Friday, 13 July 2012

Countess Perverse (1973)

Movie directors are a strange breed. At one end of the spectrum we have auteurs like Stanley Kubrick, who made one film about every five years, or Terrence Malick, whose output consists of one movie every eleven years or so.
In 1973 Jess Franco made eleven films, not counting the three that he didn’t finish.
It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that quite a bit of his oeuvre from this period comes across as a bit rushed, a bit improvised, and a bit all over the place. COUNTESS PERVERSE is a brisk (78 minutes) sexy version of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. Howard Vernon and Alice Arno play Count and Countess Zaroff who own an island where they hunt naked girls and eat them. The girls are procured for them by another couple and their latest victim is Lina Romay. And that’s about it for plot. Most of the running time is taken up with a lot of nudity. In fact if you’re not into attractive ladies with no clothes on (and not always by themselves) you may find there’s a quite a lot of fast forwarding to be done here. The climactic hunt doesn’t actually get going until about twenty minutes from the end but when it does you have to admire Franco for having such an audaciously crazy, sexy idea. Basically, naked Alice Arno chases naked Lina Romay around the island. The Countess is armed only with a bow and arrow and Lina has nothing but the platform heels she’s been allowed to keep on after yet another session in the bedroom. This sounds ridiculous but is actually more effective than it sounds, and I certainly haven't seen anything like this done anywhere else (not even in a Franco film but then there are quite a few I haven’t seen).
So is the film worth watching? Well, the world is divided into those who are Franco fans and those that aren’t, and this is a twain that is unlikely to meet. Those of us who see some value in his films will stroke our chins and nod as we see another fantastic piece of architecture filmed in an unsettling way, and the long slow boat trip where the camera wobbles all over the place will be viewed as Franco’s attempt to capture something weird and moody about the landscape rather than the actions of a desperate man trying to fill up the running time of his five-page-script film. I actually quite liked COUNTESS PERVERSE but then I’ve seen quite a few of Franco’s films now, and apparently the more you watch the more you have a chance of understanding even one of them. I only have about a hundred to go now, and on the basis of this I’ll probably keep at it for the moment.


  1. Fine review. Reading this, I realise that I've crossed the line and have become a Franco fan - you describe the key indicators very precisely. (But what about the music?) I think it was Rites of Frankenstein that tipped me over, and Virgin Amongst the Living Dead that confirmed it.

  2. Thank you! Do you mean the Frankenstein one with Dennis Price, the bird woman and the silver Frankenstein monster? I rather liked that one too.

  3. . . and the insane free-jazz score? That's the one! I'm still trying to trace another Franco title, Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein, apparently made back-to-back with Rites using a lot of the same actors and locations.

  4. I have that - I'm pretty sure it was the precursor to EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN / CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (!!). It's not as good, if you...ahem...understand what I mean.