Vampyros Lesbos (1971)
Directed by: Jesús Franco
Written by: Anne Settimó, Bram Stoker, Jaime Chávarri, Jesús Franco
Starring: Andrea Montchal, Dennis Price, Ewa Strömberg, José Martínez Blanco, Paul Muller, Soledad Miranda
Plagued by arousing nightmares of a sexy brunette enticing her into her bedroom, Linda Westinghouse is shocked to find that her new client, a dancer named Countess Nadine Carody, is actually the woman in her dreams despite having never seen or met the woman before. Nadine mesmerises Linda as she falls under her spell but could there be more to Nadine than meets the eye?
Taking on the iconic story of Dracula by author Bram Stoker, Jess Franco has crafted surreal, sensual lesbian tale VAMPYROS LESBOS which loosely follows the plot of the novel by using particular plot points. In this reimagining, Linda plays both the Jonathan Harker and Mina role as a lawyer who’s been sent to deal with the assets of Countess Carody, our very own lesbian version of Dracula. It seems that the Countess is an heiress of Dracula’s wealth with a stunning home on a top of the sun-kissed mountain with its own private beach – a departure from the Romanian mountain we’re used to. Though Linda may feel drawn to the Countess, it is she who is also infatuated with Linda and the two become united as Countess Nadine yearns for Linda to join her fold.
Actress Soledad Miranda stars as the stunning Countess Nadine Carody, a sensual brunette who’s big eyes draw in her prey. Blonde Swedish actress Ewa Strömberg stars as Linda, the object of Nadine’s affection. The contrast of the appearance of the two lead females works well, with Strömberg representing the unsure female versus Miranda’s experienced femme fatale. Andrea Montchal stars as Omar, Linda’s concerned boyfriend, who also acts as the Jonathan Harker character but the side of Harker which is concerned for his partner. Unfortunately, his character offers very little in terms of affecting the plot in any way. Franco regular Paul Muller stars as a psychiatrist who, for all intent and purposes in the film, is Vampyros Lesbos’ version of Van Helsing. Most of these characters are so loosely inspired by Stoker’s work that there’s only the most basic link to the original novel’s characters.
Whilst there’s a bit more action in VAMPYROS LESBOS than there is in Franco’s She Killed In Ecstasy, the most erotic part of the film isn’t the fully naked canoodling between Nadine and Linda but a dance which Nadine performs with an unnamed dancer who just happens to stand still nude like a mannequin. With Nadine in her underwear, she strokes and dances around her partner before stripping and dressing her dance partner in her discarded underwear. The way Nadine moves is quite hypnotic to watch and, as Franco adds in the special features interview, Soledad Miranda was certainly something special with a bright future ahead of her. Tragically her life was cut short before the release of this film so we never got to see her career flourish much past this point.
With extreme close-ups of people’s faces, particularly their eyes, backed by a psychedelic score that wouldn’t seem amiss in a groovy 60’s club or an Austin Powers movie, combined with the unique sounds of the Indian infused sitar, VAMPYROS LESBOS is something quite strange, surreal and unique of its own. Is it a good movie? Strictly speaking, no, not in the traditional sense of the word, however the style which Jess brings to his movies is without a doubt watchable and something special in itself. Couple this with his exquisite choice in stars to front his movie leaves VAMPYROS LESBOS as hypnotic as Nadine is to Linda. It’s inexplicable but there’s something about this movie that just draws you in to the world that has been created, even if the narrative is quite weak with very little dialogue to speak of. As they say, it’s all in the eyes or a look.
Severin Films have brought VAMPYROS LESBOS to Blu-Ray in stunning HD with 2.0 audio track that has slight noise at the beginning of the movie but doesn’t distract from the crisp dialogue which is German dubbed with English subtitles. There’s some fantastic special features on the disc too with a 20 minute recent interview with Jess Franco talking about the film and an interview with Stephen Thrower, the author of Murderous Passions – The Delirious Cinema of Jess Franco. There’s also a very interesting clip for Star Wars fans with its connection between Yoda and Jess Franco as well as an Alternate German Opening Title Sequence and German trailer for the film. Finally, there’s an interview with historian Amy Brown on actress Soledad Miranda which is the same interview which can be seen on Severin Film’s release of She Killed In Ecstasy.
VAMPYROS LESBOS has the slight edge over She Killed In Ecstasy, despite the latter having a more coherent and straight-forward plot. Stylish and sexy, this is seductive, surreal sexploitation Dracula as you’ve never seen it before.