Female Vampire (1973)
By: Mr Intolerance on April 30, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Image (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 mono, French DD 2.0 mono. 101 minutes
The Movie
Director: Jess Franco
Starring: Lina Romay, Jack Taylor, Alice Arno, Monica Swinn Screenplay: Gerard Brisseau, Jess Franco Music: Daniel White
Country: France
AKA: Les Aveleuses, Bare Breasted Countess, La Comtesse aux seins nus, La Comtesse noire, Erotic Kill, Erotikill, Insatiable Lust, Jacula, Sicarius – the Midnight Party, The Black Countess, The Last Thrill, The Loves of Irina, Yacula
Woo-hoo!!! Lina Romay nekkid for almost the entire run-time of the film!!! And I am NOT exaggerating – the most clothed you get her is wearing a sort of white macramé dress which doesn't leave ANYTHING to the imagination, being as how it largely consists of holes, or (my favourite) – a floor length cape, a wide leather belt and knee-high boots. Nothing else. Nada. Zip, zilch, zero. Which then begs the question: why the belt?

Anyway, time to stop drooling and get on with the business of the day. This is one of Jess Franco's better efforts, despite the fact that it's poorly acted, of, shall we say "variable" quality in the directorial department (can you spell "over-use of zoom lens"?), and has a ludicrous, nonsensical practically non-existent story-line. The obvious superiority of this film over others is probably due to the fact that unlike many of Franco's films (or at least the dozen and a half I've seen – given his volume of work, I know that's not many), it possesses a kind of atmosphere.

The …ummm… "plot" runs as such: the rather over-sexed Countess Irina Karlstein (shades of "Carmilla", there) prowls around Madeira, kills loads of people (nekkid women, for the most part – hooray!!!) by draining their sexual energy and then moans about it in an existential fashion that would have Sartre in tears. Well, when I say moans, I'm talking interior monologue, because for some never quite adequately explained reason, she's mute. Which is probably quite handy really, because her servant is deaf. So when she gets interviewed for the newspapers at an early point of the film, she communicates via a series of enigmatic nods. Of course Franco casts himself in the film (Dr Roberts, a forensic pathologist who knows it's a vampire almost from the get-go), and puts in a better performance than his usual.

Basically, it's simply a reasonably standard female vampire thing, but with very little plot – nekkid chick runs around seducing and killing people of either sex somewhat indiscriminately; her existence as a vampire is discovered quite early, but of course the authorities don't listen, so more people die. The only bit that's a bit different IS the fact that the vampire in this case appears to be allergic to clothes… I won't spoil the end for you, but it's an enjoyable 101 minutes of sleazy and extremely gratuitous silliness – I mean, the sequence where Lina Romay rolls around on the bed masturbating (I've never wanted to be a bed post so much in my life) – if anyone can explain to me plot-wise why that was in the story, I'm all ears. I've gotta say, to call her performance in this film 'uninhibited' does her a tremendous disservice – it's an understatement on the scale of saying, 'Space; it's a bit big, isn't it?' The campy over-acting is dreadfully wonderful – Jack Taylor as the poet who believes he's destined to be with Irina is worth a special mention at this point. But the real star of the film would have to be Lina Romay's boobs, as they're practically in every shot. Not that that's a bad thing. It's not a film to be taken seriously. I have the sneaking suspicion that the whole thing might be a little tongue in cheek, but perhaps I'm reading it wrong. It's a strange thought to me that Franco might have meant this as a serious artistic endeavour. I mean, give the guy his due: both Eugenie and Justine actually work in that context (despite his lead actress's "acting" in both films) but I'm filing this one in the same category as Eugenie de Sade, Vampyros Lesbos and Venus In Furs, but of a lower budget than any of those films (scary thought that, isn't it?). An enjoyable film made for people who like boobs and blood – although the ratio is a bit uneven; lots of the first, little of the second.

Y'know, I sometimes wonder if during films like this, Franco isn't behind the camera, laughing hysterically as the sleaze dollars roll in, roaring, "Baaaa-hahahahaha! I've got Lina Romay and you don't!" You have to wonder, otherwise why someone would keep putting their partner into films nekkid (I've never seen Lina Romay remain clothed in any of the films I've seen her in – even in bit parts, like Jack The Ripper – she turns up as some kind of saucy song and dance girl in a seedy Whitechapel pub and immediately starts flashing her (admittedly lovely) arse-parts about), or having lesbian romps, or more disturbingly being sexually tortured (as in Ilsa: The Wicked Warden) – is he just gloating?

If you're going to buy it, this is the version to get – some other versions omit the violence, or the sex, (which would make for a rather bland outing, let me tell you, because the story ain't going to keep you interested…), concentrating on the other aspect. This disc is the business, basically. But if you must see the hard-core that's missing from this version, then you should probably check out the German X-Rated Kult Video version. I can't vouch for the quality of that release, however, he disclaimed.

Final word: two things in this film never fail to make me giggle. Firstly, in an opening scene, Romay actually walks into the camera. Secondly, there are a couple of scenes where we're I think meant to believe that the Countess is turning into a bat – in the way that vampires do. This happens, apparently, by grabbing the hem of your cape and flapping your arms. How she kept a straight face doing that is beyond me.
Presented in an Anamorphic 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced format, this is probably as good as this film is going to look. Image are pretty reliable when it comes to releasing 70s sleazegrinders, and this is no exception. Image's releases are made for fans, by fans, and it shows. The film stock seems to change occasionally here and there, maybe that was just the quality of the print they were using. A bit of grain, too, and occasionally lacks a bit of definition. Still, more than passable.
Well, you get this in either English or French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (oddly enough, without subtitles). It's nothing to write home about, but I've no complaints, either. I guess it's a bit flat sounding to these rather tired old ears, but it does the job.
Extra Features
You get the French theatrical trailer, 8 ½ minutes of alternate scenes from the "Erotikill" version of the film (essentially the "horror" version, which cuts down on the nudity and sex, and emphasises the horror elements; Franco shot three versions of this film, each appealing to a different market – soft core, hard core and horror – the mark of a true exploitation mastermind!) and some liner notes by Tim Lucas in the insert that accompanies the disc.
The Verdict
Take your brain off the hook and sit back for a fine dollop of Euro-sleaze. This is trash cinema to the max, and I loved every gloriously over-the-top gratuitous second of it. If, like me, you like 70's Euro-trash (definitely its Golden Age), you really should get yourself a copy of this. If you go in expecting some Hammer-style faux gothic period piece, you'll be sorely disappointed. Similarly, any viewer expecting the ultra-violence will be left wanting. Just take it for what it's worth. And for Lina Romay's boobs.
Movie Score
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