Even by the standards of Jess Franco films A Virgin Among the Living Dead is slightly odd. As you’d expect in a 1973 offering from this director there’s not much plot, but there’s a wonderfully strange moodiness to this film. It’s very much in the realm of dream and it has a very dreamlike combination of the bizarre, the disturbing and the comically grotesque. Christina is a young woman who has set out to visit the family chateau. She has never met any of the members of her family living in this chateau. Arriving at a nearby inn she encounters surprise from the locals who weren’t aware that the chateau was still inhabited, but when she reaches the chateau her family are indeed waiting for her. They turn out to be a rather disturbing lot. She finds herself plunged into a world of erotic fantasies and a series of encounters with her dead father. Is she going mad? Is there some malevolent supernatural influence at work?
Christina von Blanc made (according to the IMDb) only a handful of movies in the early 70s. She’s actually surprisingly good as the heroine. There’s the usual assortment of actors you expect to see in a Jess Franco movie, including Howard Vernon and Franco himself. Much has been made of Franco’s supposed overuse of the zoom lens. He certainly employs the technique in this picture, but I think it works pretty well. There’s also some great location photography.
The DVD includes a number of scenes, shot by other directors, that were added to various versions of the film released back in the 70s. These must have made the movie absolutely incomprehensible, as they have no relevance whatsoever to the rest of the movie. European horror movies of this era really were treated appallingly by distributors at the time, and it’s easy to see why the reputations of directors like Franco suffered.
A Virgin Among the Living Dead is a movie that, like the other films of this director I’ve seen from this era, is probably not going to please the average horror movie enthusiast. If you abandon the notion that you’re watching a horror movie and approach it with an open mind you may well find yourself getting sucked into Franco’s strange, disturbing world and you may find yourself enjoying this film as much as I did.