Dec 4, 2014
After being routinely pathologically pestered by a certain proudly pedophiliac British rodent and unwavering Heather O'Rourkephile to see (and, of course, review) the film, I finally decided to give in and view the French-Belgian coproduction Female Vampire (1973) aka La comtesse noire aka Bare Breasted Countess aka Sicarius - the Midnight Party aka The Black Countess aka The Last Thrill aka Insatiable Lust aka The Loves of Irina aka Yacula aka The Bare-Breasted Countess aka Lustful Vampires in Sperm Frenzy aka Les Avaleuses aka The Swallowers aka Erotic Kill aka Erotikill - Lüsterne Vampire im Spermarausc directed by belated Spanish Euro-sleaze maestro Jesús “Jess” Franco (Marquis de Sade: Justine, Vampyros Lesbos). I also decided I needed to see the film after my girlfriend become enamored enough with its visuals to edit together a music video featuring the film’s amorous anti-heroine bathing in blood in a Countess Elizabeth Báthory-esque fashion. Made at the end of what the writers of Obsession: The Films Of Jess Franco (1993) would describe as the director’s “Peak Years” (1970-1973) and on the brink of his “Porno Holocaust Years” (1973-1979), the film is notable for featuring the ‘official’ debut of Lina Romay as Franco’s perennial muse (although Romey appeared in some of his earlier films, it was not until she appeared in The Female Vampire that she had really arrived, made an impact on the Euro-horror realm, and took over Franco's oeuvre). Released in no less than three different cuts—the neutered ‘straight’ vampire cut titled La comtesse noire aka The Black Countess, the softcore horndog horror show titled La Comtesse aux seis nus aka The Bare Breasted Countess, and the extra-sloppy and sleazy hardcore porno version Les avaleuses aka The Swallowers (a Teutonic hardcore cut was also released under the curious title Lüsterne Vampire Im Spermarausch)—Female Vampire also more or less marks the beginning of Franco’s career as an out-and-out pornographer, which is a label that he adamantly rejected, later using Japanese auteur Nagisa Oshima’s controversial yet shockingly prosaic arthouse work In the Realm of the Senses (1976) as a comparison to his bloodsucker ‘erotica,’ stating in an interview featured in Danny Shipka’s book Perverse Titillation: The Exploitation Cinema of Italy, Spain and France, 1960-1980 (2011), “there are lots of hardcore shots but nobody would say 'Oh, it's a porno film!' No. It's a very important story. I felt in [Female Vampire] I did the same thing. There was a need to show it, like you must show how Dracula sucks his blood, you need to show how this Countess sucks the semen.” In Franco’s film, the eponymous high-class vamp tramp is a mute yet opulent orgasm-driven and somnambulist-like post-jet-set countess who enjoys sunbathing(?!), blood-and-semen-sucking of both the penial and vaginal sort, and meeting with the press in between living the cursed life of eternal luxury and lechery. As a work about an unhinged undead dame who likes dining on dicks and refuses to have children because she is a self-loathing blueblood who wants to be the last of her Teutonic vampiric kind, one could argue that Female Vampire is an allegory for the suicide of the European aristocracy and Europe in general, but that would probably be giving Franco too much credit, as the auteur clearly only has eyes for his muse’s muff-ridden meat-curtain, supple tits, sensual lips, sizable derriere, provocative stares, and not much else, including most aspects of classic vampire mythology. Indeed, Franco’s flick may not big on plot, storyline, character development, or general coherence, but if you wallow in amorously atmospheric bloodsucker flicks, Female Vampire makes for a singularly delectable celluloid affair of relatively idiosyncratic cinematic incompetence that puts the work of Jean Rollin to shame.
