Vampyros Lesbos (1971)
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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!
The legendary Jess Franco has made more cult movies than the mind can conceive of, but this must surely stand out as one of the most artistically successful of his career. 'Vampyros Lesbos' manages to juggle sex, art, trash and horror, and impresses on every level. A truly wondrous movie! Don't miss this one (uncut, natch) if you get the chance!
Franco has made more movies than probably any other living filmmaker, and there's something intuitive and inspired in each of them. But in none of his other works did he so perfectly combine what he learned, in his zonked-out way, from his masters (Resnais, Antonioni and especially Welles), and his own lurid, kick-addicted, grade-Z technique. This movie isn't just for B-movie weirdos; hardcore Tarkovsky fiends might find themselves after fifteen minute saying, "God...I kind of like this...what's happening to me?"
I liked this film, and I will give it a 8 out of 10. I also looking forward to see more from Franco in the nearest future.
I enjoyed the musical score, uniquely psychedelic. It had some success as a dance reissue in the mid 90s. Soledad Miranda is incredibly beautiful. To me, watching her is reason enough to go through this film. Her strip tease scene is very unique, and fortunately gets repeated in the film. Her looks are beguiling in every one of her seduction scenes. Otherwise the movie is an average mixed bag.
"Vampiros Lesbos" is an erotic and cult version of Bram Stoker's Dracula by Jesus Franco. The story is very similar to the classic novel of 1897, but instead of Count Dracula, the vampire is a sexy female that was raped by Dracula centuries ago and does not like man. The lead actresses Ewa Stromberg and Soledad Miranda are very beautiful and undress practically in every scene. The film is very entertaining and funny. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "Vampiras Lésbicas" ("Lesbian Vampires")
Linda goes to an island to see Nadine who's a vampire who only digs chicks and bites Linda and starts her transformation as well. The rest is pretty much convoluted nonsense about Linda trying to fight the vampire urge and eventually overcoming Nadine, and some other random nonsense - which is all just really an excuse to show as much tits and ass as possible - not that that is a bad thing...
The acting in the film is OK I guess for this sort of thing, and the direction and camera-work range from very decent, to plain amateurish depending on the scene. There's a few scenes where the lighting is used to good effect - but who am I kidding...this one is all about the nekkid chicks. If you dig soft-core 70's exploit sleaze, you'll probably get a kick out of this one - just don't expect anything great in the way of storyline or acting, or anything TOO boner-inducing as the nudity (though plentiful...) is pretty "mild"...7/10
In "Vampyros Lesbos" he plays a Dr. Steward, psychologist and secret vampire enthusiast, the latter hobby suddenly being revealed out of nowhere once the plot requires it. You see, despite being given a rather ill-defined character to work with, and in direct contrast to the rest of the cast, Price actually *acts*. Mixing concern with frightened fascination, he draws your attention in whatever scene he appears, and probably gets more close ups in this film than in any other I've seen. It's not a particularly large part but he does have a fair amount of screen time, and it was a joy to watch him. It was a huge shame that I couldn't actually hear him speak his own lines, as the German dubber made the best attempt to deaden any emotion that Price attempted to convey, but his facial expressions were enough, and so I just imagined Price's voice instead. Whilst the direction elsewhere in the film can be called into question, Price manages to create a great atmosphere of tension in his encounter with Countess Nadine, pleading with her to give him the secret of vampirism. The only real slip-up is in his death a few seconds later in which, upon realising that his life is distinctly on the line, gently canters down some stairs rather than make a bolt for it, allowing Nadine's burly henchman to effortlessly catch up with and throttle the life out of him, though I suspect this is more a directing fault than anything that could be blamed on Price himself. And it must be said that the strangling is rather unnerving.
However, after Price dies we still have fifteen minutes left until the end of the film, which we must spend with the other characters that we've been presented with throughout the duration, and this is where the film falls down - every scene lacking Dennis Price is absolutely dire, as he is the only actor capable of giving a decent performance, and the story holding everything together is so flimsy that it might as well not be there. And indeed isn't, for a majority of the time. Price's Dr. Steward is actually in one of the many seemingly pointless subplots peppered here and there, which also include a scary pervo bloke who gets his kicks him tying up women and threatening them with a hacksaw, and an insane woman throwing herself about a clinic waiting for Countess Nadine to return to her and give her a bit of a seeing to. These characters serve no function at all, and are rather tedious, all told.
