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Bare Breasted Countess (1975) aka Female Vampire – DVD Review

fv1Bare Breasted Countess (1975) aka Female Vampire

Starring: Lina Romay, Jack Taylor, Monica Swinn, Alice Arno
Director: Jesús Franco

Out now on UK DVD from Maison Rouge Films

Attention all Francophiles! A key piece in Franco’s filmography has been given a brand new re-release. Female Vampire, A.K.A Bare Breasted Countess is one of Franco’s most iconic sexy vampire pictures, and is ready to be consumed by a new wave of cult horror followers. Franco’s career, of course, spanned decades and about every subgenre of horror that one could conceive, cementing him as one of the top European horror makers of the 20th century, and certainly one of the most prolific. Last year I reviewed the rerelease of his Bloody Moon, which was a wonderfully kitsch ‘80s slasher with a throbbing vein of noir running through it; Female Vampire is a very different picture, and one that Franco looks to have put much love into.

As the titular Bare Breasted Countess is the lovely Lina Romay, Franco’s partner and muse who appeared in or worked on the majority of his films over the years. She is the mute Countess von Karlstein, the last remaining member of a vampire dynasty, who feeds not on the blood of her victims for survival but on their sexual energy, leaving the superstitious local coroner and the dismissive local investigator butting heads to explain the deaths. Romay, a dark and wide-eyed beauty, has a bitter fragility and makes the most of her non-speaking role with her expressive face, occasionally confiding in the audience about her longing for love and peace in the face of a terrible curse. Her face wonderfully compliments the low-angled and shadowy look that Franco gives to the entire piece.

rsz_7209You’ll notice, while watching Female Vampire, that the sex is prominent. Of course, it is pivotal to the plot, but Franco likes the camera to linger and wash over the scene as it unfolds, and the movie is punctuated by long love scenes. Turns out that this is one of three versions originally shot, as was often the case during the era, with a hardcore cut intended for the more open-minded European market, leaving we frigid Brits with the tame version. But, as Franco often explained, this movie is erotica, not porn.

Even when focusing the camera directly between Romay’s legs, symbolism is achieved; the countess gently sways her legs like wings, the dark unfocused shadow of her crotch taking flight, like the bats and birds that theme the movie throughout. The countess’s sexuality is key to both her pain and her joy, a delicate, dangerous double-edged sword that is her freedom and her captor all at once.

rsz_7208Female Vampire is an acquired taste, for sure. Even those who like Franco’s work are not guaranteed to enjoy it – it is a far cry from Bloody Moon or any of the more standard horrors, and is not really intended to scare or entertain in the way that slashers do. Franco goes right back to the basics of the concept of vampirism, and the inherently sexual quality of their being. Visually not dissimilar to some of the earlier efforts of Hammer featuring the likes of Ingrid Pitt, but going far further with the eroticism than the ‘60s stifflips at Bray Studios ever dared, Franco’s vampires are very European figures of eroticism. Those who enjoyed Tony Scott’s critically-panned The Hunger with Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie will enjoy the moody sensuality of Female Vampire.

7/10

Screenbound announce the launch of two brand new Euro cult film labels!!

Screenbound is delighted to announce the launch of two brand new Euro cult film labels, Maison Rouge will specialise in Euro Sleaze and Black House Films will focus on Euro Horror.

Maison Rouge kicks off with two classic titles, the first is from master of Euro Sleaze Jess Franco – Female Vampire (aka Bare Breasted Countess) – which arrives on DVD on 6 March 2017, followed by two Patrice Rhomm classics Helga, She Wolf of Stilberg on DVD 13 March 2017 and Elsa Fraulein SS set for release on 17 April 2017.

The first release from Black House Films will be zombie classic Zombie Lake from French horror maestro Jean Rollin, set for DVD on 20 March 2017 and Juan Fortuny’s Crimson on 17 April 2017.

Screenbound’s managing director Alan Byron said: ‘When Screenbound started as Odeon Entertainment 13 years ago with several music productions, our first step into film sales was representing Nigel Wingrove’s Jean Rollin and Jess Franco Euroshock and sleaze titles for Salvation Films. In a sense, we have now come full circle by launching our own new cult labels – Maison Rouge and Black House Films – which will showcase the best and basest of Euro Exploitation over the next three years. Maison Rouge will focus on sexploitation and once established will bring in new as well as retro cult features. Its sister label, Black House Films, takes its inspiration from the Church of Satan and will release dark, Gothic horrors from the 1960s to 1980s.’

