Drama, Horror, Romance, Supernatural, Vampire

Vampyros Lesbos (1970)

Comments Off on Vampyros Lesbos (1970) 01 October 2015

vampyros lesbos blu

Studio: Severin

Theatrical Release: July 15, 1971

Blu Ray Release: May 12, 2015

Director: Jess Franco

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

Perhaps Jess Franco’s most infamous film in his rather long directorial catalog, Vampyros Lesbos has been given the Severin treatment in an all-out special edition that should please fans of the film as well as Franco fanatics.

Having reviewed several Franco titles for Unrated Film over the years, Vampyros Lesbos may be one of his most mature and stylish films Franco has directed. While I love Franco’s quick zooms and offbeat directorial style, Vampyros Lesbos is a much more restrained film than say Bloody Moon  for example.  It felt like Franco really wanted to step up his game and make an art film, a love story. But although this was a change of pace for Franco, that’s not to say there isn’t blood or nudity (a Franco trademark). Just look at the title alone and you should know what you are in for.

The film starts out in a strange, dream-like manner as a semi-nude woman is performing a performance piece by undressing and having a romantic fling with what may or may not be a mannequin. The performance is being watched by Linda (Ewa Stromberg) and her boyfriend Omar (Andrea Montchal). Linda is fascinated with the show and begins to have dreams about the woman, even telling her shrink about the dreams.

Working at a lawyer firm, Linda is summoned to Turkey from Istanbul to see a rich Countess about an inheritance. The Countess is the Hungarian Nadine Oskudar (Soledad Miranda) who has inherited a piece of real estate from the now deceased Count Dracula. As Linda travels to see the Countess, she is warned by a local (Jess Franco playing an Igor-type role) not to go, that there is nothing but evil awaiting for her on the island where the Countess resides. Ignoring the warnings, Linda arrives on the island and is met by the Countess who looks just like the woman she saw in the performance piece.

After some nude swimming and sunbathing, Linda is seduced by the Countess and bitten. After being bitten, Linda gets amnesia and winds up back in Istanbul under the supervision of Dr. Seward (Dennis Price). When Linda explains what has happened to her, Dr. Seward convinces her that she must kill the vampire otherwise she will wind up being a creature of the night herself.

While this may seem like a pretty straight forward horror film, please keep in mind that this was directed by Jess Franco. There are plenty of WTF moments as well as some ultra slow pacing (how many shots of Turkey’s skyline or beaches do we need to see?) and drawn out segments (the performance piece is shown twice). The movie focuses heavily on the relationship between Linda and Countess Nadine who thankfully have chemistry with one another. The Countess isn’t so much of a bad person as she’s just a lonely, man-hating lesbian who wants Linda all to herself. In maybe the most interesting moment in the film, Nadine tells her shrink (everyone has a shrink in this film) how Dracula saved her from being raped when she was young. She tells her shrink how she now despises men because of what had happened to her.

A small subplot that I wish was expanded or fleshed out in more detail is of the character of Agra (Heidrun Kussin), the Renfield character of the story who is locked up in a nuthouse, begging to see her master, her lover once again. When Countess Nadine says goodbye to Agra, telling her that she will never see her again, Agra becomes so disheartened and upset that she bursts into tears with the camera staying on this weeping woman for an uncomfortable amount of time. I could have used more Agra and less performance piece but again, its a Franco film.

Vampyros Lesbos is not for everyone. It’s definitely a time capsule to the early 1970’s (the music by Manfred Hubler & Siegfried Shwab wil either get on your nerves or you’ll love it to the point of wanting to search for the sound track. Quintin Tarantino even used a small portion of the soundtrack in Jackie Brown). The film is by no means fast paced nor involve a high body count like some of Franco’s other movies. But the movie is gorgeously shot, well directed and stars two gorgeous women who also can actually act.

Severin’s blu ray blew me away right from the opening credits. This film has never looked this clean or clear. With crisp contrasts and amazing detail, this blu ray is absolutely gorgeous. And if you can get over some rather annoying hissing sounds, the sound is also a step up from other versions. Vocals can be clearly heard as well as the films soundtrack which had me searching for the volume button to turn down once the film kicked on.

The blu ray release comes with two discs. The first disc has a 20 plus minute interview with Franco who explains how he likes this film but it isn’t his favorite and provides the viewers a step by step process on how he brought Vampyros Lesbos to the screen. There is also a lengthy interview with Soledad Miranda historian Amy Brown who speaks to great lengths about Miranda’s short lived career before her death in 1971. Franco enthusiast Stephen Thrower is interviewed, there is a brief clip of Franco believing he was the inspiration of Yoda (this was rather funny) along with the trailer and alternate German opening title sequence.

On the second disc, we are given a DVD of the Spanish version of the film, this time called Las Vampiras. This awful looking bootleg offers an entirely different soundtrack as well as a few voice overs. I admit I couldn’t watch this entire film because of the poor picture quality. Take a look yourself

Vampiros Lesbosvampire lesboslas vampires

Don’t worry, the blu ray looks much, much better.

Movie Rating: ★★★☆☆

Blu Ray Rating: ★★★★☆

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