Written by: Troy Howarth on October 8th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Spain, 1972
Director: Jess Franco
Writer: Jess Franco
Cast: Anne Libert, Britt Nichols, Alberto Dalbes, Howard Vernon, Jess Franco
DVD Released: 2004
Approximate Running Time: 79 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: X-Rated Kult
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: $28.95
Synopsis: A small village is beset by a string of vampire-like killings. As the police investigate, they uncover a link between the distinguished Karlstein family and Count Dracula (Howard Vernon)…
Virtually plot less and unfolding like a waking dream, La Fille de Dracula isn’t one of Jess Franco’s more popular films but it deserves to be. Indeed, were it not for a couple of major deficits, it would rank as one of his best films. Shot at the same time, with much of the same cast and virtually the same locations, as Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein and Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, the film continues Franco’s homage to the classic Universal horror films but is decidedly more “adult” in content than its predecessors. Having already explored the “lesbian vampire” mythos with Vampyros Lesbos, here Franco throws in references to LeFanu’s Carmilla (the “Karlstein” family is very close to the Karnsteins) and ups the sexual ante, pointing towards his next vampire picture, Female Vampire, which cast Lina Romay as a bisexual seductress who feeds on her partner’s sexual “fluids.” Franco is well known for injecting scenes of a sexually explicit nature into his films – his sex scenes; however, tend to have an element of sadness and/or perversion to them that make them less “arousing” than uncomfortable. Here, however, the director creates one of his most legitimately erotic works, thanks in no small part to the participation of stunning beauties Anne Libert and Britt Nichols. As the doe-eyed innocent, Libert doesn’t have a role equal to her unforgettable “bird woman” in Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, but she adds to the sexual climate of the film.
Britt Nichols, here cast as a vampire who seduces Libert, is properly enigmatic and seductive. The scene in which Nichols first “initiates” Libert, intercut with shots of Daniel J. White (cast as the prime murder suspect/red herring) playing a beautiful piece of classical music on the piano, is one of the most stunning Franco has ever achieved. Artfully rendered and genuinely erotic, this sequence goes a long way towards making the film as memorable as it is. In addition to Libert and Nichols, the supporting cast is also very appealing. White, a French composer who scored many of Franco’s films (including this one), is very good as the suspicious patriarch of the Karlstein family and Alberto Dalbes succeeds in making his plodding police man role likable. Franco plays a sizable supporting role as the family gardener, who knows too much. And Dracula is played, briefly, by none other than Howard Vernon. This was his second crack at the role, following Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein, and despite Franco’s claims that he is “ten times better” in the role than Christopher Lee, he doesn’t match the best interpreters of the role. Nevertheless, his slightly mildewed, reptilian take on the character fits the tone of the film and dammit if he doesn’t look genuinely creepy. Alas, the film loses steam in the final section and the finale is, simply put, a botch job of epic proportions. Sooner than spoil things for those who haven’t seen it, I’ll just resist the temptation of explaining why the ending works so very poorly and warn you to brace yourself for a major disappointment.
X Rated’s DVD release of La Fille represents the film’s debut in the digital format. An obscure film long available only in cropped, un-subtitled grey market variants, it here gets the re-mastered/subtitled treatment. The 2.35 framing restores some of the carefully rendered (and occasionally sloppy) compositions, and the image has been enhanced for widescreen TVs. Colors are good, if a little muted, and print quality is satisfactory with the usual speckling one would expect from a 30+ year old low budget movie.
The (mono) audio options include French, German and Spanish, the latter having been newly created by X Rated as the film never got a Spanish release in the 70s (it’s much too sexy to have played in Fascist era Spain). The French track is preferable, as this was the language it was apparently shot in, and the English subtitles (though a little small) are removable. The Spanish track includes a newly composed score by Franco that doesn’t equal the lovely work White did originally. It’s interesting to listen to as a variant, and Franco (sounding much older) dubs his supporting role, but the French track is the way to go. As with their release of The Demons, X Rated – for copyright reasons, apparently – created new opening titles for the film. These video generated titles are superimposed over the original opening shots and really only stand out if one is familiar with the original titles.