Wednesday, 8 March 2017

BARE BREASTED COUNTESS DVD review

Driven to commit heinous crimes by an evil force, the Countess (Lina Romay) returns to the island she calls home and slowly begins to kill the locals using her powers of seduction.

Jess Franco's Bare Breasted Countess aka Female Vampire has been released under various guises and cuts in its lifetime (including a hardcore cut going by the not so subtle name of The Swallowers) and is rife with all the hallmarks of a Franco film; female nudity, dealings with the occult and a subject matter that made him the bane of film censors. It's also very, very silly. So the question is how best to approach this review? Tongue in cheek or tongue in.... well, I'll let you finish that sentence off yourself.

The opening scene sees our lead, the Countess Irina Karlstein (a mute ingenue with a penchant for parading around with her top off) meeting a young man at a farm, where she performs fellatio on him before chomping down to feed from him in semi (pun intended) traditional vampire fashion. As a mute it is hard to establish her motivations, but luckily she does provide a winsome voiceover to her cliff top drives and there's a handy reporter on hand at the start to help out with a lot of the exposition. Using her mouth as her weapon of choice she lures innocent young men with her feminine wiles and then performs deadly fellatio on them, or as the coroner puts it when he is presented with a corpse drained of semen and blood, he was "killed by mouth".
In terms of cinematic craft there's not a lot going for it, but the tropes and language of this softcore era are all present and correct here. At a time when throwback genre films such as The Love Witch are currently in cinemas, this is a great opportunity to see how close it comes to recreating the real thing. It's almost entirely dialogue free, just occasional snippets to connect one softcore scene to another; and although perhaps not as immediately reference friendly as Franco's Vampyros Lesbos, this is still classic European exploitation cinema. As well as direction from Jess Franco (under a pseudonym), this film also features two of his regulars in his muse Lina Romay and friend Jack Taylor, moustachioed and resembling a cut price Franco Nero.

Surprisingly and almost certainly accidental, there is a feminist subtext to this film with Irina ranking somewhere near Jess Weixler's Dawn in the horror/comedy Teeth for female characters who use their sexuality to satiate their needs against the wishes of the male led society. I'm certain that this reading was not what was intended during production and it's a bit of a stretch to imagine this film wanting to appeal to anything other than the male gaze (you could get yourself in serious trouble by having a drinking game for every time the camera lingers on a gratuitous crotch shot), but at least that way it affords the character more depth than what is on show.

Partially due to, shall we say, more sophisticated cinematic tastes and storytelling methods, it's hard to not make this kind of 70s era straight-faced eroticism look a bit funny by modern standards (just look at the success of Belinda Blinked), but that doesn't mean there isn't fun to be had here. The depiction of female sexuality is frankly ridiculous and laughable as she dry humps her bed frame and then a phallic shaped pillow, and the mere fact that the main character is a beautiful, sex-crazed woman who isn't able to speak a word says everything you need to know about the sexual politics of the time.

The first release from new boutique horror label Maison Rouge with collectable art cards and a reversible sleeve included with the DVD; if you're a fan of this kind of euro erotica then Bare Breasted Countess should be in your collection, and if you're a fan of cheesy, over the top films that will give you plenty to ponder over, it's worthy of a place too. I'm still not completely sure why she masturbates over the corpse of one of her victims, though.

Verdict 2/5 for filmmaking
Verdict 4/5 for fun, so...

Overall Verdict
3/5


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