Countess Perverse or The Perverse Countess to those of you who have seen previous releases of this Jess Franco film is an exercise in the greatness of trash cinema from Europe. This should come as no surprise to the Jesus Franco-philes out there. The man is legendary for creating pornography that has both narrative and production value. In short he creates quality movies with fucking. We actually can't call Franco a pornographer; it's hardly accurate given the diversity of material he releases, quality of cinematography and the artistic quality of his work (even though I'm guilty of referring to his work as porn light-heartedly). Mr. Franco has always pushed the boundary between what we might find erotic, thrilling, sickening and elating. His work is meant to inspire a range of very physical responses from the viewer. Whether artistic in intent or simply to get a few francs in his pocket his films do just that. Not an exception to the rule, let's figure out what gets us so hot and bothered about the Countess shall we?
A pair of decadent and debauched aristocrats turn their private island into a human hunting ground where they stalk their naked prey. The captured meat is then cooked and fed to their unsuspecting guests, who themselves will become the next victims of this cruel game.
A few scenes from the unrestored print to give you an idea of what you're in for... does that count as plumber's crack?
What we have here is a play on a very common plot device for European films during the 1970's. Not so much the actual hunt for the humans, but cannibalism. Franco like his Italian counterparts figured something out: people are downright afraid of being eaten by other people. Westerners are terrified of the rest of the world around them, so when you want to truly terrify a very sheltered audience take them to an exotic place and sick the cannibals on them. The only thing you could do better to terrorize your audience and most efficiently permeate their fears would be to have a small person sit under their theater seat and occasionally bite them. Umberto Lenzi tackled cannibals in 1972 and sent a group into the jungle. Now Franco sends them to a remote, exotic island. It's a more civilized cannibal to be certain and there's even a game that acts as a segue between unsuspecting flesh eater and her fellow homo sapien. Cannibal films would mostly stay in the jungle or at least the majority of successful cannibal films would stay in remote places regardless of the film's country of origin.
I don't wish to ruin the story for my uninitiated readers, but there's not much more to the story that can't be derived from the poster and tag lines. The production value itself is excellent. This is when people could really shoot on film. This is before the all out rape of the exploitation boom (we'll call that the 1980's). Filmmakers actually wanted actors and actresses with talent and the focus was on narrative when it wasn't focused on trying to get a rise out of your Levi's. The transfer that Mondo Macabro given us is exquisite. It is in correct aspect ratio (so says the disclaimer at the beginning of the film). The audio quality is superior. It's perfect for the discerning Franco fan.
Hey, how about that friggin' organ music. I swear that the same composer who did The Horror Rises from the Tomb must have done Countess. It's the mid tempo, variation upon variation with a recurring themes played over and over again. Please pay attention to how perfect it is. It's haunted house music for the horror fan's soul.
I adore the location and the exotic architecture on the island. It's nice to see absolutely diabolic structures that look like Frank Lloyd Wright made a deal with the devil actually get some screen time. Labyrinths of endless stairs. We might as well start looking for David Bowie and start humming Dance Magic Dance.
It wouldn't be a Franco movie if we didn't have at least a paragraph to describe the nudity, sex scenes or orgies. I want to say that it's nice to see a a couple of pencil eraser nips on the screen. I was making mistakes while taking notes for this review and well... there they are. This picture is full of au natural, jungle from down under bush shots and graphic group orgies. Countess Perverse comes off very much like an out and out porno. There's a full on XXX release from what I've been told although I cannot verify if my Director's Cut copy... I'm gonna say no because of the under 80 minute running time. If forced to pick which of the sex scenes is your favorite you'll be hard pressed to choose. This film has your group sex, lesbian sequence and even a fight to the death... very very naked hunt. If you were looking for spank material with a plot, you've found your movie. If the Euro fashion doesn't give you enough of a peak at what you were missing the 70's just wait a couple of minutes a nude scene will come along to satiate your sexual cannibalistic tendencies. Chock full of nudes.
Our cast are all accomplished actors who have been in many of our favorite horror and trash cinema films. Of note we have Howard Vernon, a regular associate of Franco's, who was in Zombie Lake, The Awful Dr. Orloff and Delicatessen (one of my personal favorites). Kali Hansa, also a regular coworker of director Franco, was also in The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff. Alice Arno also worked with Franco on Lustful Amazons of note, but she played Justine in Justine de Sade... hot... ouch. And rounding out the cast is Lina Romay who needs no introduction. She defines Spanish hot actress. She's in EVERYTHING. Look her up. She's in the book under "your new star crush".
I can tell you this, a movie that has the trophy of a human head on a wall alongside other big game is a movie that has my attention. Countess Perverse isn't perfect. As I've stated before you're not entirely certain if you're watching a porno or an exploitation flick (THERE'S A DIFFERENCE). I get the feeling though that the audience that's seeking this out is going to enjoy it for the mere fact that it has everything a good Franco film should and it's a damn fine technical version of this classic.
It's pure trash, in all actuality, makes it perfect.
Mondo Macabro is releasing this June 12th. You can pre-order it on Amazon now.