Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Female Vampire aka Bare-Breasted Countess (1973)

“Classic Franco”

So where to start with this one? If you’re a fan of the works of director Jess Franco (like me) you already know you love it. If you’re not then you already know you hate it. But what to say about this for those who have yet to encounter the works of the man who pioneered the technique of ‘fade to black by crash zooming into Lina Romay’s pubes’ while at the same time creating possibly the dreamiest, most lyrical, most obsessive body of work in European trash cinema, along with about 150 other films in his filmography of nearly 200? (He’s in the Guinness Book of Records you know). 

Often the reaction when you say you like Jess Franco films
Well, how about some context. FEMALE VAMPIRE comes near the end of Franco's period of using classic horror tropes (Dracula, Frankenstein, etc) as the flimsiest excuse to fill his low budget movies with anything he wanted to (a naked birdwoman and a silver-headed Frankenstein monster, THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME but done with naked women chasing each other with bow and arrow, etc etc and all glorious). 

The man himself!
FEMALE VAMPIRE is very, very loosely based on LeFanu’s Carmilla. Lina Romay (in a career-making performance that’s probably the most spellbinding I’ve ever seen from someone who gets to wear pretty much nothing for an entire film) is Irina, Countess of Karlstein, a vampire doomed to an eternal lonely existence who lives on the sexual bodily fluids of both men and women (Franco strikes yet again). Jack Taylor is Baron von Rathony (‘a poet’) who is basically the LeFanu character. When he  encounters the countess while she is staying at a hotel in Madeira he begs her to take him to ‘the other realm’. It all ends in tragedy, but not before lots of softcore encounters of Irina and her victims.

The most faithful LeFanu moment in the picture
If you’ve not seen a Franco film before FEMALE VAMPIRE might not be the one to start with, unless you’re not in a hurry to go anywhere. It’s very slow, and alternates between beautifully dreamlike and weird sequences, and softcore bits that go on and on and have your finger itching for the fast forward button. It IS important Franco, though, and if you’re thinking about seriously getting to grips with the man and his work, this one’s a must-see.

Lina and Jack - Euro Stars both.
Screenbound are releasing FEMALE VAMPIRE on DVD in the UK. Apart from a slightly better menu screen, the disc is virtually identical to the US region A Redemption Blu-ray, right down to the scratchy print (which runs 96 minutes on DVD compared with the Blu-ray’s 100 minutes, ie they’re the same) and the extras, which include an alternate ‘horror’ version of the film, EROTIKILL (70 minutes), a featurette in which Franco talks about the film, and Words for Lina - a tribute to the late actress by Jean-Pierre Bouysou. You get French and English language options and I'd suggest you go with the French as it adds to the film whereas the style of the English dubbing definitely doesn't. 

Screenbound are releasing Jess Franco's FEMALE VAMPIRE on UK DVD on 6th March 2017 as the first in their Maison Rouge series of Euro Cult films. 

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