November 16, 2011

Queer Review: Vampiros Lesbos (1971)

Vampiros Lesbos
Director: Jesus Franco
Writers: Jaime Chávarri, Jesus Franco, and Anne Settimó.
Cast: Soledad Miranda, Ewa Strömberg, Dennis Price, Heidrun Kussin, José Martínez Blanco, Andrés Monales, Paul Muller, Jesus Franco

Vampiros Lesbos is a lesbian themed exploitation flick from the early 1970's. Granted, I would not consider myself in the target audience, but I was surprisingly bored by the slow moving plot and a narrative that rarely makes any sense. I would say it was the worst vampire movie I'd ever have the misfortune of seeing ever but then I have seen the trailers for all of the Twilight movies.

Note: This is about how much of the plot I could make sense of. There are plenty of random elements and characters and the line between what is a dream and what actually happened in the plot is almost never clear.
Countess Nadine Oskudar (Soledad Miranda) keeps appearing in the dreams of Linda Westinghouse (Ewa Strömberg), a lawyer for the firm Simpson & Simpson. Simpson & Simpson, upon the request of Nadine, assign Linda to oversee the transfer of the estate of Count Dracula to Nadine, who he apparently selected as his heiress. Nadine attempts to seduce Linda but things go wrong and Nadine finds herself under the influence Linda. Shortly afterwards, Linda collapses and ends up under the care of Dr. Alwin Seward (Dennis Price), who wishes to become a vampire himself.

The Queering
It's not surprising that Vampiros Lesbos is completely incoherent, given its pedigree but it is shocking that there is nothing else worthwhile here either, not even the slightest visceral thrill is to be had. That is because the pacing makes the whole movie feel about as much fun as watching the paint used as fake blood used in this film, dry. Most scenes go on forever while managing to avoid advancing the plot and random non-sequiters are frequent and time consuming.

Given the reputation of Vampiros Lesbos, I somehow expected more then a few tame lesbian sex scenes and a couple of splatters of obviously fake blood. A common interpretation of vampire stories is that the drinking of blood is a stand in for actual sexual seduction and conquest. More then a few storytellers, have keyed into this interpretation and gone all the way and depicted sex while the drinking of blood is occurring, while other filmmakers have used a more sophisticated approach and leave the seduction part to the viewers imagination. Vampiros Lesbos director, Jesus Franco takes the former approach.

However, there's a very obvious and very disturbing subtext here. Lesbianism and vampirism become one and the same, with the purpose of making lesbians appear dangerous seductresses. As Countess Nadine pulls Linda away from her male partner by invading Linda's dreams and subconscious, the metaphor is obvious. The dangerous lesbian is seducing/recruiting Linda into becoming another lesbian, and Linda must fight back in order to remain straight.

I had originally thought a different subtext was going to play out, one in which lesbians and vampires were equated in a more interesting manor. What this interpretation would have entailed was that the female vampires were both social outsiders and the victims of male dominance, and that in the end Linda would throw of the oppressive shackles of society to become another vampire. My reason for thinking this was because Agra (Heidrun Kussin), another woman whom Count Nadine had seduced, appeared to be the prisoner of Dr. Alwin Seward and his clinic being a metaphorical representation of an ex-gay clinic. However, the ending eliminates any possibility of this scenario being the case.

In my estimation therefore, there is not a single worthwhile element in the hateful mess that is Vampiros Lesbos. The plot tries use surrealism in place of good storytelling in an effort to prevent audiences from realizing how lame the story is but ends up being boring and incoherent instead. The direction is stilted, with the extreme close ups fast becoming a nuisance. Then there's the acting where every performer appears to be in a competition to see who can best imitate furniture.

Pretty much only for those looking for a soft core porno and are willing to spend time fast forwarding through the parts where nothing interesting occurs or better yet, for those in need of a sleep aid. In spite of it's reputation, Vampiros Lesbos would be best served by being marketed as a cure to insomniacs, whether they be vampires or mortals.

The Rating

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