Christina, princesse de l'érotisme (A Virgin Among the Living Dead) (1973)
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Critic Reviews for Christina, princesse de l'érotisme (A Virgin Among the Living Dead)
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Audience Reviews for Christina, princesse de l'érotisme (A Virgin Among the Living Dead)
A beautiful young girl (a virgin? why not?) who has been raised in boarding school in England returns to her fathers' chateau in France after his death and is introduced to her bizarre (and horny) relatives. Sleazy and ridiculous, but it's rarely boring, and a few individual scenes (especially the ones with a hanged man) are actually creepy and effective.
To begin here I have to say this is a fun & atmospheric Jess Franco film that is interesting but as with all of his films its kinda strange as well. It opens very promisingly, with a great title sequence as Christina (the beautiful & often naked Christina von Blanc) drives up to her family home in British Honduras for the reading of her father's will, accompanied by Bruno Nicolai's inventive score with weird percussive effects leading into a propulsive rhythm & a seriously groovy bass-line. For a moment, you think that this may just be the film that the lurid cover art promises. But it then takes a more reflective turn, & instead operates as a neatly off-balancing & vaguely disconcerting atmospheric ghost story. It's sometimes hard to work out whether the film is a deliberately vague, surreal & arty dreamscape, or just plain inept. Personally, I lean towards the former, although many will find the film to be a maddeningly weird, obscure & nonsensical piece exercise in non-narrative. Certainly, the film has a surreal, hallucinatory, stream-of-consciousness feel, which is almost as though Franco is refusing to show what is actually happening, but instead showing bizarre frescos, visual representations of the physical world. Nothing is quite what it seems, & the borders of reality and sanity are unclear. It's not clear what's actually happening for much of the film, & even when it ended I have to say I'm still not sure quite what much of it actually meant. Crucially though, even if the actual meaning is unclear, the feelings & effects that the film has on the viewer remain fascinating, & disturbing. Franco really shows that he has a great eye for disquieting images, such as the Mass (or similar) being conducted whilst one girl is painting her toenails, & another smoking a cigarette, or the sudden splashes of red. There is also a rich vein of dark comedy running through the film, including the director's customary cameo as the strange, sleazy servant who speaks only in grunts, & snores all the way through the reading of the will. Whilst the film is reasonably entertaining for much of it's running time, it's not until the final 20 minutes that it really begins to come together, starting with a strange incident involving a huge black dildo mysteriously appearing in Christina's room. From there, it's entirely unclear how much is dream, how much real, & how much madness, & where all of the most memorable images appear as Christina is plagues by the recurrent dreams of her hanged father, & by visions of The Queen of Darkness, a strange woman dressed in black. One scene with her in particular carries a strangely devastating emotional impact that the rest of the film has not prepared you for. Like many Franco films (particularly of this period), it has a downbeat & fatalistic conclusion. Perhaps the film's biggest achievement is in its amazing utilization of sound & music. During this time, it almost seems as though there was a competition going on between the Italian composers to see who could produce the most inventive music, & Nicolai wrote an amazing score for this film. There's some amazing writing for percussion, with all kinds of weird effects echoing around during the more creepy moments, building into driving rhythms at other times. He does a neat line in groovy bass lines that propel the film on during key scenes, whilst the most memorable music is the gorgeous vocal lines associated with The Queen of Darkness. If this isn't actually Morricone's favoured collaborator Edda Dell'Orso singing, then the vocalist does an impressive approximation. But more than just the score, the sound effects are used quite brilliantly too, to off-balancing effect that can't let you relax. Sometimes the sounds play against the actually images, seemingly unrelated to what's onscreen. Other times, they're grossly exaggerated with weird echoing voices calling, & insects buzzing filling the soundscape. As ever with Franco, there are caveats. The pacing does start to drag slightly in the first hour, the zoom lens is over-used, & the acting is "interesting". But if you've got a taste for these kinds of films, then you'll have taken that as a given. Virgin Among the Living Dead is worth checking out for EuroShock fans. It's a strange & surreal little film that doesn't make too much conventional sense but does linger in the memory.
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