Thursday, 31 July 2008

Vampire Ecstasy (1973)

In 1973 legendary sexploitation director Joseph W. Sarno decided to try his hand at erotic horror, erotic horror being very big at the time. The result was Vampire Ecstasy (Der Fluch der shwarzen Schwestern, also released under the titles The Devil’s Plaything and Veil of Blood), and it demonstrates that making an effective erotic horror movie isn’t as easy as it looks. You really need more than just vampires and naked women.

The plot isn’t really a problem. Yes, it’s silly, but since when has that been a problem in horror movie? In the 17th century a baroness was burnt alive as a vampire. Three hundred years later a group of people, some of whom are descendants of the evil baroness and some of whom are descendants of the women who betrayed her, are summoned to her gothic castle. The castle is inhabited by various female retainers, servants, etc, who have kept alive a kind of vampiric cult. They believe that the blood of one of the baroness’s betrayers can be used to bring the vampire back to life, in the body of her descendant.

The guests at the castle include a brother and sister. The have a very close relationship. The sister would like the relationship to be even closer. Much much closer. The sister also serves as the obligatory scientific sceptic, a woman who studies peasant superstitions.

The vampire cult priestesses conduct rituals, involving hypnotic percussive music and lots of naked dancing. By this means they are able to exercise a form of mind control over their unwitting guests, forcing them to do their bidding by making them a prey to unbearable lusts.

Although made in Germany with a mixed German/Swedish cast, the movie was shot in English. It’s noticeable that most members of the cast aren’t entirely comfortable in English and this gives the acting a rather stiff quality. The pacing is also a problem. And although the potential is there for the wonderful weirdness that you so often get in 70s European erotic horror, it isn’t really developed the way it would have been with someone like a Jess Franco or a Jean Rollin directing.

Nadia Hekowa is however delightfully bizarre and perversely erotic as the leader of the vampire cult, and the movie has its moments. It’s definitely one to rent rather than buy.

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