Opening with the certainly stunning anti-heroine, Countess Irina Karlstein (Lina Romay), appearing amongst a misty fog wearing nothing but a black cape and matching leather belt in a shot that ends with zoom-ins of the character's eyes, tits, and bushy beaver (which I had initially mistaken for a bikini or thong!), Female Vampire immediately lets the viewer know that they are about to endure the erotically eerie “Lina Romay Exhibitionist Show” and auteur Franco does not care what the viewer thinks, but he is probably confidant that if you're male you will get a hard-on and if you're female you might get a little bit wet. At the beginning of the film, the Countess approaches a gawky blond Aryan farmboy who awkwardly asks her, “Can I help you? What do you want?,” takes his hand, and begins performing fellatio on him against a chain fence that climaxes with the man screaming after the sensual succubus bites on his cock and sucks out his blood, semen, and life, thus killing him. Unquestionably, Female Vampire is a film that takes the French phrase “La petite mort” (aka “the little death”) quite seriously and most literally. Meanwhile, a blond playboy named Baron Von Rathony (American exploitation/Franco regular Jack Taylor, who went on to have small roles in mainstream productions like Milius’ Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Polanski’s The Ninth Gate (1999))—a fellow that looks like a cross between AIDS era John Holmes and Franco Nero—hears the scream of the ill-fated farmboy who has just had his cock sucked dry, but little does he realize that he will eventually fall in love with the killer cocksucker. While Countess Irina literally lives to do deadly things to dude’s dicks, she is not exactly happy with her erotically evil existence, or as she narrates while cruising around the countryside in her virtual batmobile, “Today is the 22nd of February and only after a few hours of my being in Madeira, I have already killed a man. I earnestly wish an end would come to this bloody race that I am forced to run on this earth through the ages. Alas, I am a prisoner of the curse of that weigh heavily on the Karlsteins. A malefic influence forces me to commit these heinous crimes.” Naturally, the Countess’ carnally killer existence becomes further tested when she falls for a human, albeit of the fellow aristocratic sort.
The Countess is staying at a resort at the volcanic Portuguese archipelago of Madeira where one of her family's chateaus is located with her loyal male servant, who is also a mute and seemingly half-retarded and he helps his master procure men with meaty members. Although a vampiress, Countess Irina enjoys sunbathing and one fine sunny day while doing so at the pool of the hotel she is staying out, she is approached by a journalist named Anna (Anna Watican of Jean Rollins’ The Demoniacs (1974) aka Les démoniaque), who interviews her for all the major newspapers in America and Europe. During the interview, the Countess nods “no” when asks if she plans to have children and then nods “yes” when asked if she wants to be the last descendant of the glorious Karlstein aristocratic dynasty. Meanwhile, a forensic scientist named Dr. Roberts (played by director Jess Franco under the somewhat humorous Germanic pseudonym ‘Jess Franck’) tells a police inspector that a male murder victim that he performed an autopsy on was “bitten in the middle of an orgasm…and the vampire sucked his semen and his life away,” but the no bullshit cop contradicts him and remarks that the killer had to be either a sadist or madman and certainly not some fanciful supernatural bloodsucker. Somewhat angry, Dr. Roberts says to the inspector, “believe what you want…I refuse any discussion with you. You couldn’t possibly understand it in any event” and then leaves to hunt down a mysterious blind dude named Dr. Orloff (played by French film critic, film editor, and sometimes pornographer Jean-Pierre Bouyxou) to help him, as he is the son of his “best friend and best teacher” and surely inherited his father’s “genius.” Upon meeting with Dr. Orloff, he immediately realizes that he has found an equally enthusiastic comrade who wants to prove the presence of a nubile female Nosferatu. As Dr. Orloff tells his comrade, he is in Madeira to discover, “the sources of good and evil.” Unfortunately for Herr Roberts, Dr. Orloff is not nearly as sanguivoriphobic as he is and will ultimately prove to be an unreliable partner in supernatural anti-crime.
