Jesus Franco – Vampiros lesbos aka Lesbian Vampires (1971)
Review from DVDTalk:
My first introduction to the oddball cinema of Spanish filmmaker Jesus ‘Jess’ Franco came one night about 3am while channel surfing in my parent’s basement. I’d just gotten back from college, it was time for the summer break, and I’d only minutes beforehand returned from an evening at the pub. I came across what appeared to be a pair of lesbian vampires doing their thing set to a be-bopping score and some whacked out colors and it instantly caught my attention. I didn’t really know what I was watching and didn’t find out until the film was finished that it was one of Franco’s most popular films, Vampyros Lesbos. That semi-intoxicated late night initiation led me to seek out more of the man’s work, and since that night over ten years ago I’ve become a casual fan of his wildly uneven catalogue of work. His films may not always be good in the traditional sense of the word, but they’re always interesting and there’s always a little piece of himself put into his work.
Franco regular Ewa Stromberg plays Linda (an unusually common name in Franco films), a lawyer who is shuffled off to Istanbul to look after a large inheritance that has recently come due to one Countess Nadine (Soledad Miranda of She Killed In Ecstasy). Since Linda found out about her upcoming journey she’s been having some very strange dreams, some of which almost seem to be ominous in their meaning. When Linda arrives in Turkey, she and her friend Omar (Andres Monales of Les Demons) attend a nightclub performance where two gorgeous women vamp it up – she’s shocked to recognize one of the women from her dreams, and even more shocked to find that this woman is her soon to be client, Countess Nadine.
Linda and Nadine instantly strike up an unusual relationship, something that goes far beyond the usual lawyer/client business association. They skinny dip along the beaches near Nadine’s mansion, and spend a few lingering moments together basking in the yards of the home. Soon though, it’s time to get down to business and it’s at this point while going through all the paperwork that Linda realizes Nadine is a distant relative of Count Dracula.
Later that night Nadine drugs Linda’s wine and seduces her. Linda goes missing and it’s a week later that Omar eventually finds her in the hospital, suffering from some mild amnesia. Nadine, however, has become quite infatuated with her lovely legal counsel, and proceeds to starve herself, wanting nothing more than to be with Linda forever. Even her servant, Morpho, is unable to console her – Linda must make her decision, with Nadine’s very life hanging in the balance.
Vampyros Lesbos epitomizes everything that is good about Franco’s filmmaking techniques and themes. The unabashed eroticism leaves little to the imagination, the obsession with his female leads (Soledad Miranda was considered to be his muse until she passed away in a car accident at the age of twenty seven), the freewheeling jazz score, and the elaborate sets that add a strange look to the film. While it was made on a low budget, at times this is quite obvious, the film makes great use of its European locations to give the movie a dreamlike tone that works perfectly among the odd cast of beautiful women and strange supporting cast members. He here uses a lot of the performers that he had worked with in the past, something that he still does to this day, with over two hundred films to his credit, and anyone who has seen a few Franco films will have no problems picking out regulars such as Miranda and Stromberg as well as Dennis Price (of Venus In Furs), Paul Muller (of Barbed Wire Dolls), and even Franco himself in one of his patented cameo roles.
The film uses all sorts of less than subtle symbolism and graphic imagery to tell its story. There isn’t an abundance of dialogue in the film and the director tells his story far more so with images here than with words. This allows the music to play a very important part in the tone of the film, and the score for this picture has a lot more impact than it would have otherwise if the movie had included more discourse. The end result isn’t so much a coherent film with a tight plot as it is an oddly compelling dream/nightmare put on film.