The main plot line concerns itself with Linda, who is apparently worried about the frequency of erotic dreams she's been having about a woman she's never met before. When her boyfriend, a shifty looking spiv type, takes her to a strip-club (?!) she recognises the "dancer" (that's being charitable) as the woman in her dreams. Turns out the woman is Countess Nadine Carody, a vampire with connections to Dracula himself. Linda goes to Nadine's estate to help her with insurance, or something, and has various encounters with her during the running time. Narrative consistency is thrown out of the window when, despite being frightened of Nadine when they first meet, she quite happily goes skinny-dipping with her (?!) and then lies nude with her on the beach - "It's good to lie naked in the sand. Especially when you're with somebody." "Yes." Good grief. And in the next scene she's once more a bit suspect about the whole deal.
I know what you're thinking - "It's lesbo porn, it doesn't need a plot!" But there isn't really much of the steamy shenanigans going on to uphold such a claim, and the few scenes of "Near naked ladies snatch a few fumbling kisses," are played so stiltedly that any erotic tension is immediately dissipated. The director seems to think that propping a few nude women here and there automatically means "sexy" when it, well, doesn't. It just gets tedious and laughable more than anything else. It comes to something when I was far more willing to watch Dennis Price writing in his diary than two rather beautiful ladies having it away with each other.
The direction is full of "clever" and "artistic" shots of scorpions and moths and a kite (...), which are meant to make us nod our heads sagely and say "Ahh, mmm..." but just come off as pretentious and silly. We're also forced to endure a bizarre striptease performance (in which Nadine removes her clothes and puts them on her partner, who seems to be pretending to be a mannequin) twice, and both times it's dull as hell. Fortunately the group of 40-somethings in the club appear to be enjoying themselves, though since they staggeringly fail to notice Nadine killing her partner on the second run through and clap anyway, I'm not so certain that their opinion is valid.
Apparently this is a cult classic, with its dire soundtrack (the sitar has never been my favourite instrument) achieving acclaim in some quarters. Allegedly. I can't say that I was disappointed with this film as I knew it was going to be rubbish to start with. Fortunately it was vaguely worthwhile simply to see Price's performance, though it's certainly a disc that won't be given another spin in quite a long time.
So, to recap: not bad but listless and dull. If you're curious, rent it but don't buy the DVD.
Ewa Stromberg stars as lawyer Linda Westinghouse, who has been having sexy dreams about a mystery lady (Soledad Miranda, Francos' muse until the time of her premature death). She's then surprised to see the lady turn up in reality, as a Countess who's just come into an inheritance. She becomes utterly fixated on the Countess, to the exclusion of all else.
"Vampyros Lesbos" is likely to succeed in at least one way for many viewers, by making them a fan of the alluring Ms. Miranda. She seems right at home in this predatory role. The cast features other familiar faces: Dennis Price as a clinic doctor with an interest in the supernatural, and Paul Muller as a psychiatrist, but it's Miranda who will command most of ones' attention.
This is all very well shot on stunning locations in Spain, Germany, and Turkey. The only real debit for this viewer was the music score, which is much too loud and overbearing. Costumes and set decoration are strikingly used throughout.
Franco and company know all too well how a vampire story can be inherently seductive and mysterious, and this has to rank as one of the directors' more memorable works.
Eight out of 10.
Bela Lugosi's Dracula has been sequelized, remade, rehashed, and referenced more times than can be easily counted, but, as far as I know, this is the only time anyone set out to produce a "remake" that consciously reversed everything in the movie. Night becomes day, hetero Count becomes lesbian Countess, Puritanical vampire hunter becomes degenerate obsessed with becoming a vampire, and so on. The perversity of it all is delightful. When Franco zoomed into Soledad Miranda's exquisite face as she tells us how much she loves wine, I didn't spare a shout.
I had the wonderful fortune of stumbling across this movie late-night on local Australian TV station SBS. This station is well known for screening foreign films of this nature. And what a find!
I must admit to not paying much attention to the plot, but then it wasn't too hard to follow exactly what was happening most of the time. All of the key elements of B-grade movies are there - the freaky camerawork, the vacant stares of many of the actors, the implausible excuses for gratuitous nudity. It all gels well together in this little excursion.
I rated this movie a 3, because to rate it higher would do it injustice to its B-grade heritage. It would score much higher in B-grade circles, for the cheese factor and the provision of stuff to poke fun at. Fun stuff.
The soundtrack is intrusive and jarringly mismatched to the action, such as it is, and each character appears to have selected at the outset the expression that he or she is to wear for the remainder of the film.
In essence, there is very little here to recommend, or to salvage the film from interminable boredom and chronic confusion. Abrupt editing does nothing to aid comprehension; frequent recourse to gratuitous lesbian erotica, similarly, adds nothing to the film as a whole.
