Vampyros Lesbos  (1971)

One of the great B-movie titles — you know instantly that you want to see it.

Then you see “Directed by Jesus Franco” and know instantly that you don’t.  Or do you?

This is, of course, a terrible film, but there are aspects of it that are strangely and compellingly attractive.  For instance, it was clearly shot by someone with a real photograpic eye, and it’s full of vivid and striking imagery.  Including the very overt use of symbolic visual metaphors — for instance, representing the vampiress as a scorpion and her main victim as a netted butterfly, and using a red kite to represent... uh, something.  And this vivid imagery isn’t the usual gloom associated with vampire lore, either; it’s the sun-drenched Mediterranean coast that this vampire calls home, and creature of the night or no, she can sunbathe with the best of us.

But whoever came up with this wonderful look was clearly not the same person who was directing the actors, because the blocking and positioning of all the characters’ interactions leads consistently to them ending up poorly shot, with the viewer rarely able to see very well what’s going on.  Which, given that what’s going on is naked women unable to keep their hands off each other, is something over which one may be excused for shedding a quiet tear.

Other eroticized horror films of the time were rarely honest about titillation.  This one has no such inhibitions.  Unfortunately, the action in these erotic scenes is not only minimal, it’s unbelievably static.  The whole film, in fact, is one of the slowest-paced I can name.  It moves with the dynamic vigor of a bermuda grass rhizome creeping under your sidewalk.  It’s practically motionless for long stretches of time.

Storytelling-wise, it may be about as lively as a decomposing mackerel, but visually it holds plenty of interest.  And the vampiress is quite hot, though her main victim is much less so, and most of the time we see a lot more of the latter than of the former.

Oddly, the film is set in Turkey, and shot by a Spaniard, but all the dialog is in German.  That certainly adds a frisson of weirdness to an already rather peculiar movie.

This film has one foot in the world of enjoyably bad crap movies, and the other foot in the world of clever and interesting B movies.  Whether you as a viewer are able to span such a gap is for you to decide.