Vampyros Lesbos (Vampiras, Las) (1971)

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Released 19-May-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Deep Red, Pacific Banana, Wadd
Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1971
Running Time 85:38 (Case: 90)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jesus Franco
Studio
Distributor
Telecine
Madman Entertainment
Starring Ewa Strömberg
Soledad Miranda
Andrés Monales
Dennis Price
Paul Muller
Heidrun Kussin
Jesus Franco
Michael Berling
Case Click-Coloured
RPI $29.95 Music Siegfried Schwab
Manfred Hübler


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    A study of this film and its director could easily fill dozens of these pages, but I'm going to try to do it justice as best I can so we can move on and find out about the disc we've been given in Region 4, and why I think it's an important release for us.

    Jess Franco must be one of the most prolific filmmakers ever, with more than 160 titles credited to his name - ranging from the classic A Virgin Among the Living Dead to the baffling and not-so-classic Sex Charade, Eugene De Sade. Although he made many of his films under assorted pseudonyms, he was in fact born Jesus Franco Manera, and is credited here simply as Franco Manera. Expelled from grade school at a young age and named by The Vatican as one of the most dangerous filmmakers of the 70s, much of his career has been dogged by controversy and critical condemnation - all the more reason to check out this unique and talented director for yourself! Vampyros Lesbos is said to be his masterpiece and is without a doubt one of his better efforts from this period. This film is one of a trilogy of career-defining films he made in 1970, the other two being She Killed in Ecstasy (Sie Totete in Ekstase) and The Devil Came From Akasava (Der Teufel kam aus Akasava). All three were filmed back to back with a virtually identical cast and crew and featured the same brilliant musical score, performed by The Vampire Sound, Inc.

    Linda Westinghouse (Ewa Stroemberg) and her boyfriend Omar are enjoying a working holiday in Turkey, living from their suitcases in the luxurious Istanbul Hilton and spending their evenings frequenting clubs that exhibit bizarre erotic performance art. But all is not well for Linda. She's been having haunting, erotic dreams and finds it hard to get a good night's sleep. Her therapist sees it as a textbook case of sexual frustration and assures her that all she needs is a good bit of rumpy-pumpy, suggesting in his professional wisdom that she should find herself another man. She's a loyal girl and strangely dedicated to the aloof boofhead Omar - as is often the case - and returns to the comforts of the Istanbul Hilton and his waiting arms. An overnight job soon arises in the nearby Kadidados Islands for the Countess Nadine Carody of Anatolia (Soledad Miranda) and Linda is quickly dispatched to discuss the Countess' inheritance from one Count Dracula. The Countess is a man-hater and an outgoing lesbian and has been this way since being raped at a young age by a soldier. The naive Linda is seduced by the Countess on her first night on the island and enjoys the experience, but leaves with severe amnesia - unaware of what she experienced during her stay. It appears that the Countess has a soft spot for her and wants to initiate Linda into the ways of Vampirism, but can Linda overcome her hormones and resist the Countess' temptations?

    The lead role in this film is played by the beautiful Soledad Miranda, who sadly died in a car crash soon after the three films she made with Franco in 1970 were released. At the time of her death she was negotiating a contract with an established German studio which would certainly have made her a star, but it wasn't to be. Soledad Miranda was born Soledad Redon Bueno, but was credited in this film under her pseudonym Susann Korda. She is joined here by other Franco regulars such as the late Dennis Price and buxom blonde Ewa Stroemberg.

    What initially attracted me to this film is its incredible soundtrack, composed by Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab and performed by their ensemble, The Vampire Sound, Inc. The score is comprised of catchy melodies and some extremely jazzy arrangements, with the Sitar taking a very prominent and sometimes lead role throughout the score. The music has a trippy, 60s unpredictability about it and never ceases to amaze me with its complexity. There are so many layers and things going on in this music that it's almost impossible to get bored listening to it - well, that's my opinion anyway. I've met accomplished musicians who dismiss it as noise, but I feel that to take such a narrow, underrating view of this unique score is downright criminal. Quentin Tarantino used one of the most commercial, yet memorable tracks, titled The Lions and the Cucumber in the soundtrack of his film Jackie Brown. Even if you feel that an erotically geared thriller concerning lesbian vampirism is something you don't wish to see, rest assured that this film is worth seeing for its brilliant music alone.

    Jess Franco's films certainly aren't for everyone, and can be pretty confusing viewing to the uninitiated. When they work, they're visually amazing and representative of an alternate, drug-fuelled pop culture the likes of which we never see nowadays. When they don't work, they can be either hilariously funny or cringe-inducing - which is why seeing any of Franco's films can be a gamble. The release of this film on DVD in Australia surprises me - if you'd have asked me a year ago to compile a list of films that I thought would never have a release here, this would have been in the top five. It's an often underrated curio from the seventies and well worth checking out.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This has to be the best this film has looked in years. The transfer is presented in an aspect of 1.78:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement. This film's original theatrical aspect ratio is 1.66:1.

