Some time in 18th Century England, two sisters – 16-year-old Justine (Prince Andrew’s former girlfriend Koo Stark) and 17-year-old Juliette (Lydia Lisle) are placed in the care of nuns after their father kills himself.
At the convent school, Juliette willingly accepts “lessons” from a lesbian nun (Malou Cartwright) while Justine fights off a rape attempt by Mother Superior (Maggie Petersen) who throws them both out, citing Justine’s ungrateful attitude.
Juliette comes up with the brilliant idea of going to the London whorehouse of Madame Laronde (Katherine Kath) where their cousin, Pauline (Ann Michelle) works and learning the tricks of the trade – regardless of the fact they are both still virgins.
At the whorehouse, the older and more worldly Juliette embraces the brothel lifestyle and takes to her instruction with relish, while the naïve and innocent Justine tries to retain her virtue and runs away back to the convent – stealing a jewellery box to pay her way – and into the welcoming arms of Pastor John (Louis Ife).
After the Pastor has a few wines he can no longer contain his lecherous urges and attempts to rape poor, pure Justine.
Luckily she escapes with her virginity intact. But Pastor John ends up dead and Justine is now wanted for murder.
Whilst escaping through the churchyard she encounters a gang of graverobbers and cutthroats who kidnap her and force her into becoming their bait for luring stagecoaches to a halt so they can rob and murder the occupants.
Juliette, meanwhile, has become concerned by the absence of her sister and sends her heroic boyfriend, aristocratic Lord Carlisle (Martin Potter) – who is saving Juliette from the ignominies of whoredom and has taken her as his mistress – to search for her.
Carlisle eventually catches up with the thieves as they use their ploy to rob his stagecoach and murder all the occupants, only sparing him after Justine’s pleading. She helps Carlisle escape and is rewarded with him raping her before the cut-throats catch up with them, set the dogs on them, gang-rape her and murder him.
The film ends with Justine’s lifeless body floating Ophelia-like down the river.
Compared to De Sade’s original story, Justine is tame. There’s the odd splatter of blood and some infrequent nudity – and even some non-graphic rape and necrophilia – but overall, there’s still not much for exploitation aficionados to get excited about.
Released in some markets as Cruel Passion.