Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Vampyros Lesbos (1970)

When you’re watching Jesus Franco’s film Vampyros Lesbos you have to remember it was made in 1970, and the directing style (with lots of zooms) is very 70s. If you can get past that it’s an interesting movie. It was one of the first (if not the first) vampire movies to dispense with the gothic clichés – there are no mouldering castles, bats, wolves or coffins. In this respect you could say it blazed the trail for other 1970s vampire movies like Daughters of Darkness and Vampyres. In fact the vampire in Vampyros Lesbos likes to work on her tan with a spot of sun-bathing. It’s also almost completely free of Christian symbolism, and there is no attempt to put the vampire into a framework of Christian evil. She does bad things, certainly, but she is not portrayed as some kind of offence against God or a minion of Satan. Setting the movie in a non-Christian country (Turkey) was also an interesting choice. This movie contains a lot of nudity and sex, but I don’t think you call describe it as gratuitous – vampirism in this film is very a sexual obsession, it’s about sex and control. The title would lead you to expect lesbian vampires, and lesbian vampires is what you get. The plot involves a young German woman who becomes obsessed by a woman she’s seen performing in a night club. As part of her job she is sent to a house on an island to help to disentangle a complex will. When she arrives she finds that her client is the woman from the night club, the woman she has been having dreams about. The woman is in fact the Countess Nadine Carody, and she is a vampire.

The strangest feature of the film is perhaps the score, which can only be described as bizarre. But it was the 70s. And you kind of get used to it. And eventually you find that you really like it! There’s very little gore (I have no idea if the print on the DVD I have was cut or not), which means that the one moderately gory moment has a much greater impact. I particularly liked the lack of Christian trappings and Christian moralising. Considering that it was made in 1970 and that it is a horror/sexploitation flick, it’s actually surprisingly positive in the way women are depicted. Especially the heroine, Linda. I can’t say more on that issue without giving away plot spoilers. I can’t help suspecting that this movie was a major inspiration for The Hunger. It’s entertaining, it’s a very unconventional vampire movie indeed, and it’s fabulous.

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