Countess Perverse: Original Director's Cut:
At the risk of once again enraging loyal 'Franco-philes' out there, I must again mention that there are few Euro-Sleaze directors out there able to do so little with so much quite like Jess (The Jesus) Franco. This super-slight exploitationer burns up 75 minutes ripe with potential, turning in moments of queasy delirium separated by endless stretches of boredom and plain laziness. There is nudity galore from three leading ladies, and not a heck of a lot else.
Countess Perverse is Franco's take on The Most Dangerous Game, possibly as seen through the eyes of a Portuguese retiree in the midst of a Quaalude haze. Featuring hottentot Alice Arno as the titular, often naked Countess, and her stone-cold freak of a husband, Count Rador, (an effectively creepy Howard Vernon) the movie kind of follows their exploits as they hunt down cuties to eat. In a quaint touch, they always serve their special meats to the next in line for the spit. In this case, the latest morsel is one Sylvia Aguado (the outrageously hot Lina Romay, god rest her soul).
Franco's opening shots, gorgeously captured by Gerard Brisseau, give you all you need to know about the type of movie you're watching. Bob (Robert Woods) spies a naked body on the beach. Girlfriend Moira, (also gorgeous Tania Busselier) in a distorted perspective shot, looks troubled, before trying to walk away from Bob. For no particular reason, it appears like she's walking up a steep incline. Both dressed in snazzy denim outfits, they then rescue the woman from the shore. As they bring her into the apartment, Moira has mysteriously decided to appear in a tiny brown bikini. The woman's story of torment on an island leads Bob, naturally, to want to return her to the island. But is there something else going on?
Of course, but it's mostly an excuse for Franco to film his constantly naked starlets running around on the beach. In that, it's pretty good! Queasy shots of the Countess' guests unknowingly eating virtually raw slabs of fatty human flesh shoot straight to the top of the list of awesome Euro-Sleaze taboo busting. Brisseau's weird perspective shots of these uncomfortable meals highlight the '70s-gorgeous styles and architecture, while Vernon and Arno can barely contain their ghoulish glee. Unfortunately, Franco never shies away from tossing everything in the bucket in favor of overlong shots of meaningless action, and grindingly long sex-scenes. While sex is, of course, the main draw for such movies, the wow factor varies wildly, making one inclined to hit the fast forward button at the first sight of bush.
Somehow, torture, sex, and cannibalism become a wash this time around, and not even those awesome shots of the weird house on the island can raise this effort above the overall level of mildly interesting. Fanatics will want this for its laundry list of exploitation elements - and for the fact that Mondo Macabro has done right by this former rarity - but the sum is truly less than its parts would imply. Those interested in delving into the world or '70s Euro-Sleaze can Rent It for a taste, Franco-philes (a forgiving lot) will find it Highly Recommended - we'll average it and call it Recommended for horror and sleaze fans who've been around the block.
This unrated Original Director's Cut comes in a fabulous-looking all new 1.33:1 full frame transfer, preserving Franco's original aspect ratio. If it weren't for all the beautiful naked ladies wandering about within, I'd say the movie has no right to look this good, especially on a lowly DVD. My sole complaint concerns grain that starts to look a little too crisp and digitally blurry in a few beach scenes. When the girls start running about in those tall grasses, it seems like just a might bit too much detail for the transfer to handle. (Either that, or my slightly older TV just can't keep up.) Otherwise, it's really a stunning transfer, with great detail levels and a sharp, very clean image. Colors are rich and well saturated, while black levels are adequate, though used sparingly in favor of numerous nude and sunny beach scenes.
The original Mono Soundtrack has been expanded into stereo, with no ill effects. The movie is dubbed in French (with optional English Subtitles) and sounds good. Levels are balanced, and damage isn't in evidence. Heck, even the dubbing manages to sound fairly seamless, without much echo.
A fifteen minute Interview with actor Robert Woods is fairly comprehensive and entertaining. There is an Introduction by critic Stephen Thrower, as well as Cast and Crew Profiles, and the usual complement of Mondo Macabro Previews.
Here's a fantastic looking new transfer of the Original Director's Cut of Jess Franco's exploitation near-classic, Countess Perverse. Somehow, torture, sex, and cannibalism become a wash this time around, and not even those awesome shots of the weird house on the island can raise this effort above the overall level of mildly interesting. Fanatics will want this for its laundry list of exploitation elements - and for the fact that Mondo Macabro has done right by this former rarity - but the sum is truly less than its parts would imply. Those interested in delving into the world or '70s Euro-Sleaze can Rent It for a taste, Franco-philes (a forgiving lot) will find it Highly Recommended - we'll average it and call it Recommended for horror and sleaze fans who've been around the block.
- Kurt Dahlke
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