Friday, 22 January 2016

Severin Review: She Killed in Ecstasy (1971, dir: Jess Franco)

(1971, dir: Jess Franco)
 Dr. Johnson (Fred Williams, COUNT DRACULA) is a hard working scientist who has it all; his beautiful wife (Soledad Miranda, VAMPYROS LESBOS) a luxurious lifestyle and a potential scientific breakthrough that will revolutionise medicine, That's until his Dr. Huston (Paul Muller, LADY FRANKENSTEIN), Dr. Crawford (Ewa Strömberg, THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA), Dr. Donen (Jess Franco himself) and Prof. Walker (Howard Vernon, ZOMBIE LAKE) deem his work and his methods to be a crime against nature and a detriment to their own reputations. As a result they shut him down, strip his license and destroy his laboratory, hurting his wife in the process. All of this causes him to go insane. Fearing for her husbands safety, Mrs. Johnson takes him out of the city and the pair take up residency in a beautiful house on a remote island. Unfortunately, there really is trouble in paradise as the shamed doctor's mental health deteriorates leading him to take his own life. Consumed by grief, his beautiful widow has a desire to seek revenge on those responsible for her husband's downfall. She decides to do this in what she considers the cruelest of methods; seduction and cold blooded murder. She doesn't have long to pull it off as she has an inquisitive inspector (Horst Tappert, DERRICK) on the case.
What we have in She Killed in Ecstasy is a genuinely well made erotic thriller inspired by a Gabriel Marcel play Naturally, there is an element of sleaze to be found, but it's much more restrained than some would expect. The film is ultimately somber in tone. It may not be the most complex of stories, but Franco has created something that has real weight to it. Soledad's vengeful widow is genuinely sympathetic and although she carries out horrific acts, you get the sense that she's suffering internally as she is dishing out her gruesome revenge. She may be getting said revenge for her husband, but it's not something that she truly relishes. Not only does she seduce and murder, but in a style not too dissimilar to posthumous execution, she mutilates the genitalia of her male victims. From her genuinely seductive gaze to her portrayal of a woman losing her mind; Soledad's performance is nothing short of extraordinary. Had she not suffered such a terrible fate, her career would have been full of stand out performances like this, I'm sure. Those wanting to appreciate Soledad in an aesthetic sense will adore this film too. Wether she's completely naked or elegantly dressed, you won't be able to take your eyes off her. Of course, Franco regulars like Muller and Vernon put in a good performance too. Although not the bloodiest or goriest of films, the suicide and murders are staged in a somewhat shocking and impactful way. They could have either been too comically over the top or painfully tame, but thankfully that's not the case. To compliment the film, the jazz score provided by Manfred Hübler and Sigi Schwab (VAMPRYOS LESBOS) ranges from fitting the mood perfectly, to being a strange juxtaposition. Not only that, but orchestrated pieces provided / lifted from Bruno Nicolai (99 WOMEN) are used to devastating effect in the scenes involving the grieving widow and wrongly disgraced husband. This could quite possibly be one of Franco's most emotional and piercing films and being at just over 70 minutes long, it's a very easy watch for even the most critical of Franco's work.
  Speaking of which, it's such a shame that Franco was so dismissive of this film and his work, because considering this was just one in a string of swiftly produced films, the level of artistry to be found here is nothing short of mesmerising. From the use of beautiful architecture to the set and costume design, this is a film that proves just how much of an artist Franco really was. Thankfully, the picture and sound quality compliments the film perfectly. Aside from some noticeable dips in quality, there's nothing to complain about in terms of presentation. In terms of extra features, there are interviews with Jess Franco, Paul Muller and Soledead Miranda expert and Stephen Thrower. To top it off there is also the german trailer for the film. A handsome list I think you will agree! This is a must own for both seasoned Franco fans and newcomers alike. In fact, it's probably one of the few accessible Franco films. There's really no excuse for anyone falling under those categories to not add this to their collection.

She Killed in Ecstasy is available on DVD & Blu-Ray from Severin Films.


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