Both imprints are being released on DVD with each having multiple poster art cards inside for collectors. Most releases will have special features included and a selection of titles will be released on limited edition Blu-ray with O Cards.

Alan Byron continued: ‘Plans are already in place to pick up another 20 films for these labels which already have a distinctive design appeal that is being appreciated by the fan base’.

rsz_bbcEuro Sleaze maestro Jess Franco, directs and also makes an appearance in this cult vampire movie from 1975. Lina Romay is Irina, the beautiful last descendant of a family of vampires from distant Bohemia. When she takes Austrian writer, Baron von Rathony (Jack Taylor), as her lover, her gluttonous lips devour him, as he surrenders his body and soul to her.

Title: Female Vampire aka Bare Breasted Countess
Release Date: 6 March 2017
Cat No: MR001
Certificate: 18
Running Time: TBC
RRP: £9.99
Special Features: Erotikill (Horror Version), Destiny In Soft Focus, Words For Lina, Trailers: Female Vampires; Helga, She Wolf of Stilberg; Elsa Fraulein SS

rsz_helgaThis notorious 1970s women’s prison classic set in South America, takes its cue from Don Edmond’s classic Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS. Stillberg is an ominous fortress turned detention camp for political prisoners and under the command of Helga Stiver, an ardent follower of the party in power, she brutalises the female prisoners who are stripped and tortured at will. Lisbeth, the daughter of the opposition leader arrives at Stilberg where she too, falls prey to the sadistic Helga, until local rebels help them fight back against their captors and attempt escape. Nudity, violence, fetishism and lesbian catfights – what more could you ask for? Patrizia Gori, Malisa Longo, Richard Allan star.

Title: Helga, She Wolf of Stilberg
Release Date: 13 March 2017
Cat No: MR002 Certificate: 18
Running Time: TBC RRP: £9.99
Special Features: Alternative Clothed Scenes, Trailers: Bare Breasted Countess; Helga, She Wolf of Stilberg; Elsa Fraulein SS

rsz_elsaA train full of beautiful young women has been ordered to service the men aboard; men being taken to help fight for the Nazis. Elsa, the leader, specialises in torturing those whose loyalty to the Nazi party comes into question. A group of brave Frenchman plot to derail the train and plan an attack that will strike back at the Third Reich. Malisa Longo, Olivier Mathot, Patrizia Gori, Pamela Stanford, and Claudine Beccarie star.

Title: Elsa Fraulein SS
Release Date: 20 April 2017
Cat No: MR003
Certificate: 18
Running Time: TBC RRP: £9.99
Special Features: Trailers: Bare Breasted Countess, Countess; Helga, She Wolf of Stilberg; Elsa Fraulein SS

rsz_zombielakeYoung, nubile women are disappearing without trace in a small lakeside town in this cult classic zombie movie. The superstitious locals blame ‘The Lake of Ghosts’, but the town’s mayor (Howard Vernon) is unwilling to investigate. When another woman is found dead with her throat ripped out, a reporter discovers that the lake harbours a terrible secret dating back to World War II. Now the locals must become resistance fighters once again – and take on the returning Nazi zombie Stormtroopers who are back from the dead.

Title: Zombie Lake
Release Date: 20 March 2017
Cat No: BH001 Certificate: 18
Running Time: TBC RRP: £12.99
Special Features: Trailers: Zombie Lake; Crimson; Oasis of The Living Dead

rsz_crimsonWhen a robbery goes horribly wrong and the gang’s leader, Jack is shot in the head, a group of criminals go to extreme measures to save his life. With the help of a local doctor the gang devise a unique plan – to kill their worst enemy, throw his body in front of a train and use the brain from the severed head as a transplant. The operation is a success and everything seems to be as planned…That is until the brain’s former owner starts living out his murderous past. Starring Paul Naschy, Silvia Solar, Olivier Mathot.

Title: Crimson
Release Date: 20 March 2017
Cat No: BH002 Certificate: 18
Running Time: TBC RRP: £12.99
Special Features: Trailers: Zombie Lake; Crimson; Oasis of The Living Dead