Blu-Ray Review – Jess Franco Double Bill

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jess franco - vampyre lesbos
Jess Franco was a maestro of Eurosleaze from the ’60s onwards. He was inspired to do into horror cinema after watching early Hammer fare like The Brides of Dracula. Severin films’ UK branch have just released some of most famous films Vampyros Lesbos and She Killed In Ecstasy which both star Soledad Miranda who Franco discovered and tragically died in a car crash the same year both films came out 1970.

Vampyros Lesbos is certainly more “lesbos” than Vampyros, Franco was certainly more interesting in seeing some hot women making out than a solid vampire film. It starts with an extended scene of a sexual dance between two woman in a nightclub which goes out for almost 10 minutes, the film runs only for 90 minutes. Linda (Ewa Strömberg) gets excited by one of the women (played by Soledad Miranda) in the dance and starts having orgasmic dreams of  and seeks her out on her reclusive island little does she know she is a vampire. There is a crazy doctor, a boyfriend on the hunt for his girlfriend and of course some more lesbianism.

However with the case with Jess Franco plot is non-existent for the most part its all about this oft kilter vibe throughout. Franco infuses the film with dreamlike logic which might be down to his inept filmmaking skill there is such bizarre angles and shots that seem either intentional or amateurish. This helps the surreal aspects of the film even if it never quite dips its toes into pure surrealism. The film is helped enormously by groovy as hell jazzy psychedelic score which Franco composed along with others.

She Killed in Ecstasy is probably a technically better film especially when it comes to plot development. It’s a revenge story about a widow of a mad scientist who is doing unethical experiments with human embryos. He is shunned by the medical community so he commits suicide and his wife decides to seduce both the men and women who were “responsible” for her husband’s suicide.

Manuel Merino was Franco’s go to cinematographer who shot both of the films and She Killed in Ecstasy has that soft focus but surrealistic European soft-core aesthetic throughout. It runs at a quick 80 minutes and to a large extent delivers the goods as both a revenge film and an excuse to look at beautiful women. The film also includes another groovy jazz psychedelic score. The scores of both films were re-released together in the height of the lounge revival of the mid ’90s and it became an indie chart smash hit.

Severin has released really pulled out the stops on their release here. Both films have been remastered in HD in their correct aspect ratio. The disc includes interviews with Jess Franco, historian Amy Brown. Stephen Thrower who wrote a book on Franco also have an interview on both discs. Paul Muller is also interviewed on She Killed In Ecstasy disc and there other features such as trailers, alternative openings etc. If you’re a fan of the strange world of Jess Franco that really aren’t to be missed, I’m a bit on the fence on his merits as a filmmaker but they are certainly unique.

Ian Schultz

Horror,Erotic | USA, 2015 | 18 | Severin Films | Dir.Jess Franco | Soledad Miranda, Fred Williams, Paul Muller, Dennis Price, Ewa Strömberg