Thursday, 4 June 2015
A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973, Jess Franco)
Any confusion i experience after watching this typically atypical shard of Jess Franco madness is less to do with the muddy plotting, choppy editing, sloppy zooms and bizarre performances - and more to do with the simple question "Is this film genius or crap? Or, more possibly, both at the same time?"
The careering career of Franco - along with his prodigious movie output - means that every once in a while one finds a nugget of gold amongst the sludge of much of his Z-grade back catalogue. For every two unwatchable slices of dross, there is usually one great bit of filmmaking. This movie, "A Virgin Among the Living Dead", contains elements of both halves of its creator's repertoire.
The version i saw was obviously assembled from several different sources with varying film grain and quality to prove it, and i assume that it was pretty much intact and uncut (though thankfully missing the footage from Rollin's "Zombie Lake" that is found spliced into some editions). So the haphazard and jumpy photography and editing is down to Franco's usual idiosyncracies rather than being cut. The film nevertheless possesses a weird and eerie quality quite unlike most other horror movies. The beautiful and sadly underused Christina von Blanc stars as the titular Christina, returning to her family home only to find that her late father, along with her entire family are members of the living dead. Franco semi-regulars Britt Nichols and Anne Libert provide smouldering support: Libert entrancing as the Queen of the Night, luring the living to a fate beyond the grave with her siren song.
Some truly innovative camera-work combine with a haunting soundtrack (particularly the Queen of the Night's song) to create a lyrical atmosphere amongst the obligatory nudity: creating a strange carnal yet elegiac feeling appropriate to an existence between life and death. The film's ending - when the Queen lures the family (including the now initiated Christina) into the murky depths of the lake and beyond the veil of death - is a strangely moving end to a maddeningly perplexing movie. Like a flower blossoming in a graveyard, this film contains moments of moving beauty surrounded by the ravages of death.