Synopsis: The erotically charged follow up to the Jess Franco DVD smash hit, Vampyros Lesbos. The enchanting Soledad Miranda stars as a woman intent on avenging the death of her lover, a doctor who committed suicide after his experiments on human embryos were condemned by the medical establishment. With an insatiable lust for vengeance, she sets out to kill those responsible for his suicide.
eyelights: Soledad Miranda. the locations. the photography. the sexy bits.
eyesores: the thin script. the cheap-o production.
“You are the devil.”
I can’t say that I’m a big fan of the incredibly prolific Jesús Franco.
I know some people who were very sad when he passed away in 2013, but I wasn’t one of them. Frankly, I was surprised to find out that he was still alive; the last few interviews I’d seen of him, he looked ragged, like he’d been roughing it in his later years.
But a part of me is intrigued by his work, though I’ve only seen a handful of his films and many are of such poor quality that it’s surprising just how many he’s written and/or directed. Most years, he’d put out five movies. And, sometimes, it was up to double that.
I don’t know if the first movie I saw was ‘Les avaleuses’ or ‘Vampyros Lesbos’ but, either way, my first encounter with Franco was a sexploitation vampire film. However, he first fell on my radar when one of my besties gave me the soundtrack to ‘Vampyros Lesbos’.
It was such a weird concoction that I just had to get the movie.
Years later, and a few Franco films since, I got the chance to pick up another picture that Franco made with the sexy star of ‘Vampyros Lesbos’, Soledad Miranda. Since she had captivated me in the former (though little acting skill was required), I pounced on it.
‘Sie tötete in Ekstase’ is a 1970 motion picture that Franco made less than a month after completing ‘Vampyros Lesbos’. It features much of the same crew and cast as its predecessor and even borrows heavily from the plots of some of Franco’s previous films.
It finds Ms. Johnson reminiscing about the perfect love she shared with her handsome husband, a genius medical researcher. A maverick, his research is heavily denounced by the medical council, who force him to stop his experiments and destroy all of his research.
Devastated by the criticism and public tainting of his reputation, Dr. Johnson becomes a recluse and quickly loses grip on his sanity. He became nearly catatonic, frozen by nightmares, revisiting the injustice done to him. Then, one day, he commits suicide.
Distraught, Mrs. Johnson plans her revenge; the medical council will pay for what they’ve done.
Basically, much of ‘Sie tötete in Ekstase’, once it recounts how she’s gotten to this point in her life, consists of showing us Ms. Johnson tracking down, seducing, and murdering each of the council members one-by-one. It’s a simple mixture of sex and violence.
And I liked it.
Of course, I’m a big fan of revenge fantasies; ‘The Crow‘ is one of my all-time favourite films, for instance. As is ‘Darkman‘. There’s simply something satisfying about someone taking justice in their own hands when no human justice can bring them inner peace.
It’s a great fantasy.
But there’s a bit more to ‘Sie tötete in Ekstase’:
Soledad Miranda: She’s smoking hot in a natural way; she’s easy on the eyes. And she’s a decent performer here. For example, she has this one scene in which she’s despairing, thinking about her loss, and her eyes and curled body are so full of pain you can’t help but feel for her. Not much is asked of her otherwise, but she has her moments.
The sexy bits: They’re softcore, but they look great. They’re sometimes quite fake, with the performers just going through the motions, but still shots would still look sexy. The biggest problem is how contrived they are; there’s no reason for Ms. Johnson to strip before killing any of them. But she does. And we’re pleased that she does.
The locations: Franco made great use of interesting architecture, starting with the seaside villa that the Johnsons live in, with its unusual flair and the super long, winding staircase leading to the beach. I don’t know how he got access to all these great places on his minuscule budget, but it really adds to the picture’s quality.
The photography: Though the storytelling is uneven, you can’t take away from some of the shots in the picture. It’s not about camera movement, it’s about framing: Franco has captured quite a lot of beautiful shots here. It helps that many of the locations are expansive and that the camera loves Soledad, but he really made the most of it.
The music: Manfred Hübler and Siegfried Schwab served up a distinctive kind of psychedelic pop/gogo music score for this picture. It’s peculiar but so vibrant that it lifts the picture. Strangely, a lot of the music here is the same as on my ‘Vampyros Lesbos’ soundtrack. So either they share the same score, or the CD is more of a compilation.
Yes, ‘Sie tötete in Ekstase’ is a low budget film, it’s often poorly-staged (some of the murders are unbelievable) and it’s bereft of suspense (we know who the culprit is and that she will succeed), but its visceral and sexual thrills are enough to sustain it for 80 minutes.
Frankly, it’s probably the best of the Franco films that I’ve seen. It’s no saying much, as I’ve seen some really bad ones and have barely scraped the bottom of the barrel with him. But let’s just say that, if most of his films were this decent, I’d watch more of them.
It’s not brilliant, but it has its redeeming qualities.
Date of viewing: February 1, 2017