Nature of Shame:
Blind-bought Blu-ray upon release in 2013. It remained unwatched.
Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade – 1970’s
Country of Origin – Germany
The Advance Word: Jess Franco does Euro-Sleaze Bram Stoker’s Dracula with lesbians, eye-popping color and a sunbleached modern estate. The score is legendary, though I’ve never heard it. Soledad Miranda.
A black background. Two women, barely clothed, embrace. Soledad Miranda as Countess Nadine, circles and manipulates the other as a silent crowd watches, enraptured. The nature of the theatrics is unknown. But we, the viewer, are inserted into the same seats as the gathered masses. The women perform for us, embracing each other and our gaze, but they do not return it. Nadine is outside this moment, she is above it. The women have bared their bodies and by doing so are in complete control of us. We like the audience will bend to the Countess’ will.
So begins Jess Franco’s version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Linda, a patron of this performance, becomes enraptured with Nadine, pursues her. Nadine entertains her advances. The Countess in this scenario is, of course, Dracula. Linda, our Jonathan Harker. Linda visits Nadine’s beachfront estate, a home draped in bold colors — yellows, reds. The two sunbathe nude. Franco’s twisted the Dracula myth — not only do his vampires enjoy the sun and the water, they embrace it. Linda is to become the next servant to Nadine’s power.
The gender reversal of Bram Stoker’s tale offers a significant twist on the genre. Honestly that would have been enough to hold my interest. Vampyros Lesbos offers much more than just a revisionist Dracula. Yes, even more than the inherent value of lesbian vampirism.
The much lauded score does not disappoint. It is disarming. Bright jazzy notes and intermittent discord. Funky until it deconstructs in order punctuate or often contrast the action on screen. Jess Franco composed the film with careful attention to color and striking contrast. Red on white. Red on black. It doesn’t hurt that the camera loves Soldedad Miranda. And Franco allows his camera to linger, allowing us uninterrupted voyeurism. Severin Films’ Blu-ray looks great, though it sometimes seems like elements have come from a lesser source. A solid lossless audio track foregrounds the psychedelic score. Some minor hiss remains, but it’s never distracting.
Certain expectations come with a title like Vampyros Lesbos. The name Jess (or Jesús) Franco likewise comes with some baggage. Franco treats sex and lust like another color on a already vibrant canvas. Vampyros Lesbos grows meditative when Linda and Nadine explore their carnal instincts. As the opening theatrical scene repeats later in the film, overlong, still abstract, the movements incite a kind of trance state. We begin to pick out the smaller details about the nature of want and desire. How sex shifts the power structure between couples, and between a vampire and its prey.
On the other hand maybe it is just one big excuse to have naked women bite each other… and what’s so wrong with that?
30Hz Rating: Bloody Good
Blu-ray Verdict: Easy call here. This stylish vampire tale has earned it’s place on the shelf. I still have to watch the “Bootleg” Spanish version, which comes on a 2nd DVD.
Availability: The Blu-ray from Severin Films is available at Amazon.