Monday, November 17, 2014

Vampire Blues (1999)

AKA Vampire Sex - Lady Dracula 3

When it comes to vampire films, some of the most unique in the subgenre have come from the major Eurocult auteurs. For all intensive purposes, Jean Rollin could be considered the king of Euro vampires, completely turning the subgenre on its head with his debut film The Rape of the Vampire (1968) and continuing to do so with films like Shiver of the Vampires (1971) and Lips of Blood (1975) amongst several others. Also films such as Vicente Aranda’s The Blood Splattered Bride (1972) and José Ramón Larraz’s Vampyres (1974) offered their own creative twist on vampires. Even amongst the sea of original takes on vampirism in Euro horror, its the vampire films of Jess Franco that stand out as the most uncommon. Never one for tradition (even Rollin‘s films retained some traditional vampire “rules“), Franco threw the rule book out the window with his two most celebrated vampire films Vampyros Lesbos (1971) and Female Vampire (1973). While Franco wasn’t the only filmmaker to explore the idea of vampires as lonely creatures or the idea of the allure of vampirism as a means of escape from the mundane realities of everyday life, nobody quite delved into that world quite like Franco did in those two films. In 1999 Franco returned to that world of vampires with Vampire Blues, his most radical take on vampires as well as one of his most inaccessible films.

While vacationing in Spain, New Jersey college student Rachel Crosby begins to have visions of a mysterious woman wherever she goes and soon the woman begins appearing in Rachel’s dreams. The woman is Countess Irina von Murnau (Analía Ivars), a powerful vampire who has her sights set on Rachel in hopes of bringing her over into her world of vampirism. Marga (Lina Romay), a gypsy fortune teller senses the extreme danger Rachel is in and becomes determined to aid Rachel in protecting her from Irina’s enticing allure.

X-Rated Kult DVD's for the film under its alternate title
Easily Franco’s most experimental work at the time of its production, Vampire Blues feels less like a film than it does Franco aiming a camera at his thoughts during mid-daydream. While that description could be applied to a number of Franco films and the term “dreamlike” has been used to describe several of Franco’s films its more than apt when attempting to classify Vampire Blues as the film literally feels like a dream in progress from the moment it begins and retains that same mood for the remainder of its running time. To a certain extent the film follows the same trajectory as Vampyros Lesbos and Ivars’s Irina von Murnau does share a kinship with Soledad Miranda’s Nadine Carody as well as Lina’s Irina von Karlstein from Female Vampire and also features characteristics found by Pamela Stamford’s Lorna Green from Lorna the Exorcist (1974) and Ajita Wilson’s Princess Tara Obongo from Macumba Sexual (1981). What separates Vampire Blues from all those films however, is the films hallucinatory visual design with Franco really indulging in filters, post-production video effects, image distortion and color manipulation. Overindulgent? Absolutely, and most will probably find it grating yet considering the world this film occupies it makes perfect sense. The films theme song performed by the Ubangis which plays repeatedly throughout the film works wonders and plays a major hand in establishing the films hazy aesthetic with its lethargic bluesy swagger and almost Lynch/Badalamenti-esque vibe. Whenever Ivars is present and the song is playing the results are pure magic.

Its amazing to think that even by 1999 Franco’s films were still having different cuts released and such was the case with Vampire Blues with the longer European cut being made available as a special feature on Sub Rosa’s DVD of the film. Exactly why there were two different cuts releases makes absolutely no sense whatsoever but that’s how it went. Sub Rosa also released the film as a double feature along with Franco’s Vampire Junction (2001) as “Vampire Lovers” and it was inevitable that the film would end up on one of Sub Rosa’s Franco multi-film sets, “Stripped Dead” along with Broken Dolls (1999), Incubus (2002) and Snakewoman (2005). Quite a variety of viewing options for a film who’s audience was limited in the first place being a Franco film and made even more limited on account of it being a One Shot film. Admittedly there’s a lot about Vampire Blues that will turn many viewers, even the most defensive of Francophiles off, be it the excessive video effects or the Spanish actors speaking in phonetic English (or in the case of Ivars dubbed in after the fact), a common practice during Franco’s One Shot days. On the other hand, Franco’s audacity along with the combination of psychedelic visuals, surreal, otherworldly ambiance, the theme song and the shear presence of Analía Ivars make Vampire Blues an easy film to get lost in.

No comments:

Post a Comment