01 September, 2009

EROTIKILL/LA COMTESSE NOIRE: Evolutionary Considerations

The bloody lips of the Black Countess...

Some further thoughts on EROTIKILL and LA COMTESSE NOIRE. I'm bringing this over from CINEMADROME: THE WORLD OF JESS FRANCO FORUM. I like to revisit this film, in any variation, often, and it remains a personal favorite. I remember not liking it very much when I first saw it as THE LOVES OF IRINA on the PRIVATE SCREENINGS VHS. I found it slow, pretentious and not at all erotic. I just wasn't ready to make the effort to attempt to appreciate what the filmmaker was doing. I was annoyed by the out of focus cinematography and just wanted it to be over. My opinion of it has evolved over the years.

In 1973 Jess Franco made an extremely low budget, very personal, poetic vampire film on the island of Madeira with the working title LA COMTESSE NOIRE. This Eurocine funded enterprise featured Lina Romay as the lonely female vampire Irina Von Karlstein and would be probably the first French hardcore vampire film, at least as later released with hc inserts as LES AVALEUSES to French porno venues. This version was reportedly approx. 82 m. (according to OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO). In fact, it is well-known that there are numerous versions of this film from the hardcore to EROTIKILL, which we will briefly consider here.

EROTIKILL is the approx. 72 m US video version, which has a 1985 Eurocine copyright on it. It was one of two versions released on US video in the 1980s, the other is THE LOVES OF IRINA [PRIVATE SCREENINGS label]. The latter video is the way I first experienced the film sometime in the late 1980s. I wasn't prepared and pretty much disliked the film. It did have a flash of hardcore in the hotel room seduction-attack scene between Lina Romay and Ramon Ardid. That hc moment was "wiped" from the much later IMAGE DVD version, FEMALE VAMPIRE. That 2000 DVD ran 101 m. and was the first anamorphic presentation of the film on US home video, outside of grey market dubs like VSOM's wretched THE BARE BREASTED COUNTESS, running approx 110m and minutes and containing all the hardcore and alternative bloodsucking footage!

Three is also a 2001 German DVD from X RATED KULT DVD titled EROTIILL [LADY DRACULA 2], at least on the box. this is also the hardcore version, but runs to 105 m PAL, Code 2. The actual onscreen title is LUSTERNDE VAMPIRE UN SPERMARAUSCH. I'll be reviewing that on a separate thread.

Force Video's EROTIKILL was one of a six "Wicked Women" features released on VHS by the company and omits all of the hardcore material. It also has alternate scenes showing the Countess Irina sucking blood from the necks of her victims rather than lapping their sexual fluids as she does in Franco's original concept and all the harder versions. This is the "conventional" vampire version with each attack concluding with a close-up of the victim's blood on Irina's lips. This also omits the shot of Irina kneeling in front of first victim Roger Germanes during the assault in the forest aviary. She instead is showing leaning over him, biting him on the neck. In fact, all of the sexual scenes are missing or abbreviated. The scene with the hotel masseur simply cuts from them embracing to her majordomo (Luis Barboo) carrying out the body.

This version does contain nudity, including the vaginal zoom during Irina's walk through the misty forest during the opening credits. But other shots of Irina lingering in her hotel room are "covered" by here long, black cape. The original (non hc) version runs 85 m according to Alain Petit's MANACOA FILES, that would be the LA COMTESSE NOIRE title version, but there has never been a video release with that onscreen title of which I am aware.

In some ways EROTIKILL focuses more of our attention on the existential qualities of the film and its mood of doomed Romanticism and emotional longing, but the lingering sexual interludes do have merit in that they emphasize the elusive nature of pleasure and bloodsucking has always had a sexual element going all the way back to Murnau's NOSFERATU.

Cut are the final seconds of the opening credits but not the moment where Irina walks right into the camera lens, one of my favorite Franco technical transgressions which underscores the self-reflexive, oneiric nature of the project. It might have been a "mistake" (maybe not) but I'm glad they left it in. This version also has an added line by Dr. Orloff (Jean-Pierre Bouyxou) delivered to Franco's Dr. Roberts during Monika Swinn's autopsy as he touches her neck (not her vagina as in other versions), it sounds like a different dubber than the rest of track and I've never heard this line in any other version. It may have been added by the video company or Eurocine. The main disadvantage of this presentation is that it crops Franco's 2.35:1 compositions to 1.33:1 after the opening credits, making at least 50% of the original image unavailable.

I have at least 6 different versions of this on various video formats with language tracks ranging from English to German to French.


I still want to go to Madeira...


dfordoom said...

Six different versions! I knew there were many versions, but I'm impressed you actually own so many. All I have is the Image DVD release under the title Female Vampire but the movie is a personal favourite of mine (along with Doriana Grey). For me those two films are the ultimate in erotic horror where both the horror and the eroticicism are equally necessary and equally effective.

Robert Monell said...

I agree.

Douglas A. Waltz said...

I also want to go to MAdeira

Wow Gold said...

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