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Image Entertainment presents
A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973)

"What a strange man. He scares me to death."
- Christina (Christina von Blanc)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: October 03, 2003

Stars: Christina von Blanc, Howard Vernon
Other Stars: Jess Franco, Britt Nichols, Paul Muller, Nicole Guettard
Director: Jess Franco

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild gore, nudity and sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:18m:20s
Release Date: June 11, 2003
UPC: 014381911022
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- B-C+B- C+

DVD Review

Jess Franco, the prolific director behind a mass of popular European sex and gore genre films throughout the 1970s (most notably Exorcism and Vampyros Lesbos), toned down his act a little and took a stab at the undead in a more cerebral fashion with the French-made Une Vierge chez les morts vivant, or A Virgin Among the Living Dead. This particular project followed the runaway success of the director's sexy Vampyros Lesbos, which led to Franco and star Soledad Miranda receiving a multi-picture deal from a German film company. On the way to Berlin, however, Miranda was killed in an automobile accident, and legend has it that Franco spent a long time afterward allegedly working through his grief about her death behind the camera, and A Virgin Among the Living Dead was the result of that process.

Lovely young (aka "virginal") Christina Reiner (Christina von Blanc) is summoned to the mysterious Monserrat Mansion for a will reading after the equally mysterious death of her father. As if bad news comes in twos, Franco's virgin arrives just in time for the death of her stepmother, who warns her, "Run away, run away" in her dying breaths, and poor Christina is left with a houseful of bizarre relations, including the monotonous, piano-playing Uncle Howard (Howard Vernon), sexually adventurous sexpot Camence (Britt Nichol), and mumbling simpleton Basilio (Franco himself, billed here as Jesus Manera). This is an oddball bunch, to say the least, and the fact that Christina is confused by their perpetually cold skin should be a pretty good indicator of where the story is going.

A Virgin Among the Living Dead is about the uncertainties of life, death and ultimately crossing over, and even with Franco's trademark displays of bizarre visuals and flagrant female sexuality, there is a prolonged bad dream feel to the film as Christina encounters an increasingly off-kilter series of strange situations, whether it be a nude Camence sucking blood from between the breasts of a nude blind woman or the ghost of her dead father (still with a noose around his neck) appearing to offer advice. It's a bad trip for Christina that gets progressively worse, until Franco pulls the rug out and delivers a haunting last scene that is chilling and beautiful at the same time, in a film that has largely delivered a bucket of surreal, off-balance moments.

Over the years, there have been as many different versions of A Virgin Among the Living Dead floating around as there have been different names for it; some added more nudity, while others added more zombies. And while this print doesn't offer anything close to what appears on the cover art, it is officially billed on the liner notes as "Jess Franco's long-lost director's cut" and as such, represents what is likely the definitive edition of this film.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: 1971 was a long time ago, and this low-budget horror film looks every bit its age. Scratchy, dark and full of nicks, the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen print has definitely seen better days, but does still retain some fairly decent quality during some scenes (Christina von Blanc and Britt Nichols' frequently exposed flesh looks luminous and lifelike), while others (most of the night shots) look like the source print had been scraped with a dull fork. Colors run dark, and shadow delineation is marginal, at best.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: Image has provided the films original French language mono track, as well as a horrible English dub, also in mono. The French track has a bit of hiss, but dialogue is reproduced well, with a natural timbre to the voices. The English dub, on the other hand, sounds like all of the female parts were read by the same lifeless voiceover actress, in a room with a bad case of reverb. Unless you speak French, you're stuck with the tacky dub, which often doesn't bother to worry whether a character's mouth is moving or not.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 9 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There is a three-page insert booklet, written by Tim Lucas (www.videowatchdog.com), that covers some of this film's history, and offers some informative background on the Franco. Also included is a theatrical trailer and a single deleted scene (13m:36s) that features a batch of shuffling zombies, a nude Christina and wanton ritualistic blood pouring.

The disc is cut into a skimpy 9 chapters, and features optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

Jess Franco shows noticeable restraint, compared to his usual sexy undead excess, in the very personal afterlife thriller, A Virgin Among the Living Dead. Giveaway title aside, this is a trippy, kinky ghost story full of Franco's leering, voyeuristic sexuality and unflattering closeups of disturbing individuals.

 


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