Sunday, 31 January 2016

She Killed in Ecstasy (1971)

"Gateway Franco"

          Those of us who appreciate the works of Jess Franco know that it is a love not easily earned. You have to work at it. While there is genius and creativity and bewitching obsession in his movies, there can also be incompetence, incoherence, and mind-numbing tedium. Sometimes you even think he’s trying his best to put you off watching the film in question. 

There are, however, a few Franco films that can ease you into an appreciation of this quirky, eclectic, and sometimes fascinating  film-maker. Gateway drugs, if you will, that will allow you to move on to the harder stuff with at least some understanding of what he might be trying to say. Movies like THE AWFUL DR ORLOFF (1962), EUGENIE (1970), or THE FEMALE VAMPIRE (1973) give you an insight into his obsessions without too much in the way of somnolence, incoherence, or outright offence.

SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY is a gateway Franco film, now finally given an absolutely gorgeous Blu-ray release in the UK courtesy of Severin Films. Don’t get me wrong - if you’re new to Franco it’s still not going to be quite like any other film you’ve seen. But then those of us who love his work find that part of his appeal.
The film kicks off with jazz music over images of foetuses in jars. They belong to Dr Johnson (Fred Williams) who is looking forward to the medical council approving the research he’s been doing. Unfortunately the four members of the group don’t approve of what he’s been doing at all, labelling it inhuman and striking him off the medical register. Distraught and depressed, Johnson kills himself, leaving his wife (Soledad Miranda) swearing revenge on the individuals responsible for her husband’s death.

The rest of SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY consists of her seducing and bumping off the members of the medical council, played by Franco regulars Howard Vernon, Paul Muller, Ewa Stromberg and Franco himself, before the movie ends in an appropriately downbeat manner.
SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY can safely be shown to someone who has never seen a Franco film before. It has a straightforward plot, and while the film-making is a little bit rough around the edges, there is much here to bewitch and entice the casual viewer. Franco’s eye for curious architecture means the Johnson’s island retreat is a curious construct, and the Alicante locations look beautiful, especially on Blu-ray. Most bewitching of all, of course, is the film’s star. Soledad Miranda. Described by another reviewer as ‘someone who could eat you with her eyes’ she is the perfect actress for this and other Franco works. Beautiful, but with a perpetually haunted look that suggests there’s so much going on behind those eyes, she is, besides Franco’s direction, the main reason why the non-Francophile won’t be hitting you over the head with the Blu-ray box if you show them this one.

Severin’s Blu-ray provides an excellent transfer and comes with about an hour of extra features, including a cosy chat with Franco, Stephen Thrower talking about the making of the movie, Soledad Miranda historian Amy Brown giving a potted history of the actress’ life and career, and a short interview with Franco star Paul Muller. All excellent stuff and a very fine Franco package from Severin. Which you can also show to non-Franco-loving friends without losing them for life. 

Severin's UK Blu-ray and DVD of Jess Franco's 
SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY is available now.

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