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Image Entertainment presents
"And after that...everything goes dark around me, and she sighs and embraces me."
DVD ReviewWith a fairly infamous catalog of films to his credit, Euro horror/exploitation master Jess Franco reached one of highest and most stylized plateaus with the trippy 1970s vampire/sex trip Vampyros Lesbos—which in reality is only one of the many names this film has been called over the years. This is easily one of Franco's stronger, less vulgar works, a slow and sensual excursion between the mysterious Countess Nadine Carody (cult icon Soledad Miranda) and the sexified mind control she exerts over repressed lawyer Linda Westinghouse (Ewa Strömberg).
And that's repressed in a sexual way, mind you, and not long after poor Linda is visited in dreams by a raven-haired woman beckoning to her, she encounters the very same woman putting on a kinky girl-on-girl nightclub sex show. A trip to a therapist, whose advice is find a better lover, leads nowhere until Linda is set on a chance business trip to a tiny European island—something about delivering some important papers of some sort—to none other than the mysterious and sexy Countess Nadine herself.
Like many Franco films, there are all manner of odd sequences and symbolism to be found in Vampyros Lesbos, including the aforementioned sexy nightclub show by Soledad Miranda, all accented by a score that is steeped in authentic art-house/martini-sipping/LSD-dropping grooviness, or the ever present scorpions. The female sexual confusion factor and raw, animalistic lust nothwithstanding, Franco interjects a minor subplot about a scholarly vampire researcher, played by Dennis Price, who is hot on the trail of Nadine, having sequestered one of her former conquests for further study. The lusty dementia-driven visions of emotionally drained Agra (Heidrun Kussin) are nearly identical to those of Linda, and Price's Dr. Seward has to secretly keep her under wraps while he fends off attempts by Linda's mustachioed boyfriend Otto (Victor Feldman) to track down his missing girlfriend.
A lot of Franco buffs consider Vampyros Lesbos to be a classic, and while it is certainly one of his most noteworthy and beautiful films, it falls far from being a traditional horror film. Franco's appearance as saw-wielding nutjob with a penchant for tying up women and killing them is probably the most straightforward element that could drag Vampyros Lesbos kicking and screaming into the horror genre, while it really seems to want to be an arty lesbian fantasy with elements of gothic horror.
Soledad Miranda gives Franco the kind of charismatic lead that is easy and subdued, so that the sexual vibes she gives off don't have the tacky cheesiness of a typical domestic grindhouse title of the time. The moments between Miranda and Ewa Strömberg are beautifully staged, erotic and sensual without being smutty, amid most certainly not horrific. The convenient vampiric angle that Franco unfurls seems like a thin disguise for touting the free love rebellion against uptight sexual repression.
It is that hard-to-nail-down weirdness of Jess Franco and his melding of styles that makes Vampyros Lesbos such a strong film, even today, and though not an outright horror title it is without a doubt one of his best.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: Yes it has some age-related nicks and color fluctuation, but this newly remastered 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Image is just lovely. Colors, especially Franco's use of reds, really leap off the screen on this new print, which is a substantial improvement over earlier incarnations.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The original German language mono track is included (with optional English subtitles), and it is a simple, but pleasing, hiss-free presentation. The mondo bizarre score, which on its own just needs to be heard to be appreciated, comes across solidly, as well.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring She Killed In Ecstasy
The disc is cut into 15 chapters, with optional English subtitles.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsJess Franco's legendary lesbian vampire film, considered a genre masterpiece by many, shows up with a smart new anamorphic transfer from Image that gives it the proper respect so many think it deserves.
It is certainly worth seeing if your tastes fall along early 1970s Euro horror/sexploitation, and with Vampyros Lesbos Franco proves that he could be downright arty when he had to.
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