Synopsis: From Jess Franco, the filmmaker The Vatican called “the most dangerous director in the world”, comes the most celebrated movie of his legendary career: Stunning Soledad Miranda stars as a vixen vampire who lures women to a Mediterranean island to satisfy her insatiable lust for female flesh and blood. It s a mind-bending odyssey of surreal erotica and ’70s EuroHorror, featuring the psycho-sexadelic soundtrack that remains a global phenomenon. Ewa Strömberg (SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY), Dennis Price (VENUS IN FURS), Paul Muller (NIGHTMARE CASTLE) and Franco himself co-star in this landmark cult classic.
Vampyros Lesbos 5.75
eyelights: Soledad Miranda. its weirdo psychedelic score.
eyesores: its cheap-o production. its incoherence.
“Now I’m under her spell.”
I first discovered ‘Vampyros Lesbos’ when one of my best friends gave me its soundtrack on CD as a birthday or Christmas gift some 15 years ago. Stunned by its unusual title, an alluring picture of Soledad Miranda on its cover and its unique psychedelic/groovy yet creepy score, I just had to dig up a copy of the movie on DVD.
I wanted to like ‘Vampyros Lesbos’.
I still do.
But it’s just not a good movie. No one could ever argue that Jesús Franco made quality movies. He has legions of fans for some reason, perhaps because he dished out a type of exploitation cinema that was unique, but I don’t really get it. And I really didn’t get this motion picture, which is a basically a ripping off of ‘Dracula’.
Except… with a lesbian vampire.
And poorly adapted. It’s such a poor adaptation that much of it is incoherent. Why is there blood on the window when Linda goes to visit Countess Carody? Why is Carody also a stripper in a cabaret? What the !@#$ is the deal with that creepy Memmet? How is it that Dr. Seward, a psychiatrist, is also a vampire expert?
And on and on and on… until you’re just “WTF?”.
Furthermore, it’s done on the cheap. Like, really cheap. You want red paint for blood? You got it! You want endless inserts padding the picture? You got it! But don’t expect even that to come in great quantity: the red paint is issued in droplets and the inserts are repetitive (could they use that sunset and scorpion more)?
If it had been made on a decent budget, it could have been a fun picture: ‘Dracula’ is a classic for good reason, and it would be tasty to see the same story told from a sapphic perspective. Though vampirism has long been used as a silver screen substitute for sex, I don’t mind if it instead becomes an excuse for naughty fun.
Especially with Soledad Miranda in the lead.
Miranda is the only reason to see this picture. Though she’s not given much to do other than posing (the screenplay is so thin that she hasn’t much to sink her teeth into), she has a remarkable presence; she’s totally captivating. And, of course, that’s the quality that you want in a vampire villain. Miranda had it in spades.
Plus she’s in various stages of undress for most of the picture. I know that it’s a vulgar thing to say, but I’m not saying “no”; in such a joyless picture you simply have to get your kicks somewhere. And, frankly, if Miranda hadn’t been flashing her wares as much as she does here, I don’t know how anyone could get through this.
Most of the scenes are of her caressing, kissing and sucking on other female “actresses”, though there are some in which she’s just nude. You know, because. Why was she floating in the pool naked, pretending to be dead? Who knows. But she was nekkid, that’s what matters. And, really, who says “no” to vampiress-on-girl action?
I certainly don’t.
Thankfully, Franco had a good eye and, when he either 1) gave a !@#$, or 2) had the means; he could shoot some pretty memorable scenes. So, as ridiculously-staged as some of them are, in these bits he makes Miranda look terrific. And he makes the most of the Turkish locations – especially the Countess’s spacious villa.
(Which she claims was once owned by Dracula – as though he hung out in such modern Turkish digs!)
If anything, watching ‘Vampyros Lesbos’ is satisfying because one gets to see Manfred Hübler and Siegfried Schwab’s bonkers score put to pictures. It’s such a weird set of compositions, like British go-go music filtered through a heroin haze. It’s peculiarly appealing, but it somehow feels bereft of substance without images.
‘Vampyros Lesbos’ may be a cult classic, it may also (according to some accounts) be a creative turning point for Franco, but, without Soledad Miranda or Hübler and Schwab, it would be complete garbage. And even then its value is nominal at best. It’s worth seeing to say you’ve seen it, but there are better Franco movies out there.
And better lesbian vampire movies, too.
Nota bene: as was customary at the time, there are different versions of the picture in different markets. I watched the original German version. The Spanish version, which was only released as a bootleg version, edits out much of the gratuitous nudity and sex and even alters the narrative a little bit. I highly doubt I’ll bother to review it.
Date of viewing: June 25, 2017