions with the handsome, French playboy Marc, (Alain Delon), happened a few nights prior. She fesses up, and the mobster orders Marc’s head. The woman screams, and then we are transported to France where the hunt for Marc’s pretty head begins. While hiding out from these blood-thirsty henchmen in a church, Marc ends up in service to a loaded widow, Barbara (Lola Albright) and her cousin/maid, Melinda (Jane Fonda), as their live-in chauffer. But anyone with eyes and ears are quickly clued-in to the fact that these good-natured and beautiful women aren’t exactly the angels they appear to be. And the desperate Marc will soon find out the hard way.


"It has the makings of a good thriller, but just presents itself as sort of odd"

Now, there are a lot of things about this pulpy film that would, in theory, make it very good. However, I’m going to be honest with you: I really didn’t care for it. And still…I watched this movie twice. I did this because after watching it the first time, I was actually struck by my negative feelings towards it. There are a lot of things to like. The opening hooks you, the story and the twists are clever, and there is no doubt that director Ren Clément has a very strong visual vocabulary that is very nicely complimented by Henri Decaë’s beautiful black-and-white photography. But! There are many of things in this film that don’t work for me.

One of the biggest issues is the whole Delon-Albright-Fonda love triangle is the total lack of chemistry between all three of them. Yes, all of them are just using each other for their own selfish endgames, so there are no real feelings to be had. I get that. But the triangle seems to force itself upon the audiences and ends up coming across as just awkward more than anything else. The film seems to want Albright and Delon’s relationship to feel lustful while the two mutually use each other, but like I said, it doesn’t work. And Fonda’s constant throwing herself at Delon just comes across as annoying, though Fonda does seem to try and salvage somewhat of a decent and competent performance to the best of her abilities.Joy House (1964)

And then there is Delon. In Joy House, he isn’t exactly the calm and cool professional that he’s famous for. And by all accounts, it is fine, even great, to see him express his acting range. But there is something off about this performance. Maybe it’s the dialogue, maybe it’s the inflections from his French accent, or maybe it is something else I cannot quite put my finger on. But in this, his performance is, for lack of a better word, stiff.

Like I said, there are lots of things that could make this film very good, but it boils down to bad execution. It has the makings of a good thriller, but just presents itself as sort of odd. It feels like it is a film that could not get a full grasp on what tone it wanted. But hey, maybe it’s just me! Maybe the tone is just something that I cannot fully comprehend. Who knows? And to me, the best parts about this film are the very beginning and the very end. A great hook of an opener and a clever, full-circle closer that is shockingly satisfying to a degree. But those two things do not save the picture.

Joy House is now available on Blu Ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.

2/5 stars


Joy House (1964)

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- May 30, 2023
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
: English SDH
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

A scorching love triangle ignites between the iconic Jane Fonda (Klute, Coming Home), sultry Lola Albright (Kid Galahad, Lord Love a Duck) and Alain Delon (The Sicilian Clan, Un Flic) in René Clément’s Joy House (Les Félins). Delon stars as Marc, a dashing young con man on the run from the mob. After seeking refuge in the Riviera villa of the widowed Barbara (Albright) and her curvaceous cousin, Melinda (Fonda), Marc becomes trapped in the passionate snares of both women, who are full of sinister surprises. A neglected masterpiece from director René Clément (Forbidden Games, Is Paris Burning?, Rider on the Rain, And Hope to Die), Joy House weaves a wicked web of hidden desires and all-too-human corruptions. Lalo Schifrin (Coogan’s Bluff) provides the eerie musical score; Henri Decaë (Le Samouraï) serves up the sumptuous cinematography.


Pretty much everything about the new 2K Restoration by Gaumont is quite good. There are no noticeable scratches, dirt, or other imperfections to be found. Though the film doesn’t always take full advantage of the black-and-white stylistic lighting that it could have, the greyscale looks well-balanced to give the film a nice, bright, and natural feel.


Including both the English and French audio tracks, music, dialogue, and sound effects come in crystal clear with no buzzing or pops to be noticed. The only slight issue I found with the audio is that seem to be a couple points where a line or two gets dropped out during a transition. But it only occurs a couple times, so it isn’t really that much of an issue.


Similar to a lot of the other low-key films that are getting a new release, the special features are mainly confined to a number of trailers and some thoughtful and intelligent commentary from film scholars. It’s not much, but definitely appreciated and very educational for those interested to hear more about the film and film history.


  • NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson

Special Features:

  • Theatrical Trailers

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 2/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

3/5 stars


Film Details

Joy House (1964)

MPAA Rating:
105 mins
: René Clément
René Clément; Pascal Jardin; Charles Williams
Alain Delon; Jane Fonda; Lola Albright
: Drama

Memorable Movie Quote:
Theatrical Distributor:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 1964
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 30, 2022
Synopsis: A petty criminal seeks refuge in a house owned by two wealthy American women.


Joy House (1964)