Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bring on the lesbian vampires

With the Castro on ice, Violet Blue heats up Halloween with her top 10 retro, breast-baring vampire flicks

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Halloween in the Castro is the stuff of legends, though it's highly likely that the fun legends pre-date my generation; for me, Halloween in the Castro has always been something to go near — but not into. It can be fun to watch masses of drunk and rowdy masked tourists streaming into my small-ish neighborhood looking for action, but only from a distance (usually a friend's front window or fenced-in cement yard). And between the usual ill-advised gay-bashings and last year's violence, keeping my distance seems ever more desirable, and Halloween seems way less sexy.

This year's solution is a hotly debated one: There's no party for the people. But that also means there are no Porta-Potties for the people, plus a lot more police — for the people. While I'll certainly regret the chance to see all the inevitable versions of zombie Anna Nicoles, bald Britneys and toe-tapping senators, this year I'm fine to stay in — and snuggle up with my favorite boob-a-licious retro vampire films.

This Saturday through the 31st, I'll be doing my best to get cozy with Countess Dracula and the Karnsteins — the ones that get naked, that is.

"The Hunger" was great, though "Vampyros Lesbos" is overrated. Terrified women running from serial killers and monsters are as over as that "sexy schoolgirl" in a bag outfit. In essence, our hunger is only appeased by movies which contain a mixture of lip-licking sexual perversities, delightfully taboo desires, warm and familiar occult influences, a dose of ritualistic sadomasochism whenever possible, powerful and wicked naked girls, campiness fit for any queen, and the satisfaction of knowing that being evil is way more fun than being good any day of the week. Feel free to peruse my list of favorite, unapologetically obscure and ultra-campy softcore vampire flicks from the last century. Join the forces of darkness (and don't forget the cocktails) for the comforts that an evening of pure feminine evil can provide.

10. "Vampyres" (1974). Directed by the Spanish Jose Larraz and starring Marianne Morris and Anulka , this enjoyable film is hailed as one of the rare treatments of vampirism as an explicitly male fantasy in which women are simultaneously objects of terror and desire. Two malevolently sexy female vampires live in a lovely, decaying old mansion and casually lure passers by into their lair for lunch. Their lunch, that is. One of the victims sports a woody for one of the vampires, and decides to stay, aware of the fact that he's just her favorite snack, all the while becoming weaker and weaker ... Chock full of that good old amour fou, this film lives up to being labeled with "hallucinatory eroticism" and delivers an artfully claustrophobic, sexually explicit tale difficult to forget.

9. "Countess Dracula" (1970). Starring stacked British siren Ingrid Pitt, this movie is enticingly hailed as "the most erotic Hammer film," presumably because it has more states of undress than any other made at that time. In it, Pitt plays the role of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, the "Blood Countess" to the delicious and oversexed hilt. It seems that our poor little rich countess needs to bathe in the blood of unsuspecting virgins in order to retain her supple, uh, youth. Set in the colorful Middle Ages in perfectly gloomy castles and with those easy-to-remove period costumes a la Hammer Horror, it'll make you want to say "clean the tub tonight, dear, we're having guests ..."

8. "The Bare Breasted Countess," a.k.a. "Female Vampire" (1973). Jess Franco, a man with a reputation for many excesses himself, came from Spain to direct nearly 200 films. His style branded him as Europe's Ed Wood, with campy hit-and-miss, violent-erotic movies that are mostly miss and whose weaknesses lie sadly in production values. But when Franco is "on," you are captive to nothing short of offbeat, brilliant filmmaking. Such is the case with "The Bare Breasted Countess," starring Franco's fetish-actress Lina Romay. This nearly X-rated confection centers on the delectable Romay as the mute and mysterious Countess Irena Karnstein, taking a bloody little (then modern) holiday in Portugal. Apparently for our vamp, her sustenance is only satisfying when orally extracted from trouser snakes and sweaty little crevasses — arguably a display of nature at its best. Romay's portrayal of unconscious animal eroticism is pretty flawless, the story ends rather nicely, and the entire film is a pleasure to consume. Urp!

7. "Venus in Furs" (1968). "Man, it was a wild scene!" Yeah, baby, this is a far-out sadiserotic Jess Franco film, the idea for which is allegedly attributed to jazz musician (and Franco's friend) Chet Baker. Not surprisingly, the narrative is a distorted and haunting story about a jazz musician's surreal experiences trying to piece together his present role in a series of murders after witnessing the mouth-watering Maria Rohm extinguished at a party during a wickedly hot S/M scene with Klaus Kinski. (No safe words back then, we suppose.) It's widely said about this film that it makes little narrative sense, but makes perfect emotional sense — an idea which accurately conveys the way each scene feels, as though it is one intense feeling linked to another. But it does make narrative sense as it verges on giallo, and combines fetishistic images, an aesthetic verging on campy, a hip 'n' happenin' sexy '60s jazz scene, and cool-as-a-cucumber soundtrack by Manfred Mann to create an eerie erotic film.

