A cursed countess has returned home to the Madeira Island. Countess Irina Karlstein has an insatiable thirst, deadly to any man or woman she’s comes in content with on the scarcely populated island. By day and night, the beautiful mute countess, wandering the terrain more than half naked, enjoys the islet’s amenities, including sucking the blood, or the sperm, out from her erotically hypnotized prey and zapping their life essence right at the point of climax. Discredited Dr. Roberts and a mystical blind Dr. Orloff aim to track down the creature practicing vampirism, despite the local authorities unwillingness to aid them and wishing to debunk the outlandish theory. Amid the rising death toll, the countess unexpectedly falls in love with an aspiring writer on holiday and she fears her curse, her hunger, her need to be filled will consequently overtake the love she has bestowed upon the writer.
Classic European schlock from the greatly candid and voyeuristic director Jesús Franco, “Female Vampire” goes by many interesting titles, just like Franco himself who also has a cache of various, widely used monikers. “Erotikill.” “Loves of Irina.” “Lustful Vampires in Sperm Frenzy.” These are just the tip of the enigmatic iceberg that is of the English titles associated with Franco’s film with “The Bare-Breasted Countess” and “Female Vampire” the better suited for the version reviewed by Its Bloggin’ Evil. Oh, did I forget to mention there are multiple cuts and versions of this film? The 1975 sleazy vampire flick has numerous renderings from an XXX version with sexy-time vampire scenes to a 35-minute reduced cut where many of the sexually graphic material has been removed and more of the horror either remains or second, more conservative, takes are introduced. Whether “Female Vampire” is a good film or not ultimately determines to be an unnecessary factor as Franco’s film can be rather an interesting case study in how one story or, in this case, one reel can be reworked and reconstructed to emit a completely different sensational perceptive.
Barcelona born actress Lina Romay exposes herself as the Bare-Breasted Countess Irina Karlstein. Her striking dark features and piercing eyes make her resemble your typical lady bloodsucker and with vampires being naturally attributed with strong sexuality and influential powers, Romay doesn’t need the omitted dialogue as she instills beauty, sex, and power into the body and the expression of her character. The untrained actress leads by being an extrovert, uninhibited by conventional proprieties, and Romay wins at being Countess Irina Karlstein just by naturally being herself. Her longtime collaborator and future husband, Jess Franco, had developed, whether intentionally or not, this role for his free-spirited companion and, as well, stars himself as the inquiring Dr. Roberts. As the countess’ love, cult genre favorite Jack Taylor brings his tall, dark attributes to be a soft spot for the unquenchable cursed and an Amazonian built Anna Walican gets hanky-panky as a islander journalist with Lina Romay in a sensual scene of unchained lust. Alice Arno (“Justine de Sade”), Monica Swinn (“Hitler’s Last Train”), Luis Barboo (“Conan the Barbarian”), and Jean-Pierre Bouyxou round out the cast surrounded by Romay’s eroticism.
On the outside, Jess Franco directs like the utmost perversity, deep-seeded with gratuitous nudity and filled with revamped versions of the same scene. On the inside, “Female Vampire” is tragic love letter with Countess Irina Karlstein’s wretched curse stretching beyond her power. Her curse is more than just yearning from blood (or semen), but also an ache of the inability to be sexually gratified. Even when her victims are dead, she continues the carnal ritual of graphic grinding, tantalizing touching, and manic masturbating. Aside from being mostly nude throughout the entire feature, and if not, semi nude through a see-through blouse, Lina Romay’s perfectly shaped apple bottom is constantly upended, flaunting her pheromones in more way than one, with each conquest more exposed than the other.
Screenbound Pictures has released “Female Vampire,” aka “The Bare-Breasted Countess,” as one of the first United Kingdom DVD titles from the new Euro cult label, Maison Rouge, who specialize in Euro trash and sleaze. I was offered a DVD-R screener and can’t comment on the quality or the bonus features, but with release, with excellent cover art, contains two versions of the film: the highly erotic version with as much body part exposure as one can handle and the “Erotikill” which has alternate scenes and less sleaze. The main feature dons no blood, except the countess in a blood tub, and allows Countess Karlstein to roam in sunlight, non-typical traits of the conventional vampire and as the “Erotikill” version still lets the countess be exposed to ultraviolet rays, there’s more blood that’s more than enough to barely gentrify the horror genre. “Female Vampire” is an usual bird of love and lust, a perfect example of Jess France’s body of work, in an awful take on an iconic horror villain legend.