On top of fellating men to death, Countess Irina is a naughty necrophile who fornicates with the corpses of her victims after sucking them dry of their vital fluids, which she proudly does to a seemingly queer hotel hustler with a curly mullet who goes to her room after her loyal mute servant passes him a note telling him to come to her room. No prude, Irina is also a lethal lily-licker who chows on women’s carpet until they are licked dry in a most deleterious fashion. Indeed, after ‘glamouring’ a female victim by sneaking up on her in her bed and staring at her in a lecherous fashion while licking her lips, the Countess performs cunnilingus on the forsaken female until she drops dead and then proceeds to masturbate over her corpse in a triumphant manner. The Countess’ masturbation techniques must have supernatural reanimating properties, as Irina makes the female victim comeback to life (strangely, she is the only one of Irina's victims to come back to life, as if the bloodsucker is some sort of undead feminazi who will only give females the accursed gift of eternal life) and has her follow her in a foggy forest like an entranced automaton-like porn star. Later while hanging around her hotel, the Countess is approached by her future love interest Von Rathony, who absurdly asks her, “are you not a ghost too, one of these strange beings gifted with magic power?,” but of course, being a mute, she does not answer, but she does seem intrigued with the Baron’s dubious charms. A born sadomasochist who also sometimes enjoys being on the receiving end of pain, the Countess also goes to an underground S&M club where she has opulent bull-dykes whip her unclad body. Of course, the Countess also goes to the club as a means to procure fresh meat and to ultimately drain the head dominatrix, who has a massive bush that seems like it would put even the average Arab woman to shame, of her precious vaginal secretions.
Upon taking her through a daytime stroll through the volcanic mist of the island, Von Rathony declares his love for the Countess and says their meeting “must be destiny” as he purportedly prophesied it in a piece of melodramatic poetry he had previously written. After Von Rathony touches her cold black dead heart with his contrived poetry, the two begin to make love, but the Countess eventually runs away and sobs hysterically upon latching onto and embracing a nearby tree, but her man ultimately forgives her exceedingly erratic, flaky, and stereotypically female behavior. Meanwhile, Dr. Orloff digs into the snatch of the dead dominatrix and concludes that the woman was a victim of a vampire after observing that, “two canines pierced the lips and deformed the clitoris,” but unlike Dr. Roberts, he welcomes the existence of undead bloodsuckers and has no intention of hunting down the vamp. When Countess Irina takes Von Rathony back to her family home, the latter remarks, “what a strange house…it looks like a tomb” and then more or less tells his lover that he knows that she is a vampire but he doesn’t care and just wants to be with her, no matter what the cost. The Countess loves Von Rathony so much that she manages to fellate and fuck him without killing him in the process. Unfortunately for him, the Countess decides to give Von Rathony a second blowjob during their over-extended carnal session that inevitably results in the fang-fucker’s ill-fated death via fatal semen-sucking. After killing her beau, the Countess thinks to herself while driving in her luxury automobile, “Why? Why? Yes, why, all this time, this never-ending time…the hours of sorrows, of pleasures, of solitude and fear in the cold coffin lost deep down in the mausoleum. My implacable destiny has lead me to a wonderful being who has also become a victim. I have been his judge and involuntary executioner, for nothing can stop of the march of destiny.” After a failed blackmail attempt by Dr. Orloff, who proves to be a two-faced scumbag of the somewhat Renfield-esque sort, the Countess decides to relax by engaging in the age-old aristocratic pleasure of bathing in blood. Meanwhile, after being denied entry into the Countess’ home by her loyal half-retarded servant, Dr. Roberts decides to sneak in and watches voyeuristically as Irina basks in blood. After killing her servant, Dr. Roberts also goes to kill the Countess, but he becomes so enamored with her blood-curdling pulchritude that he just can’t do it. Luckily, the fatally seductive vampiress perseveres in the end like all self-respecting vampires should.
