Vampyros Lesbos Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Severin Films
Directed by Jess Franco
Written by Jaime Chávarri and Jess Franco
1970, 89 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on May 12th, 2015
Soledad Miranda as Countess Nadine Carody
Ewa Stroemberg as Linda Westinghouse
Dennis Price as Dr. Seward
Viktor Feldmann as Omar
Paul Muller as Dr. Steiner
Heidrun Kussin as Agra
J. Martinez Blanco as Morpho
Jess Franco as Memmet
Sexually frustrated Linda Westinghouse and her boyfriend Omar attend a provocative piece of Turkish theatre featuring an attractive brunette lady writhing about the stage with a nude woman. Linda is both aroused and intrigued by the artist, whom she finds familiar from a series of recurring dreams. When she tells her therapist about her situation, he encourages her to find a better lover. Linda returns to work and is assigned to travel to the Kadidados Islands of Antolia to meet Countess Nadine Carody regarding an inheritance matter. She arrives after the last ferry has departed and must spend the night in a local hotel. A strange man named Memmet urges her not to travel further as the island is filled with death and madness. Linda ignores his warning and continues on her journey where she meets the countess and is stunned to recognize her as the woman of her dreams. Nadine could not be a more gracious host, but not long after their meeting begins, Linda passes out and things get weird.
Linda wakes in a private clinic run by Dr. Seward on the mainland. She is in shock and has no memory of her name or how she got here. Agra, a fellow patient who physically resembles Linda, suffers hallucinations of a beautiful brunette woman known only as the Queen of the Night. Seward is obsessed with the supernatural and suspects the work of vampires, and keeps track of Agra’s outbursts. Omar arrives at the clinic after seeing an article in the paper describing the recent appearance of an amnesiac. He is brought to Linda’s room and her condition improves immediately, but she cannot remember any part of her time with the countess. Omar takes her home where the couple tries to return to their normal lives. Back on the island, Nadine reluctantly admits to herself that she is in love with Linda and makes arrangements to bring back her beautiful houseguest. What follows is a study in human desire and the lengths to which people will go in order to get what they need.
Working from a script he co-wrote with Jaime Chávarri (I’m the One You’re Looking For), Jess Franco (Bloody Moon) directs this softcore vampire tale that uses Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a springboard, but quickly ventures into uncharted territory as the screenplay inverts many traditional elements of the material. The legendary Spanish director has created a critic-proof piece of exploitation cinema by placing beautiful, nubile lesbians in gorgeous European locations and encouraging them to indulge in sensual pleasures. Manuel Merino’s lush cinematography helps set the mood, but there are a few instances where his camera operator dropped the ball when it comes to keeping everything in focus. Vampyros Lesbos is a hypnotic tale of desire that improves with age, thanks in part to the spectacular score by Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab. The musical accompaniment enhances many of the film’s key set pieces and the soundtrack has developed its own cult following over the last forty-five years.
Franco’s secret weapon in Vampyros Lesbos is the ravishing Soledad Miranda (Count Dracula) as Countess Nadine Carody. Her haunting gaze and stunning appearance leave me at a loss for words every moment she appears on screen. Miranda is given two introductions in this film; the first as a performance artist and the second as a sunbathing beauty on a remote island estate. Both sequences are well-staged and firmly establish her as a strong performer, capable of captivating audiences without saying a word. Tragically, Miranda died in a car accident within months of completing this picture, a loss that is particularly frustrating in that she was on the brink of international stardom, an accomplishment that would only be enjoyed posthumously.
Vampyros Lesbos is one of Jess Franco’s better efforts and considered a high-water mark in his lengthy career. This film is frequently paired with the equally enjoyable She Killed in Ecstasy, shot the same year and also starring Soledad Marina. For five decades, Franco cranked out volumes of low-budget avant-garde product, usually in the genres of horror and erotica. His filmography was one of quantity over quality, as he directed more than two hundred titles and appeared on camera as an actor in almost half of them. His movies are more style over substance and quite frequently confusing, as the importance of plot comes in a distant second to nudity. Franco loved women and took pleasure in making them look good on camera. While many of his films have been dismissed as Euro-trash, he garnered quite a dedicated following and continued to work until his death in 2013. Viewers unfamiliar with his work should definitely start here, as this picture marked a creative turning point in the visual style of his efforts and it really is an entertaining ride.
Video and Audio:
Presented in a solid 1.78:1 aspect ratio, colors are strong and black levels are rich. This is a very nice transfer that is a strong step up from all previous releases and should really be appreciated. There are a few minor instances of print damage, but I cannot seriously complain considering all of the benefits this edition brings over what fans are accustomed to.
The German LPCM 2.0 stereo mix is stronger than expected and breathes new life into the legendary soundtrack with some impressive bass and improved clarity. Dialogue and music levels are nicely balanced without distortion or clipping.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Special Features:The majority of supplements appear on the Blu-ray disc, but the package also includes a DVD with additional content, discussed below.
In the interview Vampyros Jesús (21 minutes), Franco touches on many topics regarding the production history of this film. He also discusses his work with German producer Artur Brauner and star Soledad Miranda. The piece was conducted shortly before the director’s death in 2013. His accent is a bit thick, so the English subtitles are a welcome addition.
The lovely Soledad Miranda is given the star treatment in the highly informative and entertaining segment Sublime Soledad (21 minutes). Historian Amy Brown traces Miranda’s tragically short career and offers a nice selection of video clips of early appearances.
Franco biographer Stephen Thrower talks for just over ten minutes about how this film led to a shift in tone in the director’s later catalog of work. He provides a brief but detailed analysis of the interpretation of certain elements from Stoker’s source material.
An alternate German title sequence (2 minutes) is included for fans familiar with this version of the film, but the picture quality is subpar compared to the transfer on the feature presentation.
A German language trailer is included.
In the amusing outtake Jess is Yoda (3 minutes), Franco shares the story of being told he was one of the inspirations for the beloved Star Wars character.
The DVD included with this release offers the Spanish language version of the film Las Vampiras (74 minutes), sourced from a low-quality bootleg. The risqué material has been excised, a voiceover added and several sequences have been altered through both a series of edits and replacement dialogue. One early example finds Linda’s therapist recommending a vacation instead of the original suggestion that she find a better lover. The musical score has also been replaced with a more ominous accompaniment performed by Franco himself. The changes significantly alter certain aspects of the story, but the film itself remains an interesting find. English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.