Wednesday, June 3, 2015

VAMPYROS LESBOS (1970)

VAMPYROS LESBOS (1970)
Special Limited 2-Disc Collector's Edition BD/DVD

Label: Severin Films
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 89 Minutes
Audio: German PCM 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Soledad Miranda, Paul Muller, Jess Franco, Dennis Price, Ewa Stromberg

Countess Nadine Carody (Soledad Miranda, COUNT DRACULA) is a vampire who performs nightly as a local nightclub where she catches the eye of a cute young American tourist named Linda (Ewa Strömberg, SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY), who becomes obsessed with the blood-sucking stripper, plagued by erotic dreams of her nightly. No longer able to resist the attraction Linda seeks out Countess Nadine on her island home, despite warnings from a hotelier named Memmet (Jess Franco), a crazed weirdo whom Linda discovers has a penchant for torturing and murdering young women in his home, which turns out to be connected in a way to the Countess. 

Linda seeks out the Countess on her island home where she is told that the home on the island once belonged to none other than the notorious blood-sucker Count Dracula and that the Countess is a direct descendant. Afterward the two enjoy a few glasses of wine and as so often happens in the Franco films the gorgeous women get naked and start fooling around, with the Countess drinking blood from Linda's jugular. When the partially drained Linda awakens the next day she finds the Countess drowned in the swimming pool. Linda winds up at an asylum seeking treatment from Dr. Seward (Dennis Price, NIGHTMARE CASTLE), apparently remembering nothing of the encounter with the Countess. The doc becomes suspicious when another patient turns up with visions of the Countess Nadine, but the film plays a bit with the reliability of Linda's encounter, leaving open the option that the supernatural enchantress may have been a figment of her damaged psyche. 

At this point the film sort of goes off the rails and becomes a blur of convolution, we have the Countess's servant Morpho (José Martínez Blanco), Linda's boyfriend Omar (Andrés Monales) and the creepy Memmet (Franco) entering the picture for a confusing finale that pits Doc Seward (Price) against the sensual vampire, not to stake her through the heart but to become one of the undead, or some such foolery. Cohesion is not the strongest point with this one, the story is a bit of a mess and only loosely held together with lurid imagery and some surreal atmosphere, which for a Franco film is par for the course, and this is one of the better ones. 

Thankfully we have Franco again teaming-up with cinematographer Manuel Merino who fills the frame with sultry and surreal imagery, plus the magnetic beauty of Soledad Miranda, truly a vampyric vision of sexiness. She with the soulful wide-eyes and just the right amount of 70s curviness, her cult-status in not difficult to comprehend, she was a stunner. So, we have some eye-candy and surreal imagery, but the frosting on top of this erotic slice of weirdness is the groovy lounge score from Manfred Hübler and Sigi Schwab> While it might not be a great film it's a fun Franco film with enough soft core delights so as not to disappoint the pervs. Honestly I could see this being a hard watch for those not already steeped in Eurocult and the other works of Jess Franco, it's a bit slow and strangely paced in places, but for the Franco-philes this is prime stuff. 

Audio/Video: As this was a first time watch for me I have no comparison to make to the new HD remastering of the movie other than to say it is not as sharp Severin's own Blu-ray of She Killed In Ecstasy, but it looks pretty damn good. Overall there is a bit softness to the film but it is not not awful by any stretch of the imagination, just not on par with the aforementioned She Killed In Ecstasy. Sourced from a quality source the image is fairly free of defect and debris, there's some texture to the close-up and skin tones look natural and appealing. 

Audio is handled by a PCM 2.0 Mono, presented in German with optional English subtitles, again the hghlight is the psychedelic lounge score from Manfred Hübler and Sigi Schwab, a cool pastiche of loungey grooviness and fuzzed-out electric guitars. If you dig the score be sure to pick up the Blu-ray of She Killed In Ecstasy which includes a bonus CD with the score from this and that film, plus another, worth the price of purchase alone!



Extras are plentiful beginning with an interview with the now deceased auteur Jess Franco, sprawled out on the couch chain smoking while discussing the making of the film and his collaboration with producer Karl-Heinz Mannchen and his love for Soledad Miranda, and her tragic passing. They've also included the Interview with Soledad Miranda Historian Amy Brown also found on the She Killed in Ecstasy Blu-ray. The typically entertaining author Stephen Thrower offers an appreciation of the film and this particular era of Franco film making and his team-up with Miranda.Other extras include a German Trailer for the movie, Alternate German Opening Title Sequence – ‘Dracula’s Heiress’ and a short outtake from the Jess Franco interview. 

There's also a bonus disc which includes a Spanish version of the film that had had all of the nudity removed per censorship of the era, it also features an alternate and inferior soundtrack, but it makes for a fun curio, even if it is ported from an ugly  VHS source, sorry VHS collectors. The 2-disc set comes in a Criterion-style clear Blu-ray case housed in a dye-cut slipcase with new artwork by Wes Benscoter, it an attractive package. 

Special Features: 
- Newly remastered HD presentation of the feature in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio
- Vampyros Jesus: Interview featurette with Director Jess Franco (21 Mins) 
- Sublime Soledad: Interview with Soledad Miranda Historian Amy Brown (11 Mins) 
- Stephen Thrower on Vampyros Lesbos: Interview with Author of ‘Murderous Passions –  The Delirious Cinema Of Jess Franco’ (20 Mins) 
- Jess Is Yoda Clip (3 Mins) 
- Alternate German Opening Title Sequence – ‘Dracula’s Heiress’ (1 Min) 
- German Trailer (3 Mins) HD 
- Bonus DVD: Las Vampiras – Alternate Spanish Language VHS Version With Optional English Subtitles (75 Mins) 

Vampyros Lesbos might have failed to usurp the top spot on my Franco favorites, a spot held by She Killed In Ecstasy, but this is right up there with a few of my other favorites. A fun slice of Eurocult with a nice blend of sofcore vampire fun and the usual Franco-weirdness. Star Soledad Miranda is pretty stunning in HD and while the role does little more than showcase her beauty and splash a little shocking-red blood around atop a somewhat confusing plot line, it's a Franco film, and you know damn well you didn't come for the script-writing anyway! Severin have put together a wonderful edition of the film, I would highly recommend a purchase of the of both She Killed In Ecstasy and Vampyros Lesbos mandatory buys for the Eurocultists. 3/5 

 

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