Vampyros Lesbos (Blu-ray) (1971)
Interviews-Crew-Vampyros Jesus (director Jess Franco) (20:53)
Featurette-Sublime Soledad (20:29)
Featurette-Stephen Thrower on Vampyros Lesbos (11:27)
Interviews-Crew-”Jess is Yoda” Clip (2:44)
|Year Of Production||1971|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Jesus Franco|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||German DTS HD Master Audio 2.0|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.66:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.66:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
When visiting a nightclub in Istanbul with her boyfriend Omar (Andrea Montchal), blonde Linda (Ewa Stromberg) is aroused by the dark haired exotic dancer on the stage, even more so as the dancer, who Linda has never met, looks just like the woman Linda is seeing in her dreams. Linda later travels to meet Countess Nadine Carody (Soledad Miranda) in Kadidados Island about an inheritance the Countess received from Count Dracula but she misses the boat to the island. Taking a room in a hotel Linda receives an ominous warning from Memnet (Jesus Franco) not to go to the island. As well, Linda finds that Memnet has a woman bound and bloodied in the basement of the hotel but does she go to the police or heed the warning? Not at all; as if nothing had happened next morning Linda catches the boat to the island, where she is stunned when the beautiful Countess looks exactly like the woman in her dreams.
Of course Nadine is a vampire who hates men; she seduces Linda and drinks her blood. When Linda awakes she is in a clinic run by Dr Seward (Dennis Price); she cannot remember who she is or what happened until she is found by Omar. Another blonde, Agra (Heidrun Kussin), a previous lover / victim of the Countess, is also at the centre under observation because Dr Seward has a fair idea that Nadine is a vampire. He tries to help Linda, but the seductive spell of the Countess is too strong, drawing Linda into a web from which there may be no escape short of death.
Spanish writer / director Jesus “Jess” Franco had a long and extensive career; his IMDb lists an amazing 203 credits and his first feature film was released in 1959, the last in 2013, the year he died. His reputation is primarily that of a horror / exploitation director, his best regarded films coming in the 1960s and 1970s. Arguably, however, his most infamous cult films are some which starred Soledad Miranda, such as Vampyros Lesbos and She Killed in Ecstasy, both in 1971.
Vampyros Lesbos is an alternate Franco take on the Dracula legend, as he had made previously Count Dracula (1970) with a stunning cast including Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski, Herbert Lom and Soledad Miranda. Vampyros Lesbos is a very different take on vampires, not only because the gender of the vampire had changed; in Vampyros Lesbos the vampire does not live in a gloomy castle, but in a bright and breezy beach house, she is not afraid of the sun, indeed the Countess loves sunbaking, she does not hibernate in a coffin but naked, floating in a swimming pool, and can only be killed by a metal spike in the brain, not a wooden stake through the heart.
Vampires are frequently seen as an expression of sex or sexual repression, and vampires (with the honourable exception of Max Schreck in Nosferatu) are often very sexy; Soledad Miranda would give anyone, male or female, a run for their money. Clothed or unclothed she is both a decent actress and stunningly beautiful, her long limbs, pixie face, long dark hair and brown eyes mesmerising in their intensity. The opening sequence in the nightclub is sensual, an exotic dance routine where Miranda is alone with a naked “mannequin” against a black background; the sequence is breathtaking in its eroticism and beauty and would be a stunning opening to any film. Miranda outshines everyone else throughout the film; the rest, including Ewa Stromberg, are flat by comparison although Stromberg’s blonde hair and light coloured clothes are set as the obvious contrast to Miranda’s dark features and black clothing. In any case, it is difficult to believe that anyone else could have been a better Countess, or a better female vampire.
Indeed, Vampyros Lesbos is certainly a psychedelic child of the late 1960s, early 1970s. Its colour scheme is vibrant, with rich and bright reds and yellows, it returns over and over to motifs such as a scorpion or a butterfly in a net, many shots are out of focus, through glass, gauze or windows, there are many close-ups of eyes and its score, by Manfred Hubler and Sigi Schwab, is an eclectic mixture of electronica, sitar, distorted voices and sound effects. It is all quite over the top but it works providing an erotic and hypnotic film experience. But, ultimately, the main reason for seeing this classic erotic horror film is the stunning performance by the beautiful Soledad Miranda.
Vampyros Lesbos is presented in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p, MPEG-4 AVC code.
Establishing shots of the Istanbul skyline and ferries in the Bosporus are grainy, soft and with dull colours. Medium shots of the Istanbul streets and the island are better while interiors and close-ups are sharp, showing Soledad Miranda’s deep brown eyes and fine skin and hair. Colour plays an important part in the film; Miranda is often in black with a vivid red scarf, blood is deep and rich. Yellow curtains, or the blue / green of the pool are also vibrant. Blacks can be a bit splotchy on occasion but shadow detail is decent and skin tones, and there is a lot of skin on show, natural. Other than the grain there were occasional tiny marks.
Removable English subtitles are provided in a clear white font that is easy to read.
Audio is a German DTS-HD MA 2.0, surround encoded, track.
Dialogue is always clear. Other than occasional effects such as waves on the beach or a ferry engine, the speakers carried the very psychedelic 1970s score by Manfred Hubler and Sigi Schwab, a mixture of electronica, sitar, distorted voices and sound effects. I know there are a lot of people who love this score, and will appreciate it in lossless audio, but I found it to be quite abrasive, taking me away from the visuals. But I guess that was the point! It is interesting, however, that when the Spanish version of the film was done, they did not use this score but music provided by Jess Franco.
There was noticeable hiss during periods when the music was absent.
As most of the cast were not speaking German, and had to be dubbed including Soledad Miranda, lip synchronisation was often noticeably out.
|Surround Channel Use|
Director Jess Franco speaks, in English, about teaming up with producer Artur Brauner, Soledad Miranda, influences on himself as a director and on Vampyros Lesbos, horror films, lesbian vampires and the novella Carmilla and the score of the film. He still considers Vampyros Lesbos one of his favourite films and is quite candid, for example saying that Ewa Stromberg was not very good in the film!
Using still pictures and film clips, historian Amy Brown talks about the life and career of Soledad Miranda including her earliest film bit parts, her films in Spain and with Jess Franco and her tragic death in an accident in 1970 at the age of only 27.
Filmed in 2015, Stephen Thrower, the author of Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jess Franco, discusses how Franco split from long-time producer Harry Alan Towers and teamed with German producer Artur Brauner before making Vampyros Lesbos, the differences between the German and Spanish versions of the film, Franco the actor in Vampyros Lesbos, the themes and differences between Vampyros Lesbos and Count Dracula. An interesting short piece.
Franco explains how he was the model for Yoda in Star Wars!
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This Blu-ray release of Vampyros Lesbos is the same as the one that is available in the US, although that release contains a separate DVD with the Spanish version of the film. Due to censorship in Spain, all nudity was cut from the film (which then runs 74:32), and it includes a voiceover and a score by the director Jess Franco. The German version was the director’s preferred cut of the film, but this Spanish version would be of interest, thus giving the US release the edge. For the differences see here.
Vampyros Lesbos was made in 1970 and is certainly a child of its psychedelic time. Yet it has stood the test of time pretty well and is rightly regarded as one of director Jess Franco’s best films. It is a trippy erotic / horror cult classic due to the visuals and music and, in no small part, to the stunning lead performance by Soledad Miranda, which is, by itself, a reason to pick up this Blu-ray release. Vampires seldom look this good!
The film looks good on Blu-ray, the audio is acceptable and is lossless. The extras are relevant and interesting making for a good Blu-ray package. Fans of the director, the star or sexy horror should be happy with this release.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|