What makes it pleasurable to watch is the incredible surreal feel of it, the psychedelia, its quite like taking acid I guess. Franco himself had a hand in the fantastic score together with Hübler and Schwab, I was quite lucky to find it on white vinyl. I don't know what to compare it too, its groovy, naive and psychedelic.
Otherwise, there are repetitive takes edited in for change of scenes only one of which has any relation to the story line.
The organ theme is nice
The whole thing is low budget but the castle where some outdoor shots are done is pretty impressive
I like to see films that catch the era that are unusual. For example Kenneth Anger's "Scorpio Rising". But here you have this 'leading man' that looks like George Bush with fake moustaches and sideburns, dressed like some guy trying to look like he wants people to know he reads "Penthouse" which really detracts from the good looks of the Vampiress
The other leading lady (The German Blue eyed Blond)looks like a Hammer Film refugee -i.e., too old to do leading ladies for Hammer Films but still thinking she's not too old to be a leading lady.
It would be great for a 12 year boy old to see because I used to watch movies like this on late night TV before I was allowed to stay out late and was chagrined when local TV would censor the flesh shots.
I guess you can look at "Vampyros lesbos" as director Jesús Franco's 70's modern variation on Bram Stoker's Dracula using Soledad Miranda as the seductive female lesbian vampire who took lessons from her master(..that being Count Dracula)in capturing victims through a form of hypnotic lust, invading women through their dreams. You could say that Ewa Strömberg's Linda, an agent whose firm, Simpson & Simpson, is handling Dracula's will which would entitle that his inheritance of the Kadidados islands(..and everything on it) be left to her, is Mina, the object for which Carody desires to "initiate into her inner circle." Andrés Monales, as Linda's lover Omar, would be the Jonathan Harker, the one who stands between Carody and her paramour. There really isn't a strong candidate for Van Helsing..it seems like Dennis Price, as scientist Dr. Alwin Seward, who runs a clinic and studies vampirism, would be, but he harbours a desire to be a vampire himself so he could obtain supernatural powers. Within Seward's clinic is Agra(Heidrun Kussin), who is the Renfield of the film, except instead of madness, she's more overcome by a state of constant orgasm, wantonly desiring to return to Carody, locked up in Seward's clinic. Her husband is Memmet(..portrayed by the director in one of his typically bizarre roles), who works at a hotel which charters a small boat to ferry people to Carody's island. Memmet is actually a psychotic torturer(..who likes to sucker females into the hotel wine cellar where he binds them before the nasty business) whose madness derives from the fact that Carody "changed" his wife into a lunatic only yearning for her touch. Paul Muller is given, frankly, a thankless role as Linda's psychiatrist who believes her rantings of being haunted by fantasies of Carody is merely bad sex.
Carody's relationship to Dracula, subtly mentioned here and there in the film, comes from an incident near a castle she lived overcome by depravity and violence. Men were ravaging the village women, attempting to rape her(..this also provides the emphasis on why she hates men), dragging her from her castle..Dracula killing the man on top of her, subsequently "adopting" Carody into his family. Carody mentions how she was the woman who made his life worth living and that he always desired her body, taking just enough blood he needed to survive finally turning her into a vampire. The Turkish locations are definitely highlighted in this film as Franco's camera embraces various aspects of his setting. But, the pleasure for me is Soledad Miranda. The many ways Franco shoots her, the character is all hers. Of her short few lead roles, I think this, "She Killed in Ecstasy" & "Eugenie de Sade" each display her hold on the viewer. Whether it be her very unusual stage act where she dresses a "human mannequin" for an audience before biting her assistant's neck, the way her face is lit, or the abstract camera angles;it seems Franco wants you to see her as a very special creature, not meant for our world. Whether she's naked, in a bikini, or wearing lingerie on stage, Miranda is a showcase for our viewing pleasure. She's a dark-eyed goddess to me, a portrait on celluloid. I would definitely say Miranda's iconic accessory for this particular film is her red scarf. It's around her neck almost always. José Martínez Blanco is Carody's henchman Morpho, with dead eyes which stare right through you. The score only heightens the otherworldly nature Franco's direction brings to this fantasy. It's a vampire film, but I felt it embraces the erotic side rather than the violence often elaborated in Dracula adaptations. Sure, Carody's bites, but I think this is more about her seduction and entrapment over female victims she desires than the relishing bite on the jugular for flowing blood. I think the ultimate nourishment for a vampire like Carody is capturing the heart and soul of her victim, not their lifeforce.