Monday, June 13, 2011

Soledad Miranda

For your typical genre fan, there are plenty of iconographic actresses. The ‘60s and ‘70s alone have a lengthy roster of lovely ladies that strip down, strut their stuff, get killed on screen, or sometimes do the killing. Though her career was relatively short due to her accidental death in 1970, Soledad Miranda is, in my opinion, the loveliest. About a month ago was the 30th anniversary of her unfortunate death, so I think she deserves some praise.

Soledad (real name Soledad Bueno, sometimes also known as Susann Korda) was a Spanish actress of Portuguese and Roma descent who got her start as a flamenco dancer and film extra, but is best remembered for her work with madcap schlock maestro Jess Franco. Though they made a number of films together immediately before her death, I’d like to focus on two of the most famous, Vampyros Lesbos and She Killed in Ecstasy.

Vampyros Lesbos is a saucy “sequel” to the Dracula mythos and is loosely based on the Stoker story “Dracula’s Guest,” though from what I remember the story doesn’t have much sexiness in it. Soledad plays a mysterious Countess who regularly entertains in nightclubs with an erotic striptease act. She catches the attentions of Linda (Ewa Stroemberg), who begins to obsessively dream about her. Linda is a solicitor and is hired to travel to a mysterious island where she has to work out an inheritance dispute for the Countess. Instead, they begin a steamy sexual relationship that leaves Linda a weak amnesiac and the Countess hooked on Linda’s blood. Vampyros Lesbos can’t be described as action packed, and yet it is worth watching solely for Soledad’s involvement. Her beauty is tragic, fragile, and betrays a sexual charisma that explodes through the screen and keeps you watching. Granted, when she is not on camera, I found my attention wandering a bit.

She Killed in Ecstasy is more of the same. Soledad plays the wife of a doctor driven insane by his nay-saying colleagues who bar him from further medical experimentation because they are too small minded to understand what he’s trying to do. When he dies, she snaps and spends the rest of the film stalking, seducing, and murdering the group of doctors who led her husband to his doom. He is played by the sexy Fred Williams, who co-stars with Soledad in a number of Jess Franco films. Though it is a bit quicker paced than the slow, dreamy Vampyros LesbosShe Killed in Ecstasy is another work that survives on Soledad’s charisma. Her untimely death occurred just before she had a chance to accept a multi-film contract that would likely have launched her into international stardom. Though she has since reached cult status, she deserves a book and probably a box set celebrating her work.

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