    There appears to be quite a bit of frame missing on the top, left and right when I compare this transfer with a widescreen VHS copy I have on hand. The scene most notably affected by cropping is at 22:13, as Linda and the Countess sit at either end of a table in an extra wide shot. The Countess on the right is completely off frame in this transfer, however in my widescreen VHS copy she is completely visible and in frame for the whole scene. Other scenes appear to have the tops cut off character's heads, and generally an overly cramped feel resulting from cropping of the 1.66:1 frame.

    Since the image has been literally cropped and zoomed, this has in turn had an effect on the sharpness of our transfer. There is not a lot of fine detail or clarity to be seen, however this is still better than any other format of the film that I own. A little film grain is evident now and then, which is consistent with every other print I've seen. Shadow detail is quite good considering the age and relatively low budget of this production. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.

    Colouring is relatively bland throughout the film, aside from Franco's strategic use of the colour red. Skin tones remained consistent and realistic throughout the transfer and there was no bleeding or oversaturation to speak of.

    MPEG compression artefacts are nowhere to be seen during the transfer. Some slight aliasing is noticeable now and then, but never becomes a problem. Positive and negative film artefacts can be seen intermittently, but aren't of a highly distracting nature at all. There are a couple of clunky reel changes and the odd missing frame or two, however as I already pointed out this is consistent with other transfers I have seen and considering the age of the print is certainly not intolerable.

    The quality of the transfer visibly drops for about ten seconds beginning at 48:57. It appears that a piece of film from an inferior quality print has been inserted, possibly because it was cut at some stage.

    English subtitles are burned into the video stream and cannot be removed during playback. The lettering is comprised of a white font on a darkened, blocky background. I didn't note any obvious typos or grammatical errors.

    This disc is DVD5 formatted and comprised of a single layer, so no layer transitional pause is present on the disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one soundtrack accompanying this film, a German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono stream encoded at 448Kb/s. The choice of a 'beefier' bitrate is a great choice on the part of the disc's authors, and certainly serves the film's score much better than a flimsy low bitrate would.

    The German dialogue is always prominent in the soundtrack and is rarely dominated by the score. The dialogue was entirely re-recorded in post production, and rarely matches the lips of the actors. I've heard speculation that many films from this era were recorded with no use of location audio whatsoever, which explains the terrible sync issues found here.

    There are a couple of small clicks and pops present in the soundtrack, but given the film's age and low budget this is to be expected to a small degree.

    After listening to the film's score on a stereo CD for several years, it was immediately apparent to me that this mono soundtrack certainly doesn't do the compositions by Manfred Hubler & Siegfried Schwab a lot of justice. Our nice, broad bitrate helps a lot in this instance, however it doesn't match the depth and fluidity of the stereo mixes. All of the elements that make their music so intriguing are still there, so it is likely that if you haven't heard the score before this would be a good way to check out their amazing music for the first time.

    There was obviously no surround or subwoofer activity in this mono soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu pages are all 16x9 enhanced. The main menu page features an audio clip of the film's score and the following selectable options:

Theatrical Trailer (2:32)

    This is a typical trailer of the period, capitalising on the sexier moments of the feature and utilising some fast editing that makes the film come across more as a cheap actioner with a bit of T & A. A German voiceover chants bombastically over the scenes, introducing some actors here and there. This is presented in an aspect of 1.33:1 and isn't subtitled at all.

Umbrella Trailers (3)

    Trailers are included for Dario Argento's classic thriller Deep Red (Profondo Rosso), Aussie soft-porn-comedy retro piece Pacific Banana and the controversial John Holmes biopic, Wadd.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release of 1999 is presented in the original aspect of 1.66:1, however it is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Region 2 includes an anamorphic transfer and a photo gallery, but it is unclear if the transfer suffers from the same cropping issues as our PAL transfer.

    I must say that I believe we have the best cover slick by far! It's a shame that a 1.66:1 anamorphic transfer couldn't be sourced by Umbrella, however I think it would be wise to buy local with this one.

Summary

    Vampyros Lesbos is a challenging film to take in on first viewing, but rewards with a superb soundtrack score and some uniquely surreal direction from Jess Franco. The film itself has been very well presented on DVD in Region 4.

    The video transfer is heavily cropped on some sides, but looks good considering its age and relatively low budget. I've deducted one star from the overall score to reflect the use of a non-original aspect ratio in this transfer.

    The audio transfer is great for a simple mono effort.

    The only extra is a trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-525, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX76PW10A 76cm Widescreen 100Hz. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
UK release - John REPLY POSTED
Franco and DVD... - Charlie & Tex