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Jess Franco's Vampire Lovers: Double Feature

Sub Rosa // Unrated // May 20, 2008
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted May 22, 2008 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

The ubiquitous Jesus Franco has been making movies for decades now and currently has over two hundred titles in his filmography. Few directors are able to polarize genre fans so intensely as Franco - for every film buff who considers him a talent less hack, another sees in his work a sort of mad genius. Many describe his films as jazz, and a good argument can be made for that for both jazz and Franco's films share many of the same qualities. Both are typically based around a very free form and loose structure and are often times improvised. Even the most ardent Franco-phile will have trouble defending the movies he made for One Shot Productions, however. While it's admirable that the man is still working, the cheap, these cheap, shot on video trash movies appear to have been shat out rather than shot the care and artistic intent that makes his better films so valuable.

Vampire Blues: (1999)

An American woman named Rachel Crosby (Rachel Sheppard) leaves her New Jersey home to visit Spain all by her lonesome. She wants to get away from it all and spend her time lounging on the beach and simply enjoying life. Things start to get a little odd, however, as Rachel begins to have a recurring dream about a female vampire with blood drenched fangs. When she's out shopping and spies a picture of the vampire on a t-shirt, she takes a look at it and the clerk tells her that this shirt was made just for her. She buys it, heads home, goes to the beach some more and then finds when she returns to her hotel room that the picture is no longer on the shirt - it's vanished! Rachel explores the area and is inexplicably drawn to an old home up on a remote hilltop. When she goes into the home she sees the female vampire from her dreams, Countess Irina Von Murnau (Analia Ivars). The Countess bites Rachel but leaves the home later on to visit a bar where a fortune teller (Lina Romay) clues in to what has happened and offers to help her escape the Countess' power. It all leads up to a very ridiculous ending involving dildos, fake blood, t-shirts, and bad acting.

You've got to give Jess points for trying something new with this film, even if the experiment is ultimately a failure. He does manage to create a dreamlike atmosphere and manages to film a few unusually surreal moments but this is all undone by piss-poor acting, an inappropriate sounding score, horrible camerawork, bad lighting, and a script seems like it was made up as the crew were going along. Some of the locations are nice but they're not used particularly well and the whole film is tired and rather ridiculous.

Vampire Junction: (2001)

A journalist named Alice Brown (Lina Romay) receives a strange tape from a Doctor Spencer (Steve Barrymore) that alerts her to strange happenings in a town called Shit City, U.S.A. Alice decides to do some investigating of her own and heads off to the lovely sounding town in the American southwest where she finds the place inhabited by no more than two men - a drunk and the town sheriff. The sheriff helps her find Doctor Spencer who tells her that the reason the town is empty during the day is because it has been taken over by vampires! The good doctor's wife won't let him divulge any more of the town's secrets, however, so Alice knows no more than that. She beds down in the local hotel and spends the night having strange dreams about lesbian vampires with brightly colored hair. The next morning, Spencer is dead, his wife has vanished, and Alice winds up searching for a priest named Father Flangegan who may hold the key to the secret of the town which would allow Alice to finish her story... that is if she doesn't get sucked in by those dastardly lesbian vampires with brightly colored hair!

What exactly is going on here....? The plot for Vampire Junction is a mess. It bounces around without rhyme or reason and, like the first feature, the movie is hampered by cheap production values and bad camera work. Romay isn't a half bad lead actress but she's not strong enough to make up for the nonsensical storyline and bad actors she's been surrounded by. Franco seems to enjoy using strange optical effects here but it doesn't help matters any, it simply adds another layer of confusion to the whole mess of a picture as there doesn't seem to be a reason for the effects, they occur at random. There's a lot of nudity and a bit of fake blood but it isn't enough to pull Vampire Junction up from the bottom of the barrel.



Franco shot both films fast and cheap using a consumer grade camcorder. They're presented here fullframe (which is the proper aspect ratio) and neither film has been properly flagged for progressive scan playback. The transfers are VHS level quality. Detail is soft and at times the colors appear blown out. Whites are unusually bright in some scenes while darker scenes lose almost all of their detail. The image flickers throughout playback and shimmering is a constant problem. To Sub Rosa's credit, when the elements for a movie are in bad shape there's only so much you can do, but neither picture looks good here, regardless of what format they were shot on.


Both films are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Vampire Blues doesn't really have any dialogue while Vampire Junction is presented in a goof English language dub that doesn't help the film in any way whatsoever. The audio quality is all over the place as the levels change from scene to scene and a couple of moments suffer from background hiss. The narration is sometimes distorted and often times rather fuzzy sounding. You won't have any trouble following the accent heavy dialogue but the audio isn't particularly good, in fact, it's below average.


This double feature DVD features a single static menu allowing viewers the option of watching one feature or the other. Aside from that, this release is completely barebones and the best thing about it really is the super slick cover art.

Final Thoughts:

Jess Franco has made a lot of very good movies in his time, but Vampire Blues isn't one of them and neither is Vampire Junction. These were made fast, cheap, and without the obvious quirky passion that makes so much of the director's work so very fascinating to those who appreciate his aesthetic. Sadly, these films are neither interesting or entertaining. Skip it.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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