6. "Nadja" (1994). Late-century goth camp, and unintentionally so. Joy! Produced by David Lynch and directed by Michael Almereyda (who brought us the quirky Crispin Glover vehicle "Twister" in 1989) "Nadja" is a fairly modern tale of vampiric existential angst. Sex kitten Elina Lowensohn portrays Nadja, daughter of Count Dracula, who self-absorbedly prowls the club scene in Manhattan's Lower East Village in search of a deeper meaning to her indiscriminately lusty feedings. Peter Fonda appears as Van Helsing, on a quest to kill her twin brother, Edgar, after doing away with their dad. Fonda excellently conveys the contrast of the terrified spiritual adolescence of straight male roles to Nadja's personification of physical temptation and evolutionary awareness. Still, this is a sexy vampire story, but with modern gothic underpinnings, innovative camera techniques, and emotional relevance for people living in the '90s. So cute! Did I mention the indiscriminately lusty feedings?

5. "Necronomicon" a.k.a. "Succubus" (1967). This blood-soaked caper was hailed as one of Jess Franco's most successful films, but it is up to you, the discriminating viewer, to decide what "success" is for a Franco flick. It shares with Franco's "Venus in Furs" the (then) present-day time frame of a wonderfully campy goth '60s atmosphere. In "Necronomicon," staged sadism thankfully becomes reality as the "stage performances" of sexually compulsive main character Lorna begin to blur reality and fantasy under the influences of (my favorite trope) a mysterious stranger. Lorna's character acts increasingly erratically as the film progresses, and this is quite entertaining, as our little performance artist is already a few sandwiches shy of a picnic basket and runs around in skimpy costumes. Whippings, murders, interpretive dance — what more can we ask for?

4. "Twins of Evil" (1972). Oh, how we want this Hammer Horror flick to be good — and it is, if you're into overacting '70s Playboy Bunny Playmates (and real-life twins) Mary and Madeline Collinson getting jiggy with the boob-biting, in costumes and sets most likely inspired by either a local high school drama club or the twinkle in Trannyshack's eye. "Twins of Evil" was intended to be the third installment in the Hammer lesbian vampire trilogy that begins with "Vampire Lovers," but came across as little more than a gratuitous excuse for boobs, blood, weak-willed men and, uh, twins and their jiggly bits. Which is why it's high on the list of bad as good, with all the fleshly requirements (and little of that pesky acting to distract from the action). It's easy: Twins arrive in village, there's a castle, vampires make it interesting, clothes come off, and everybody dies. Yay!

3. "The Vampire Lovers" (1970). Based on the novel "Camilla," this is simply one of the best retro tales of lesbian obsession, and the start of Hammer Horror's descent into lesbian vampire madness. An all-star lineup dishes out this rapacious tale of tasty lesbian obsession and savory graphic eroticism, excellently directed by Roy Ward Baker, starring an austere Peter Cushing and succulent succubus Ingrid Pitt. Our man Cushing plays the father of young, inexperienced Pippa, whose health only seems to fail as a beautiful and experienced countess is called in to care for her. It all becomes enough to make the maid wring out her panties with frustration and homicidally mad with jealousy. A real winner.

2. "Lust for a Vampire" (1971). No. 2 in the Hammer 1970s lesbo trilogy, but my top pick of the lot — it has the most breasts for the buck, and converts nicely into several variations of a drinking game. This mouth-watering gem takes place, to our delight, in a school for young ladies who are thoughtfully required to wear uniforms which are quite sheer. It's actually about a scrumptious new pupil whose preferred extra curricular activity is lesbian sexual vampirism of the other nubile students — she really has a problem with snacks after "lights out," and we thankfully get to see every inch and nibble. Add to this their erotically, er, challenged professor, who does everything possible not to hump the resurrected vampiress' leg while maintaining a sense of propriety when questions start getting asked about the sudden drop in enrollment. Feel free to take a drink whenever the girls giggle.

1. "Daughters of Darkness" (1971). My all-time favorite retro lesbian vampire film: eerie and less campy than the rest, but no less fun. Here, the vampire myth excels at its portrayal of woman as the ultimate predatory beast, a point eloquently illustrated in this classic from Belgian director Harry Kumel . With the hypnotic stare of a snake, the paws of a cat — and lethally protuberant breasts — the vampire domina (Delphine Seyrig) in "Daughters of Darkness" totally defines the masochistic male fantasy of the ultimate dominatrix, the goddess of erotic extremism. This heavily stylized, excellent vampire film centers around a honeymooning couple who meet up with the aforementioned vampire domina at a strange hotel by the sea. You can guess the rest. The entire mood of the hotel is evocative of "The Shining" (and similarly, shot mostly in natural light), the color scheme and lighting chosen specifically to achieve a dry, haunted look. Nothing ends well for anyone who gets a room here (especially the men), but as with all lesbian vamp romps, it's all about the curvaceous journey, and not the destination.

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