Vampyros Lesbos: Limited Edition – Severin Films (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Theatrical Release Date: West Germany, 1971
Director: Jesus Franco
Writers: Jesus Franco, Jaime Chávarri
Cast: Ewa Strömberg, Soledad Miranda, Andrés Monales, Dennis Price, Paul Muller
Release Date: May 12th, 2015
Approximate Running Time: 89 Minutes 19 seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC
Sound: LPCM Mono German
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $34.98
"Stunning Soledad Miranda stars as a vixen vampire who lures women to a Mediterranean island to satisfy her insatiable lust for female flesh and blood." - synopsis provided by the distributor
Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "remastered in HD."
Vampyros Lesbos comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.
Disc Size: 22.7 GB
Feature: 15.5 GB
It doesn’t take an expert to see that this new Hi-Def transfer is vastly superior in every way when compared to all previous releases. Colors have never looked more vibrant, especially reds. Black levels and shadow detail have both greatly improved. Details look sharp, and there is also a marked improvement with regards to image clarity.
This release comes with one audio option: a LPCM mono mix in German and removable English subtitles have been included with this release. The audio, like the transfer, has been given a complete make-over, and the end result is spectacular. Dialog comes through with crystal clarity, and everything sounds balanced. There are no issues with distortion, and background hiss is limited to a few very minor instances that never become intrusive. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this new release is how robust this audio mix sounds and how it does a superb job with the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack. Another area where the audio stands out for this release is the film’s score, which has never sounded as powerful as it does in this audio mix.
Extras for this release include a slipcover, German theatrical trailer (2 minutes 29 seconds, LPCM mono German, no subtitles), alternate German opening credits (1 minute 26 seconds, LPCM mono), a brief clip titled Jess is Yoda (2 minutes 43 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), a featurette titled Sublime Soledad (20 minutes 22 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with Stephen Thrower author of Murderous Passions, Franco Volume 1: The Delirious Cinema of Jesús and Flowers of Perversion, Volume 2: The Delirious Cinema of Jesús Franco (11 minutes 26 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles) and an interview with Jess Franco titled Vampyros Jesus (20 minutes 52 seconds, LPCM stereo English with removable English subtitles).
Included with this release on a separate DVD is the alternate Spanish version of the film (74 minutes and 39 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Spanish with removable English subtitles). This version removes all of the nudity and replaces it with fully clothed versions of the same scene. Also, there are a handful of scenes that differ in this version from the German version. It should be noted that this alternate version of the film comes from a lesser source that at times is a little rough around the edges.
Throughout Jess Franco’s career, he has had several key stages where he worked extensively with a producer. And in 1970, Jess Franco would end his collaboration with producer Harry Alan Towers with yet another adaption of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Out of all of the producers that worked with Jess Franco over the years, none offered him a larger canvas to work with financially than Harry Alan Towers. Feeling confined by the films that Harry Alan Towers wanted to make, Jess Franco ended their collaboration. At first, he ventured out as an independent filmmaker, making a trio of films before settling into the next phase of his evolution as a filmmaker, a trio of films with producer Artur Brauner.
Content-wise, Vampyros Lesbos bears more than a striking resemblance to Jess Franco’s last film with Harry Alan Towers, Count Dracula. With the main twist being that the protagonist role is switched from a man to a woman, Other influences that crop up during Franco’s gender bender Vampyros Lesbos include just a hint of the Marquis de Sade, which is another carryover from his Harry Alan Towers collaborations. And all of these moments of sadness revolve around the character that Jess Franco portrays in Vampyros Lesbos. Influences aside, this is clearly a film that signaled that its auteur had finally broken through creatively and that everything that came before this film was merely a warm-up for what was yet to come from him.
And though Vampyros Lesbos takes many of its cues from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, When it comes to the vibe of these films, this is where these two entities are on the polar opposite ends of the spectrum. Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula is known for its Gothic Romanticism, while Jess Franco’s Vampyros Lesbos is a manic fusion of Surrealism and Eroticism.
By this point in Jess Franco’s career as a filmmaker, plot and dialog are not much more than a means to further what he was trying to say with his visuals, which have by this point become the focal point. This Soledad Miranda striptease scene with a mannequin (or what appeared to be a mannequin) is one of the most iconic moments to ever emerge from a Jess Franco film. There is a fluidity to her movements that reinforces the sensuality of this scene. Another standout moment visually is a scene where Linda's character realizes that the only way she will be free of the Countess is if she kills her. Once again, Jess Franco ensures this moment of pathos achieves its desired effect by meticulously building up the moment to its optimal moment of climax.
When speaking about Vampyros Lesbos, one can’t overlook the importance of Soledad Miranda. Needless to say, the films that he made with Soledad Miranda, especially the ones where she is the lead actress, like she is in Vampyros Lesbos, These films could not have been made with another actress, since her undeniable presence is the main reason why they standout amongst Jess Franco’s voluminous output as a filmmaker.
Besides Soledad Miranda’s tour de force, other notable performances come from Dennis Price (Twins of Evil, Theatre of Blood) in the role of Dr. Alwin Seward (a Van Helsing like persona) and Ewa Strömberg (The Devil Came from Akasava, She Killed in Ecstasy) in the role of Linda Westinghouse. The scenes where her character and the countess interact are exceptional. Also, she has a tremendous amount of chemistry with Soledad Miranda, and it really shines through during their more intimate moments.
Last but certainly not least is Jess Franco’s own performance in Vampyros Lesbos, and this time around he portrays a deranged husband whose wife has been seduced by the Countess. From there on out, his opinion of women is very low and he has a sinister urge to inflict pain on women in a De Sade-like way. His character has this film’s most shocking moment, which is a scene where he has captured and is now torturing the Linda character, who reminds him of his wife.
Another wonderful asset that Vampyros Lesbos has is its jazz-infused score that was composed by Manfred Hübler and Sigi Schwab. The albums Psychedelic Dance Party and Sexadelic would serve as the soundtrack for these three Jess Franco films: She Killed in Ecstasy, The Devil Came from Akasava, and Vampyros Lesbos.
No matter how many times over the years that I have revisited Vampyros Lesbos, it is a film that has never lost any of its luster. And with each new viewing, my appreciation for the film continues to grow. Ultimately, Vampyros Lesbos is the ultimate Jess Franco film, and more than any other of his films, it captures the essence of his cinematic style.
Severin Films gives Vampyros Lesbos its most definitive release to date, highly recommended.
Written by Michael Den Boer