Synopsis: Countess Irina of Karlstein resides quietly in a hotel on the island of Madeira, where she sustains her immortality by feeding on the life essence of men and women. When new victims are found fatally drained of potency, forensic scientist Dr. Roberts consults his colleague, Dr. Orloff, who confirms that a vampire is responsible. Meanwhile, Irina is confronted by a poet who believes he is destined to become her lover and join her among the immortals!
The uninhibited Lina Romay makes her starring debut as Countess Irina in a role that established her as a sex and horror film icon. Submit yourself to the life-consuming thirsts of EuroHorror’s most famous Female Vampire!
Les avaleuses 5.75
eyeslights: its endless stream of eye candy. its sexy bits.
eyesores: its thin plot. its cheap-o quality.
“Nothing can stop destiny’s course.”
I don’t know if ‘Vampyros Lesbos‘ was the first Jesús Franco film that I saw or if it was ‘Les avaleuses’, but I recall seeing the DVD at a local second-hand shop and hesitating to pick up this seemingly lurid vampire film under Image Entertainment’s “The Euroshock Collection” banner.
I wondered if it might have any redeeming values at all.
Was it worth the investment?
I expected an erotic horror film, but it was a softcore film with a horror element. In fact, the Image cut of the picture is the explicit version of the picture, which was released under various titles and edits. Though packaged as ‘Female Vampire’, its rightful name is ‘Les avaleuses’.
Or, if you must know, “The swallowing females”.
Had I known this ahead of time, I might have reconsidered my purchase, as I’m not in the habit of paying for adult fare. But there’s a chance that curiosity would have gotten the better of me. After all, how can you ignore a mix of vampires and sex? It seems like a bloody good mix.
Of course, back then I didn’t know that there were tons of these around, especially in the early ’70s. And I also had no idea whatsoever that Franco only peddled low budget fodder of questionable quality – that for every passable title there were twice as many irredeemable ones.
‘Les avaleuses’, thankfully, is of the passable variety. But, when I first saw it, I was stumped by its vacuousness: for most of its 100-minute runtime (in this uncut version), we basically watch Countess Irina von Karlstein either cavort nakedly, masturbate alone and/or seduce and kill.
There’s actually no real plot.
All we know is that Irina is wandering about sucking the energy from her victims through oral sex (in the cut version, she’s a more traditional blood-drinking vampire), piercing their flesh at the point of orgasm (Seriously! Who thinks up these things?). Anyway, the cops are stumped.
Meanwhile, there’s some author wandering about the landscape, with no particular goal in mind. After nearly an hour of doing nothing, he meets Irina and they are drawn to each other, have wild sex and he gives himself to her. She resigns herself to her sad fate and the movie ends.
Seriously. That’s it.
What’s surprising about the picture is just how explicit it is for a softcore film: star Lina Romay clearly had no aversion at revealing herself for the camera, simulating sex or getting close to her co-stars for her debut film. A non-actress, she doesn’t even deliver a single line.
But she’s pure delight to look at, which in this case is crucial to the picture’s success. Though some of her cavorting is a bit silly, and her play-acting isn’t always convincing, there’s a captivating look in her eyes – and her form is quite appealing (plus her limited wardrobe enhances it).
Anyway, watching her lick and suck her thumb (amongst other things) is always a good time.
Her co-star, Jack Taylor, a John Holmes-type without the ability to impale a mare, also has very little to do: he just walks around for a few scenes, saying nothing until his character finally meets Countess Irina and he offers himself to her, mysteriously, without warning.
What’s amazing is that, despite being thin on plot, ‘Les avaleuses’ still struggles with its narrative: we don’t really understand why Irina does what she does, why her manservant is devoted to her, why Dr. Roberts and Dr. Orloff are obsessed with her or even what her fate is.
And what happened to the journalist after she followed Irina, under her spell? Suddenly she just disappeared! Why did Irina suddenly go seduce two lesbians after Jack Taylor makes a play for her, only to then go for a walk with him right after? What in the world was going here?
At least the photography can be eye-catching, especially the slow long shots that require very little movement; you could maybe make postcards of the shots. But the moment that the camera has to move, it’s as though it’s improvised on the spot, its focus seemingly a bit random.
I highly doubt that much of it was pre-planned or choreographed.
This was, after all, an über low-budget production – as were all of Franco’s films. This is incredibly apparent in moments like when Irina is standing on a cliff’s edge, preparing to fly off like a bat: instead, she flaps her arms, holding her cloak, and the camera pans away to sounds of bats.
Pretty funny stuff, actually.
The technical merits of the picture are quite questionable, really. Due to all these single takes, the camera work is sloppy, with random, zooming in/out, in and out of focus, …etc. On the audio side, the English dubbing is thin and lifeless, thanks to some pretty poor readings.
So I watched it in French instead.
All told, though ‘Les avaleuses’ isn’t a good motion picture from any standpoint, it has an appealing atmosphere and it’s pretty sexy in bits. Of course, I can’t imagine how palatable the various edited versions might be, given that they cut even further into its bare plot.
No plot? No sexy stuff?
Date of viewing: August 14, 2017