Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Vampyros Lesbos (Jesus Franco, 1971)

Jesus (Jess) Franco is an extremely frustrating film maker to appreciate.  If the trailer for his latest film, Crypt of the Condemned is any indication, his latest film is a soft core (maybe hard core?) pornographic film that takes place solely in an apartment with three naked and extremely friendly women.  But he also is responsible for for one of the greatest, modern vampire movies, 1971's Vampyros Lesbos.

It took a while to warm up Vampyros Lesbos.  Other Franco films, while visually striking, were slow, confusing, and relied too much on excessive violence towards women.  Watching women bloodied and brutalized is not part of my definition of horror.  That is just me, there is no judgement here.

Vampyros Lesbos  is Franco's Citizen Kane.  A thoroughly modern retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula, it is a beautiful film to watch, gorgeously capturing the sun drenched landscapes of the Greek islands and Istanbul. Adding to the surreal beauty, Franco uses repetitive visual imagery to add visual commentary on Countess Nadine's seduction of Linda.  It is an unexpected and beautiful touch to a movie that at times is glacially slow and ultimately confusing.

Yorga's vampire minions 
Film vampires took decades to move into the twentieth century. Nineteenth century vampires that tried to make the transition, like Hammer's later Dracula films and Robert Quarry's Count Yorga, were stiff and uncomfortable in the 20th century.  In  Dracula A.D. 1972, Christopher Lee's iconic vampire never left the ruined church where his remains were interred a century ago and poor Yorga is openly mocked for wearing traditional vampire regalia to a costume party.  Despite the occasional scene of interest (swinging London looks ab-fab, and the second Yorga film features a Manson style family massacre that is very frightening), these movies appear as evolutionary curiosities bridging two generations of vampire.

Nadine attempts to lure Linda during one of her dances
However, Jess Franco's Countess Nadine, from Vampyros Lesbos appears to have made the transition successfully.  She pursues Linda, the 20th century version of Jonathan Harker, through the modern mansions and the nightclubs of the of the film's settings.  

Featuring an amazing jazz soundtrack,  composed by Manfred Hübler and Siegfried Schwab and the dark and mysterious beauty of Soledad Miranda,is a worthy and watchable addition to any fan of the genre.    

For what it is worth, here is a trailer for a new Jess Franco film:

I saw it at Trash Film Addict today.

No comments: