VAMPYROS LESBOS starts by using one of Jess Franco’s most frequently used techniques – the “random image that has no bearing on the plot and can only conceivably exist to waste film” shot. In this instance, the shot is of a ship in the distance, and it holds for the entire duration of the opening credits while loud, distorted, electronic voices shout over a radio in German.
A dark-haired beauty reaches out towards the camera while the wind blows her scarf back in a vampirey manner. Despite the vampirish angle of the shot and the vampire-esque fashion in which the woman reaches out, the mystery of the vampire’s identity is carefully safeguarded for a significant portion of the film. And by “a significant portion” I mean pretty much until the next scene.
We cut to a dark stage, empty except for a full-length mirror, candelabra and a nude mannequin. The vampirey, dark-haired woman runs onto the stage in her underwear. She then proceeds to give a show consisting of writhing around in front of the mirror, putting her underwear on the mannequin, then taking her underwear back. As a finale, she lays the mannequin down and bites it’s throat. But it isn’t quite lesbian enough using a plastic mannequin, so they used a real nude woman for this scene. The performance gets massive applause from the audience, especially Linda and Omar. Jess Franco lets us know that Linda and Omar enjoyed the show more than anyone else by zooming in on their faces repeatedly, over and over again, really fast. Thanks, Jess Franco.
Linda and Omar are fast asleep in bed, but Linda is thrashing around like an epileptic on caffeine pills, which means she must be having a bad dream. Her dream basically consists of the vampire calling out to her, with acid-lounge surf-rock music playing, and a bunch of utterly pointless shots of a kite, a moth, and a scorpion. The kite, moth, and scorpion motifs reappear constantly throughout the course of the film. They sort of signify the presence of the vampire, but maybe they mean that vampires enjoy flying kites and watching nature documentaries about moths and scorpions, I‘m not really sure. But seriously, who doesn’t, right?
We transition from the dream into a psychiatrist’s office, where Linda is describing the dream. She mentions that it sexually arouses her. Personally, I’m a little weirded out by someone who gets aroused by kites, moths, and scorpions. The psychiatrist isn’t even paying attention, as evidenced by the super-zoom on his notepad full of doodles. He advises her to get another lover, securing himself the title of Crappiest German-Speaking Psychiatrist Ever.
Ignoring her psychiatrist’s advice entirely, Linda returns to Omar and makes plans to spend a few days with him, just the two of them. Then she promptly leaves, by herself, for an island off the coast of Turkey. She misses her boat and is forced to stay at an extravagant hotel where she is the only guest. Memmet, the hotel’s resident bellhop/murderous psychopath with serious hygiene issues warns Linda that “madness and death rule the island,” and then invites her to find him later in in the wine cellar. Yeah, leggy blondes can never resist invitations to meet smelly trolls in dark basements. Keep dreaming, troll. Linda goes to sleep in her room, but she is jolted awake, probably by another kite dream. She hesitantly sneaks out of her room. I don’t know why she’s sneaking. Maybe this is one of those hotels that don’t let their guests out after bedtime. Apparently, she‘s actually decided to go down to the wine cellar. Why she’d ever go down there, I’ll never know. Possibly it was to yell at Memmet for getting his ugly stink all over her luggage, but that’s just speculation. She finds Memmet standing over the body of a dead girl covered in blood and holding a hacksaw in his hands. You’d think that he’d at least clean up his dead girls if he was expecting company, but Memmet is totally taken by surprise. I’m always a little shocked when people show up at my place after I invite them, too. Having stumbled upon Memmet’s den of murder, Linda runs screaming back to her room. The next day, Linda boards a boat for the island and . . . wait, what the hell? The next day? She saw a hotel employee carving up a woman and she just spent the rest of the night in her room? She didn’t even call the cops? Whatever. I can’t wait to watch this lady’s heroic exploits for another freakin’ hour.
Linda leaves for the island. She is supposed to meet the Countess Nadine Carody to iron out some legal aspects of the countess’ inherited estate. It’s vaguely reminiscent of Dracula, except that the words “vaguely reminiscent” really shouldn’t be applied to direct and obvious plagiarism. Linda arrives on the island in the early afternoon and sets off to find the Countess. Despite having an entire island to search, this task proves remarkably easy. She immediately finds Nadine sunbathing on a lounge chair. In case nothing struck you as odd about that last sentence, let me piece together a few things for you. Nadine is the woman from Linda’s dream. She is also the woman from the performance. That is to say, she’s a vampire, and she’s sunbathing. WITHOUT EXPLODING. So let’s see, this vampire enjoys the sun and reflects in mirrors. So really, she’s less an undead queen of the night and more some crazy bitch who gets her jollies by guzzling blood. Okay. You know what? I’m fine with that. A lot of vampire movies throw out the standard rules. Sure, the sunlight thing is one of the most major ones, but I’m willing to suspend my preconceptions as long as the rest of the film manages to adhere to its own system. Soledad Miranda, a stunning-looking actress from Portugal plays Nadine. She died tragically in a car accident not long after working on this movie. She may only have one expression as Countess Nadine, but boy, it’s an alluring doozy, with those long eyelashes and abyss eyes. And she also looks fantastic in the nude. Just quietly, I’m a big fan of a naked Soledad Miranda.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. So, then Countess Nadine starts explaining that she is a descendent of Dracula and that she . . . Oh, come on! If you’re going to violate every major vampire cliche, at least have the common decency to not relate your vampire to the most famous vampire in horror history! Everybody knows that Dracula couldn’t sunbathe and he didn’t reflect in mirrors. That’s basically where those two rules came from.
Then Linda and Nadine get right down to business, and by “business” I mean swimming naked and then rolling around in the sand, also while naked. They’ve got to have the best lawyer-client relationship I’ve ever seen. Linda is nervous for the first millisecond, but Nadine assures her that no one can see them. Of course, that’s the cue for Morpho, Nadine’s mute, blue sunglasses-wearing henchman to stand out in the open and watch them. For the record, Morpho rocks. He can’t act and he doesn’t do anything worthwhile except wear gigantic blue sunglasses, but saying his name gives me happy-mouth. Try it. Morpho!
After the nude romp, the two women enjoy a glass of red wine that in no way resembles blood. Oddly enough, Linda passes out after gulping down one glass, but not before Jess Franco gets a chance to show off his directorial brilliance though a series of zooming close-ups that goes on for way too long. Nadine expresses her deep concern for Linda’s well being by having another glass. While Linda is unconscious, she dreams that Nadine comes to her, they have incredibly awkward lesbian sex, and then she gets bitten on the neck. Was it really a dream? Well, yes and no. She wakes up completely naked, but bite-mark free, which is how I wake up each and every morning. She gets up and desperately searches for Nadine. Unfortunately, for Spanish Germans living in Turkey, desperately searching consists of shouting a person’s name twice, then giving up. Nadine has a massive estate on her own private island, and Linda abandons all hope when she can’t find her in two rooms. That’s dedication. Eventually, she succeeds in finding Nadine doing what she does best. Floating naked in a pool. Linda faints, and thus the first island sequence comes to an end. Oh, there’s also a crap load of random shots of a kite, a moth, and a scorpion thrown in there. Sorry, I forgot to mention those ever-so-worthwhile bits of cinematic gold. Also, one thing struck me as odd. I mean, besides every single thing I’ve already mentioned. Linda instantly recognized the woman at the performance as the woman from her dream, and yet when she met Nadine, she didn’t make the connection. I’m starting to think she might be retarded. Or maybe Nadine used her amazing vampire powers to cloud Linda’s mind. Or perhaps Linda just didn’t get a clear look at Nadine’s face while it was ensconced in her vagina.
We make an irksome transition to a mental institution where a young woman, Agra, is writhing and screaming in bed. Not including the mannequin woman who never says or does much of anything (you know, because she’s a mannequin), these three are the only women in this movie. For some reason, they decided to cast two that look exactly alike as Linda and Agra. Agra has the same skin tone, eyes, hair color, and hairstyle as Linda, but other than that they are perfectly easy to tell apart. Dr. Seward assesses Agra’s situation from a very scientific standpoint. That is to say, that she’s insane and he doesn’t care. Agra is the film’s homage to the Renfield character from Dracula. Note how I said “homage” and not “blatant rip off.” I don’t want to be aggressive with this movie, because I’m actually enjoying its stupid plot hysterics and schonky color grading. This is seriously deeeeeep trash, the kind that only came out of Europe during that weird period between the late 60’s and the early 80’s. It’s a jewel of badness.
We find out that Agra is crazy because Nadine left her, and she wants some more of that girly lovin’. Linda is in the same hospital for basically the same problem. That’s when Linda’s boyfriend Omar shows up to save the day like the big-haired stud he is. Linda recognizes him and snaps out of her daze, so Dr. Seward lets Omar take her out of the hospital right then and there. Linda tells him about finding a dead woman in the pool, but absolutely nothing about seeing Memmet kill that girl or any of the other conversation-worthy things that’s happened to her. All the while, she longs to return to the island. Well, actually she just looks wistful, interspersed with clips of a kite, a moth, and a scorpion, but I’m taking poetic license with my interpretation.
Nadine has severe rejection issues and confesses to Morpho (yay Morpho!) that she is obsessed with Linda. She really should have thought of that before she decided to float naked in the pool until Linda fainted, then ship her off to a mainland mental institution. That was just poor planning. Also, shouldn’t the victim be obsessed with the vampire? I’m pretty sure this situation officially makes Nadine a terrible vampire. I hope she gets kicked out of the club.
The good times are short lived for Linda and Omar. They get a little time to have some reunion sex, but soon after that, Nadine and Morpho (yay Morpho!) are seen slinking around. Rather than abducting Linda, Nadine attacks Omar in an attempt to remove him and his large plastic hair from the picture. Omar ends up in Dr. Seward’s hospital, which apparently handles every form of medical emergency in one convenient location. There, Dr. Seward tells Omar all about his insane vampire research and informs him that he is in no danger of succumbing to the dark forces of the vampire, but Linda is. He can tell these things, because he is the only source of information about vampires and all that he says and does is perfectly right. I’m not making fun of him, he actually says all that. Then he kicks Omar out of his hospital. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Seward receives a visit from Nadine. Seward almost manages to repel the vampire by reciting a bible verse, but no mere book can defeat the amazing might of Morpho! The blue-glassed henchman rushes to his mistress’ defense and strangles the doctor. Dr. Seward doesn’t put up much of a struggle. He barely even flails his arms and he dies within ten seconds. It could be a poor acting job, but more likely he just fell victim to the awesome power that is Morpho.
For no reason whatsoever, Linda returns to the creepy hotel. She doesn’t even bother going in the front entrance, but instead goes straight to the cellar door. Surprise surprise, she runs into Memmet, and the lumpy psychopath must have a little of that good ol’ Morpho juice running through his veins because he is somehow able to choke Linda into unconsciousness in about two seconds. Omar, being the man of action that he is, takes charge of the search for his missing girlfriend by going to the night club again and getting some booze and a table in the front. He sees Nadine perform her mannequin and candelabra show. Jess Franco didn’t even bother to shoot new footage. The show is just a slightly different compilation of the footage from the performance at the beginning of the movie. Even the goofy audience is the same. When Omar saw the show the first time, it didn’t bother him in the least and he clapped enthusiastically, but this time when he sees Nadine bite the mannequin woman’s throat, he’s sure it’s murder.
He returns to the hospital and sees a different doctor. He angrily explains that Linda is missing and that he’s certain she’s in the hands of Seward’s killers. He also believes that Nadine has something to do with it, because she killed a mannequin onstage. Naturally, if there are two murders in one country, they must be related to a missing person case. Omar’s points make sense to me, because I’m insane, but why the hell did he go to a doctor with that information? Does Turkey not have a police force? Well, as luck would have it, these doctors not only can tend to physical, mental, and supernatural trauma, but they also solve crimes, so the doctor agrees to follow Omar to the island.
Linda wakes up to find herself tied to a chair in the wine cellar of the hotel. Memmet, who could really benefit from a knot-tying class, as well as a shower, enters carrying a hacksaw. In typical movie lunatic fashion, he babbles on about how he is going to inflict pain on her until she loves him for it. I’m almost tempted to kidnap and torture a woman just to see if that works. Personally, if I was tortured to death, I think my feelings toward my captor would run less along the lines of love and more toward seething hatred, but that’s just me. Linda loves the idea of spending the rest of her life in agonizing pain, or so she tells Memmet. That prompts him to rant for another few minutes. Eventually, he reveals that Agra was his wife before she went to the island and disappeared. Frankly, I think she’s just using disappearing as an excuse to get away from Memmet. Being married to him has got to be like sleeping next to a giant fart. Memmet is stupidly convinced that Linda really does want him to give her unspeakable pain, so he unties her so she can enjoy it. Linda picks up the hacksaw and uses it to chop off Memmet’s head. How one chops with a saw, I’m not really sure, but given all the sense that the movie has made so far, I think I can manage to let that one slide.
As soon as she is free, Linda returns to the island, which raises the question, why the hell did she go to the hotel in the first place? Nadine is despondent when she arrives. The kite, moth, and scorpion are probably despondent, too. At least, that would explain why they keep popping up. Linda and Nadine make out for a while, then Linda bites her neck. Whoa, a little role reversal, there! Kinky! Then Linda plunges a knitting needle into Nadine’s eye. That’s decidedly less kinky. Morpho, who was naturally watching the whole thing, rushes into the room. In a fit of despair over the death of his mistress, he yanks the knitting needle out of her eye socket and stabs himself in the stomach with it. Thus does the legend of Morpho come to its bitter conclusion. The kite falls and the scorpion drowns. I assume the moth dies, too, but they don’t show it. Omar and the doctor show up just in the nick of being way too late and find Linda curled up on the floor. As they all sail home, Linda contemplates what life will be like without Nadine and the audience contemplates if she’s actually going to get away with an unexplained double homicide.
I will definitely give “Vampyros Lesbos” points for style. Nadine’s fiendish lair is decorated with the trendiest, Dr. Seuss-inspired, Eurotrash crap that 1970 had to offer. From chairs that serve no purpose to a square jigsaw bed made out of other furniture, the house has everything that a vampire could need to entertain her one guest. The problem is, Nadine supposedly inherited the estate and everything in it, which would mean that Dracula was into post-modern decor. That right there is a good example of the movie’s major flaw, namely, that it doesn’t make any sense. The liberties taken with the vampire myth make the supernatural presence in the movie basically negligible. The fact that Nadine likes to drink blood never becomes a particularly important plot point. She doesn’t kill anyone or drink blood for sustenance. She might as well just be a charismatic lesbian. All that she has to do is make Linda think about her, which isn’t that tough. I think Linda would most likely remember the woman who had lesbian sex with her the very first time they met.
Seriously though, the movie’s soft core romps are actually too stylized to be genuinely erotic and the horror element is kept to an absolute minimum. It isn‘t scary, but the nightmare is quietly understood. I liked the provocative music, the organ grinding and Moog squelching, and especially the presence of Soledad Miranda, draped in her long silky robes and her doomed eyes that glint in the pale moonlight, pulling aside crushed velvet curtains to reveal all the lurid sensationalism and cinematic surrealism from an era passed by.
But I hated that damned kite, moth, and scorpion.