“Vampyres” director Victor Matellano takes the time to answer a few questions about his latest film, working with José Ramón Larraz, and working with Marta Flich and Almudena León on difficult scenes!
Check it out!
How did you become interested in José Ramón Larraz’s “Vampyres?” And what possessed you to write and helm a remake? How did you meet Larraz and was he initially on board and enthusiastic with the project? How was the dynamic between you two?
Larraz I met many years ago, in 1996. We were introduced by the actor Jack Taylor and we became friends. Larraz was a good conversationalist, very friendly and fun. At that time I only made short films and had just published a book. Over the years, whenever we saw each other we were talking about doing something together. After releasing “Wax” we planned to make a film together. Why not go back to “Vampyres”, we said. He thought he could make a new version with some changes and I liked very much to work on original material. We reviewed the history, worked up a new script and thought about directing it together. But his illness did not let him. A shame because the idea excited him. Although he came to shoot the teaser presented at the Festival of Sitges.
How much of a challenge was there to recreate, and to slightly modernize, the foreboding atmosphere in “Vampyres” that the original film embodied?
It was certainly a challenge. The idea was to generate new atmosphere. And update characters and situations. Although from the beginning I thought it was necessary to make a timeless atmosphere. If the characters don’t use a mobile phone it is perhaps not so easy to know what time the action takes place. Actually the story of the film is legendary: a group of young people (who would be our Hansel and Gretel) wind up in a forest that is the home of witches who threaten them, offer them sexual pleasures, and eventually devour them.
The original 1974 “Vampyres” is followed by a select niche of fans and has really kept out of the limelight of mainstream horror. Was funding difficult for this type of remake where audiences have probably never seen, or ever heard of, the original film?
One of the things we talked about, executive producer Angel Mora, Larraz and I, was that perhaps the first version was a cult film, but a film generally well-known among horror fans. For this reason we decided to make a new and commercial version. Perhaps investors were too crazy to follow our idea …
Usually, when many production companies are involved, creative differences sometimes cloud the director’s vision, a sort of too many cooks in the kitchen type scenario. Were there, if any, issues with the way “Vampyres” was being formulated and/or being handled from a writer-director/production point of view? Did you feel you had total creative control?
I had a lot of freedom to do “Vampyres”. Angel Mora, my executive producer, reviewed the script, but then gave me freedom to do things my way on the set and I always had Larraz previous ideas. Having several co-producing companies in this case has not been a problem for style or creativity in the film.
Your rendition of this story feels like a thoughtful tribute to José Ramón Larraz’s work and amongst the lost art of European horror. Was making “Vampyres” the direct result of having a pure love for this Larraz’s film and what kind of reaction we’re you anticipating when screening for audiences?
Well, “Vampyres” is a mixture of film tribute to a kind of cinema, and it’s own entertainment simultaneously. I always had (in my head) wanted to combine respect for the original film and its values, to make a divertimento of horror. Some might discover it as a result of loving gothic literature and cinema, but those who just have fun with blood and sex will also find it.
What kind of preparations (if you know) did Marta Flich and Almudena León (phenomenal casting by the way) tackle in order to portray Fran and Miriam? Were they comfortable with the extreme sexual nature and blood thirst required their roles?
Casting tests were tough and demanding. Actresses were needed with great determination, courage and strength. Marta and Almudena are very strong and at the same time very funny. They approached the filming of the toughest sequences with humor and much involvement. It is not easy to kiss while being showered with 75 liters of artificial blood above, or to demonstrate sufficient balance between perversion and sensuality. Both the sex scenes as torture are difficult to shoot if you do not have good actors. And they made it easy. The whole team got involved and made it easy. The atmosphere was total concentration.
“Vampyres” had an ending that was left wide open for potentially continuing the story. Do you think you, or Larraz, would pursue adding to the story, as a sort of sequel, if given the financial backing and you had a great script in hand?
I do not know … That version had an open end and this has that too. Perhaps because we are talking about two women (do not know if they are vampires, or cannibals, or psychopaths or ghosts …) who repeat the same ritual again and again as if they were spiders trapping flies. Who knows, maybe later, on occasion, we can return to this terrible story …
What projects are on the horizon that you can give ItsBlogginEvil.com the inside scoop?
I finished a few weeks ago a new movie, a very violent and bloody western entitled “Stop Over in Hell” which has Enzo G. Castellari in the cast. It has begun its journey through festivals with the Almeria Western Film Festival, the only one of its kind in Europe, where Clint Eastwood filmed “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. I hope that you soon may see it.