Nov 8, 2013
Maybe it is because my morality has reached an all-time low and/or because I find myself less and less gravitating towards the sort of French arthouse classics released by the Criterion Collection, but the older I get, the more I seem to like a ‘marginal’ (emphasis on the marginal) selection of films directed by Spanish maestro of super seedy celluloid exploitation Jesús Franco (The Awful Dr. Orloff, Vampyros Lesbos). Indeed, it was only a year ago or so ago that I would not touch a Franco flick with a ten foot pole, but after rather enjoying his shockingly atmospheric and strangely artful, if not all but totally incoherent, West German ‘arthouse’ horror work Succubus (1967) aka Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden, as well as Faceless (1988)—a terribly trashy, loose pseudo-remake of Georges Franju’s French horror masterpiece Eyes Without a Face (1960) aka Les yeux sans visage—my semi-addiction to the works of the Spanish Euro-sleaze maestro has taken on a most self-destructive form, so much so that I finally got around to watching his quasi-Gothic pseudo-zombie/vampire flick A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973) aka Zombie 4: A Virgin Among the Living Dead aka La nuit des étoiles filantes aka Une Vierge chez les Morts Vivant aka Christina, Princess of Eroticism aka The Erotic Dreams of Christine aka A Young Girl Among the Living Dead aka Una Vergine tra gli Zombi. Originally shot under the title The Night of the Shooting Stars aka La nuit des étoiles foilantes, A Virgin Among the Living Dead, not unlike many Franco flicks, has a dubious background history, with the fact that French vampiphile Jean Rollin directed a couple pointless zombie scenes for a 1981 re-release being one of the most glaring and bizarre facts regarding the film. Described by kraut film critics Rolf Giesen and Ronald Hahn as among “The worst Movies of all Time” and featuring Jess Franco himself in the role of a blabbering retarded house servant of sorts in what is arguably the debauched director's greatest screen appearance, A Virgin Among the Living Dead is undoubtedly one of the most autistically atmospheric celluloid sleaze-fests ever made, as the Spanish filmmaker's celluloid equivalent to Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), albeit marginally more artistically merited. Featuring big black evil dildos, bloodlicking lipstick lesbians, blind undead bimbos with perky bosoms, mad maestro Franco speaking gibberish to a decapitated chicken head, and phantasmagorical lynchings, among various other things that do not typically happen in superlatively shitty horror films, let alone in real-life, A Virgin Among the Living Dead is pure Jess Franco with an aesthetically nonsensical vengeance that reminds the viewer why the cinema world will never forget the philistine Spanish ‘auteur,’ no matter how much we would like to.
Cutesy dark blonde Christina Benson (Christina von Blanc, who also appeared in Claudio Guerín's neglected masterpiece A Bell from Hell (1973) aka La campana del infierno) has never met her estranged biological father and assumedly never will as he has died, but that all changes when the little lady is invited to a small gothic mansion in rural Spain to hear the reading of her dead daddy’s will. Unbeknownst to Christina, the manor is occupied by a motley crew of macabre and misanthropic undead degenerates who do not exactly have the girl's best interests in mind. As Christina will come to find out, her father Ernesto Pablo Reiner (Swiss character actor Paul Muller) committed the ungodly mortal sin of suicide and thus his soul has become the personal property of a lily-licking succubus that goes by the fitting title “The Queen of the Night” (Anne Libert). Ultimately, the Queen of the Night wants the entire family for herself and that includes Christina. After being warned by an innkeeper that no one lives at her deceased father’s mansion and that no one in their right mind would visit the apparently evil family home, Christina is taken there the next day by a babbling retarded servant named Basilio (Jess Franco) and soon feels an ominous presence at the house of horrors. Upon arriving at the mansion, Christina meets her flaming gay Uncle Howard (Howard Vernon), who is naturally less than impressed by all the voluptuous and oftentimes naked women that frolic around the highly hedonistic home. Christina enjoys sleeping without clothes, so she is in for quite the surprise when she awakes one day finds the house whore Carmencé (Britt Nichols) sitting by her bedside with her naughty bits in plain view. Christina is also in for a seductive scare when she catches a very naked Carmencé licking the vital fluids off a blind chick with crooked eyes named Linda (Linda Hastreiter) as number of of dead vampire bats fly around the room. Needless to say, Christina is also quite unsettled to find braindead butler Basilio babbling incoherent nonsense while carrying around a dismembered chicken head. If only Christina had taken heed of her dying stepmother’s warning to leave the house, she would have avoided being the pawn of unhinged undead debauchees whose ultimate goal is to ‘reunite the family.’ Although her daddy is ostensibly dead, Christina meets her father, who has a noose tied around his neck, a number of times. Even a giant black dildo that greets her on the floor upon awaking is not enough of an incentive for her to run away while she still can. In the end, Christina is reunited with her family as she is lead to the bottom of a pond by the Queen of the Night with the rest of her accursed family members. Whether or not Christina was actually dead all along à la Carnival of Souls (1962) is a question that Jess Franco took to his grave.
Thought by some Francophiles to have been created as a way for Jess Franco to deal with the death of his screen diva Soledad Miranda (Eugénie de Sade, Vampyros Lesbos), who died in a tragic car crash in 1970, A Virgin Among the Living Dead is a film that, if nothing else aside from exposing the right bare angles of young babes, wallows in death and is set in a sort of patently perverse celluloid pandemonium that is big on atmosphere and curiously incompetent when it comes to logic and a storyline. A sort of kindred cinematic spirit to underrated American cult art horror flick Messiah of Evil (1973) aka Dead People in its depiction a young debutante coming to a strange land to ‘reunite’ with her dead daddy, only to be attacked by undead vampire-zombies who are under the influence of blood and evil, A Virgin Among the Living Dead is a totally tasteless artsploitation abortion that ultimately, at least as far as I am concerned, redefines the phrase ‘guilty pleasure’ in terms of its propensity to emphasize sensual style over substance as a macabre yet titillating mood piece. Simultaneously onieric, ominous, and orgasmic, A Virgin Among the Living Dead is a hard film to look away from, even if it might give you brain damage or some sort of temporary psychosis. Featuring absurd dialogue like, “Even the flowers have the stench of death,”A Virgin Among the Living Dead is the film that I will always blame for keeping my softcore Jess Franco addiction going and my taste in cinema from further degenerating. As for dopey diva Christina von Blanc, something tells me she was far from a virgin at the time of shooting A Virgin Among the Living Dead, but, of course, that is one of the appeals of a Franco flick.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 10:53 PM
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