Thursday, March 27, 2014


Jess Franco, 1971
Starring: Susann Korda (aka Soledad Miranda), Fred Williams, Paul Muller, Howard Vernon, Ewa Stromberg, Horst Tappert, Jess Franco

She Killed in Ecstasy  is a sort of sister film to another Franco-Miranda production I've already reviewed, Vampyros Lesbos. It has a handful of the same actors and is also a Spanish-West German production. Hueber and Schwab, the musicians who composed the amazing score for Vampyros Lesbos, also scored this film. And like Vampyros Lesbos, She Killed in Ecstasy has a meandering, nonsensical narrative structure, but works on the strength of Soledad Miranda's performance, charisma, and visual appeal.

A doctor (the sexy Fred Williams, a Franco regular) is criticized and alienated for his experimental research that involves human fetuses, which leads to his suicide. His wife, very much in love with him and driven a little insane by his death, gets bloody vengeance on the team of doctors who drove him to death. Unsurprisingly, she dons a number of paltry disguises and seduces the men (and one woman), hypnotizing, deceiving, and then killing them. There is some random necrophilia, which is effectively creepy and also sadly sweet. The death scenes are completely implausible, but it doesn't matter within the loosely surreal narrative world of Franco’s film.

As with many of Franco’s films, this is a rehashing of familiar themes and includes elements from his enjoyable Venus in Furs with Klaus Kinski. He reused much of the same crew from Vampyros Lesbos, which explains the similarly robust (and very ‘70s) sense of style. I don’t think this was a direct influence on Franco, but lately I’ve been reading a lot of Cornell Woolrich novels, particularly his “Black” series and its themes of obsessive love and murder. Woolrich has several characters who lose a loved one (the death is usually accidental) and then going a killing spree to get revenge for his/her death. Truffaut adapted the first of these – The Bride Wore Black – and She Killed in Ecstasy has a similar, if campier and more exploitative feel.

There is a sort of je ne sais quoi at work that I am completely unable to explain. This film, along with Vampyros Lesbos, is slow and dream-like and operates on some sort of otherworldly Eurotrash reality. There is an air of genuine sadness that is absent from most "black widow" killer type of films. Soledad Miranda is lovely and charismatic and, fortunately, is in almost every shot. Also fortunately, the film is short, running about 80 minutes, so anyone who doesn’t generally have a whole lot of patience for Eurohorror may want to give this a chance. It comes across more as a series of sexy, murderous vignettes than a particularly coherent narrative film.

In addition to Miranda, who steals the film, as always, there are some nice appearances from other Franco regulars. Paul Muller, the always-enjoyable Howard Vernon, Horst Tappert, and Ewa Stromberg (also in Vampyros Lesbos) do a decent job here, though the dialogue and script is all over the place. Franco himself also makes a cameo here as one of the malicious doctors. 

I'm reviewing the Synapse DVD, which is out of print. The Image DVD 
is basically the same, but remastered, so it has a slightly better print, but nothing mind-blowing. I recommend this film if you like Franco and Soledad Miranda, or if you enjoy Eurotrash. This is a bit faster paced than Vampyros Lesbos, so Franco newbies or sceptics might do alright checking this one out. I think it is one of his most accessible films and one of the most enjoyable female-centered revenge-horror films of the ‘70s. 

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