Director: J.P. Johnson (aka Jésus Franco)
Script: J.P. Johnson (aka Jésus Franco) & Josyane Gilbert
Cast: Lina Romay, Jack Taylor, Alice Arno, Monica Swinn, Jess Frank, Luis Barboo, Raymond Hardy
Running time: 96 minutes
My first encounter with Female Vampire (aka The Bare-Breasted Countess, aka Erotikill, aka The Black Countess, aka Loves of Irina etc.), was at a Eurofest film festival in London, in the late Nineties. The screening was of a French language print with no English subtitles, and, so with my French being very poor, I didn’t really understand much of what was going on. However, this time around I had English subtitles and was still none-the-wiser! Not that there’s much of a plot here, it’s more like experiencing a waking dream, very much in the Jean Rollin mould of film-making.
I think one’s enjoyment of the film depends on a) your tolerance for bad films; b) your tolerance for watching mainly unerotic softcore porn; and c) your tolerance for unnecessary zoom shots into eyes, belly-buttons, and various kinds of bushes – stop tittering at the back!
After quite an eyebrow raising beginning featuring an eye-catching entrance by the then lovely Lina Romay (later director Franco’s squeeze), where she can be seen striding slowly through some misty woodland wearing just a black belt, black boots and black cape, the film then cuts to her wandering round someone’s, admittedly large, back garden, prior to seducing some unfortunate schmuck and then killing him by draining him of his life essence through his penis. Yes, you did read that right my friends, she essentially BJ-ed him to death! I guess there’s much worse ways to go…
What follows are a series of mostly slow meandering scenes where the lovely Lina, here playing Countess Irina, the last descendant of Countess Karlstein, meets various people, of both sexes, and ‘loves’ them to death. Meanwhile two doctors, Dr Roberts (a pathologist) and Dr Orloff (a doctor of philosophy) suspect something evil is running amok and are trying to figure out what is killing all these people and how to stop them.
Irina finally meets with a lonely Austrian writer, Rathory, who seems to know her and wants her to take his spirit so he can join her in the land beyond the mists. However, Irina falls in love with this morose man and is reluctant to let him go…
As I said at the beginning, Female Vampire is a bit poor, both in terms of being a horror film and as a piece of erotic art, although there are one or two scenes which may turn on the more desperate amongst you. It’s the sort of film that’s probably best watched sharing a bottle of wine with some close friends and chuckling at its idiosyncrasies. I certainly wouldn’t recommend watching it late at night when you’re already a bit sleepy since it’s languidly paced and feels like a waking dream, so you’d soon be in la-la land, and I don’t mean LA!
There’s a good amount of voluptuous female flesh on display here and some interesting 70s fashions, and a fair amount of surreal imagery such as that opening shot. Franco’s direction is pretty tepid, like the story, although some of the photography is actually quite decent when he’s not ruining it with unnecessary zoom shots. There’s quite a cool soundtrack by Daniel White, although mostly it’s full of fairly romantic cues, emphasising the film’s more erotic, than horror, nature.
The print used isn’t too bad, although I did notice quite a few scratches and lines near reel changes, and the sound is a little soft at times, but maybe that’s my television. The subtitles were nice and clear though.
Thoughts that regularly echoed around my head whilst watching this cinematic oddity were: isn’t it weird seeing so much pubic hair in a film these days; wow, that really is a massive belt Lina’s wearing, why does Franco insist in including so many meaningful stares in his films, and I wonder if shagging a ghost results in one getting a cold penis!
I could only really recommend watching this film if you’re a Jesus Franco completist, an avid fan of Lina Romay (as Jes’ so obviously was), or a bit of a trash movie masochist.
New Euro cult DVD label Maison Rouge are distributing Female Vampire on Blu-ray and DVD. I’ve no idea about the film coming with any special features as they sent me a link, unfortunately. Good on Maison Rouge for bringing out some more obscure Euro-trash though. We wish them lots of future success.