Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 10th, 2015
BluRay released: May 12th, 2015
Approximate running time: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: LPCM Mono German
BluRay Release: Severin Films
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $34.99
Synopsis: Linda Westinghouse goes to a night club with her boyfriend Omar and while there that night they first encounter the woman who has since invaded her dreams. From there Linda is assigned by her job to go to Anatolia and once there she is too interview a Countess named Carody. Her first impression of the countess is that she looks like the same woman who has been calling out to her in her dreams. Feelings of déjà vu aside other odd occurs start to happen to Linda during her stay with the Countess. Was this all just a dream or will Linda fall under Countesses spell ultimately leading to her demise?
Throughout Jess Franco’s career he has had several key stages where he worked extensively with a producer. And in 1970 Franco would end his collaboration with producer Harry Alan Towers with yet another adaption of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Out of all of the producers that worked with Franco over the years none offered him a larger canvas to work with financial then Towers. Feeling confined by the films that Towers wanted to make Franco ended their collaboration. At first he ventured out as an independent filmmaker making a trio of films before settling into the next phase of his evolution as a filmmaker, a trio of films with producer Artur Brauner.
Content wise, Vampyros Lesbos bears more than a striking resemblance to Franco’s last film with Harry Alan Towers, Count Dracula. With the main twist being that the protagonist role being switched from a man to a woman. Other influences that crop up during Franco’s gender bender Vampyros Lesbos include just a hint of the Marquis De Sade, which is another carry over from his Towers collaborations. And all of these moments sadism all revolve around the character that Franco portrays in the film. Influences aside this is clearly a film that signaled that its auteur had finally broke through creatively and that everything that came before this film was merely a warm up for what was yet to come from him.
And though Vampyros Lesbos takes many of its cues from Stoker’s Dracula. When it comes to the vibe of these films this is where these two entities are on the polar opposite ends of the spectrum. Where Stoker’s novel Dracula is known for its Gothic Romanticism, While Franco’s film Vampyros Lesbos is a manic fusion of Surrealism and Eroticism.
By this point in Franco’s career as a filmmaker plot and dialog are not much more than a means to further what he was trying to say with his visuals which have by this point become the focal point. With one of the most iconic moments to ever emerge from a Franco film being this Soledad Miranda’s striptease scene with a mannequin (or at least what at first appeared to be a mannequin). There is a fluidity in her movements that reinforces the sensuality of this scene. Another standout moment visually is a scene the Linda character realizes that the only way that she will be free of Countess is if she kills her. Once again Franco ensures this moment of pathos achieves its desired effect be meticulously building up the moment to its optimal moment of climax.
When speaking about Vampyro’s Lesbos once can’t overlooked the importance of Soledad Miranda. Needless to say that the films that he made with Miranda, especially the ones were she is the lead actress like she is in Vampyros Lesbos. These films could not have been made with another actress, since her undeniable presence is the main reason why these film’s standout amongst Franco’s voluminous output as a filmmaker.
Besides Miranda’s tour de force, other notable performances come from Dennis Price (Twins of Evil, Theatre of Blood) in a role of Dr. Alwin Seward (a Van Helsing like persona) and Ewa Strömberg (The Devil Came from Akasava, She Killed in Ecstasy) in the role of Linda Westinghouse. The scenes where her character and the countess interact are exceptional. Also she has a tremendous amount of chemistry with Miranda and it really shine through during their more intimate moments.
Last but certainly not least is Jess Franco’s own performance in the film and this time around he portrays a deranged husband who wife has been seduced by the Countess. From there on out his opinion of women is very low and he has a sinister urge to inflict pain on women in a De Sade like way. His character has this film’s most shocking moment which is a scene where he has captured and now is torturing the Linda character, whom reminds him of his wife.
Another wonderful asset that this film has is its Jazz infused score that was composed by Manfred Hübler and Sigi Schwab. There album Psychedelic Dance Party and Sexadelic would serve as the soundtrack for these three Franco films, She killed in Ecstasy, The Devil Came from Akasava and Vampyros Lesbos.
No matter how many times over the years that I have revisited Vampyros Lesbos, it is a film that has never lost any of its luster. And with each new viewing my appreciation for the film continues to grow. Ultimately Vampyros Lesbos is the ultimate Jess Franco film and more than any other of his films, it captures the essence of his cinematic style.
Vampyros Lesbos comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. It doesn’t take an expert to see that this new Hi-Def transfer is vastly superior in every way when compared to all previous releases. Colors have never looked more vibrant, especially reds and black levels and shadow detail are both greatly improved. Details look sharp and there is also a marked improvement in regards to image clarity. Also there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in German and English subtitles have been included with this release. The audio, like the transfer has been given a complete make-over and the end result is spectacular. Dialog comes through with crystal clarity and everything sounds balanced. There are no issues with distortion and background hiss is limited to a few very minor instances that are never become intrusive. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this new release is how robust this audio mix sounds and how it does a superb job with the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack. Another area where the audio stands out for this release is this film’s score which has never sounded as powerful as it does on this audio mix.
Extras for this release include, a German language trailer for the film (2 minutes 29 seconds), alternate German opening credits (1 minute 26 seconds), Jess is Yoda clip (2 minutes 43 seconds), a featurette titled Sublime Soledad with Soledad Miranda historian Amy Brown (20 minutes 22 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen), author Stephen Thrower discusses Vampyros Lesbos (11 minutes 26 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen) and an interview with Jess Franco titled Vampyros Jesus’(20 minutes 52 seconds – 1080 progressive widescreen, in English with optional English subtitles).
The featurette titled Sublime Soledad is a well-rounded overview of Soledad Miranda’s career.
Topics discussed in the interview with Stephen Thrower include, German producer Artur Brauner, how this film can be seen at the starting point of Franco’s continuous filmmaking period where at its peak he would complete 12 films in one year, the Spanish verse the German versions of Vampyros Lesbos, his thoughts on the film and its legacy.
Topics discussed in the interview with Jess Franco include, working with Artur Brauner and their various collaborations, the character he portrays in Vampyros Lesbos, reconstructing the vampire mythos, the cast and his thoughts on their performances and how this film stacks against the rest of his films.
Also included with this release on a separate DVD is the alternate Spanish version of the film (74 minutes 32 seconds, in Spanish with English subtitles). This version removes all of the nudity and replaces it with fully clothed versions of the same scene. Also there are a handful of scenes that differ in this version from the German version. It should be noted that this alternate version of the film comes from a lesser source that at times is a little rough around the edges. Overall Severin Films gives Vampyros Lesbos its most definitive release to date, highly recommended.
Note: Severin Films are also releasing this film on DVD.