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Conrado San Martín,
A lesbian vampire couple waylay and abduct various passer-byes, both male and female, to hold them captive at their rural manor in the English countryside in order to kill and feed on them to satisfy their insatiable thirst for blood.
José Ramón Larraz
In Istanbul, the lawyer of Simpson & Simpson Linda Westinghouse has erotic dreams with a strange woman every night and her analyst Dr. Alwin Seward suggests her to find another lover. Linda is assigned to resolve an inheritance issue with the Hungarian Countess Nadine Oskudar that has inherited a real estate from Count Dracula. Linda leaves her boyfriend Omar in the Istanbul Hilton and travels to the Kadidados Island. While waiting for transportation in the continent, Linda is advised by a local that the island would be a place of death and insanity and she should not travel to there. However, she does not pay attention to the man and meets Countess Oskudar that is a lesbian vampire fascinated by Linda. The Countess drinks the blood of Linda and she has amnesia and is sent to a mental institution where Dr, Steiner, who is also a vampire expert, treats her and puts an advertisement in the newspapers. Omar finds Linda and Dr. Steiner teaches her how to kill a vampire. Linda has to be ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
After missing it a couple of times on TV (one of them in the guise of the shorter and 'clothed' Spanish version) and thinking about picking up the DVD in either region on several occasions, I finally managed to sit down and watch (via the now-OOP R1 DVD from Synapse) what is perhaps Jess Franco's best-known film. Not having been particularly bowled over by either of the two Soledad Miranda films I had watched until now EUGENIE DE SADE (1970; though this is one I need to watch again) and SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY (1970) I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed VAMPYROS LESBOS. The reasons for this are many and varied and, all in all, I'd say it is without a doubt one of Franco's most enduring and impressive works.
As most of you probably know already, the film is based on nothing less than that vampiric chestnut Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' which Franco had already filmed a year before and in which VAMPYROS' leading lady, Soledad Miranda, had also appeared! Not having watched that particular adaptation, I cannot say which 'version' is the more successful but, in the case of VAMPYROS LESBOS, Franco certainly imbues it with an overwhelming visual style (which goes hand in hand with a bizarre and intoxicating soundtrack) that almost encourages one to overlook its deficiencies which, being a Franco film, it could hardly fail to be without!
From the very first shot, the film weaves a haunting and dream-like mood (which is, for the most part, effortlessly sustained throughout) that is as indescribable as it is hard to shake off. Frankly, this is what Franco is all about to me: counting Luis Bunuel as my favorite film-maker, I cannot but admire the ingenuity (coupled sometimes with naivete) with which Franco pulls off this surreal 'trip' of a film memorable images abound in VAMPYROS LESBOS, many of them allegorical, elliptical, or just plain weird that, in its own way, also manages to be a remarkably effective spin on Stoker's 'old' vampire tale. In fact, the film's updating/jettisoning of the 'established' vampire myths (a modern beach-house replacing the old family castle and decked out with fish-nets rather than cobwebs; instead of sunlight having a deadly effect on the vampire, we get to admire her while sunbathing and skinny-dipping though the method of disposing of her remains through incredibly violent means) is surely one of its most endearing aspects. Apart from this, not only is the vampire herself (like the nymphomaniac in SINNER  driven through rape towards lesbianism) as much taken with her victim as one expects it to be the other way around, but also we have what passes for the traditional 'vampire hunter' (Dennis Price's Dr. Seward) actively wanting to go to 'the other side' (the confrontation scene between the two, which takes place in the lobby of his clinic, is masterfully handled except for one embarrassingly amateurish moment when Price is made to slink down the stairs when he should be running for his life!), whereas the vampire's henchman (named Morpho, no less) is not the expected creepy-looking hulk if still a mute but rather a lanky thug in a suit, sporting cool shades and a pistol (not to mention being secretly enamored of his Mistress)! And then there's Jess Franco himself, in a quite revealing bit, as a crazed sadist (foreshadowing perhaps his Vogel of EXORCISM )
Of course, the film would not have worked quite as well without the beguiling presence of Soledad Miranda who dominates every scene she's in, be it the various tantalizing night-club acts (surely among the finest set-pieces in a Franco film, and several of them feature this type of scene though we are never told quite why she should be doing them, being a Countess and all!) that we see her perform or the utterly graceful and totally natural manner in which she lures our understandably confused heroine (Ewa Stroemberg) into her particular 'way of life', away from her boyfriend and the routine which governs her 'normal' existence. As has been promised by the title, we get to see a lot of female nudity a Franco trademark, if ever there was one but since the plot deals with an obsessive relationship (not only Miranda and Stroemberg's but also Heidrun Kussin's Renfield-like 'infatuation' with the former), it does not feel over-emphasized here and, in any case, is really quite tame considering the director's standards of even a few years later.
The film's basic plot is wafer-thin ('padded' by numerous repeated actions and images) which, coupled with its necessarily languid pace, induces a sense of drowsiness in the viewer; this, however, is not a detriment to the film at all, as this quality is also to be found in the work of even the major art-house film-makers (I felt entranced in much the same way, for example, while watching Robert Bresson's A MAN ESCAPED  recently a film possibly admired by Franco himself, seeing that it's referenced at the start of THE DIABOLICAL DOCTOR Z ).
For those of you who are interested, I would like to point you in the direction of an excellent analytical study of the film which lies at the heart of a lengthy article about five Jess Franco movies from the 1970s written by Maximilian Le Cain that was published in the 'Senses of Cinema' online journal. Here's the relevant link:
Immediately after watching the DVD, to my horror I discovered that both VAMPYROS LESBOS and SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY are to be re-issued next year (by a different company, Image) and that these will most probably use the reportedly superior transfers that were available for Second Sight's impossibly expensive (for my tastes, being blind purchases and all) R2 discs. Well, I'm actually thankful I paid less than $12 (shipping included) for VAMPYROS whereas I managed to acquire ECSTASY in a perfectly acceptable VHS dub. Depending on the extras not that Image has shown itself too generous in this department thus far, at least where Franco is concerned I may eventually upgrade these two fun Franco flicks featuring the lovely, talented (and ultimately tragic) legend that was Soledad Miranda!
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