If I did not know better, I would say Lina Romay was quite the trooper for enduring the ostensible abuse of Franco's brazen brand of filmmaking, but as the actress has revealed in various interviews, she was a born exhibitionist who lived to flaunt her curvy Catalan flesh. If I were to speculate what the subtext of Female Vampire is, if any, it is that the titular anti-heroine is a metaphorical figure representing the seemingly accursed archetypical loveless whore who leaves many victims in her reckless path of fleeting carnality, even destroying the one and only man that she grows to love, but other than that, the film is not much more than a strikingly atmospheric, eccentrically erotic, and semi-arousing showcase of Franco’s favorite lady in a highly expressively and sensually stylized celluloid form. Indeed, Romay IS the ‘Female Vampire’ and Franco knew the actress well enough to capture her real essence on film and I can only assume that he decided to make her character mute for reasons other than just because the actress could not act and/or was not particularly proficient at memorizing her lines, as her cruelly carnal character manages to express more with a mere seductive stare than most mainstream actors can communicate while delivering an entire monologue. Of course, Franco’s obsessive personality was not only regulated to Romay, as he was arguably more enamored with filmmaking to the point where he suffered withdrawal symptoms when he was not directing, or as Female Vampire co-star Monica Swinn stated of Franco in an interview in the book Obsession: The Films Of Jess Franco:, “He’s out of his mind…well, that’s one way of describing him, coming from me, it’s a compliment. He is totally wrapped up in his own trip, in his own private world, and everything that comes out of it is nice. All he ever thinks about is the cinema,” adding, “Jess was very obsessive: he’d always use things he’d used before, like stories of women in prison, with the same characters put in different places, even using the same names” and “If he hasn’t got a camera in his paws, he feels quite ill […] Sometimes I get the impression that Jess makes films the way a small boy plays with a train set, with miniature carriages instead of great big ones…and every now and then he sets up an accident. When you walk along the street with him, he never stops filmming with his hands. He has an absolute need to film, even if it all is cheap shit; he can’t stop himself.” The fact that Franco continued directing films until his death in early 2013 even though he hadn’t directed a decent film in decades just goes to show he must have been suffering from Asperger's syndrome or some other similar autism spectrum mental illness like the British human hamster that recommended I watch Female Vampire. Ironically, it seems the filmmaker was at his best when not directing pure pornography as especially demonstrated by the hardcore cut of Female Vampire, which only slows down the film with its absurdly anti-erotic close-up scenes of Romay sloppily sucking on various aesthetically displeasing cocks.
Essentially comprised of a series of extra devilishly titillating tableaux punctuated by a couple scenes of dialogue and narration that barely hold the storyline together, Female Vampire is unapologetically sleazy and hyper hypnotic pseudo-arthouse heteromania at its most brazenly self-indulgent, as if Franco just made the film so he could later screen it for himself from time to time in the comfort of his own living room and nostalgically reflect over the good old days when his muse was at her physical and sexual prime. Of course, one can only guess how many people that Franco was able to provide a masturbation aid for with his wickedly wanton and strangely transcendental bloodsucker flick. It also does not hurt that the film is, visually speaking in a manner not unlike early Werner Herzog flicks like Heart of Glass (1976) aka Herz aus Glas and Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), rather romantic and exceedingly ethereal, with a number of the outdoor landscape and misty forest scenes even resembling paintings by Teutonic Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, who was not surprisingly famous for his paintings of Gothic ruins. While his films may lead some to think Franco was an unabashed philistine, it could not be further from the truth, with the auteur naming Fritz Lang, Luis Buñuel, Jean-Luc Godard, and Orson Welles (who he once worked with), among others, as major influences on his work. Unquestionably, the reason why Franco and his similarly perverted and technically inept cinematic kindred spirits Ed Wood and Andy Milligan still have relatively faithful cult followings today is that, unlike the average Hollywood hack who blows tens of millions of dollars on films that just plain blow, their films feature distinct and highly personalized visions that are readily identifiable by anyone familiar with their work whereas mainstream filmmakers tend to be, at best, vapid technicians and, at worst, cheap and willing whores who seem to approach filmmaking like a telemarketer approaches selling junk or a drive-thru clerk approaches asking customers if they would like fries with their orders. As someone whose various ex-girlfriends bear a superficial resemblance to Romay and as a fellow that tended to be solely attracted to almost solely pale girls with dark hair and curves for a fairly long time, only to realize it was a sort of fetish after getting with a lady whose pubes were the same color as mine (and who, I must proudly confess, is curvier than the most exotic of Mediterranean divas), Franco's film proved to be an extra bizarre and even somewhat horrifying experience for me. Indeed, to me, Romay is a sort of erotic caricature from a bygone era in my life, thus lending an extra added personalized layer to Female Vampire that gives the film a special resonance for me that made me appreciate the work more than I probably should have, as if a segment of my past was transported to an early 1970s Portuguese resort spot inhabited by strange half-braindead sub-beautiful people and haunted by a more literally vampiric version of one of my ex-lovers. In that regard, out of all the film's various alternate titles, I see 'Female Vampire' as the perfect name for Franco's fiercely fetishistic flick.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 9:07 PM
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