Thursday, March 29, 2007

Vampyros Lesbos (1970)

Well, it's not Nude for Satan, but it's certainly on the same wavelength. Apparently Jess Franco got up in the morning and ate a big bowl of Crazy Chex before making this loopy lesbian version of the Dracula tale. The basic outline is there (female lawyer gets called to deliberate upon unusual case, travels to house in a far-off remote location, falls under spell of powerful female vampire), but more often than not Franco wanders away from the ostensible plot to do his own thing, whatever that thing may be. He packs it to the gills with femme nudity (always appreciated in my wheelhouse), follows minor characters for elongated spells, zooms in on everything he sees and continually cuts to a ridiculously-symbolic scorpion simply because, I guess, there happened to be one hanging around the set. There's no real momentum to the film due to the constant character-hopping; rather than being a liability, though, it gives the film the impression of drifting along in a dreamy haze, which I suspect was exactly what Jess wanted. Does the film hang together? Not really -- there's a lot of puzzling side excursions and dead ends, the bit with a crazed sadist, played by Franco himself, who holds Ewa Strömberg hostage for a while being the weirdest and least necessary -- but I think I liked it anyway. Aside from its trashy moxie, it also looks quite impressive; this was made back when Franco still occasionally cared about what his films looked like and still had a bit of money in his budgets, and as such the rich visual scheme is surprisingly intoxicating. The screaming reds, in particular, jump right the hell off the screen and land in your lap. Vampyros Lesbos is not so much a film to evaluate as it is one to flow with, groove on and occasionally make sport of. Good and bad don't seem to enter into the argument -- it simply is as it is, and you either get into its weird, fractured lunacy or you stick your tongue out and tell it to fuck off. I belong in the former camp.

Grade: B-


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